Your full itinerary to the Yukon

A lot of people have asked me, “how was your trip to the Yukon?” I find that question extremely hard to answer because it is almost impossible to put into words how my trip to the Yukon was. “Magical”, “breathtaking”, “supernatural”. Those were a few of the words I could use to try and describe it.

The next question is always, “what was your favourite part?” That question is equally as hard to answer. From the dancing colours of the northern lights to learning all about the First Nations culture, every day, hour, minute, and moment was spectacular.

One thing I can tell you for sure though is that the Yukon stole my heart and in my opinion it should be the number one spot on your bucket list because, as mentioned, it is truly magical. Thinking about planning a trip of your own? Well I wanted to share some of the top things to see, do, and experience to make sure the trip is one you won’t be able to put into words either.

 

Where to stay

Northern Lights Resort and Spa

This is a stunning family run resort just outside of Whitehorse. The resort has four alpine chalets and three aurora glass chalets and we were able to experience both of the accommodations.

The alpine chalets were adorable and a perfect spot for couples to cozy up to one another. They are basically log cabins in the wilderness with a large living room and a fireplace to relax beside while trying to spot the northern lights right outside your north facing window.  What I loved is that the chalets were built from Yukon grown timber and really create a romantic and quaint atmosphere.

The aurora glass chalets had a completely different feel to them. A more modern design with the north facing side of the room offering floor to ceiling glass. This proves the perfect setup to hopefully catch the beautiful  lights dancing across the sky. Even though we didn’t see them this night, we did fall asleep the the view of a million stars shining bright.

 

Mt. Logan Lodge

This is the ultimate family run lodge right on the edge of Kluane National Park in Haines Junction. In fact you can see the incredible mountains right outside your door. I love how creative this family is. On site they have a yurt, and even a bus that used to be a guest room. I also love that you wake up to the smell of fresh coffee and homemade breakfast. In fact, The family cooks all your meals for you.

The other part I loved about this lodge is how passionate the owners are about the area. David and Roxanne are both from big cities, but the moment they stepped foot in Haines Junction, they knew this was where they wanted to be. They wanted to share their love of the spot with their guests.

In the past, the park hasn’t been visited much in the winter so they decided to make it a year round destination by offering guests snowmobiling, ice fishing, and even ice climbing to name a few activities.

What to do

There is honestly so much to see, do, and explore in the Yukon and while I just scratched the surface (and will definitely have to go back sometime soon to discover more) here were a few of my must does:

 

A northern lights adventure

This one is pretty obvious, as I am sure many people travel to the Yukon just to catch a glimpse of this natural wonder. Believe me seeing the lights is worth the trip alone.  I joined Arctic Range Adventure for this bucket list activity. They drive you about 20 minutes outside of Whitehorse to complete darkness. The moment we arrived you could already see the hint of green colouring the night sky. We were able to stay in yurts to keep warm, but I will never forget the rush of emotions when our guide told us to get outside with our cameras. Greens, yellows, and pinks dancing across the sky. It was so beautiful it brought me to tears.

If the northern lights is on your to do list try and book a trip between October and May when the skies are dark enough to see the activity. Also make sure to give yourself time. We were there a whole week and we only saw the lights one night.

A flight over Kluane National Park

The only thing I really knew about Kluane before the trip is that it is home to Mt. Logan, the highest peak in Canada. What I didn’t know is it is actually home to 17 of Canada’s 20 highest peaks. We joined Rocking Star to take a flight above the stunning park. It is also home to beautiful glaciers, rivers, and in the summer time numerous grizzles. Seeing it from the sky with Rocking Star Adventures was breathtaking.

Dogsledding like the pros

The reason that I went to the Yukon in the first place was to experience the Yukon Quest, the world’s toughest dog mushing race from Yukon to Alaska, and so it was natural to give mushing a try for myself. Dog sledding has long been a way of life in the Yukon. I joined the team at Muktuk Adventures to test my skills. The dogs were absolutely beautiful and so sweet. We traveled along the Takhini River, the same route as the pros and took in the stunning wilderness.

