Welp, not only is it the end of yet another year but the end of a decade. A third of my life has come and gone and wow, was it busy! 2019 has been one crazy year and I’m both happy and sad to see it go. As with life, another chapter begins when one ends and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2020. Before I get ahead of myself though, let’s do a quick 2019 travel recap, shall we?
I kicked off the new year with a visit to Vermont. I was invited by my friend Erika to join 8 of her friends who live all across the state of New York. We made our way east for an epic winter adventure in an incredible cottage with floor to ceiling windows. While I was extremely nervous (and getting caught in a crazy snowstorm on the drive didn’t help) I had an amazing time and ended up making a number of new friends. I appreciated so much being adopted by these incredible crew and look forward to when we all get to hang out again!
Later in the month I traded snow for sun as I enjoyed putting my feet up at an all-inclusive resort in Cozumel. While all-inclusives aren’t normally my style, there’s something to be said about not having to cook or have any sort of schedule for an entire week. Though the trip wasn’t all fun and games as I the trip was for my scuba certification! That’s right, as of January 23rd I am officially a PADI Open Water diver!
After the excitement of January, I decided to lay low for February. It was partially my choice but also the fact I was sick for half the month. Either way, I took it as a sign to take it easy and enjoy some adventures close to home. I hit up a few breweries, solved an escape room and enjoyed some great eats in town.
I also took a few days to explore some of the great indoor attractions Hamilton has to offer. My visits to Hamilton have mainly been centred around chasing waterfalls so it was really interesting to see a different side of the city. I knew Hamilton was quite industrial but I hadn’t realized the extent of it. From steam technology museums to art galleries to botanical gardens, I had a great time getting to know Hamilton more.
I kicked off March with my first foray into Northern Ontario during the winter months. My first stop was Sault Ste Marie with the main purpose of attending the Gathering at the Rapids Pow Wow. It was amazing to be a part of this spiritual experience and learn even more about First Nations culture. I also took a tour of Shingwauk Hall, one of the former residential schools which has been transformed into a place of learning. It’s a tour I highly recommend every Canadian do to get a solid understanding of the atrocities of the residential school system. To process all the heavy information, nature called as I explored some beautiful hikes and enjoyed the incredible views of Northern Ontario with a blanket of snow.
On the way home, I stopped in Sudbury for my first foray into winter camping… in a yurt! While there were a few learning curves (including learning I have NO idea how to start a fire), I had a blast spending a night in nature. I was also very thankful for electric heat in the yurt! After that, I made my way into town and enjoyed some of Sudbury’s winter attractions along with a visit to Science North for the temporary exhibit Body Worlds Rx. I’ve been to a few of these before but it was interesting to see the exhibit related to health and exercise!
With a busy May on the horizon, I took it easy and stuck close to home for the month of April. With spring in full swing, it was the perfect time to enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms that we’re fortunate to have here in Ontario! Spring also brings the delicious liquid gold known as maple syrup and I went to not one but two maple syrup festivals for the first time in years. It was an absolute blast and a great excuse to hang out with friends while enjoying the sweet stuff! Besides, I’m Canadian – how can I not love everything maple?
At the end of the month, I was back on the road as I made my way east to Portland. I met up with a friend in Rochester and then spent two nights in Northampton, Massachusetts to break up the drive. It was so much fun to explore more of Massachusetts and enjoy more of what Northampton has to offer! Did you know it has a local coffee roaster? Or that it has one of the highest ratios of restaurants to people in all of the USA? If you’ve never visited Northampton or Hampshire County, I highly recommend planning a trip!
The start of the month brought me to a new city and a new state as I said hello to Portland, Maine! I got to explore the city while reconnecting with old friends and learning from incredibly inspiring women at my 4th Women in Travel Summit. If you’re a woman and in the travel industry, I highly recommend attending as the energy you’ll experience at the conference is truly unmatched. I look forward to it every year!
Portland is one seriously cool city and it was amazing to be back on the east coast. It’s been a number of years since I said hello to the Atlantic Ocean and it felt so good to hear the waves and smell the salty air. After eating my weight in lobster, my blogger bestie Olivia and I made our way north to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Can you believe this was my first American national park?! We stopped at lighthouses, enjoyed incredible views and even woke up at the crack of dawn to catch the sunrise. I can’t remember the last time I was up at 4:00am by choice but it was 100% worth it to be one of the first people to see the sun as it touches North America.
Just two days after driving across 4 states and 1 province in one day to get home from Maine, I was heading north for my annual girls trip with my Mom. We spent two days in Sudbury and three back in Sault Ste Marie. My Mom and I have been doing these trips for 6 years now and they keep getting more and more amazing. They’re adventures I’ll cherish forever as we get to enjoy some quality time together while exploring more of our beautiful province. Next year will be even more fun as we get to stay in a lighthouse – stay tuned!
