Wrapping up 2023, tourism is rebounding faster from the pandemic than most of us predicted. We weren’t’ supposed to see industry numbers like this until 2024 or even 2025, but the world has collectively decided to move on as if Covid never happened, and tourism has reflected this accordingly. Everything has definitely become more expensive, sometimes because of supply-chain issues, sometimes because it’s an opportunity for folks to maximize profits and take advantage of others. This is true for the tourism industry, and true for everything else too.
This year I really got stuck into my bi-weekly column for Canadian Geographic, chasing stories that are inspirational, worth knowing, and unique. It’s the cornerstone of my Bucket List brand: exploring destinations and activities that you can’t find anywhere else; are wholly memorable; practically attainable; and will make a great story you’ll want to share for the rest of your days.
I kicked off 2023 with a New Year’s Eve torchlight descent at Sun Peaks Resort in British Columbia. After many years of snowboarding, I’m now transitioning to skis, and it was a fantastic confidence booster (and a little terrifying) to ski at night. A few weeks later I found myself on BC’s Powder Highway, back on skis in Fernie, Kimberly and at the Panorama Mountain Resort. I explored quirky roadside attractions in New Brunswick, unique statues around the world, high-speed F1 yacht racing in San Francisco, and the origins of craft beer in the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes the story is about people too, like the Syrian refuges in Nova Scotia and their phenomenally successful chocolate business, or Scuba Diving Hall of Famer and cave diving legend Jill Heinerth.
The best travel is about the experiences you share, whether it means taking your kids medieval glamping in Alberta, or a parent on a bucket list hike in Newfoundland. Sometimes family travel lies on a spectrum between beluga whales in the north, the jungle in the south, and iconic theme-parks (I’m proud of this particularly honest review of Disneyland.)
I’m always on the lookout for unusual and memorable accommodation, from the world’s most northerly eco-lodge to surviving a night in Quebec City’s ice hotel. As for wildlife, I attempted to cage dive with saltwater crocodiles in Australia, hit the prairies to see the world’s largest concentration of snakes, and looked at places near and far to ethically volunteer with animals. The two back-to-back horse-riding expeditions I took to the Allenby Pass in Banff National Park showcased the Rockies at their finest, and was my inspiring debut as a Can Geo Adventures Travel Ambassador. Learning more about Indigenous experiences across the country shepherded me to prairies campfires and other inspiring locations around the country. Further afield, I researched upcoming stories about the Rio de Janeiro Carnaval in Brazil, a sustainable eco-lodge in Costa, and exploring French Polynesia with a small-ship Wind Star cruise.
I’ve always enjoyed making videos, and have made dozens of travel clips in the past. Still, I felt that being a Youtuber requires a different sort of skillset and dedication to that of a writer. Travelling with kids however inspired me to return to editing the short, punchy, montage-music videos I once revelled in. Here are my favourite videos from 2023 (hit full screen to see the magic):
This year, I also put many hours into a new edition of The Great Western Canada Bucket List, which Dundurn Press will be publishing in May, 2024. We’re revising and updating the Canadian Bucket List series – which continues to sell fantastically well since the last edition in 2017 – with tons of new experiences, and a beautiful new design.
This companion blog features new stories every month, like this deeper dive into the Powder Highway, the best places to see cherry blossoms in spring, tips for canoeing the backcountry, how to approach an Indigenous experience, and a fun look at family travel attractions in Winnipeg. Meanwhile, a story I wrote for Great Canadian Trails – a fantastic travel agency that specializes in unique outdoor Canadian experiences – won a first-place award from the Society of American Travel Writers. On the subject of awards, I was one of three nominees for the Canadian Tourism Industry’s prestigious Travel Media Professional of the Year. Can’t win ’em all!
I write a monthly blog for Great Canadian Trails too, where this year you can find stories about mountains, forests, whales and icebergs, cross-country skiing and great Canadian books. I celebrated Yukon for the territory’s 125th anniversary, took a curious look at Prince Edward Island, a ride along the beautiful Kettle Valley Heritage Trail, and explored Canadian wonders that double as international look-a-likes.
It’s been another successful year of sharing the wonders of my bucket list on stage and online too. The highlight was receiving a standing ovation for a keynote about the past, present and future of travel writing from my peers at the Travel Media Association of Canada. It’s a challenging era to be in travel media, and despite what people think, travel writers, PR professionals and bloggers are not on a permanent holiday. It takes a special kind of curious, positive and hard-working personality to work in this meshugana profession, and I’m proud to be part of the community. I also inspired thousands of clients and teams at Scotia Wealth, BMO Nesbitt Burns, Raymond James, National Bank, RBC Wealth, Assante Capital Management, Odlum Brown and CIBC Wood Gundy, working with fantastic advisors who recognize that dreaming big and travelling far is just as important as market returns! I got to speak in national museums, IMAX theatres, country clubs, boardrooms and fancy hotels too.
Get in touch if I can inspire your team or clients with insights, stories and bucket list adventures!
What does 2024 have in store? A lot more adventure and discovery. I’ll continue writing my Canadian Geographic column, exploring Canada and the world, working on the third edition of The Great Canadian Bucket List, speaking whenever I get the chance, and sharing stories that I hope find the right person at the right time to have a truly meaningful impact on their lives. One lives in hope (at least, I do).
There’s a lot of bad news out there, a lot of uncertainty and stress. We never got the global celebration we deserved for beating the pandemic, just a war in Ukraine, economic chaos, political upheaval, climate disaster, and tragedy in the Middle East too. Yet every time I travel, I’m reminded how humans share the same values: we all want the best possible outcome for our children, and we all want to protect this big, beautiful blue ball we all call home. At least most of us. Don’t worry, it’s all going to be fine, because it always is.
Congratulations for making it through 2023. No matter what awaits us around the corner, I hope that travel and adventure provide the peace and inspiration you’re looking for.