Earth Day 2018 – Eco-Friendlier Travel Products

There’s no easy way to accept the fact that everything we do in a our daily lives has a direct impact, usually negatively, on the planet. In honour of Earth Day 2018, I’ve prepared a compilation of some of my favourite eco-friendly, or eco-friendlier products and travel essentials. I also feel the need to point out that travel is one of the biggest contributors to our carbon footprints, so I try to do as much as possible in the rest of my life to counter this.

 

If you live in Hamilton, a good place for package free goods is Pale Blue Dot and if you prefer online, try Package Free Shop.

 

Beauty

Recently I’ve tried to minimalize the waste in my life and this is actually a lot easier than I thought it would be, especially in regards to beauty products; there are actually a bunch of companies that sell package free alternatives. You may be thinking ‘but can’t I just recycle the packaging it comes in’ and this used to be my thought process too, but turns out that unless these containers are completely empty, it actually costs the processing plants $$$ and often these items just get disposed of anyway. And not to mention the amount of energy required to melt down and remake these plastic bottles. So here’s a few of my favourite package free beauty products.

 

Disclaimer: I love Lush, that’s no secret to anyone who knows me, and it was the easiest place for me to go to initially start my transition to package free, but the more I research, the more companies I am finding that do the same, but most of these products are from Lush and this is no way sponsored (although that would be amazing!)

 

Hair

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Shampoo Bar (orange bar): Honey I Washed My Hair

Conditioner Bar (green bar): Jungle

Shampoo Bar

I few years ago I tried these solid shampoo bars and conditioners from Lush and absolutely hated them, but turns out I was using them wrong the whole time. It does take some time to adjust to solid vs liquid, especially with the conditioner bars because they don’t “suds up” the same way that we are used to, but this is actually better for your hair because the additives that account for the suds are actually drying and damaging to hair.

 

At first glance, the shampoo bars seem expensive but they actually can give up to 80 washes out of one bar. One of the mistakes that I had made previously was using too much and the bar not lasting very long. Now, I simply wet my hair and the bar, give a few swipes across my head and then lather it all in. I’ve been wanting to try a few of the other bars but Honey I Washed My Hair smells SO GOOD that I can’t bring myself to part with it!

 

Conditioner Bar

The conditioner bars take the most adjusting to because it almost feels like nothing is going onto the hair, but trust me, it is! The easiest way to use this is to take sections of hair and just swipe down each section and then let sit and rinse.

 

To say I have damaged hair would be an understatement; I box dye my hair every 6-8 weeks and that takes a toll on my strands. When I use conventional shampoo and conditioner I need to use a detangling spray in order to brush out my hair, but when I use this two bars my brush actually just glides through my hair. That was my biggest selling point cause I knew my hair was getting healthy again. As well, your hair never feels heavy of like there’s residue left behind which I find with most liquids that I’ve used.

 

For travelling, you can purchase these little metal containers that the bars fit into that protect your bars. TIP: the shampoo bars technically fit into round containers but I find it really difficult to remove the bars from these ones so I use square tins for both.

 

TRAVEL TIP: using bars means that you don’t have liquids and can toss these easily into carry-on bags without worry!

 

Teeth

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Toothy Tabs: Miles of Smiles

Mouthwash Tabs: Crème de Menthe

Toothbrush: BKIND Bamboo Biodegradable toothbrush

 

Toothpaste & Mouthwash

These are probably the easiest ones to adjust to; toothy tabs from Lush are solid toothpaste and mouthwash tabs. For the toothpaste ones, you just chew a tab, wet your toothbrush and the tab will then become a foam/paste consistency and you brush as normal. For the mouth wash, again, chew a tab, but this time fill your mouth with water as well, swish around for 30 seconds and spit; instant mouth wash! While these aren’t “package-free” the containers are much more recyclable because you can ensure that all the contents are out, unlike toothe paste containers that still have paste inside, or you can repurpose the empty containers for anything you may nee a small bottle for (ideas: pill holder, travel size makeup removers, salad dressing holder for lunches).