June was the month that showed me burnout is real. Just thinking about it makes me exhausted but I’d 100% do it all over again. I kicked it off with a trip to Perth County for a press trip experiencing everything this rural area has to offer. Just an hour away from Kitchener, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t explored much of it so I was elated for this opportunity! Summer had decided to show its face a little early and it was a beautiful weekend of adventure. If you’re looking to get away from the craziness of everyday life and enjoy a quiet weekend away, Perth County is a fantastic destination.
One week later I was off to one of my bucket list destinations – Manitoulin Island. I was invited by the amazing Shannon who runs the Perivale Gallery, the top art gallery in Ontario! She selects one writer every year to host as her way of supporting tourism on the island and I was honoured she chose me. For about a week I explored as much of the world’s largest freshwater island as I could. From eating in an old schoolhouse to hiking the iconic Cup and Saucer Trail, I had an incredible time experiencing everything Manitoulin Island has to offer.
Then I was heading north yet again to the beauty of Sault Ste Marie. Earlier this year I was accepted into the Travel Media Association of Canada and couldn’t wait for my first TMAC Conference! As a part of the conference, I got to enjoy a pre-tour in the adorable town of Bruce Mines. I tried my hand at fishing for the first time in over a decade and I’m happy to say that while I came out with the nickname Suzie Snags-a-lot, I was able to nab Big Bertha and go out with a bang! Huge thanks to Adam of Angling Algoma for such an awesome experience.
After travelling for almost 3/4 of June, I was truly burnt out for the first time in my life. My get up and go was 100% gone and I needed some downtime to recuperate. This is where I truly realized how important it is to give yourself some quiet time while on the road, especially when it’s for an extended period of time. Let’s say lots of sleep, Epsom salt baths and pampering nursed me back to life so I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed once again!
Though I celebrated Canada Day with a fun friend adventure up in the Ottawa Valley where I went whitewater rafting for the very first time! We had snagged this awesome Boxing Day deal where we got to enjoy an all-inclusive camping adventure (all we had to worry about was our tents and our drinks!) which included some serious whitewater rafting fun. 6 of us hopped in a raft and will be forever remembered for what’s probably the most epic bail of all time… or at least the 2019 season anyway. We thought we had escaped the infamous Buseater rapids but alas, she nailed us at the last minute resulting in this glorious photo.
While I still needed some peace and quiet, I took one weekend to head up the Bruce Peninsula to the quaint little town of Wiarton. You may recognize it as it’s home of Wiarton Willy, one of Canada’s famous groundhogs, but it also has a lot more to offer than the adorable little rodent. Did you know you can snorkel around some shipwrecks? This was my main reason for going as I worked with Bruce Peninsula Boat Tours to help promote this underrated Ontario destination. With Robin in tow, we enjoyed a nice balanced weekend of fun and relaxation along the shores of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
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For the last month of August I was on the road once again with a road trip through Pennsylvania! While I’ve only been a handful of times before, I got to explore three new areas with the first being Butler County, less than an hour north of Pittsburgh. While many visit due to their great shopping opportunities, I was able to discover some of its natural wonders including my very first stand up paddleboard adventure in Moraine State Park as well as enjoy some local eats and treats. I ended my trip with a visit to the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex where the Pittsburgh Penguins train. While I didn’t run into Crosby or the legend Lemieux himself, I’m hoping one day in the future I will!
Afterwards I was off to the Laurel Highlands. You may know of it as it’s home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, an architectural icon. I learned about it in school and it was incredible to see it first hand with a tour! I’d love to go back in the fall or even the winter to see its beauty cloaked by other seasons. Afterwards, I got the adrenaline pumping with a zipline adventure along with tackling the Ohiopyle River on yet another whitewater rafting adventure!
The last destination on my Pennsylvania road trip was the Cumberland Valley and home to the midpoint of the Appalachian Trail. I was spoiled with beautiful weather and I took full advantage of it as I tackled a few hikes. One of them was the Flat Rock Trail in Colonel Denning State Park and while it says ‘flat’ in the title, the 1600ft elevation gain kicked my ass but it was worth it for the incredible views! Let’s just say I slept very well before making my way back to Canada.
Two weeks later I was back at it again, this time hopping on a jet plane to north of the 60th parallel once again. That’s right, I was back in the Northwest Territories – specifically Fort Smith right on the Alberta border! I was so excited to be returning north so soon after my last trip and to explore in a new season. This trip allowed me to get a true taste of what Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada’s largest national park, has to offer. From exploring the salt plains to attending the Thebacha & Wood Buffalo Dark Sky Festival, it was an incredible adventure I’ll never forget!
