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Not everybody who pitches up at our hostel in Toronto is just a backpacker. We also get our share of business travelers; conventioneers; and people moving to; or planning to move to Canada.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free….” that is a portion of a Sonnet written by the 19th Century poet, Emma Lazarus, that is affixed inside the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
Anyone who had tried to pull up a stakes and emigrate knows that statement isn’t exactly true any longer. In fact, moving to another country is a long and invloved process that has become more difficult even as travel itself has become easier.
So besides backpackers, we get a good many “conference attendees” (the Toronto Conference Centre a mere three blocks from our front door) as well as budget business travelers, especially during economic downturns.
We also get our fair share of individuals scoping out Toronto for work opportunites and possible immigration. And according to the U.N., Toronto is the most multi-cultural city on earth!
As a born-and-raised Torontonian (as well as being a member of a visible ethnic minority) I know that Toronto’s reputation for tolerance has been hard-earned and well-deserved.
But I am also acutely aware of our torridly humid summers and brutal winters.
We have a young “landed immigrant” in the hostel as I write this. He’s from the U.K. and he is a physician by profession. Quite a catch for Canada!
Other recent “immigrants” are the family of a crown prosecuter from London, England; a pharmacist from South Africa; a pscychiatric social worker from Chicago; and a para-medic from the U.K. via the French Foreign Legion.
Now this type of reverse brain-drain we can really use!
Dalbir (a physician from the U.K.) with Hailey(staff member from Canada) and Mika (from Japan).
Just three hours drive north of Canada’s largest city lies a vast, almost pristine, wildwerness park set aside by forward thinking planners in 1893 to protect the headwaters of five major river systems that have their sources in the region.
The formation of the Park created a 7,600 square kilometer wildlife sanctuary by excluding agriculture and settlement.
The park is a backpackers dream and the ultimate place to go in Ontario to see wildlife.
As well as Moose, Deer and Bear, the park is known for it’s healthy population of wolves that you can often hear howling in the night. Way cool!
Salty Bear Tours just finished their end-of-season trip to Algonquin with 14 lucky backpackers. Since 14 is the maximum number on any tour a few who did not book early enough were disappointed.
The cost of the 3 day excursion is a mere $300 and includes accommodation at a backpackers hostel in Maynooth just outside of the park’s eastern boundary.
There are a few pics below and we hope that some of the backpakers who have taken this trip will offer some comments.
The last group of the season with the map of the park behind them.
Don’t ask! It’s a backpackers thing! A.J. and Jeremy are their names! (Note: Very small leaves!)
Backpackers on a hike on ancient rocks that comprise the pre-cambrian shield.
Our two newest staff members like to keep abreast of “travel deals” within Canada in order to advise backpackers of airline, train or bus “special offers”.
Canada is a vast country, the second largest in the world and spans six-and-a-half time zones. The distances are so great that is is usually cheaper to fly from Toronto to Cancun, Mexico than it is to fly to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Or it costs less to fly to London, England that to Vancouver on the Pacifilc coast.
Indeed, it is usually more expensive to fly to Calgary than to the Caribbean or cCentral America and Calgary is a mere four hours west by jet.
Marcella (our dancer from Columbia) and Katie (our multilingual receptionist from Ottawa) came across a bargain that was too difficult to pass up.
They found airfares from Toronto to Vancvouver and return for less than $300!
To give you an idea of what a good deal that is, a Greyhound Bus Ticket to Vancouver (one way) costs about $240 and involves almost four days of discomfort! And remember, that’s just ONE WAY!
So not only did our ladies share this information with our visiting backpackers, they booked a flight for an impromptu getaway! The picture below shows them on a three day escape to the warm, sunny beaches of B.C.
Marcella and Katie on their Great Escape.
Ian Robinson arrived at the hostel this week, coming all the way from Wales to participate in what most of us regard as an unatural act.
He has flown clear across the Atlantic Ocean to run about 26 miles as quickly as he can. There is no real prize money in this race; merely bragging rights and I imagine, a good deal of pain.
The Annual Toronto Marathon sponsered by Good Life Fitness does offer cash to the winners of the seniors category. I’m not sure how old Ian is and he just might qualify in this category. First prize is a thousand dollars; second prize is 500 dollars; third (and final prize) 250 dollars.
In the “regular” category, the prizes are wristwatches and assorted merchandise.
Ian is also a former Nationally Ranked Squash Competitor in his native Wales. He’s also here to compete in a few friendly matches with some of our top local competitors.
We’ll report on his race results after Sunday, October 27th. But we think he should do quite well. He looks pretty fit.(The Toronto Marathon was won in a record time (2:08:32) by a runner from Kenya - no surprise – and the ladies section first, secomd and third were won by Ethiopian women. Ian finished in a time of around 2hrs. 48 mins. and received his medal – he says it is a lot nicer than the cheesey one he got in the New York race. Nicely done Ian!)
Our hostel is well-known as one of the most highly-rated backpackers inns in North America.
One of the best “advertisments” comes from the word-of-mouth recommendations of past guests. A page on facebook started a year ago by a past guest has already attracted nmore than 600 members!
Rob is a Information Technology Specialist from the UK who first stayed with us a couple of summers ago. He was in Canada on an extended working/holiday visa.
Since his year in Canada, Rob has returned to the hostel on vacation from his job with the NHS (National Health Services) of Britian. He wouldn’t spend his holidays anywhere else.