 

TRAVEL TIP: Same as with the bars above, you don’t have to worry about liquids so toss these into your carry on and freshen up in the airports on long hauls or don’t worry about a checked bag at all!

 

Toothbrush

A wooden toothbrush may be a weird concept, and I know one person in my life (Hi Mom) that hates the feeling of wooden popsicle sticks in their mouth so would absolutely hate this, but for the rest of us, this is a green option that reduces the amount of plastic sent to landfills each year. Once your brush is worn out, you can pull out the bristles (unfortunately these are not compostable or recyclable) and the rest of the handle can be tossed into your compost/green bin, or reused in anyway you see fit! (Note: I use BKIND because it was the first brand that I can across in a store but there is really no difference between companies so any brand can work)

 

Face  & Body

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Face Wash: Coalface

Moisturizer: Magical Moringa

Deodorant Bar: Teos

 

 

Face Wash

I made the mistake on my last trip by forgetting to pack face wash so I headed to the nearest Lush to buy a small piece of the bar that I’ve used at home. Lush is really good about giving out sample sizes of most of their products and they actually gave me a small piece of the face bar for free, even though I had complete intention of purchasing something. These bars and great for both face and body and not only are they package free, they sell by weight so you can purchase as big or as small a piece as you need!

 

TRAVEL TIP: They also are very easy to cut yourself so you can always buy a larger bar and cut off smaller pieces to travel with to save on weight and space!

 

Moisturizer

Magical Moringa moisturizer is probably my favourite product to ever get from Lush; it is both a primer and a moisturizer and contains corn starch that helps mattify your face all day but also have cocoa butter, argon oil and moringa oil to ensure you are left moisturized. Because it’s cocoa butter based, it’s a solid that melts with body heat, so you scoop a little blob out and massage between your fingers before applying like a normal moisturizer. Because of the corn starch effects, my usually oily/combination skin stays matte all day, even to the point that I only wear this to work without any makeup because it also smooths the look of blemishes on the skin. Another property that is great is when you use it at night, I find my skin is still matte in the morning and this has actually cut down on the amount of breakouts that I have, as there isn’t all this oil just sitting on my face all night.

 

Now you may be thinking, but that comes in a plastic containers, and you are correct. BUT Lush has a really cool recycling program, where if you bring back 5 of these black pots (almost all of their products come in these, from face to body products so it’s easy to acquire 5 pots) cleaned out, you can get a fresh face mask for free, and then they clean and reuse the pots again. So while, yes it is plastic, it is constantly being reused!

 

Deodorant

No one wants to stink, especially when in confined spaces like trains and planes, so I was a little hesitant about a natural deodorant, but oh my, this stuff actually works. You just take the bar and rub once or twice under arms and you’re good to go. It’s important to point out the difference between a deodorant and an antiperspirant; it’s natural for our bodies to sweat and a deodorant ensures that you don’t smell, whereas an antiperspirant will stop the body from sweating. This is a deodorant, but I’ve found that I actually sweat less as my body is adjusting to the new product. And the package free part comes back to the fact that containers can’t truly be recycled unless they are completely emptied out!

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Butterfly Safety Razor 

Safety Razor

Safety razors are a great alternative to disposable, plastic razors as they last a lot longer and are actually way cheaper in the long run. If you’ve never heard of a safety razor, it’s a metal razor holder that you place one piece, double edged razors into; the one that I use is called a butterfly so the top part opens in the middle and you slip the new blade in and close it back up. Now word of warning: there’s not really anything “safe” about a safety razor and the blades are way sharper so it does take some getting used to as your shaving technique changes a bit and I have made a pretty deep cut in my shin my second use. BUT! Because the blades are sharper, you get a much closer shave. Also, the replacement blades are super cheap and if you buy in bulk, they actually be under $0.25 a blade, which in the long run will save you so much $$ on razors and keep tons of plastic out of the landfills. As for disposal, I wrap up my blades and place them into “sharps” containers at work (because I work in a hospital) but if you don’t have this option, here’s another blog of 5 ways to dispose of them safely.

