In a hostel, there are always certain guests whom virtually everyone likes. So, it begs the question:¬†“Why”?
The answer is relatively easy once you have seen a number of people to whom others are naturally drawn.¬†Elise Bolling from Sydney, downunder is the latest example that comes to mind.
Back home she is a specialist in Early Childhood Education but has decided to take a “Gap Year” to work and travel. We’re glad she chose Canada.
Her popularity is easily apparent and it is something which she has gained honestly. You could apply virtually any positive ¬†adjective to describe her; but, the most appropriate would be “kind”.
That is the quality that is sadly lacking in much of today’s youth. ¬†Many (if not most)¬†have become self-centred and self-indulgent in the fast-paced lifestyle of the 21st Century.
Their mantra, it seems, is¬†Me! Me! Me!
But Elise seems to have learned the secret of friendship. Quite simply put,¬†“If you want to HAVE friends; you must first BE a friend.
Anyone¬†(and we DO mean ANYONE)¬†who has met this remarkable young lady¬†must¬†know that she is the type of person whom you could count on in a crisis. Many of us have witnessed her spring to action when a friend has encountered extreme difficulties.
When her birthday came, many of the hostels guests planned a surprise party which kicked-off the instant she arrived home from work.
We can’t say enough good things about Elise. There is little to add¬†except¬†that no one here as¬†ever¬†heard her utter a bad word about anyone.
How many people can you say¬†that¬†about?
They ALL adore Elise!
Her surprise birthday party.
People posting their sentiments on our notice board!
Travel today is definitely youth oriented. ¬†In the 21st Century, there is an enormous infrastructure in place to facilitate young backpackers.¬†
The “Working Holiday Visa” program involves reciprocal ¬†agreements between developed nations to provide young¬†(normally 30 or younger)¬†tourists a year-long visa that allows them to seek employment and thus subsidize their travels. A cultural exchange if you will.
Virtually every hostel hires young working holiday travelers to assist in day-to-day operations. In our experience, they have proved to be friendly, hard-working and honest employees.
Every once in a while a working-holiday backpacker we have hired whom we would describe as “exceptional”! ¬†That word would particularly apply to Sandra Davis from Ireland.
The Canadiana Backpackers Inn has a pretty stellar reputation as far as hostels in Toronto go¬†(in North America, in fact).¬†Teresa our Head of Housekeeping demands excellence among her staff. She described Sandra’s efforts as, quite simply,¬†“perfect”.¬†(We had never her use a term above “excellent”¬†before).
Unfortunately, Sandra succumbed to the lure of the ski hills in the mountains near Banff. The attraction of clean-air, peaceful life style and scenic beauty of the west beckoned.¬†Go figure?
Sandra left last week for the mountains Alberta.¬†(We have spoken with her and apparently, she likes it!) Too bad; our loss.
She was so popular with the hostels guests, that before she left, they posted a “Farewell Tribute” to her on Youtube.¬†(In the history of our hostel, this is a first!)
She has taken up a similar position with some ski-resort in or near Banff, Alberta. We can only hope they don’t¬†realize what a prize they have hired. Sandra, being Irish has the option of another year’s working visa.
A personal message to Sandra from all of us at Canadiana Backpackers: ¬†Don’t get too comfortable out west. You can always come home. We’ll take you back!¬†Anytime!
Sandra tried her hand at making a living as a Pool Shark….
….after abandoning her dream of joining the National Ballet.
….then decided to travel west (in true¬†voyageur¬†fashion) to the Canadian Wilderness.
Yes, it is true. There really¬†is¬†SOMEONE¬†out there for¬†EVERYONE!¬†
Of all the hostels in Toronto, we think we provide the most convivial atmosphere. Hostels are¬†supposed¬†to be a place to meet people in a strange city. We do that¬†very¬†well.
As proof, consider that we have had countless hostel¬†“unions”¬†of backpackers who first met at our hostel. And the¬†numbers¬†speak for themselves. ¬†It is no exaggeration to say that virtually thousands of couples have formed long-lasting friendships from hostel meetings.
But it is the¬†marriages¬†that result from meetings at the Canadiana that are really telling. How many have there been?
We don’t know precisely. We lost track and stopped counting after the first 20. At present, we are fairly certain that there have been closer to 30!
The latest union¬†(that we know of)¬†is the union of Yuka ¬†(from Japan)¬†with Mark¬†(from Ireland).
Yuka, is an attractive¬†(mid thirties)¬†experienced world-traveler who has spent year-long working holidays in Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and Canada. Mark, was a portly, young, inexperienced man¬†(early twenties)¬†on his first sojourn away from home.