With autumn on the horizon, I savoured the last few days of summer with a few days in South Georgian Bay. My mom actually grew up in the area so I’ve visited a few times before but always love returning to destinations to discover more! It was great to explore so many new places that I didn’t realize were right under my nose! Did you know Collingwood has a labyrinth that’s inspired by the Chartres Cathedral’s labyrinth in France? Or that there are so many incredible restaurants including one of the top barbeque joints in Southern Ontario? You’ll not only eat will be enjoying some incredible adventures, I highly recommend planning a visit soon!
More local exploration was to be had as I headed an hour south of Kitchener to the town of Brantford. Known as the Telephone City, the city is deeply rooted in much of Ontario’s history. One of my biggest goals for exploring Brantford was to learn more about the Indigenous culture of this area. From the province’s oldest building to the first residential school in Canada, every Canadian should go to learn the true history that isn’t taught in schools. Afterwards, I got to explore more alongside my blogger bestie Olivia as we indulged in delicious eats and put our feet up for some spa time. It was one awesome weekend adventure!
I rounded out the month with my very first visit to Windsor, Ontario! The main purpose for my visit was to experience the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival. A mash-up between steampunk and Harry Potter, it’s a weekend of themed activities and incredible costumes. This is just the second year for it but I guarantee it’ll be going for years to come! Windsor and Essex County, the area surrounding the city, is also home to some great craft breweries, wineries and plenty of adventure making it an awesome destination for anyone!
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For the fourth time this year, I found myself heading north to Sault Ste Marie. Robin and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary on the shores of Lake Superior as we enjoyed some quiet time reconnecting with nature. Our days were spent exploring some of the incredible hikes in Lake Superior Provincial Park. In the evenings we listened to the waves as they rolled in, playing card games, cooking some great eats and relaxing hard – which we both desperately needed.
After Robin flew home, I stayed up in SSM to spend some quality time with one of my close friends. Unfortunately, the universe wasn’t quite on our side between the weather and her dog getting sick. Don’t worry – all is well now and her pupper is doing great! It just means we’ll have to do some more adventuring next time we see each other. I was still able to get out and enjoy some of the beautiful hikes and views Northern Ontario has to offer.
My final big trip of the year had me exploring a state I hadn’t been to before – Virginia! If you hadn’t guessed, I adore hitting the open road so it was time for yet another road trip. Following the I-81, I drove from Bristol (the southernmost city along the highway) up to Winchester in 8 days. From learning about the history of country music to dancing the night away to experiencing some of the most beautiful drives in the country, every day was jampacked and full of adventure. While it was an absolute whirlwind, it was incredible to explore so many small towns and see what each one has to offer. I can’t wait to return so I can explore even more one day soon!
Upon landing from Virginia, I found out that my dad had a heart attack which turned my world upside down. I took a break from life and other duties to be around for my family. It’s times like these when I’m so thankful to have the freedom I do with my current work situation. I’m lucky to say that he’s doing alright and after two surgeries, he’s in the clear. Now it’s time for recuperation and he’ll be back on his feet in no time flat. Little does he know that means I’ll be dragging him for more walks but it’ll be balanced out by me doing more cooking which I know he’s on board with!
The end of an era – my 20s. December means it’s my birthday and this one was a big one! Robin surprised me with an awesome day of visits with friends and family to be followed with a beautiful getaway up north. I’ll give you one guess where we went… yep, Sault Ste Marie! He rented a cottage right on the cusp of the St Mary’s River as it connects to Lake Superior. I got to explore more of Sault Ste Marie as we enjoyed a few new restaurants and I showed Robin more of the city. We also took a load off, ate lots of great food and spent some quality time with friends. Board games and watching the transport ships go by was the perfect recipe for my 30th birthday getaway!
It also had me thinking about the last year as well as the last decade. I experienced so much that really shaped me into who I am today. Travel was a huge component of that and I’m so thankful I’ve had the privilege to see so much of the world. It taught me so much about myself and others. I can’t wait to see what 30 will bring – along with the new decade! If it’s anything like the last one, I’ll be in for a real treat.
TL;DR – Too Long; Didn’t Read My 2019 Travel Recap?