 

TRAVEL TIP: This is curtesy of Alicia from @minimalwastevegan: when travelling, put your safety razor in an old glasses case to protect both the blade and your fingers when reaching into your toiletries bag

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Diva Cup

Menstrual Cup

Let’s be grown ups for a second and talk about periods. Tampons and pads not only contribute greatly to our waste disposal, but also cost a lot of money, and that’s just not cool. A menstrual cup is a cost effective alternative that eliminates the waste and also, it’s a one time purchase so you save money in the long run. And when it comes to packing, you pack one item vs the handfuls of tampons, or stacks of pads you may need.

This was the product I was most hesitant to use but can honestly say it’s been the most life changing and also pretty easy to use. If you have any questions at all about this, hit me up cause I’ll sing it’s praise until I reach menopause!

Home Goods

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Metal Straw

To-Go Ware RePEaT Utensil Set (more colour options available)

Abeego Food Wrap

Produce Bags

 

If changing up your beauty routine is not of interest to you, there are super simple ways to greenify your daily meals!

 

Straws

Did you know that 500 million plastic straws are used everyday in the United States alone! And all of these straws end up in the landfill or more often in our oceans which leads them into bellies and even noses of creatures. It is estimated that by 2050, 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic in their lifetime.

 

There are two simply ways to help these numbers: 1) refuse a straw, or 2) use a reusable one. I like straws so I purchased a metal straw that I keep in my water bottle and take it out when I know I’m going somewhere where I may need one, such as a restaurant or movie theatre. You can even get a special brush to clean out the inside so they always stay fresh and clean to use.

 

Cutlery

Single Use Cutlery is also a major contributor to plastics in places other than landfills. Did you know that single use plastic cutlery, like most plastic products, can take over 100 years to breakdown in landfills and we discard almost 6 million tons of them every year. I really simple option is to carry your own cutlery. I love this wood set from To-GoWare which comes with a form, knife, spoon and chopsticks all in a convenient travel case. If wood is not your thing there are many metal and reusable plastic options as well.

 

Food Wrap

This food wrap is actually one of the coolest inventions I think there is when it comes to kitchen products, and they got their start on Dragon’s Den (I’m a big fan of the show). Basically it’s a thin fabric that’s coated in a beeswax mixture that is solid and firm at room temp but when you warm it with your hands, becomes pliable and will form to the shape of whatever you need to cover. The premise behind this is that peels of food in nature allow food to breathe, and this is designed with the same idea.

 

I’ve used this for wrapping pizza and sandwiches or covering cut avocados and other produce or resealing open cans. It’s reusable for over a year (as stated by the company; I don’t know what happens at this point, if the coating begins to wear off or something) and you just wash it clean between uses. It doesn’t absorb colours or smells so it’s always fresh to use the next time. The Abeego brand comes in a handful of sizes to cover and wrap whatever your heart desires.

Note: these do have a scent to them, but the scent does not transfer your food items.

 

Produce Bags

This is a new one for me but this eliminate the need for plastic bags at grocery stores and because they are so light weight, they are barely noticed by scales when paying by weight. For a while I just didn’t use bags at all with produce but this is a nice way to keep everything together. I just purchased these on Amazon but any kind of mesh bag works as it allows the produce to breathe but can also just be tossed in the wash to clean out.

 

TRAVEL TIP: Keep a few of this on hand and if not used for produce can easily store anything from extra cords to dirty laundry (just wash it again before using for food if that grosses you out)

 

StoJo collapsible Travel Mug

Travel Mug

At the beginning of the month, as a TenTree ambassador, I made an Earth Month pledge to cut out single use cups for the month of April. I’m really good about not using plastic water bottles but found myself relying on paper cups from Tim Hortons while at work (nurses NEED caffeine, it’s just the way it goes). I’ve been doing pretty good with this pledge but it sucks then having to carry around an empty mug, or have an empty mug in your bag in the off chance I wanted a coffee while shopping. This mug from StoJo is perfect because it folds up into the lid when empty and becomes a much more manageable size to toss into a purse or backpack. The mug comes in two sizes, 12oz and 16oz, I opted for the 16oz and my dad has already requested his own for Father’s Day (hello easy gifts!).

