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Sooke, BC will fuel your adventurous spirit

Just 38 kilometers north of British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria, the district municipality of Sooke rests quietly in splendor. Offering the perfect blend of a relaxing getaway, an ocean adventure, and rugged vistas, Sooke presents a distinct personality from her larger, more famous neighbor.

Once you’ve gone to Sooke, leaving her is not that simple anymore, and you’re certainly never going to forget her. As former Torontonian Bob Iles (captain and wildlife tour guide) explains, he travelled to Sooke for a fishing vacation and never left. Once he arrived, he knew he was home.

From Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay on BC Ferries, to the pristine vistas on the drive, to the gem that is Sooke, this became a labour of love.

BC Ferries

John and I arrived 30 minutes early for the reservation and were onboard the Coastal Celebration at precisely 11:00 a.m. Whether you’re a local or tourist, the BC Ferries experience is a must. The Pacific Buffet lunch wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end restaurant, offering seafood, beef and vegetarian main courses, along with a dessert bar too tempting to pass up. It’s also not uncommon to spot killer whale pods and other wildlife while eating your meal.

Fun Fact: Did you know that BC Ferries is one of the largest ferry operators in the world, providing year-round vehicle and passenger service on 25 routes to 47 terminals, with a fleet of 35?

Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina

Once arriving at the Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina, John and I were able to see the beautiful suite. The room was a penthouse overlooking the 114-slip marina. Featuring two decks, a propane barbecue, a dream kitchen and his and hers bathrooms, the suite was well-appointed. From the living room, a panoramic view showed off the scenery. Just steps away at the marina were crabs, a large starfish, and a seal. (What a perfect oceanside getaway for fishing, whale watching or outdoor adventuring!)

John and I were also treated to a complimentary basket with gourmet cheeses, bread and a good bottle of red wine. It was hard not to feel right at home on the patio overlooking the boat launch, beaches, and the beautiful sunset.

Serious Coffee

John and I had a morning coffee fix at Serious Coffee in the village before kayaking.  Also offering tea and an assortment of food, the friendly staff was welcoming and offered two Americanos, which tasted great and helped kicked start the day.

Kayaking

There is a first time for everything and on Monday, for me, it was kayaking. Considering someone wasn’t exactly an Olympic swimmer there was a sliver (or maybe a thick wedge) of doubt that maybe someone wouldn’t agree to participate in this endeavor. I won’t give away names here but her first name is Christine.

Before venturing out, Allen, the owner and instructor from West Coast Outdoor Adventure, reassured me by telling stories of people who have never kayaked before, then tried it for the first time and enjoyed it.

He then provided John and I with a rental, foot-powered Hobie kayak for two. It was easy to use, allowing John to take photos. Of the photos taken was an eagle perched on a pole, holding still long enough for a photo. Shortly after leaving the marina a seal popped its head out and kept doing so at different stages of the self-guided tour of the coastline. John and I also stopped for geese swimming across the path. The water was calm and in some areas with low tide, the kayak was stuck in long grass once or twice but using the paddle easily freed it.

Kayaking for the first time was enjoyable and I look forward to trying it again.

Wildlife Boat Tour

As mentioned, Bob was the tour guide, bringing at least 18 years of fishing experience and knowledge of Sooke waters, which is crucial for year-round fishing. The harbour tour was 90 minutes on Bob’s craft, and it sported new twin Suzuki engines. Even at a good speed, the engines were quiet enough to imagine sneaking up on the fish with a net in hand.

Next up was a tour of the harbour. From getting up close to the T’Sou-ke Nation oyster farm for some great snapshots, to some beautiful homes that were carved out of the mountainside, there were a lot of interesting things to see.

John and I learned how oysters are farmed, spotted sea lions basking in the sun, and learned about salmon and the ecosystem. Bob also mentioned how a seal recently gave birth right on the marina.

Sooke Brewing Company

After the boat tour, John and I checked out the local brewery, sampling some of their brews. With plenty of room to enjoy a social evening, Sooke Brewing Company owners have lived in Sooke for generations.

Stickleback Eatery

Stickleback Eatery is located on picturesque Cooper’s Cove. With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking an extensive patio built on the water, owner Scott Taylor knew it wasn’t enough. So, he and his wife, Leah, hired Justin, the best chef he could find. They wanted a chef that could think outside the box and create meals on demand and that’s exactly the kind of chef they have now.