A history lesson in Carcross

I had a chance to take a day trip to this small town with Who What Where Tours. Carcross has  a population of only about 300 people and is home to world’s smallest desert.  It is surrounded by beautiful mountains, lakes, and forrest.

We had a chance to visit the Carcross Learning Centre and see some of the amazing  First Nations art and even sit down for a traditional meal. After lunch the cultural learning continued.  We had a chance to meet with Keith Wolfe Smarche, the towns head cover. He showed us his carving shed and some of his amazing work in town. What I loved about meeting Keith was his story. He got into carving because he realized the town had lost all of its vibrant colours during the gold rush and wanted to bring it back for future generations. Hearing his story and seeing his vibrant art was an unforgettable experience.

A visit to Long Ago Peoples Place

One of the things that makes the Yukon so unique is the culture. There are actually 14 different First Nations  and so it was very important for me to really learn about the traditions and heritage. Long Ago People’s Place is located in Champagne and brings you back through time using recreations of traditional Southern Tutchone structures and tools. We had a chance to see how trap lines work and learn about other tools used for different First Nations activities.

Learning about traditions at Shakat Tun Wilderness Camp

Have you ever wondered just how the First Nations people live off of the land in the dead of winter when it is -40c outside? Well we had a chance to find out from James Allen, former chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. He taught us how to ice fish, gave us a tour of his family’s traplines, and invited us to his beautiful camp for a traditional lunch. It was the perfect  mix of education and fun and trust me you cannot beat the views along the way.

Learn to make cocktails from the pros

One of my favourite stops of the whole trip was to Well Bread Culinary Centre. Here, we met with Chef Cat and Jennifer Tyldesley from Free Pour Jenny.  We learnt how to make some delicious appetizers and cocktails using local ingredients and home made bitters. We even got a care package to be able to make some of the amazing drinks back in the comfort of our home. The best part is, it is hard to mess up a cocktail especially with these unique bitters so it is a good time guaranteed.

Taste some of the local craft beers 

We had the chance to visit not one but two unique breweries in the Yukon. First was Yukon Brewing where the motto is “beer worth freezing for” and they aren’t joking. The seasonal craft beers truly represent Whitehorse and the history here. Each beer has its own spunky taste.

The next stop was Winterlong Brewery. This brewery only opened about 5 years ago.Marko and Meghan Marjanovic had been homebrewing for 10 years, and finally decided to take the risk and start a brewery. The beers are bold in flavour and really stand out in the crowd of craft beers.

Where to eat

Wayfarer Oyster House

I loved this spot from the moment we walked in the door. The deco was so unique including an oyster chandelier, where if you guess how many oyster make up the piece you win a free shot. They also had some vinyl spinning.  Aside from decorations, the food was amazing. The menu was filled local seafood and sourced meats as well as homemade pasta and smoked fish. It was hard to chose just one plate.

Giorgio’s Cuccina

This is the perfect date night spot. Dim lit with an extensive wine list and authentic Italian food. Start with the baked goat cheese and then fill up on one of their amazing pizzas or pasta plates.

Big Bear Donair

Looking for something quick and delicious? This is the new go to spot and for good reason. The food is creative and tasty. The restaurant prides itself on collecting as much as possible from local business and retailers. And where else can you try a shawarma poutine?

Baked Cafe

I need coffee first thing in the morning to start my day and this was the absolute perfect little coffee shop. I loved how light and cozy this spot is and on all of the walls are little treasures from local jewellery and artists. The coffee and food is also amazing.