 

As I mentioned above, I’m a TenTree ambassador and we want you all to make a pledge for the remainder of the month. There are 4 possible pledges: 1) cut out disposable coffee cups, 2)cut out plastic bag uses (bring your own tote bag), 3)cut out plastic straws, and 4) cut out plastic cutlery. Head over to TenTree’s site and for every pledge made, they will plant 1 tree. Last time I checked they had over 15,000 pledges made! They say that it takes 30 days to break a habit, so why not start now and do something easy to better the earth for years to come!

 

If you have any questions or suggestions don’t hesitate to comment here or slide into those Instagram DM’s! Also if you’ve managed to find a non-aerosol dry shampoo that works please let me know because the Lush one is failing me!

Ottawa Part 2 – Day 3&4

Day 3

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So it turns out that a lot of things are closed on Mondays in Ottawa, so my plan of hitting up my last museum was squashed. But parliament tours do run on Mondays, and although I wasn’t originally planning on doing this because I’ve done it 2 other times previously, I figured why not, it is free after all. Turns out it was a good choice to do because we learned that this fall they are going to be starting construction on Center Block (the main part you see when standing on Parliament Hill) and will be closed for tours for the next 10-15 years!! On this day, there was an open question forum happening so there were people and camera crews everywhere inside, and we were given the option to sit in on the debates after our tour, but I opted out of that.

Brewery Tour

IMG_9782If you know me, you know that I like craft beer, so one of the things I’m most excited about when travelling is checking out local breweries. Since all the museums are closed on Monday, what better use of time than a Monday Brewery Crawl. I started out at Flora Hall Brewing, the newest of the 3 I checked out. This bright, open concept area was pretty popular for 4pm on a Monday, and appeared to be full of locals and regulars, many of which were sitting at the bar on laptops working while enjoying a beer. This place didn’t offer flights so I was forced to decided on one beer (trust me, it’s a hard choice), and I went with North East IPA, an IPA with fruity undertones. Flora Hall also has a small selection of guest brews, and one of these happened to be Collective Arts Cider, so it felt like a small piece of home had followed me up to Ottawa.

Next stop was Tooth and Nail; turns out on a Monday there also aren’t many breweries open (I don’t understand why not), so this one was a bit of a trek to, but luckily it was a fairly warm day and the bus ride and walk were actually enjoyable. Tooth and Nail was smaller than Flora Hall, but had a totally different vibe, one of a small local pub where people come to drink, eat good food, and play board games (they had a selection to choose from). Now I had to opposite problem here and they offered small pours and I had no idea how to decide which ones to get! I ended up with Warhorse (winter ale), Tenacity (pale ale), and Fortified (stout); the first two I really enjoyed, while Fortified, at 10.2% alcohol was just too strong for me! The food here was also amazing and they even had a vegan sandwich option, so you know what I got!

At this point I was really feeling the beers, so I took a quick pause to head back to the hostel to drop off some of my camera gear and took a spin around the mall to ‘sober up’ a bit.

IMG_9814IMG_9819After a brief shopping spree, I walked over to Lowertown Brewing, located in Byward Market. This is more a restaurant that happens to also brew their own beers, but they had 7 beers on tap, so I had to try them all! All of the brews were great, so I’ll just list them all off: Lowertown Lager, Dark Lager, Shooting Rapids Pale Ale, Red Fife Wheat Beer (Red Ale), Timber Slide IPA, Nitro Dry Stout and Lowertown Dubbel. Most of the time I’m a good vegan but sometimes I just can’t say no to a soft pretzel and cheddar dip. The whole night I was checking in my beers via the UnTapped App, [and app that let’s you see what your friends are drinking and where and track your drinks as well as earn badges in categories such as styles and location; the social media of beer drinking! (If you don’t have this you should download it, and if you do, add me ctaylor94)] and I got a badge for 12 beers in one day, and that was my cue to go home and go to bed!