John and I ordered cauliflower bites and seafood appetizers, which were delicious. For the main course, I had fish and chips and John had the salmon.

Scott explained that Stickleback was named after a fish to honour the T’Sou-ke First Nation Territories. In their native tongue, Sooke means Stickleback. His passion for food was evident.

The atmosphere was memorable, offering a cozy environment and excellent menu at affordable prices.

Sooke Potholes Regional Park

As John and I began the one-hour hike in Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, the trail led high above the rushing waters of the Sooke River. The vista was pristine, and waterfalls and enticing pools lulled the senses into a time warp, rendering everything else irrelevant. The view from the top was breathtaking.

Hiking and running are popular and accessible to the Galloping Goose trail, popular with visitors and loved by the locals year-round. The potholes are unique geological formations – deep pools in the river rock that offer some of the best freshwater swimming in the region.

The Sooke River is the second largest on southern Vancouver Island and is home to a salmon run every fall.

Sooke is a welcoming ocean getaway from your daily grind. Spend it fishing, hiking or boating and you’ll find yourself hooked like John and me.

With notes from John Moe

 

Tastes to try in Colombia

Showing up in Medellin, Colombia, an adventurous traveller best be ready to get a good taste of local flavours. From its traditional recipes to its fresh, tropical fruits, Medellin doesn’t come up short when it comes to offering visitors delicious flavours. When I first visited the city in the spring of 2016, I fell in love with the flavour of a crunchy, beef empanada with a cold, refreshing beer on a hot afternoon. Now, two years later, I live in the South American city and my list of favourite foods and drinks has grown. Below, my recommendations on the most mouth-watering menu picks that a tourist simply can’t miss out on.

Trout: For me, you can’t go wrong with an order of trout in one of Medellin’s traditional restaurants. Always one of my go-to choices, the trout here is fresh and filling and in a region of the world that skews towards rich, red meat mains, trout is a great lighter option when the appetite isn’t raging.

Buñuelos: To a Canadian, these spherical, doughy treats look like Colombia’s answer to the timbit. These deep-fried desserts are a great morning treat with a cup of coffee or, when peckish, they make for a great on-the-go snack. The region where I live – Sabaneta – is known for having giant buñuelos. Just don’t make a habit of these treats… they don’t exactly score a lot of health points.

Aguardiente: Don’t dare leave Medellin without having a proper night out with friends and shots of aguardiente. This local spirit tastes a lot like black liquorice and will be found in every single bar. Those from Medellin will say it’s supposed to be shared with friends so make this known to pals ahead of time.

Empanadas: For me, empanadas are the perfect snack after my morning Spanish class. The novelty from two years ago never quite wore off…

Guanabana: Personally, I feel this spiky, green fruit looks more like an alien than the delicious fruit that it is. Guanabanas are large, nearly watermelon-sized fruits that are delicious in juices or smoothies. Flavour-wise they taste tart but slightly coconutty at the same time.

Chicharron: Boarding the return flight home from Medellin without having tried chicharron would be a terrible mistake. This fried pork belly delight graces the menus of most authentic Colombian restaurants. Bacon lovers won’t know what hit them.

Limonada de coco: In my opinion, this is the best beverage on the menu. Period. On a hot day, it’s a refreshing drink to sip on and it’s worth the extra pesos. When done right, a limonada de coco is creamy like a milkshake with the zesty, tartness of lemonade.

Advice for first-time solo travel

Lining up a travel buddy isn’t always a feasible option when planning that dream adventure. There’s certainly no shortage of countries to explore and sights to see but finding the ideal person to share those experiences with requires compatible schedules and travel styles and a shared interest on the same destination. That can prove to be difficult. For many (like myself) it can be easier to just set out alone. Travelling on the lonesome – be it for an extended period or a one-week vacation – can be a great way to go. That said, before landing in the destination, there are a few things to keep in mind. As someone who’s giving the whole solo wandering a shot this year, I have some recommendations from my first few months abroad.

Become a “yes” person. Be open minded to all offers and invites that arise. Even if something doesn’t seem interesting right away, taking part in that activity can prove just the opposite. Accepting new offers is often just the thing to enrich travel experiences and hey, they might uncover an unexplored passion. However, becoming a “yes” person shouldn’t mean following along without thinking independently. Rather, it means being unbiased and truly considering the offers instead of automatically shooting something down just to watch Netflix.