As I mentioned I just had a chance to scratch the surface of the beautiful Yukon. There is so much more to do and see in this amazing place and I cannot wait to return to the north and explore even more. I hope you will be able to experience the magic of the Yukon for yourself, because I wasn’t joking when I said I honestly cannot even put into words the beauty of this place.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is No Place Like Home: Tofino

Tofino 

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Start the day with a good cup of coffee…
We started the day at  Common Loaf Bake Shop. This little restaurant located in an adorably colourful house had a variety of fresh and delicious options. The perfect way to start the day.
Visit the world famous beaches…
We then made our way to Long Beach to take some pictures. Long Beach is the longest beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island. 10km of soft sand and a stunning panoramic view of the ocean and sky made for the perfect snaps.
Indulge in some tacos…
 On the way back from Long Beach we stopped at the original Tacofino. I had Tacofino in Vancouver before, but I heard the original was even better. I knew it was a food truck, but I was still surprised by the set up. A lone food truck in a parking lot with a long line. The truck was colourful and so was the menu. I got the fish and veggie tacos and it was definitely worth the wait.
Hang ten on the waves…
After filling our bellies with tacos, it was then time for our surf lesson. I tried surfing once before and it ended terribly, but Estuardo at Tofino Surf Adventures promised that by the end of my lesson I would be surfing. He was right. It was a little bit of a shaky start, but by the fourth try I was standing up on my board. I won’t be competing in any surf competitions any time soon but it definitely was a thrill. The best part about surfing was the perfect day we had. Despite it being October, the sun was out, the water was relatively warm, and the skies were blue. It was an amazing experience.
 Indulge in world class cuisine…
A quick hot tub to help our aching muscles, it was time to try and choose from the list of amazing restaurants in the area. I have the Sobo cookbook at home, so it only made sense to enjoy a meal at their Tofino restaurant. With their wood fire oven, it was hard not to pick from the pizza menu. I ordered a mushroom pizza and it was delicious.
Day 2: Hot springs, whales, and walks
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Relax in the hot springs… 
Day two started bright and early as we set out on about an hour and a half boat ride with West Coast Aquatic Safaris to Hot Springs Cove. Hot Springs Cove is home to seven natural geothermal rock pools that cool down the closer you get to the ocean.
On the way there we saw a grey whale, my first time seeing one up close. Once we arrived, we walked about 1.5 km through a beautiful forest until we arrived at the springs. I warmed up under a small waterfall and sat in the hottest bath as the waves crashed in around us. The view of the ocean on the cool damp day was spectacular.
On the way back we were in for another treat, we spotted some Orcas which were quite rare in October. Two species of whales in one day is pretty special.
Admire local art…
In the afternoon we took a stroll and explored the adorable town of Tofino. During the walk we stumbled into the Eagle Aerie Art Gallery. The gallery was filled with west coast inspired paintings, prints, carvings, and even jewelry. I really suggest taking your time to read about each painting. They all tell a beautifully unique story.
Indulge in some wine and food… 
The weekend ended at Shelter. What I love about this restaurant is they aim to minimize their global footprint and the majority of ingredients used are local, organic, and ethically raised. The majority of the fish is caught by Tofino fisherman so of course I had to give the salmon a try. It was delicious! Another amazing fact is in the back of the restaurant there is a garden where they produce fresh herbs and vegetables. You can’t go wrong with anything on this menu.

What to pack?

Tofino is one of those magical places that you can visit year round. In the summer packed beaches and plenty of surfing. In the winter storm watching and still plenty of surfing. I went in October and it was fairly wet and cool.

Arc’teryx Durant Jacket: I find this the perfect jacket for the wet and slightly cooler days. It is waterproof and insulated so perfect for when you are out on the water trying to stay warm

Emu Roadside BootsThese waterproof boots are comfy on the inside but stylish on the outside. Perfect for wet and colder days

Ryu Tough Tight High-rise BottomsFor the outdoor hikes and walks you want to make sure you have pants that look good, are comfortable, and can stretch. I found these pants perfect for hikes to dinner.

Your camera: Tofino is so beautiful you are going to want to make sure you have the perfect camera to remember them memories. Most of mine are shot on a Cannon 5D.

Tofino offers the perfect combination of outdoor adventure, fine dining, and stunning scenery to make it the perfect weekend getaway spot.

Mia Goes M.I.A. Road Trip Across Canada

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As Canada celebrated its 150th birthday I tried to find some special way to celebrate the country that has given me so many opportunities. Then an opportunity came up that was more special than I could have imaged. An opportunity to move from Ontario to British Columbia came up this summer, and I figured it would be an incredible experience to drive across the country, experiencing parts of Canada I never dreamed of seeing.

As I started planning this trip I realized how guilty I was of always looking outside of Canada for the perfect vacation, not realizing everything that this amazing country has to offer right in my own backyard inside my own boarders.

I decided to take a full seven days so I wouldn’t have to rush this adventure and could really take my time experiencing all this country has to offer. The 4376 KM journey took me through 5 different provinces, and showed me the beauty that this country truly has to offer.

From the forest and lakes of Ontario, to the flat farm lands of the Prairies, to the mountains of the Canadian Rockies there was truly so much to see and do. Here are some of my highlights, recommendations, and experiences from each province I had a chance to visit

Ontario

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It took us three days to trek across Ontario stopping off in unique and quaint towns along the way. I have to say, this part of the trip was the most eye opening for me. I spent the majority of my life thus far living in Toronto and never really knew a life in Ontario outside of the big city. This was a huge and beautiful wake up call for me! Our three days in Ontario consisted of stops in Sudbury, Wawa, and Thunder Bay.

 

Things to do

 

  • Visit the Giant Nickle: Sudbury is famous for its nickel production and to honour the production, the town has created a giant nickel. It is a must see stop on the road trip.

 

  • Go on a Hike: Growing up near downtown Toronto, I had no idea of the beauty that was just to the north of my home. During the road trip I had the chance to stop at Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior. It was amazing to be so connected with nature. The tall trees, fresh air, and beautiful lake views really made this a must do.

 

  • Visit the giant Goose: There seems to be a common theme here. Wawa is home to a giant Goose and you need to get a glimpse and a picture before you fly out of town.

 

  • Terry Fox Monument: Thunder Bay was the last city Terry Fox made it to before his cancer returned. The Terry Fox Monument in Thunder Bay honours this Canadian hero and his amazing story. I had goosebumps just standing there and thinking of what Fox was able to accomplish. It is a must see.

 

  • Have a bite in Kenora: Muskoka had always been my go to summer cottage spot, but I found out that Lake of the Woods is equally has gorgeous. I stopped for lunch at Boathouse, a restaurant right on the water. I spent an hour here watching the boats crossing. I finally gained enough courage for a quick jump into the water.

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Manitoba

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It was hard to cross the border and say good-bye to my old home. Yet it was amazing to see the drastic change of this country’s landscape. One minute I was driving through forests, the next I was surrounded by flat lands and farms. I had never really thought about visiting Manitoba before, but I have to say I was amazed at the unique culture and beauty particularly in Winnipeg.

 

Things to do

  • Grab a craft beer at the Forks: The riverside attracting is in the heart of Winnipeg. It is a quaint market with a variety of restaurants to choose from. I highly recommend a craft beer and some poutine during the stop.

 

  • Dinner on the waterfront: After a drink I made my way down to Cibo Waterfront Café. The restaurant is in a former warehouse and has a very rustic feel to it. The Mediterranean food was delicious and the views of the Red River were beautiful.

 

Saskatchewan

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The drive through the Prairies continued through Saskatchewan. I didn’t know much about this area before the drive, but learned about the beautiful city during my 24 hour stay. Saskatchewan offers a beautiful waterfront town with canoeing and even fishing. Plus Saskatchewan offered some of the most clear and beautiful night skies.

 

Things to do

  • A walk or a ride on the water: The South Saskatoon River is right in Saskatoon’s backyard. There are plenty of beautiful river trails and driving in September was the perfect time to see the leaves changing colours.

 

  • Dine at the Cave Hotel: This family owned restaurant has become a landmark in the Saskatoon area and after experiencing the unique dining inside a real cave I can see why.

 

Alberta

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I had always dreamed of visiting the turquoise waters and endless mountain ranges of Banff and the Canadian Rockies yet seeing it in person was beyond my wildest dreams. It was like a painting brought to life. Yet what I realized was Alberta has so much more to offer. From the beautiful Badlands, to the unique museums. This province had so much to experience that two days was hardly enough

 

Things to do  

  • Visit the Badlands: I had never known the Canadian Badlands existed until I drove through Alberta and saw them with my own two eyes. I spent a few hours walking through the hoodoos. These Hoodoos have been around for millions of years and legend has it they used to be giants that would protect the area from intruders.

 

  • Hunt for dinosaurs: Drumheller is known for its dinosaur discoveries and so I decided to take a stop to the Royal Tyrrell Museum to check out some of the amazing finds right in Canada.

 

  • A hike in Banff: Banff is one of the most popular spots in Alberta and for good reason. The beautiful lakes of Moraine and Louise, the beautiful hikes, and the beautiful town it is a must see. To avoid the busy crowds, I headed out early and hiked up to the Lake Louise viewpoint to get a stunning view of the famous lake.

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British Columbia

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Finally, after seven days on the road I made it to my new home, British Columbia. I had visited before, but had never truly experienced the beautiful B.C. the tall mountains, endless, rivers, and ocean side beaches, B.C. has so much to offer, so much to explore, so much to discover. During my road trip I had a chance to experience just a few of B.C. offerings.

Alas the road trip came to an end and along the way I learned so much about this amazing country. I learned there is so much to experience within our own walls. I learned that Canada offers beauty unmatchable. I learned that even the Provinces that I never imagined visiting offers beauty beyond belief. It was a reinforcement of just how proud I am to be a Canadian and to call this magnificent world home.

 

Things to do

  • Unwind at Sparking Hill Resort and Spa: After a long car ride, some rest and relaxation was just what the doctor ordered. Sparking Hill Resort is covered head to toe in Swarovski Crystals and it overlooks the beautiful Lake Okanagan. The resort offers unique saunas to help re-energize the body. I felt like a million bucks after my two-day stay.

 

  • Taste the region: The Okanagan is known for its wine and so what trip would be 21317442_10213870977064539_1569766772332514610_ncomplete without a wine tour and tasting. I made a trip to Gray Monk Winery to learn about their award winning Chardonnay and try some of their delicious foods.

 

  • Visit Stanley Park: When I finally arrived in Vancouver, before even unpacking my bags, I made a trip out to Stanley Park. One of the more famous parks in all of Canada it offers everything from beaches, to forests walks, to local art. You can spend days on end exploring or relaxing in this stunning park.

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Mia Goes M.I.A.: Ontario’s Hidden Gem, Bruce Peninsula

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I had always heard of how beautiful Bruce Peninsula National Park is, so when it was announced that all national parks would be free for Canada 150, I jumped on the opportunity to visit Bruce Peninsula.

Bruce Peninsula National Park is a true oasis just a four-hour drive from Toronto, making it an easy weekend trip from the city. The park itself straddles the Niagara Escarpment meaning there is plenty of forested area to hike. The park is also quite famous for its Grotto, a limestone cave overlooking Georgian Bay’s clear waters.

I had originally planned to go camping in the park, but it seems everyone else had the same idea as me. By the time I called to book a site, there were none left for the entire summer. Instead I ended up renting an Airbnb in Tobermory for the weekend. Valuable lesson learned, if you want to camp, you need to book way in advance.

The town of Tobermory in itself is an attraction, and where I was staying was just a short 10-minute drive from the entrance to the park and a 15-minute bike ride from Singing Sands Beach. It proved to be the perfect location to really experience all the area has to offer, and on top of that I had a chance to sleep in a comfy bed away from mosquitos.

It is hard for me to describe just how beautiful Bruce Peninsula truly was. Someone had told me that it looked similar to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Turquoise clear waters, beautiful rock formations, greenery all around you. It was the most magical place that I have ever experienced in Ontario, and one of the most beautiful places I have seen in all of Canada. It is a must experience spot with plenty to see and do. I wanted to share with you some of my highlights from the weekend in case you decided to plan a trip to Bruce Peninsula.

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The Grotto

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I made my way to the Grotto around 10 am Saturday morning thinking I was early enough. To my dismay, when I arrived I was told the Grotto was already full for the entire day and to come back earlier the following day if I wanted to see it.