 

Day 4

Museum of Nature

The fourth and final day! I had one more museum left on my passport and I picked the Museum of Nature. Feeling super lazy and short on time I took an Uber to the museum. This definitely is a kid focused museum, but let me tell you, these are my favourite! The first exhibit was dinosaurs. DINOSAURS! Needless to say I spent the majority of the time around here. And here was another museum showcasing works by first nations, this time in an exhibit called Inuinnauyugt: We are Inuinnait. When you initially enter there’s giant ice blocks that are actually real, and the exhibit continue with tradition art and history as well as interactive exhibits, one of which showcasing the extreme cost of food up in Northern Canada; it was very eye opening.

The special exhibit while I was there was a butterfly exhibit but I opted out of this one. In the basement of the museum was an exhibition of winning shots from a National Geographic Canada including a section by kids and man those were some talented kids!

Byward Market

IMG_0309After the museum, I still had some time to kill before my train so I walked over to Byward Market. My mom had requested an ‘Obama cookie’ which are the red maple leaf sugar cookies that apparently Obama was photographed eating one his trip here, and they’ve since become famous. Turns out they now have a version with Justin Trudeau’s face on it, so I got one of those!

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After a quick stroll through the market, it was back to the hostel to pick up my bags and make some food for the train home (you know, the part I missed doing on the trip here), and then to head to the train station.

The ride home was very uneventful, I accomplished zero of the work I said I would, and finally got home around 11:30 PM and then went to bed cause I had to work at 7AM the next morning!

 

Looking Back

Things that I learned from this trip

  • You do not, and should not, back 3 sweaters for a 3 night trip because this takes all your luggage
  • Bring your own containers for bringing lunches to go so you don’t end up with a sandwich just wrapped in paper towel thrown into a backpack
  • Two camera lens should be good enough, anything more becomes too heavy of a bag.
  • Do a final lap of the house before you leave, make sure you bring all the camera batteries with you and not leave them still plugged into the wall at home
  • Even when you plan on using a day backpack, it’s still a good idea to bring a small purse in case you go out at night

Ottawa Part 1 – Day 1&2

Day 1

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This trip started off a little rough, and by rough, I mean we celebrated my birthday the night before and there was definitely more beer and tequila than anticipated. But hangover aside, there was nothing that could slow down my first trip of the year. I’m still trying to figure out whether I prefer a backpack or a duffle bag, so I picked backpack for this trip and headed for the GO Train station to get me to Toronto. Once in Toronto at Union station I switched from the GO Train to the VIA Rail.

Travel

I’ve taken the Amtrak to NYC twice before but I’ve never actually taken VIA so I had no idea what to expect, but it was the cheapest option to get to Ottawa, and only took about 4.5 hours. Also due to aforementioned hangover, I forgot to pack a meal, but luckily there was a vegan wrap option so I at least got some food on board. This part of the journey was uneventful and I just watched movies on my laptop, even though I told myself I would do school work.

Ottawa has a great public transit system and there were plenty of buses from the train station to downtown (which is where my hostel was), and the one I took let me off right in the University of Ottawa campus; I told myself I would come back and explore the campus a little at some point but never actually made it back.

HI Ottawa Jail Hostel

This whole trip really was based around the fact that I wanted to stay at the HI Ottawa Jail Hostel; yes, it was a legit jail. There’s going to be a whole other blog post about the jail, but the brief history is that this was a fully functioning jail right up until 1972, and 6 months after closing it was reopened as a hostel. There are a bunch of room types including normal style dorms, or you can opt to stay in an old cell, ranging from 3×9 solo cells, to larger and more private options. The hostel itself has 9 floors, with the basement being the kitchen and dining area, and the 8th floor being mostly historic with tours through the old death row cells.

When booking I just picked the cheapest option which ended up having me in a 4 person tradition dorm. There wasn’t anything exciting about this room, it was on the 9th floor, and there are no elevators so I definitely got a leg workout. It was actually kind of spooky because my room was right beside death row and you could hear people touring around. I was the only person in my room the first night which also was spooky. Fast forward a day, I ended up changing into a single person cell and paying the difference for my last two nights because I figured, where else would I be able to do the same thing, without having my parents forever disappointed in me.