I get it, I can ramble at times. #SorryNotSorry So what all did I get up to in the last year of this decade? Here’s the Cole’s Notes for you:
- Visited Vermont with 8 strangers and had an incredible time making new friends and going on winter adventures
- Got my scuba certification and visited Mexico for the first time
- Plenty of winter fun and learning in Sault Ste Marie in Sudbury
- Ate my weight in lobster as I drove to Portland, Maine with a return trip to Northampton, Massachusetts as a pit stop
- Went on an epic road trip with my gal Olivia to Acadia National Park where we got to be some of the first people to catch the sunrise on the east coast
- Enjoyed yet another incredible girls trip with my Mommabear
- Took a road trip through Perth County as I explored more of my own backyard
- Explored one of my bucket list destinations, the world’s largest freshwater island aka Manitoulin Island
- Caught a massive northern pike (dubbed ‘Big Bertha’) on my very first guided fishing trip
- Went to my very first Travel Media Association of Canada Conference
- Tried whitewater rafting for the first time along the Ottawa River for Canada Day
- Enjoyed an awesome weekend of snorkelling shipwrecks in Wiarton along the Bruce Peninsula
- Road tripped to three new destinations in Pennsylvania – Butler County, the Laurel Highlands and the Cumberland Valley
- Spent some quality time in Wood Buffalo National Park and Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories
- Explored more of the South Georgian Bay area including hidden gems and great eats
- Headed an hour south of Kitchener and spent some quality time in Brantford, Ontario
- Visited Windsor and Essex County for the first time where I got to attend the Amherstburg Uncommon Festival where Harry Potter meets steampunk
- Spent my anniversary with Robin along the shores of Lake Superior
- Went on some incredible hikes around Sault Ste Marie to enjoy the fall foliage
- Took an epic road trip across the state of Virginia as I stopped in small towns along the I-81
- Spent my 30th birthday with friends and family and afterwards enjoyed a relaxing getaway in Sault Ste Marie
Still too long? Well, can’t help you there. I really did get up to quite a bit in 2019! Even in point form, it was a busy year with so many adventures to be had!
Goals for Next Year
Now that 2019 has come and gone, it’s time to plan for 2020. In previous years, I’ve done more general goals about life outlooks or overall ideas which can be hard to measure. This year I’m taking a different approach with tangible, attainable goals. Plus once they’re out there – I have to stay accountable, right? I’m hoping you’ll be able to help me with this too, readers! So what am I planning to achieve over the next 12 months? Let’s see…
Be Active 4 Times a Week
Now that I’ve got my Fitbit back with an upgrade to the Charge 3, I’m planning to get off my butt and moving more. The sitting disease is real and since the scare with my Dad, I’ve got to put my money where my mouth is. If I need him to move more but don’t do it myself, that’s a little hypocritical of me! Right now my goal is to be active 4 times a week for the entire year. Whether that’s tackling the trails or going down to the treadmill for 20 minutes is of no matter to me, I just want to get moving more!
Obviously I’m hoping weight loss will be a side effect of this goal, but so far trying to count calories or being obsessive with numbers hasn’t helped. If I can make exercise a regular thing while still being good about my eating habits, I’m hoping the weight loss part will come on its own! I’ll keep you posted if my theory pans out.
Read 12 Indigenous-Authored Books
I used to read quite a bit when I was younger but since the digital age has consumed my life (that sometimes happens when your work and hobbies revolve around the interwebs), I’ve decided to give myself a break from screentime with this goal. This is also a great way for me to not only learn more about Indigenous culture across Turtle Island but support Indigenous authors and creators. I’m starting the year by reading Spirits on Stone: Lake Superior Ojibwa History, Legends & the Agawa Pictographs which will teach me more about Agawa Rock and the magical lands north of Sault Ste Marie. I bought this while visiting Manitoulin Island a few months ago but haven’t had a chance to fully read it.
Next on the list is Indian Horse which I’ve been looking to read since I learned more about it while touring Shingwauk Hall. It follows the story of eight-year-old Saul Indian Horse and the horrors he faced at the hands of Canada’s residential school system. While there is a movie adaptation, I refuse to watch it before reading the book so that will be my next read for 2020. If you’d like to snag your own copy, you can order it from Indigo (Canadian book store).
After these I’ll have 10 more books to tackle so if you have any suggestions, I’d greatly appreciate if you could send them my way!
Take at Least 2 Hours Each Week To Decompress
As yes, the elusive ‘downtime’. One of the biggest struggles I found this year was allowing myself to take time to relax. I find it so hard to do when there’s a list of tasks nagging at me. This year, I’m combatting this and I refuse to feel guilty about it! Instead of trying to power through an article when the words aren’t flowing or trying to come up with copy when I can barely keep my eyelids open, I’m listening to my body’s cues.
What will this look like? Right now I’m thinking more long baths, listening to podcasts and quality kitty time with Willow, but it could be anything really! I just want to schedule time for me to relax my brain and change my mindset. I need to lose the you should be working right now vibes and replace them with the work can wait. Whenever I take a bit of time for myself, I feel refreshed and more inspired to work – I’m just too damn stubborn to do it. Not this year! 2020 is the year of learning to be better at balance – even if that means actually scheduling downtime into my calendar.
Let’s Go, 2020!
Alright 2020, it’s game on! I’m always really excited at the clean slate vibe a new year brings so it’s time to put that momentum into practice. I can’t wait to see what this year and decade brings me. I’ve already got some great adventures in store including a girls weekend full of winter adventures and my first trip to Killarney!
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