This is the second post in a series on Edmonton and Jasper. Click here to read part one.
As a chronic wanderluster who lives in a city that is so isolated that it takes at least two or three flights to get anywhere exotic, I am constantly thinking of ways to maximize long weekends and make the most of my more immediate surroundings. Fortunately my hometown of Edmonton is only a few hours’ drive from the glorious Canadian Rocky Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the cozy mountain town of Jasper, Alberta.
Edmonton, Alberta is known for its shopping mall, its hockey team, and its extreme low temperatures. It is the city that raised me, the most northerly city in North America with more than one million residents, and it’s a place I often leave to explore other corners of the globe. Often, when I tell people where I’m from, they ask if it’s near Toronto or Montreal (it’s not). As travelers, we often overlook our hometowns in favour of the more exotic, the warmer, the more far-flung, the better. When I was invited to be a guest of Edmonton Tourism and Tourism Jasper to explore my own backyard this fall, I jumped at the chance to see my city, as well as Jasper National Park, from a fresh perspective – that of a tourist.
Only a crazy person would drive the length of Canada from Vancouver to Halifax in a 48-year-old Volvo Amazon, purposely avoiding the main highways the whole way, right? Well, that’s exactly what my husband and his friend did earlier this summer, covering 9000km in 11 days, retracing routes from the Shell 4000 rallies that ran in the 1960s, raising money for Alzheimer’s along the way. It was called the Canada 5000, and mere weeks after their return, my Dave decided he hadn’t had enough. He wanted to give the 1965 Regina to Edmonton leg a shot, with me as his passenger/navigator. Most people, including my husband, didn’t think I would want to sit in a car for at least 21 hours, drive to Saskatchewan and immediately turn back around, but I signed up for the challenge without hesitating. Traveling is my passion, and any trip great or small is an opportunity for me to experience something new and see places I haven’t seen before.
Southern Alberta has become one of my favourite destinations in the past couple of years, one that I am fortunate to be able to reach with an easy half-day road trip. I love the larger-than-life Alberta skies and the vast, flat, golden prairies. I love how the landscape can change so quickly and how the Earth opens up in front of me to reveal something completely different.
For this year’s Alberta exploration, I started with two nights in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park before moving on for two more at Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park/Áísínai’pi National Historic Site.
My thirst for exploration and discovery is unquenchable, no matter my age or how many countries I have visited. Curiosity runs through my veins and every chance I get to leave my hometown gets my blood pumping, whether I’m flying halfway across the world or driving to a town an hour away. Long-term or long-distance travel isn’t always a reality for me, so over the past couple of years I have been making efforts to explore my own backyard and take advantage of long weekends to get out of town. My husband and I love to take road trips together and have made our own tradition of taking one each year for our wedding anniversary. This year, we were drawn to Southern Alberta again. Our first destination: Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, spread over southwestern Alberta and southeastern Saskatchewan, the only interprovincial park in the country, an oasis of forest, lakes and hills rising up 600m from the surrounding prairies.
Earlier this summer one of my longest running wishes came true; I won a trip at a Travel Alberta media event in my hometown of Edmonton. It was a small, intimate event with travel professionals and bloggers from around the province and the first event of its kind that I had ever attended. Great conversation and delicious snacks and drinks were plentiful. As the night wound down, business cards were drawn for several door prizes, each a trip to a different destinations in our spectacular, diverse province. When it came time to draw the prize of a trip to Banff for Performance in the Park, courtesy of Banff Lake Louise Tourism, my husband Dave’s card was drawn. Fortunately for me (or unfortunately for him, depending on how you want to look at it), he was to be away that weekend on his coast-to-coast Canada 5000 Rally. This left me with a free trip to one of the most beautiful places on the planet and my pick of who to have join me.
Once in a while a country or a city will take you by surprise, and Bulgaria did just that for me. Aside from being a natural stopping point on our path from Budapest to Istanbul, Sofia had been on my radar before I ever even left Canada – since 2006 – thanks to my friend Christina who I met on a travel website and have been postcard pals with ever since. I didn’t know anyone who had traveled to Bulgaria, and read some less than enthusiastic words during my research. Many people suggested it was depressing, grey or boring. I know well enough not to trust those Internet doom-and-gloom folks, and I don’t like to go into a new place with many expectations one way or another, but Bulgaria felt like an undiscovered hidden gem.
Continuing on with our annual tradition of getting out of town for our anniversary, my husband Dave and I visited Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in our home province of Alberta, for our seventh anniversary last August. Like the year before, we wanted to stay close to home since we had a month long Europe trip just a few weeks later. Many people that we talk to here at home don’t know much about Dinosaur Provincial Park, or think that it is part of/near Drumheller, when it is two hours, or 169km, south east of the town that is home to the world famous Royal Tyrrell Museum. My dad had camped there previously and raved about it, and we were drawn by the prehistoric history and barren badlands landscape.
We awoke in Skopje, Macedonia in the ungodly hour between late night and early morning. It was pitch black outside and the streets were deserted. My head was in a fog and I was still unsteady on my feet. It’s a familiar feeling for anyone who has to get up in that in-between time and move. In our case, we were moving on to our next destination; Thessaloniki, Greece. More importantly, I was moving towards achieving a goal, the biggest undertaking of my life; traveling to 30 countries before the age of 30. Greece was it: #30.
This interview originally appeared on Vibe Tribe Shop on February 21, 2015.
We had a chance to catch up with Karlie of @misswanderlustca recently. We have been a fan of her adventure and gorgeous Instagram pictures. What caught our eye first was Karlie’s goal. Karlie had a dream to visit 30 countries before she was 30 and she did it! Then we fell in love with her ig pixels. In the interview below, Karlie shares how she has worked towards her day dream and what the journey has meant to her. You can follow the adventures of Karlie on Instagram at @misswanderlustca. Thanks, Karlie, for taking the time to share your journey with us and for the travel inspiration – don’t quit your day dream!
Tell us a bit about your adventure…
I first traveled outside of Canada in 2008 when I was 22 years old. My husband and I went to the Euro Cup and to Italy, where my family, including my five-year old father, emigrated from in 1958. We started traveling every year, more and more frequently. By the time I was 25 I had been to 10 countries and set a goal to visit at least 30 countries before my 30th birthday. I achieved and surpassed my goal with eight months to spare! Continue reading Adventures in Wanderlust→