Pure Kitchen

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After I had dropped off all my stuff, I headed out into town to grab some dinner, and I picked a vegan restaurant called Pure Kitchen. I’m usually all about taking public transit when an option, but at this point I was so done with large, crowded vehicles, so I “splurged” and took and Uber. At Pure Kitchen I had the most amazing vegan poutine with coconut “bacon” and a beer from Flying Monkey Brewery called Juicy Ass. Like actually that was its name and the waiter laughed just saying it so I knew I had to try it. Name aside, it was a very good beer.

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Pure Kitchen was only about a 25 minute walk back to the hostel so I decided to take the scenic route and walk down to Parliament before heading back. Got back, texted my mom that I was back alive, and called it a night!

Day 2

Day two was a very gross and rainy day outside; perfect for museum hoping. A tip when travelling is to look for discounted passes for attractions and transit, both of which I opted in for today. Ottawa museum’s have a passport that’s good for 3 consecutive days and gives you access to your choice of 3 of the 6 museums, and costs about $35. Ottawa transit also has day bus passes which give you unlimited rides for $10.50.

Canadian War Museum

The first museum that I visited was the Canadian War Museum. The last time I was at this museum I was on my grade 8 school trip, and as interesting as it was then, it didn’t really have the same impact that it did now after actually understanding what’s going on in the world. This museum is set up in sections by war era and details both Canada’s and the world’s impact. There were two major points that I realized from here: 1) although Canada is a peacekeeping country now, they’ve done some very questionable things in previous wars, and 2) there has never been a time of total world peace in my entire lifetime.

There were also two special exhibits on; the first is called Canadian Forces Artists Program- Group 7, which showcased art (mostly photography) from active members of the Canadian Forces during deployments and training missions worldwide. The second was one of my favourite, and I actually did it first and then again at the end of the museum; called She Who Tells a Story and showcasing photography from 12 women from Iran and then Arab world. The photos tell storied of life for women in the Middle East, the highs, the lows, and the changes. Unfortunately this exhibit is over now but the works are available in book form.

National Gallery of Canada

After the war museum, the rain stopped so I decided to walk to my next museum, the National Gallery of Canada; Google Maps claims this is a 37 minute walk, but I am easily distracted by buildings and anything that I can take a photo of, so I’d say I was at least an hour. (Side note: I wasn’t wearing my FitBit but I could estimate that I was reaching 30,000 steps a day easily). I don’t know what I was thinking there would be in the National Gallery, but I honestly was not expecting that much old art (clearly I don’t read websites), and I definitely am not a person who appreciates this kind of art the way it should be. BUT, there was a super cool exhibit on the history of photography and the gold and silver that used to be used to develop photographs, as well as showcases of some of the first photos every taken, so that was really neat. And there’s also an extensive section of modern art, so when all else fails, you can find my staring at straight lines on a wall; this part I actually did enjoy. I was not raised to appreciate art, so I apologize for anyone reading that thinks I’m absurd, but basically my views on old art is ‘yeah you’re really talented and that is a very realistic painting or a person/tree/fruit/etc.’ but when it comes to modern art, while I still don’t understand at least I appreciate that someone’s brain had to come up with this super complex concept. And if you’ve ever been to this museum before, you will know that the whole thing is basically a maze and I only got lost about 6 times.

Something that I really appreciate about this museum was the massive amount of Indigenous art they showcased. From contemporary art by Indigenous peoples to traditional painting styles from groups all over Canada, there’s so much to see and learn about here.

Night Life

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I got back to hostel after my two museum adventures to find out that a bunch of the hostel staff were heading to a local trivia night, which they do every week, and anyone from the hostel was welcome to join, so I went along with them. The bar that was hosting  (Kat & Kraken) actually was next door to Pure Kitchen where I was the night before for dinner. I somewhat successfully contributed to three answers: 1) about something medical related, 2) a Harry Potter reference, and 3) A Kardashian reference; just trying to make my family proud. We ended up coming in third and I convinced someone in out group to try the Juicy Ass beer from the night before also, so I’d say a pretty successful night over all.