Know when it’s better to branch off alone. Yes, solo travellers should consider new opportunities but at the same time, knowing when to branch off from the crowd is key. Say, for instance, the group dynamic doesn’t exactly fit your vibe or the itinerary conflicts with your schedule. Go your own way. Sometimes following the crowd is only going to damper your mood. Early in my travels, I made hiking plans with a woman whose demeanor was… less than friendly. On the day of our hike, her messages seemed unhelpful and abrupt. When she failed to find me at our meeting spot and suggested I instead make my way to the trail, I changed course. I hit a different trail alone enjoying incredible views, a satisfying workout and a hot bowl of fresh trout soup by the river afterwards. In this case, it was wise to change my plans when I felt uncomfortable.

Trust that you are, in fact, capable. Before I left, I read a book of essays by female travellers in Latin America. The common theme seemed to be that everyone felt intimidated until they recognized that they were capable of more than they thought. Travelling means getting outside that well-established comfort zone – especially if doing it alone. Like the female writers I read, I too underestimated myself. At first, it was daunting to do anything alone. Slowly, I came out of my shell. Now, I’m writing this after having spent the past few days in the coffee region alone. I toured a coffee farm, I saw a cloud forest, I cooked a meal and kicked back in a cabin alone and I travelled the nine hours back alone. When travelling solo, trust that you are, in fact, a capable human.

Don’t be attached to items or itineraries. Letting schedules and material objects hold little to no importance will grant freedom. Not being attached to things like a weekend itinerary or perfectly coordinated wardrobe enables travellers to better fall into a go-with-the-flow way of thinking. Recently, my mini four-day vacation turned into a nearly three-week road trip. I wore the same outfits over and over and I unexpectedly got to enjoy parts of the country I hadn’t planned on seeing. It has been one of the highlights of 2018 so far. I’m so glad I tossed out the original plan.

Accept cultural differences. Though it may be hard, don’t use cultural standards from home to judge those who you meet abroad. In the long run, accepting culture shock is going to be easier than fighting it. Keep personal values close of course, just don’t expect others to think in the same ways. Now that I’m travelling, I have to accept that opinions are going to be much different in Colombia than in Toronto. I wouldn’t expect otherwise.

Spend time doing what you actually want to do. One of the beauties of travelling alone is that there’s no need to compromise with travel buddies with differing interests. When experiencing a new place, solo venturers are spoiled by getting to do exactly what they want to do and when they want to do it. If afforded this type of freedom, take advantage. Pay attention to personal interests and spend time doing those things. Don’t let travel blogs or opinions of fellow travellers on what visitors are “supposed to do” cloud that vision.

GTHA Transit Wants & Woes

A transit strike is looming that may impact the GTHA. Metrolinx shared that the strike involves CP labour unions and may commence as early as Monday. The action by the union may impact GO Transit rail services.

Metrolinx made a statement on the impending transit troubles promising that services will not be disrupted:

“While we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached, we have plans in place to ensure customers can continue to travel safely and as easily as possible if a strike occurs. Our plans have been adjusted since our last communication to customers in April and no train services need to be cancelled. In the event of a CP labour disruption, we are now able to operate trains into Hamilton GO Centre.”

The reason that a CP strike may still impact GO Transit service is that many tracks that are used by Metrolinx for these services, are owned by alternate rail companies, such as CP. A strike means less CP staff available to operate the traffic switches and signals, leading to delays and suspended services.

The unions, which include the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, have carried on talks with railway management.

A spokesperson for Teamsters Canada stated that the union would likely reject any offer and that they will request immediate resuming of negotiation to reach a deal before a strike ensues.

If the unions decide to strike, members must give 72 hours notice, as CBC indicates.

GTHA Transit efficiency is always a focus, whether good or bad, in this city. Even without a looming strike posing a threat to service, it’s clear that Toronto and GTA transit could be made more efficient. The upcoming election has the big four political parties making promises to do just that. The PC, Liberal and NDP parties are all pro-relief line plan. The line is to be built from the Danforth directly to downtown and relieve overcrowding on the Yonge/University Line. The Green Party is also making transit a focus, but in Scarborough.