In spite of being shy, Mark managed to make a lot of friends here among the hostels guests.¬†¬†And fortunately, Yuka had a distinct preference for the¬†endomorph¬†type of physique.
Mark followed Yuka to New Zealand after her year in Canada. We have just learned that the two were married with a Japanese Ceremony in Yuka’s home village on Shikoku Island.
Anyone lucky enough to work at one of the hostels in Toronto, gets to interact with interesting travelers from all around the world. They also get to witness many cultural idiosyncrasies fist hand.
For example. What does this signify?
Most would say it is the Peace Sign. And they would be right. Then again, it could be a secret code sign.
Why would we think that? Good question. Glad you asked.
Here at our Toronto hostel, we see thousands¬†(literally)¬†of photographs of globe-trotting, backpacking guests every year. That’s why we noticed something a little unusual in pictures of Japanese backpackers. In order to confirm our supposition, we randomly selected a dozen past guests from our facebook contact list.
That’s when we discovered it was confirmed.” In¬†EVERY case¬†our Japanese backpacker friends had been photographed making the “Peace Sign’.
Here is a collage from the facebook pages of a dozen Japanese former guests:
So? What does it mean? and Why do they do it? We have no idea.¬†(and likely, neither do they!)
HOCKEY is Canada’s game!¬†(In this country, saying otherwise, can lead to a fight!)
The most popular team and the most valuable franchise are the TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS.
LEAFS? Any native English speaker will tell you the plural of “Leaf” is “LEAVES”.
Still, diehard Hockey Fans¬†have a convoluted explanation for the egregious English error. It’s a beautiful example of “sophistry”.
A lot of our hostels guests want to take in a real¬†ICE HOCKEY¬†game¬†(but in Canada the “ICE” part is redundant).¬†
Unfortunately, tickets to a “Leafs” game in Toronto is about the most expensive anywhere in the league.
Why? Who knows?
Toronto boasts the most loyal, rabidly supportive fan base in the sport. The hapless “Leafs” can do it all – except win! The last time they won hockey’s Holy Grail¬†(The Stanley Cup),¬†was way back in 1967. Toronto fans have been supportive through a 43 year drought – and still counting!
Every Toronto “Home Game” is always sold out. The only option is to but a ticket from a “scalper”¬† which is both expensive and illegal.¬†(Perhaps $130 and up).
An alternative for budget minded backpackers is to take in a game of the Toronto Marlboroughs¬†(a.k.a. the “Marlies”).
They are also members of a professional league the AHL¬†(American Hockey League)¬†whose players are all subject to “call up” to the NHL ¬†(National Hockey League)¬†in the event of player injury¬†(which happens virtually every game!).
A ticket to a “Marlies” game will run about $12 and you can virtually count on the game to be a brutal spectacle!
Every Marlie game is prowled by NHL “Scouts” and every aspirant to NHL paychecks plays his heart out for their benefit.
One of our hostels events is to organize a trip to Ricoh Coliseum ¬†to catch a Marlies game. The Coliseum is at Exhibition place only about 15 minutes from the hostels doors.
Anyone familiar with backpacking knows that the “character” of hostels is determined largely by the “characters” who stay there.
Backpackers are by definition a transient group; thus the “character” of a hostel changes constantly. Nonetheless, it is always¬†a rather interesting mix¬†(and that’s putting it mildly).
Starting below, we will introduce you (randomly)¬†to¬†two¬†of the¬†characters¬†currently in residence. This might give you an idea of the tone and tenor of a hostels daily life:
AINE and ANGEL:
We have chosen two attractive young¬†“ladies”¬†as an example of the hostels current Zeitgeist.
AINE¬†(pronounced AWN-ye)¬†hails from County Sligo in the west of Ireland. ANGEL¬†(ironically named, as you will see if you meet her)¬†is a Kiwi from the North Island. Both have come to Toronto with Working/Holiday Visas.
Why did we choose these two?
To begin with they have both been here for some weeks and virtually¬†everyone¬†in residence knows this pair. The two are often seen together on our patio or in our common room¬†“holding court”¬†as it were (i.e. they are the centre of attention).
These two young¬†“ladies”¬†are, at the same time, pleasant but¬†boisterous (again, putting it mildly). They are both capable and interesting and can do many things – but¬†nothing¬†quietly.
So when you visit hostels in Toronto (particularly our hostel)¬†you will be able to ascertain very quickly the movers and shakers in residence. ¬†Aine and Angel you will likely¬†hear before you see them!
Traveling today is¬†much, much¬†easier these days in a world shrinking because of technology.
When young backpackers first started traveling¬†in the 1960′s¬†(mostly Hippies)¬†there were virtually no facilities¬†(no hostels, student fares or youth discounts).¬†
Everything was¬†strange and new.