Rob has returned to Toronto on his second vacation in as many years but this time he brought three of his friends with him.
Ed, Ollie and and Ollie’s his sister Sadie who have all been lifelong friends of Rob’s have long been regaled of his tales of Canada and the Canadiana Backpacker’s Inn in Toronto.
They wanted to see for themselves.
They really came at the right time of year too. The weather has been excellent and they are going to try to squeeze in a Salty Bear Excursion to the scenic Algonquin Provincial Park north of the city.
Algonquin is an enormous wilderness area managed and protected by thr Province of Ontario.
The leaves are just beginning to change color and they might to get in a little canoeing on Algonquin’s pristine lakes before the beginning ofthe fall hunting season.
We’ll have to see if Rob’s friends will append a few comments to this entry and see if the word-of-mouth recommendation they got from their friend was accurate.
It certainly isn’t very green and it is almost completely permenantly covered with snow. So why do they call it Greenland?
Although the world’s largest island is a constituant part of Denmark, it has been self-governing since 1979, So it is arguuably the most sparsely inhabitied “country” in the world.
There are, in fact, fewer than 60 thousnd Greenlanders inhabiting an rea of close to 2.2 million square kilometers.
Needless to say, we don’t get many backpackers from Greenland.
Avo might be the first. At least, she is the first one any current staff member can recall at the hostel.
She is here for an extended stay attending a language school in order to improve her English skills. She speaks Danish (I assume) as well as Inuit as the language and people are called here in Canada.
In Greenland they are sill often referred to as “Eskimos” meaning “eaters of raw fish”. It is a term that is considered a pejorative here in Canada.
It is understandable too because given that description, anyone who enjoys eating sushi is an Eskimo by definition.
Avo’s arrival at the hostel is just another indicator of just how small the world has become and shows how interconnected we have all become.
You mighty say that the although thje world has become much smaller than only a few short years ago, but it has also become a lot more interesting.
I don’t know why I called this entry “Pro Bono”. Tickets to the recent U2 Concert here in Toronto certainly were not free!
Arguably the biggest Band in the world today (with the possible exception of the Rolling Stones) U2 has notched up sales of over a 145 million records and has been awarded a total of 22 Grammy Awards (more than any other band.)
Regardless of what you may think of the group, they have attracted legions of loyal fans worldwide. And throughout their career the band has collectively and individually campaigned for human rights and social justice.
Right now, we have a group of backpackers all the way from Mexico City who have come to Toronto for the sole purpose of attending the U2 Concert!
Some of these fans have followed the group to Hawaii and beyond and plan trips to other venues on this current world tour.
They had excellent front-row seats at the Rogers Center to watch frontman Bono in his performing role when he isn’t busy telling world leaders how to solve world poverty or the AIDS Pandemic. Front row seats were earned by our Mexican friends by lining up at the ticket office all night in Mexico City!
The reviews of last night’s concert was universally positive. They put on a fantastic show! All of our Mexican visitors aver that it was well worth the trip to Toronto!
Audrey is a young university student living in Montreal where she is completing a Master’s Degree in Geography.
But she hails from a rather unusual place. She was born and raised in New Caledonia . It’s an Island paradise in the South Pacific.
This “Overseas Territory of France” sits astride the Tropic of Capricorn west of Australia and north of New Zealand. It has a temperate tropical climate with temperatures seldom rising above +32C or falling much below +17C!
She is one of the first persons from New Caledonia to stay at our hostel in Toronto which is understandable when you consider the fact that there are fewer than 250,000 New Caledonians in the world! ( A past guest Simon Kelly was born, I think, in Rabaul, New Caledonia - see entry “A Maori From OZ“)
Audrey decided to study in Montreal as the University there offers one of the best courses in her field of study and classes are conducted in the French language – her mother tongue.
She is in her last year at University to on her way to earning her Master’s Degree. Then she plans to head back to the warm tropical beaches of the South Pacific. Go figure?
Beatrice grew up in Romania in the 1980′s when the (then) Communist country was under the thumb of one of the most oppressive governments in ghe world. It was, to put it mildly, quite a “jungle”.
When people think of the Romanian area of the Balkans, Transylvannia and Dracula spring to mind and also Nicolae Ceaucescu (the notorious Communist Dictator, overthrown in a violent revolution in 1989).
The last 20 years have seen the country gain acceptance to the European Union and the people are experiencing new freedoms.
Beatrice, it seems, likes the “jungle”.
She recently returned from an extended astay in East Africa where she learned to love the wilds oof the Masai Mara, you might say she has been bitten by the “safari bug”.
So she stopped off at our hostel in Toronto on her way to the Carribean and Central America where she will look for training for a job as a “wilderness guide”.
Her first stop will be Trinindad and Tobago where she has learned there are Rain Forest excursions off the beaten paths taken by most touriists.
Who knows? Maybe this attractive young lady will find her “Tarzan”.
Andrea is a young professional from Manchester, U.K. who had a very successful career as an “executive recruiter”. We’d call her a “head hunter” in these parts.
How successful was she? Trust me – very successful.
Then she up and quit a very lucerative job. According to Andrea, she wasn’t happy and money did not buy happiness! (OK, Andrea, if you say so!)
So before returning to a new (and different) occupation in her home city she decided to take a holiday in Toronto. The change in careers has taken considerable courage – not to mention pay cut!
She really likes our city too and is even considering moving here one day. If it is a pay cut she is looking for, I’m sure she can find that here without too much trouble.