Strike or not, Canada’s most densely populated region needs politicians and transit services always looking to the future for betterment of the transit network already in place. Hopefully negotiations and elections lead to reaching this common goal quicker.

A Great Algonquin Portage

We arrived at Algonquin just as a dark wall of ominous clouds blanketed the park. “Is this foreshadowing?” I thought to myself.

It was my first time visiting this provincial gem. My boyfriend and friends surprised me with the long weekend getaway for my 23rd birthday and I was relieved to ditch the city for some nature-induced fun. What I didn’t know, was that another surprise awaited me at the entry of the park. We weren’t just camping…we were tackling a great Algonquin portage!

Portaging entails carrying your canoe across the land between lakes until you find a marked campsite that suits your liking. I predicted portaging with my boyfriend, who is an extremely ambitious camper, would entail a weekend of intense physical activity, refined outdoorsmanship and throbbing muscle cramps. Sure it wouldn’t be the weekend of suntanning, swimming and relaxation that I had anticipated, but it was an adventure.

Meeting the gray skies, we quickly unpacked our cars and loaded our waterproof bags into three canoes. In the final moments of sunshine, we paddled around the small lakes searching for the perfect campsite. Note to self #1: Never expect perfection while camping.

After an hour-long search that was decorated with spats of rain, we pulled up to a small, hilly island. We docked our canoes and scoped out the plot. It was spacious enough for three tents and even had a pre-built fire pit. “Guys! Come here!” my friend suddenly shouted. We all rushed over to see an aged memorial plaque for a young girl who died on the island years prior. “Nope!” one of my friends said, completely spooked out. We hopped back into our canoes and begged our biceps to paddle on. As we departed, in some sick joke mastered by the universe, a little red shoe floated between our boats. Note to self #2: Stop watching horror movies.

We passed site after site. That one is too bare…that one is too small…that one isn’t marked…until a loud boom echoed across the lake. Have you ever watched that scene from The Notebook when Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling are passionately proclaiming their love for one another while sitting in a rowboat in a torrential downpour? Now imagine that, minus the charming words.

We could barely see each other as we headed for land to escape any potential lightning. When it slightly let up, we caught sight of flames flickering on the shore. An older couple made their way out to the opening. “Are you guys OK?” they shouted. It’s funny how pickiness tends to wear off in moments of desperation. Attempting to seek shelter, even for only a few minutes, my friend shouted back, “Hey, do you guys have room for a couple more people over there?” For a moment, all we could hear were the pellets of rain slamming our tin canoes as the couple stood still on the shore. Finally, the man put his hands up to his mouth and shouted a half-assed, “Ha-ha!” that reverberated across the open water and into my nightmares for the remainder of our stay.

Although miserable, tired and drenched, we eventually found a marked spot that was, ironically, almost perfect for our weekend. After setting up our tents, we spent the remainder of the drier days exploring the island, cooking delicious meals and laughing around the fire. Note to self #3: Never turn down a surprise camping trip.

To this day, my boyfriend tells people, “Yeah, it was raining. But the only thing filling up the canoe was Courtney’s tears.” Which isn’t true, of course, but it is funny. And if the outcome of an adventure is a funny story, then, in my opinion, it was an adventure well-lived.

 

Reflection: A birthday abroad

Earlier this spring, I turned 27 and for the first time in my life, I celebrated my birthday outside of Canada’s borders and thousands of kilometres away from the place I call home. My birthday came just weeks after I left Toronto to pursue a year of working and travelling in South America.

They say when it comes to birthdays, there are two types of people: those who love it and those who hate it. I’m the latter. Not dissimilar to New Year’s, birthdays, I feel, are a time for reflection and goal setting. A marker of another year past and a new age just starting, birthdays can be anxiety filled and stressful. For some, it’s a dreaded time of year when worries about getting old are at their strongest. Aging, for me, is not of a particular concern. Rather, I’m faced with asking myself the tough questions. Am I where I want to be in life at this moment? Did I make the most of the year that just passed? Is there anything I’d like to change going forward? Am I wiser or just older now? As the questions continue to pop into my mind, it’s no wonder that my anxiety levels rise.

This year though, that changed. Having set foot in Colombia in the last days of February with a teeny wardrobe squeezed into a pack and an even smaller Spanish vocabulary, I set out to live my day-to-day quite differently. Turning up in a new country where little was familiar, I set a precedent to go with the flow as much as possible because, well, given the circumstances, there just didn’t seem to be another option. Plus, having put myself far outside of my comfort zone, little seemed in my control. Worrying wasn’t going to change that. As such, when my birthday neared, I learned to give up my panic routine. I ended up booking a stay in a hostel high in the mountains an hour outside of the city where strong rays of sunshine made for the perfect day of poolside lounging next to a yard of mango trees and avocados.  

There were some things I learned during that weekend when I finally learned to just chill out and take things as they come. Below, are just a few.

Expectation management is key.

Manage expectations and everything becomes easier. In years past, my birthday bash often had to be just so. I needed every one of my friends to show up and have a great time. I wanted a new outfit and freshly done hair. The night couldn’t end too early and oftentimes, my party had at least two locations. This year though, I couldn’t have any of that. I was without my cluster of friends for one, and secondly, I wasn’t even familiar with my new home. So, I booked the mini getaway determined to have fun during my lowest key birthday yet. I went with one close friend and fussed about none of the details. We enjoyed wine, homemade tacos and a tuk-tuk ride up the mountain. I had a great time. I guess simple is better and giving up control makes for a more enjoyable experience.

Sometimes, you just can’t plan for all the details.

I went with the flow and enjoyed a low-key weekend in a tranquil spot and met a lovely group of people also exploring the area. I chose not to fuss over every single detail and things turned out for the best. You can’t plan every single thing to a tee so it’s best not to try and just enjoy things as they happen. That goes for things like a birthday party but it also applies to travel, work or entering a new phase in life.

You heard it before… don’t take yourself too seriously.

I’m not the best Spanish speaker or salsa dancer but on the night when I turned 27, I did both. I joined the party going on a the pool soon after midnight again, determined just to have a good time and be in the moment. I doubt anyone noticed my amateur dance steps and as for the Spanish, I managed to get my points across through broken phrases. Others were encouraging, not judgmental and it was certainly better than hanging back and being a wallflower all night. I didn’t take myself seriously and it was for the best. Duly noted for my year of travels ahead…

Worrying just makes the problem bigger.

As mentioned, with so much out of my control this year, I just gave up the stressing altogether. I did myself a major favour. Instead of entertaining that birag of self-reflection questions, I opted not to bother. In doing so, the pressure came off and I had a surprisingly awesome time. The lead-up to my birthday was a much less stressful event than it had been in years past. I realized that worrying is a problem in and of itself and I had the power to quash that all along.  

Naked sex resort? No thanks

I’m definitely one lucky woman. I have traveled to a few continents over the years and my adventures are always memorable for one reason or another, but nothing will ever compare to the twilight-zone of an experience I had when I spent 4 days in Jamaica this past January.

I was sent on assignment, intending to learn about a new culture, enjoy some sun and sand, and perhaps gain a window into the world of nudists and swingers, at a well-known clothing optional resort in Negril.

I walked into Hedonism II wanting to love the experience and feeling that I would be somewhat sheltered from the exhibitionist lifestyle this destination was known for. Little did I know that I was in the world of the swinger and I, as a media member, was the outsider.  The resort made this clear by setting rules including the one that said I, as a “prude” staying on the Prude side, could not venture to the Naked side of the resort unless I disrobed.

I was completely fine with staying put. What was left out of the description to me from the beginning was that the same rule was not in place for the Naked side guests. They were given free reign of the entire resort and were welcome to carry on as they pleased on every square acre of the land. Oh! Did they ever.

During those 4 days, I saw things I cannot erase from my mind. Despite trying, images of all-aged naked men advancing towards fully-clothed me, attempting to ignite some “connection,” could not be unseen and the attempts kept on over the entire stay- lucky me.

To each their own, but  I spent my days at the resort flanking myself with the more youthful media members, who were also feeling like bait in a tank of hungry sharks.

We managed to enjoy spa treatments that were heavenly and this was actually the only time I disrobed. Our group also had a fantastic time on the party catamaran and amazing nights at the various themed parties. Luaus on the beach, leather and lace soirees as well as toga shindigs made us feel like we were a little more included, because at these events the majority of attendees were actually somewhat clothed.

Eventually the shock of all aged naked people wore off, but the sheer discomfort instilled with the advances, propositions and exhibitionist acts all around us did not. Couples would subtly leave their hotel room doors open and carry on having sex so anyone walking by could see. We all became used to being asked to join in.  “No thanks! I’m good!” I tried not to look in these doors, but it was always like road kill . I couldn’t avoid looking.