After trivia a few of the group was heading to a local open mic night as one of them was performing so I tagged along with them to the really cool upstairs, local bar, called The Rainbow Bistro. They only stuck around for the first few acts but I stayed until about midnight just listening to the local talents. Before leaving the host asked my where I was from, and when I told him Hamilton, he responded with “ooooh like the Arkells hometown!” so there you have it, our one and only claim to fame!

More posts to follow including:

  • Day 3/4
  • All About the Jail

The Road Trip that Started it All: Lion’s Head, Ontario

IMG_7671.jpegIf you’ve never heard of Lion’s Head, Ontario before now, you aren’t alone. Back in September, 2017, I was feeling the urge to get out of the city life for a few days, and began looking up cheap Air BnBs and what I found instead was a hostel up in the Bruce Peninsula, called The Fitz. Now I’ve never even been up to the Bruce Peninsula before, but after looking through all the photos online of this little town, and knowing that the drive would be just over 3 hours from Hamilton, I booked 3 nights in the hostel. And knowing my parents would probably be a little apprehensive about their only daughter travelling alone, I didn’t tell them until the night before I was leaving.

There were many ‘firsts’ about this road trip: 1) It was my first time in the Bruce Peninsula, 2) it was my first time travelling alone, 3) it was my my first time in a hostel, 4) it was my first time not packing, what seemed like everything I owned, into a giant suitcase and instead having to streamline for a backpackers pack and 5) it was the first time that I was throwing myself into a situation I knew nothing about and yet felt more excited than nervous.

The Road Trip

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The (late) morning of Monday September 25, 2017, (I’m not a good morning person), I loaded my 05′ Jeep Liberty with an over packed backpack, all my camera gear into my camera bag (lesson: you don’t need it all!), sleeping bag, pillow, way more toiletries that anyone needs for 4 days, and a Spotify playlist lasting about 9 hours long. I was ready to go.

The road trip, I thought, would be a, long, boring kind of drive, but this was that time in September in southern Ontario, where it was 25 degrees everyday. So with the windows down, music blasting, I drove. For anyone looking for a super easy road trip, this is definitely it! You get on Highway 6, you stay on Highway 6 and you drive straight until you see signs for Lion’s Head.

The Fitz

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As I mentioned earlier, this was my first time ever staying in a hostel and I had no idea what to expect. The Fitz, named after the first Captain to chart Georgian Bay, Cpt. William Fitzwilliam Owen is owned by a 20-something peninsula native, with a passion to bring light to everything this small town has to offer. On top of being one of the most warm and welcoming places I’ve ever been to, The Fitz is also doing it’s part to preserve the natural beauty that it is surrounded by through a variety of sustainable practices, which you can read all about here on their website.

My fellow hostel guests for the week included a couple about my parents age, 2 different single ladies in their 40s just up for the hiking, a guy in his 40s just staying overnight on his drive across Canada, another McMaster student about my age, and a 30 year old German exploring Canada for the very first time. Needless to say, all my biases about hostels only being for young, broke college students were shattered.

A short 15 minute walk brings you right from The Fitz to the Lion’s Head Marina Lighthouse, which is where I spent the morning of Day 2 watching the sunrise.

Lion's Head (1 of 2)

Bruce Trail

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Lion’s Head is nestled in the northern portion of the Bruce Trail. On my first full day, Day 2, I decided to hike a small portion of the trail; I packed up my camera gear, through a water bottle and a peanut butter sandwich in my bag and set off on what I thought would be a short little 3km hike (spoiler alert, I went way farther than 3km).

This portion of the Bruce Trail is definitely not an easy hike, but worth every hill and rock ledge to be able to look out over the clear turquoise water of the Georgian Bay. To get to the Lion’s Head lookout is about 3km into the trail (my goal turn around point) and from here, if you look closely, you will see how this town got it’s name.

If you keep following the trail along, eventually it drops down to the water level and you can brave a swim in the chilly Bay water; on the 35 degree day that it was, this was the best feeling ever!

