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This following post is especially for backpackers. Actually, it is aimed at want-to-be backpackers!
A lot of people dream of travel and adventure but never seem to get around to it. They can come up with the most spurious excuses that prevent them from fulfilling their dreams – perhaps even their destinies.
There has been a book on travel published in the UK they should consider reading. It was written by none other than our old friend “Tony the Tiger”.*
It tells of the adventures of a young man who has stayed at our hostel in Toronto on several occasions and made all of us a little richer for having met him.
Tony (the Tiger) Giles is a backpacker who has explored this planet north to south, east to west and has visited all 50 United States; all 10 Canadian Provinces and 2 of our 3 Territories!
He has managed to set foot on every continent but Antarctica and participate in daring events like wilderness hiking, jet-skiing and bungee jumping, to name but a few.
So what, you ask?
His travels and adventures are only exceedingly impressive when you learn that this adventurous soul has accomplished so much in the face of the most extreme physical difficulties.
The legendary “Tiger” has for more than a decade, traveled solo and unaided even though he is blind and 80% deaf.
In a word, he is, quite simply, unstoppable.
If there are horizons you have dreamed of following but have always found impediments (real and imagined) that have prevented you from fulfiling your goals; you should read Tony’s travel book for inspiration.
The moral of his story is that Tony is living proof that almost no obstacle is so great it cannot be overcome.
* “Tony the Tiger” is the name we gave him. He calls himself simply: “Tony the Traveller” (sic).
His website is: www.tony the traveller.com
(Search the Canadiana Blog for “Tony the Tiger” to read of some of his past “adventures” with us.)
A totally blind and partially deaf guy’s global adventures by Tony Giles.
The first stop in Canada for many backpacker/travelers is often Toronto. It is our nation’s largest city; the financial centre; cultural hub; Hollywood North etc.
Toronto is located about 3000 kilometers from the farthest city east (St. John’s, Newfoundland) and the country stretches another 4,500 kilometers northwest to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory.
You want to explore Canada? Then you are in for a lot of travelling. It’s a pretty big place.
There are an (estimated) 3,000,000 lakes in a country that possesses about 10% of the world’s fresh water.
It spans 6 time-zones. (Pacific/Mountain/Central/Eastern/Atlantic/and Newfoundland Standard Time).
The ten Provinces and three Territories occupy almost 10 million square kilometers of this cearth and alost 900,000 sq. kilometers of that is fresh water. (Second largest country in the world.
The real irony of Canada is that this enormous, resource rich, sparsely inhabited and spectacularly beautiful nation is home to just 32,000,000 people!
We first told you about the visit to the hostel of the school groups from Guelph (Ontario) three years ago. (See: “The DaVinci Program” entry of November 8, 2008.)
As the heading of this entry implies, this is not the first visit of students from Guelph Area High School’s to our hostel. We have hosted two previous groups in 2008 and 2009.
This is the “DaVinci Program” that incorporates some of the top grade 11 students of the Guelph area high schools. What is this program? For one thing, it is rather hard to describe.
Suffice to say it is a different type of learning.
The program lasts a single semester and it is a limited access program. There are a maximum of 24 students who qualify for this unique learning experience. As mentioned and as you might expect, enrollment in this program draws on the top students from various schools.
The pupils spend the semester away from the traditional classroom environment. Nature, Art, Science etc., are approached “experiencially”; which is to say that learning is more a matter of experiment and experience as opposed to academically by rote.
Confused? So are we. That’s because we are not pedagogues – you know, educators; instructors; teachers.
On a two-day, one-night field trip to Toronto, the group took in a performance of MacBeth at the Bathurst Street Theatre followed by an interactive discussion with the cast and director. They paid a visit to the Art Gallery of Toronto (AGO) and likely met interesting backpackers/travelers from all over the world.
In our previous entry, we remarked how well-behaved the students of this program were when they visited before. The 2010 group was no exception and an absolute pleasure to host.
We think the quality of students is a strong indicator that the program is, indeed, an example of progressive education.
There is an obvious synergy to this “DaVinci Program”: Good schools + Good teachers + Good students = GREAT PROGRAM!
The “DaVinci Group” of 2010
Monday October 11, 2010. It’s a big day here at the hostel. It is Thanksgiving Day – an annual Canadian Tradition. (see previous entry:THANKSGIVING: a CANADIAN Tradition)
As it is a National holiday in Canada, most shops, restaurants, pubs, clubs shut down while the city closes down and people go home for a traditional turkey dinner with family and friends.