It was as if no rules applied on this plot of land. People were having sex anywhere they pleased, except at the buffet because that was unsanitary, but it was apparently sanitary for couples and strangers to get their rocks off in a pool I wished I could have gone swimming in. I didn’t even dare to dip in my big toe.

I guess I am a bit of a prude, and have no problem admitting that. I’m certainly not sitting in judgement over those guests who admitted to me they return to Hedo II again and again because of the freedom they feel to be themselves there. Clearly this resort is meant for a specific type of person:  exhibitionists, swingers and nudists. Everyone who fell under these categories, that I spoke to, raved about their experience at Hedonism II. I have complete respect for those who enjoy that lifestyle. It’s just not for me. I guess I’ll stick to the family-friendly resorts. They are more my speed.

London Calling

Over a decade ago I packed up my things at my childhood home and moved to London, U.K.  It was a sudden decision and one that my family-especially my parents- were surprised by. Up until that point I had always lived in Ottawa and never thought I’d leave. I had a happy childhood and a great group of friends, but after finishing my post-secondary education, relationships changed and I was looking for adventure.

Newly out of teacher’s college, I found opportunities were scarce in Ontario, but the U.K. was looking for new teachers. So I jumped at the opportunity, signed a contract and boarded a plane within three weeks to the city I would call home for 8 months.

Those 8 months were the most challenging and exciting of my life. I was enthralled with British culture up until heading there, mainly because of my mother and her love for British dramas and the royal family. I had fond memories of a childhood visit and at 24, I felt like I was once again a wide-eyed child, but this time could appreciate it fully. The busy city streets and vibrant red double-decker buses, the vintage-style cabs lined up at Charing Cross Station, the cobblestone streets and quirky fashion, and sights like the London Eye and the Thames, all fascinated me on my first journey through the core of the city.

The central portion of London proper had an entirely different vibe than the area that I ended up finding a flat-share in. It did not take long for the novelty and excitement to ware off and for me to get saturated in the day-to-day responsibilities. I lived with two Londoners in Hither Green- at the time, a “dodgy area,” as they say there. I taught in an even dodgier area on an estate in Abbeywood.

The novelty of being in a city I had grown up fascinated by quickly fizzled, and days swiftly passed. I enjoyed a romantic relationship with a homegrown Brit, finally became used to the food and cultural differences, and became comfortable in my role as a nursery teacher.

That’s not to say the transition wasn’t rocky. I experienced severe homesickness and talked to my parents daily for the first month, caught a terrible flu that I just couldn’t shake for well over that same month, was mugged twice-once at gun point – and hated not having my usual drip coffee to sip every morning before work.

The 8 months came and went and I was asked to stay on at the school for another year. I initially said yes, but then retracted. I realized that I had experienced all of London 20 times over and a number of the other British regions– – Cornwall was my favourite.

But with that trip to Cornwall came the starting point to the end of my relationship. My partner at the time was so immersed in his own life and family, and proved to not be very interested in mine. My father offered to fly him to Toronto for my brother’s wedding, and when he said no, I knew that the relationship would not work. The distance from my family made me appreciate them all even more, and if my boyfriend at the time couldn’t, it was time to go home, just as I had planned all along.

Eleven years later, whenever I am asked about the most interesting experience of my life, or the one that made the biggest impact, I always think back to those days in London. I was once a quiet and meek woman, nervous to go shopping at the mall on my own. That experience caused me to cross the pond solo to take on a city that is 10 times the size of Ottawa. Naturally, my next move was to Toronto.

Women taking over business travel

I am not a techie, but over the years I have learned how to incorporate basic technology into my day-to-day activities because it is imperative for communication and the work that I do.

 Statistics indicate that business travel and face-to-face meetings are still the preferred choice for many companies despite the technologies that exist to cut down on the travel.  Statistics from reports indicate that there were 514 million business trips taken last year by Americans alone which infused $424 billion into the US economy.

As the tide changes and women are taking on more prominent roles in various male-dominated businesses it’s easy to understand why many who prefer face-to-face meetings are women. Women are more focused on building strong bonds with business partners and bringing personable aspects to networking. Women thrive on connections. Men are typically more focused on getting the job done and keeping business, business.

Women and millennials now dominate business travel. Research conducted by the Upside Business Travel, in Washington, has determined that half of all North American business travelers are women and are much younger than men doing the same-  half of business travelers are less than 45.

Additionally, young millennials and women are learning to find more enjoyment while on their travels and are far more likely to mix business and pleasure by combining a work trip with leisure activities. They are taking more control regarding the business agenda and budget during their travels. Mixing business with leisure results in better productivity.

Jay Walker, CEO of Upside Business Travel, explains the growing trend in business travel:

“In the past, companies had very rigid guidelines for employee travel, but now we can see employees pushing back and asking for a budget, they’re saying ‘maybe I’ll book an Airbnb instead of a hotel, they’re saying ‘just tell me how much I need to spend, and I’ll decide how to spend it.'”

As the older male CEO’s and executives move towards retirement, it’s fantastic to see women stepping into those vacant roles and inspiring new, more balanced, methods for getting the job done.

Open letter by a former seafood-hater

It’s embarrassing to admit, but the first time I had sushi I hid it in my purse when no one was looking.

Late in high school, I finally decided to give this raw cuisine a try after hearing my gaggle of best friends rave about California rolls and fresh maki. At that point, I’d never eaten sushi or shellfish of any kind. I sat in the restaurant waiting for my meal to arrive. One bite and I’d be in their sushi-loving club… or so I thought. When my fishy meal came, I could barely tolerate the sight of it. The slabs of slippery, raw salmon on my plate before made me gag. Their texture made my stomach churn. Who was I kidding? I wasn’t a cultured eater at all. I didn’t even know how to use chopsticks. While there way no way I’d be feasting on this seafood dish, I was faced with an even bigger dilemma: all-you-can-eat sushi spots charge extra for that which you do not devour. So, I did something that only a picky eater could understand: I scooped up fistfuls of cold, gooey fish, stuffed them into my purse and left. I must have reeked of fish on the bus ride home.

A few years on, I was living in Toronto still successfully avoiding seafood (and especially the raw kind) when I started dating a man with a Portuguese background and an affinity for shrimp, lobster and, you guessed it, sushi. This person introduced me to the world of seafood, in gradual steps – first serving me the cooked kind. In time, I grew to love a plate of shrimp with a beer or a Friday night out eating lobster. Eventually, I tried a less offensive sushi meal and learned it wasn’t so bad at all.

Learning to love a type of food that I had previously dismissed came in handy when I traveled to new spots, like Brazil, for instance. This nation with its Portuguese roots was obsessed with all the foods which that past boyfriend of mine loved. I’ll never forget the day when, sunbathing alone by the ocean, I managed to order a small bowl of freshly-caught shrimp from a fisherman walking along the beach. My delight of being able to order this snack despite the language barrier quickly waned when I realized the shrimp came with the heads still attached. The freshly-peppered morsels caught just that day were a treat too good to pass up as I sunned myself on the beach though. So, without a second-thought, I removed the heads, doused the rest in lime and enjoyed the perfect Brazilian lunch.

Seafood and sushi are now favourite foods of mine. I’m glad I learned to become open-minded rather than dismissive of these dishes. That goes especially when travelling to places where these sorts of foods are the region’s pride and joy. I’ve found that being open to them while away from home has enriched vacation experiences. I gobbled mini octopus in Cuba on a white sandy beach with my brother. I munched on barbecued conch at a Bahamian cocktail party. I swallowed back ice-cold, butter-flavoured oysters in Boston after a long day spent reporting on the Boston Marathon. I fueled a Cape Cod relay race with a lobster roll and when I visited Nova Scotia, armed with a bib, ample napkins and tools for the occasion, I learned to crack my first lobster. More recently, in Vancouver, I sat by a sunny street and ordered a plate of sushi because you just can’t go to the west coast city without doing so. After I finished, I ordered an extra serving of two pieces of salmon sushi. My favourite.

The girl who once hid raw fish in her purse to avoid eating it has grown to be much more adventurous with fresh ocean foods. The menu items that once caused me to grimace have become a routine part of my diet – and a luxury when travelling. And so, I write this as a sort of open letter to the picky eaters out there because these are the ones I hope to convince to say yes to new flavours. Though it cost me a purse, my introduction to seafood has allowed me to better experience tastes from abroad.