Tobermory

So when you “accidentally” hike 12km the day before, you body really asks for a break the next day, so on Day 3, I decided I would make the 20 minute drive north into Tobermory. Tobermory is a little marina town, with shops and restaurants, as well as the port for the Chi-Cheemaun, the ferry that travels between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island (I didn’t take the ferry this time, but stay tuned for a road trip back to Manitoulin Island this summer).

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From Tobermory, there are a bunch of travel companies that specialize in boat tours of the coastal waters and heading out to Flower Pot Island. Day 3 was a cold and windy day, very different from the 35+ degree weather we had had days before, and as a result, none of the excursion boats were leaving that day. There was still plenty to do in town as I wandered in and out of the many shops, making my way along to the brewery in town, Tobermory Brewing Company, a restaurant with an in house brewery, right in the heart of downtown Tobermory. And with any new brewery, why try only one beer, when yo can get a whole flight?!

 

 

Tobermory is also home to a handful of National Parks; I chose to check out the Bruce Peninsula Visitor’s Centre. Here you can explore a variety of exhibits showcasing the history of the Peninsula, both land and water. The Visitor’s Centre also houses a 65 foot tall lookout tower, providing panoramic views of the tip of the peninsula. If you recall, I mentioned that it was so windy in town today that none of the boats were leaving the marina, so sounds like perfect weather to climb a 65 foot wooden structure right? Well I did it anyway, and man was that tower shaking!

 

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Day 4 was the day it all had to come to an end and I would need to start heading home and back to reality. But I wasn’t leaving without a final attempt at seeing Flower Pot Island, and since the winds had settled, the boats were up and running and I was on board.

If you are taking one of the excursion boats out to Flower Pot Island, there are two options: the most popular option is to actually get off the boat the the island and spend a day exploring everything that the island has to offer, or, if you are like me and in more of a time crunch, you can spend about 90 minutes on the boat touring around all the islands, without actually getting off.

IMG_7666.JPGThe first stop off the main land is to see a few sunken ships. The crystal clear waters allow you to see all the way to the ships below, and in the first alcove, called Big Tub, there are two ships very close together. The history of all the ships that have gone down can be found in the Visitor’s Centre, or online. One of the ships in Big Tub was actually built in Burlington, Ontario, the next town over from where I live!

After you leave Big Tub, you get to ride through the open waters while the onboard guides give you a brief history lesson of the area. This area of islands is actually a National Park, referred to as Fathom Five National Marine Park.

The Journey Home

Stay tuned later this week for part 2 of this blog, as the trip home was definitely not an A-B trip, and includes a few stops at breweries along the way!

 

(All photos my own, unless otherwise stated)

About Me

IMG_9135My name’s Cassandra and I’m a full time, registered nurse born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I graduated from McMaster University in 2016, and have been working since October of the same year.

I often get out of the blue ideas and have to test them out to see if it will work. My current idea was to travel every month for the next year. To make this financially feasible, I plan to find the cheapest travel and living options and almost entirely fund the adventures through working overtime hours at work.

Speaking of work, this blog name was inspired by my nursing work; a full time rotation is often called “4s and 5s” or “4 on, 5 off”. Using this as an inspiration for travelling in my 5 days off, the name “4 On, 5 Away” was created.

I’ve always been interested in photography, but over the past 2 years I’ve delved deeper into the photography world, finding my passion in nature photography. Living in Hamilton has been great for this, as we are known as The City of Waterfalls. In order to keep finding new landscapes to photograph, I began hiking more, and the more I hiked, the farther I wanted to go away, and so my desire to travel began.

My first solo travel was September 2017, followed by a group trip in October 2017. After the chaos of Holiday season died down, I was looking for something new to become excited about, and this crazy little adventure seemed to be just the thing!

I’m super excited to have you all along for the ride!

Don’t hesitate to contact me (on here, Instagram, or Facebook) with questions, comments, suggestions, recommendations for places to go, or if you would simply like to join me somewhere in the world!

Photo by Francis Jun (Instagram @francisjunphoto)