Today, as travelers get younger and younger¬†every¬†major city and tourist destination is set up to serve them. But it seems that instead of seeking¬†new¬†cultural experiences, today’s young traveler/backpacker wants what he/she had at home.
For instance, apparently we don’t have¬†”proper”¬†Heinz Beans here in North America. I don’t know what they taste like but I have been assured by an Irish girl they are better.¬†(Apparently, thy are spelled with a “Z” as in “Heinz Beanz” – I’ll look for them)
Australians, it seems are always traveling; but, they also constantly complain that there is no “Vegemite”¬†(a¬†foul spread of beer barrel “Yeast Residue” eaten ONLY by Australians)¬†or the difficulty of finding¬†“Tim Tams”.
Tim Tams are chocolate covered wafers. They are actually pretty good; but, nothing to rhapsodize about. Paul (the young Aussie pictured below) insists¬†they are¬†“not the same” as back home.
Aussies are also fond of¬†meat pies; but we won’t mention those. I’ve tried them downunder¬†and they¬†are¬†pretty nice.
Finally, there is the famous Guinness Beer.¬†Personally speaking, I am¬†very fond¬†of the “Dark Nectar”¬†and have sampled it all over the world¬†(Including Bruxelles, a superb Irish Public House just off Grafton Street in¬†Dublin).
In Canada, I have been told usually by Irish WOMEN¬†that Guinness outside of Ireland is¬†“not the same”. (As I said, told by “women”, the majority of whom don’t actually drink it!)
Any truly experienced Guinness Fan will tell you that the quality often differs from Pub to Pub even in Erie.
Our best advice to young backpackers who want things to be the same as thy were back home, is stay home!
It takes so little to make some Aussies happy!
Bruxelles Pub¬†(Dublin)¬†for a “real” pint of Guinness!
A large number of young backpackers who book stays in Toronto Hostels are here on “Working Holiday Visas”.
These are issued by the government to foreign nationals from countries with reciprocal agreements with Canada.
These visas are typically valid for one calendar year. In the case of some countries¬†(Ireland and Australia, for example)¬†the visas are valid for two years. The visas are age restricted and the cut off for eligibility is usually around the age of thirty to thirty-two. ¬†(Again, wholly dependent on the bilateral agreement their country has negotiated with Canada.)
These temporary workers annually number in the thousands. As¬†“strangers in a strange land”¬†feeling your way around can be quite intimidating.
To facilitate young arrivals navigation of the job market, they have instituted a “Newcomers Canada Fair”.¬†
It is being held this coming weekend¬†(September 7-8) ¬†just 4 blocks from our hostels doors at the Sheraton Hotel on Queen Street, West¬†(directly opposite the City Hall)
Here you can meet¬†Government Immigration Officials, Employers, Recruiters, Credential Recognition Services, English Language Supports,¬†as well as¬†Immigration Experts, Education Providers, Settlement and Arrival Services.
Entry to this event is free¬†if¬† you register in advance online. If you don’t, there is a $10 entry fee charged at the door.
Their website (where you can pre-register)¬†is here:
Of all Toronto Hostels, ours is the closest to the CN Tower; the Rogers Sports Centre; and the massive Toronto Convention Centre.
As a result, a lot of our hostels guests frequently attend sporting, music and special events on a whim. ¬†(We re also close to the Air Canada Centre a hockey, basketball and music concert venue.
This year, the Toronto “FanExpo” (a,k,a,¬†“Comic Con”)¬†held it’s convention held annually since 1995. It’s humble beginning was a comic book convention attracting about 15oo fans.¬†
From this humble beginning, the re-branded “FanXpo” was held at the Toronto Convention Centre¬†(3 blocks from our hostels front door)¬†sprawling over 750,000 sq. feet. It is now one of the largest pop-culture events in North America with tens of thousands of visitors.
Since it encompasses “Comic Books”; “Sci-fi”¬†(books, TV and Film);¬†“Anime”; “Horror” and “Gaming”, there is a little something for almost everybody’s taste.
Several of our hostels backpacker guests attended because it was close and of interest to young travelers. Perhaps fortunately, we didn’t have any Klingons in full regalia; Star Trek uniformed Space Cadets; Horror Movie Monsters; or pointed-ear Vulcans.
But we have had them in the past.¬†The point is that our hostels close to virtually¬†everything Toronto has to offer.
Right now, there is the Annual Canadian National Exhibition (C.N.E.)¬†on close by our hostel at the foot of Bathurst Street.
It is the world’s largest permanent annual exhibition. It s on until September 2d. Thus Trade Fair has something for everybody and many of our hostels guests will be heading there this week.
FanXpo has evolved into 3rd largest pop-culture event in North America.