But what about backpackers? They are all far from home and can only look forward to to a very quiet day. But we are the only inn among all of the hostels in Toronto that jumps in to fill the void.
Our signs go up in the hostel a week before:
People can sign up by Friday October 8th for a full Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings and delicious deserts. The Friday booking cut-off is to allow us to calculate just how much food we need to prepare.
(People arrive at the hostel on the weekend (9th and 10th) before Thanksgiving Monday are exempted from the deadline.
By Friday almost 100 people had booked for the Thanksgiving Brunch.
Teresa, the hostels head of housekeeping began preparation the night before Thanksgiving and worked through the night preparing nine huge birds with a combined weight of over 140 lbs.
Last Christmas we had 100 people sign up for our Christmas meal and 130 show up. We almost ran short of turkey! This Thanksgiving we were prepared!
A lot of ex-hostel residents who now have their own apartments in the city come “home” for Thnaksgiving. They know they are always welcome at their hostel/home.
Americans are wont to say that we Canadians took our annual Thanksgiving tradition from them. In other words, we usurped, copied, stole it from them, if you will!
Yes. The North American Thanksgiving celebration has been – usurped, copied, stolen! They stole it from us!
Long before the discovery of North American continent celebrations of thanks for the harvests were common in Europe in the month of October.
The Americans attribute the first Thanksgiving on the continent to the Pilgrims in the early 17th Century (1621, actually). It is held in November long after the harvests actually begin!
In fact, the very first Thanksgiving was held in Newfoundland by the explorer Martin Frobisher in 1578 to give thanks for their safe voyage across the Atlantic. This was 43 years before the arrival of the Pilgrims!
The truth is, our Thanksgiving was originally in November as well. We changed it after World War One to avoid conflicting with Remberance Day on November 11th. Also our harvest season is earlier.
So we are willing to share the tradition with our southern neighbours. As long as they cease to arrogate it as their own!
Martin Frobisher in Newfoundland 1578
The Pilgrims arrival 1621 (43 years later!)
We’ve mentioned before that the term “Youth Hostel” no longer applies to backpacker inns. The demographics of budget travelers has changed radically.
In fact, “8 Months to 80 Years” doesn’t describe very accurately the age range of our hostel guests. Less than 8 months to More than 80 years-old, would be far more precise.
We’ve had a virtual newborn as guests here with his parents (in one of our private rooms, of course). He had been born (prematurely) in Toronto while his parents were visiting from south of the border.
The mother decided to spend a few days at our hostel before traveling home. So, besides the hospital where he was born, his first place of residence was right here at the hostel!
We have also had several octogenarian backpackers! Alena Svatek was here for a visit all the way from the Czech Republic in September of 2010. Alena is also a Canadian Citizen having lived here for four decades when here native country was under the heel of the Soviet Union.
She returned to her former adopted homeland as a guide for an old friend who could speak no English but had a desire to see Canada.
So you can plainly see that age is no longer a barrier to backpacking.
Our youngest guest
83 year old Alena
There is absolutely nothing that is more ubiquitious with 21st Century Backpackers than a Cellphone. A traveler staying in hostels is more likely to have a cellphone than even a camera.
First conceived as a business aid, the first cellular phones were expensive, bulky and mostly vehicle mounted.
But the growth of technology is exponential as we all know. The size of a cellular phone has become smaller and smaller and the prices have fallen accordingly.
What had been designed as a useful business tool has found a much larger market as…well…a toy for children, teenagers and youths.
The scientific data is only now coming out. And the news isn’t good.
It has now been established that the spiraling growth in cellphone use will be accompanied by a surge of brain cancers in young people. That will not be the only ailment attributable to cell phone use but possibly the most common.
There are however, precautions one can take. Limiting use or, better yet, ceasing to use them is the most desirable option. Yet, that is unlikely to happen.
Cellphone providers have latched on to a lucrative market and they are not about to let go of the impressionable, money making children and youth consumer bases. Remember Tobacco Company pitches? “Try our lower tar cigarettes” which proved to be just as bad for your health!
Just watch the public relations/advertising departments efforts on sales campaigns: “Lower Emission” (read: radiation) phones will be the future rage.
If you are interested in taking reasonable precautions using your cellphone, here is a link to the latest news article: