The word “Biker” is a word that is usually calls to mind an anti-social, “outlaw motorcyclist”.
Not so in the world of backpackers.
There is a distinct breed of traveler who have elected to journey long-distances on two wheels.
Summer is the time when Toronto hostels host a good number of two-wheeled travelers. It is a cool mid-August¬†(normally the hottest part of Toronto summer),¬†and the unusually cool temperatures¬†(low 20′sC)¬†are particularly pleasing to some “biker” backpackers.
Justin is a young Canadian from Nelson, B.C., who decided to see his native land on his own power. He began his cross-Canada odyssey in Tofino on Vancouver Island and headed east on his trusty bicycle.
Pat, is an adventurous American “Biker” who hails from Denver, Colorado. But his “bike” is considerably faster than Justin’s. He rode into Toronto on a BMW GS800 touring bike that has been designed to tackle bad road conditions.
Justin continued his journey heading east bound for St. John’s, Newfoundland where he plans to dip his foot in the Atlantic, having traversed Canada from sea-to-sea.
Pat left for Toronto Airport, to catch a flight to Scotland where he has shipped his bike ahead for the second leg of his journey.¬†His travel segments will include: the U.K.; western-Europe; eastern Europe; mid-East; India; southeast-Asia; and Australia.
It seems that two-wheeled travel¬†(with or without motor)¬†is real “adventure backpacking”. The on;y real difference is the amount of distance covered.
(Pat has an excellent website/journal:¬†www.apatonamotorcycle.com)
We have people from all over the world working at our hostel. All hostels require a dedicated staff in order to ensure smooth operation.
Of all the backpacker hostels in Toronto, the Canadiana Backpacker’s Inn is the most centrally located. While many other hostels¬†claim¬†to be a short 5 minute walk to the CN Tower and Skydome, we are the only one that actually¬†is¬†that close.¬†(Exactly three blocks to be precise).
Wouter (Walter) Visser first came to Toronto from his native South Africa in 2006. Walter, is a South African Boer, who are the only white race to claim Southern African roots. As luck would have it, Walter holds both South African and Canadian Citizenship through his mother.
He is a key player on our hostels staff. He exemplifies the type of worker needed to maintain a high rating among other hostels. Most quality hostels do their best to maintain staff as most realize that for hostels to keep a high customer satisfaction rating, a low staff turnover is essential.
Walter¬†(Wouter) has been given the nickname “Meerkat”¬†after the uniquely South African animal. Anyone who knows what a Meerkat looks like need only look at Walter’s picture below, to understand why he as that particular moniker.
It’s safe to go in the water again!¬†(And NOT just because the recent Discovery Channel “documentary” on the¬†MEGALODON SHARK has been exposed as a fraud).
There are a lot of beaches in Canada. Most likely many, many thousands. After all, we have over 3 million lakes and the longest coastline in the world.
Most of them are located in pristine wilderness inaccessible to man. So you can bet your life they are clean!
Of beaches that are used regularly by the general public for recreational purposes, 18 have achieved the International World Standard of a¬†“Blue Flag”¬†rating.
For a beach to earn a coveted¬†Blue Flag designation, a rigid set of cleanliness standards must me maintained. One of the barometers is that it must have¬†less than 250 parts of e-coli pollutants per million.¬†(The Ontario Provincial Standard is much higher demanding less than 100 parts per million!)
In spite of this rigorous standard, 8 of Toronto’s 11 beaches are rated Blue Flag Beaches!¬†Water quality is checked daily and as of August 12, 2013, all 11 beaches were deemed safe to swim in.
It is the City of Toronto’s aim to have¬†all¬†of Toronto’s Beaches earn the Blue Flag rating.¬†
Back during Christmas of ’05, we had a novice backpacker visit from New Jersey, U.S.A. In fact, our Toronto hostel was his first experience with hostels anywhere.
Eli decided to spend that Christmas here in Toronto. We’re pretty sure he enjoyed his visit. This summer¬†(August 23d to be precise)¬†he has booked his 5th stay at the hostel. This will be his first visit during the summer.
Eli is originally from El Salvador and as a result is fluently bilingual (English/Spanish). I think he was surprised how much Spanish was spoken in the hostels common areas. He met fellow backpackers from Spain and students from Latin America.
In many ways his visit to Toronto was a life altering experience.
Eli was slightly overweight and painfully shy. He sat quietly observing the Canadiana Backpacker’s Inn’s legendary conviviality. But¬†he was quickly drawn into the social aspect of the hostels daily life.¬†
Eli quickly made a lot of friends and although he does not drink alcohol, he enjoyed the Toronto nightlife with fellow hostel guests.
Since that first visit almost eight years ago, Eli life has changed radically. He lost a lot of weight (about 35 kilos)¬†through disciplined eating habits and has become a proficient¬†(trophy winning)¬†practitioner of Kempo-Style Karate.
Like so many of our hostels repeat guests, Eli has become more than just another traveler. He is a friend that we look forward to welcoming here again next week.
Pics on left and right is”heavyweight” Eli. Centre pic is Eli 85 lbs. lighter in “Fighting Trim”.
We have a lot of young visitors to Toronto who deserve to be labeled “Vagabonds”. It simply means they are very well traveled. Travel for young backpackers has become easier and easier.
Have you ever thought about what travel for young backpackers was like before there were hostels?
Back in the 1960′s and ’70′s was perhaps the first time young people¬†(often fresh out of school)¬†began to travel in earnest. But young backpackers back then there was little infrastructure to accommodate a youth on the road.¬†
Hostels were still an unheard of concept. Perhaps the only option for a budget minded youth visiting Toronto was ¬†the YMCA. Books such as “Europe on $5 a Day” were bestsellers and back then it really might have been possible if you slept in on benches in parks (which many did).
In the days before hostels, backpacking was a real adventure where lodging for a night was in cheap hotels in bad sections of a city; places that often rented rooms by the hour.
Backpacking is still a adventure for youths. It is merely different. Young travelers range father and wider that those of a generation ago. It is a smaller world now; yet today, there is so much more of it available to see.
A group of gorgeous female backpackers meeting on the hostels patio getting ready for a “Ladies Only” night on the town in Toronto,
At our Toronto Hostel, we hold a different “event” designed to give our backpacker guests a chance to meet and mix.
Friday’s event is very popular and it’s easy to see why.
To the best of our knowledge, of all Toronto hostels, we are the¬†only¬†one that holds a “Wine and Cheese” night. If any of the other hostels do, we were definitely the first!
Vera, a hostel staff member (and resident Sommelier), selects different “dry” red and white wines every week and serves them up with cheese and bread.
We understand that the average backpackers budget is limited. So, as a result, the cost of the Wine and Cheese is picked up by Canadiana Backpackers.
All of our hostels guests (19 and over)¬†should join Vera on our patio at 8:30 PM on Friday’s to raise a glass and sample some cheese. (If the weather doesn’t¬†co-operate, meet in the hostels common area).
That’s VERA, she’s easy to find¬†(second from right)¬†with the impossibly “blond” hair.
The walls of our hostel’s “Common Area” is covered with pictures of past guests with an accompanying thumbnail biography. Lots of pictures.
And staff are constantly asked the question;¬†“How does a person get their picture on our wall?”
Firstly, virtually every backpacker has an interesting story. In fact, it is quite easy to pen a compelling narrative about¬†any¬†young traveler.
The people we choose to put up are guests whose presence has somehow impacted the hostel in a positive way. ¬†Individuals who have been a pleasure to host and whose absence will be felt.
One of the latest additions to our wall of “Notable Guests” is Catherine “Kacye” Gregory. Kayce was at our hostel this summer (2013)¬†for the second time, Her first trip was back in 2010 when she did a year towards her undergrad studies at Brock University in the Niagara Region of Ontario.
Kayce quickly made a lot of friends here among both staff and guests during her visit. She seems to have made quite an impact on Canada as the country seems to have on her. ¬†We can now look at Kayce’s photo and be reminded how hostel life was richer by her presence; and just a little poorer after she left.
She returned to her home in Lancashire, U.K. in order to complete a Master’s Degree in Social Work. She then plans to immigrate to Canada. We look forward to welcoming her to Canada when she comes here to stay.
(To see Kayce’s photo and bio – as well as all the other “Notable Guests” – click on ‘Blog -> Notable Guests’ on our Canadiana Website).
Kayce – a recent visitor to our hostel in Toronto.
It seems as if July is the month when a lot of repeat visitors return to our hostels doors in Toronto. A lot of them arrive from the United States, particularly the Southern states.
It seems they are “Reverse Snowbirds”. ¬†Snowbirds are Canadians who head south every winter to escape our winter’s wrath. (Florida is a popular destination for this¬†seasonal southern migration.)
Tracy and Sam¬†(a mother and daughter from Texarkana, Arkansas/Texas were just here a few weeks ago for their annual northern escape).
Changing weather patterns have seen the summer heat and humidity soar in the southern U. S. A. Last July, the average daily temperature across the southern states consistently surpassed 100F¬†(38C).
Kris, a blind sailing instructor from Naples, Florida, comes here annually to serve as an instructor at he Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s (CNIB) summer camp in Muskoka.
(See post: “Sail away…sail away…sail away…”¬†July 23, 2012.)
When Kris arrived this year, Toronto was in the midst of an “Extreme Heat Alert”¬†with the temperatures of 35C and extreme humidity. While local residents were stepping on their tongues, Kris was wondering what the big deal was?
We’d like Kris to visit next January so we can tell him that -20C ¬†(-4F) )¬†isn’t cold!
The 2013 World Championship Ultimate Frisbee Competition is being held right here in Toronto.
What is Ultimate Frisbee? Glad you asked.
Everyone¬†knows¬†what a¬†Frisbee¬†is. Most of us have played with one made by the Wham-o Company of the U.S.A. It’s a plastic flying disc that evolved from some students at Yale University in the early 1920′s tossing around pie plates made by the Frisbie Pie Company.
Our hostel in Toronto is currently hosting the¬†Blue Bottles Ultimate Frisbee Team of Australia (Under 23 Mixed).
Our first impression of this young group was how¬†“fit”they are. Their game (simply called “Ultimate”¬†due to copyright issues on the trademarked name “Frisbee”)¬†seems to be pretty intense for a sport that grew out of a simple pastime.
The 2013 World Championship (Under 23)¬†will be contested from July 21st to July 28th at York University in Toronto by more than 40 teams of the world’s best players from 20 nations/
Although there are close to 5 million players in North America alone; it seems that few people are really familiar with the sport.
It is actually a fast game requiring a remakable degree of speed and agility for a sport that grew out of a simple pastime. We wish the Blue Bottles¬†team well and we will keep you updated on how they¬†fare.