I came back on Sunday at 8 am and got in without any trouble. Lesson learned, if you want to see the Grotto you have to go early because the time slots for the day fill up quickly.

The view of the Grotto was definitely worth the early morning wake up call. The waters inside were a combination of turquoise and deep blue, and there were plenty of cliffs in the area that allowed for stunning views. While some were swimming down below, the water was freezing, so I decided to stay on top and just take in the fresh air and stunning sights.

The Bruce Trail

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I discovered the Bruce Trail by pure luck. I didn’t really have hiking in my itinerary, but when the Grotto was full on the first day a park worker recommended I check out the Bruce Trail. I was told the best entrance to the trail would be off Emmett Lake Road.

The hike was honestly the highlight of my trip. It wasn’t the easiest, but if you follow the white markings you will be fine. There were plenty of look out points that made for the perfect views of the crystal clear waters down below. Every stop we made, the sights got more and more beautiful. There was also a beach below the trail (be warned, this is no sand beach, but instead covered in rocks so shoes are a good idea). While the water was freezing cold, it was too beautiful not to take a swim. Go in head first, I promise it will feel great!

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 The Town of Tobermory

The Town of Tobermory is about a 10-minute drive from the park and it is a must during a weekend stay in the area. The town is so quaint with so much to see and do.

Food: I was told that Tobermory is quite famous for their local fish and chips and so for lunch I stopped at Shipwreck Lee’s Pirate Bistro. Their fish and chips lived up to the expectations.

Dessert: After the delicious lunch I stopped by the Sweet Shop to satisfy my sweet tooth. This was heaven on earth. I decided to stick to my weekend theme and ended up trying their Bruce Trail and S’mores ice creams.

Drinks: After eating, I highly recommend a stop at the Tobermory Brewing Company and Grill to try some local brews. My personal favourite was the Sailor’s Delight.

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These were a few of the highlights from my getaway to Bruce Peninsula National Park but honestly no matter what I tell you, I am not going to do the park justice. It is truly breathtaking and the views are worth a trip. It was just one of those reminders that there is so much beauty right in our backyard.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first national park visit and cannot wait to cross another one off my list this summer? Any recommendations? Maybe I will even camp out this time!

Until I go M.I.A. again,

xo,

Mia

 

My Love Letter to Canada

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Dear Canada,

It is hard for me to find the right words but I guess I can start off with Happy Birthday, you look damn good for your age. I was born in this country exactly 28 years and 6 months ago, the first Canadian born member of my family. My family had moved to Toronto from South Africa in 1987 with maybe $1000 to their name. They made this move in hopes of a better life and more opportunities for the family. It was hard to know back then, but it was indeed the right move.

After a few years of finding their feet in Canada, my brother had the freedom of studying whatever he wanted at school, my parents had the freedom of starting their own business, I had freedom to roam around my neighbourhood safely, something uncommon in South Africa. All of the dreams that they sought out in Canada was starting to become a reality.

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Growing up I had the chance to follow dreams of my own. I made an incredible group of friends, I played competitive tennis, I studied interesting classes at school. Eventually I moved to the United States to pursue my tennis career and even received a full tennis scholarship to school in America. I got my first job as a news reporter in Texas. Yet Canada was always my home, and after a few years of exploring other places, it was time to return home.

Living in America, I was always asked why I loved Canada, what made it so special to me? I didn’t quite have the right words to say. It was an indescribable connection that made this place my home.

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Maybe because it had blessed my family and myself with so many opportunities. My dad became a successful director and was able to provide a life from my brother and myself. My brother graduated top of his class in chemical engineer from the University of Toronto and went on to become a professor at the University of Victoria. I, myself traveled around representing  Canada at various tournaments as a competitive tennis player. Yes, Canada had sure blessed our family with amazing opportunities.

Maybe it was the fact that Canada made me feel safe. I heard these horror stories from life in South Africa. Countless robberies, and shootings, and violent acts. Yet in Canada I felt safe and secure. Like I could walk down the street alone and not have to fear for my life. Something that I think I take for granted, but something that many places in this world do not have.

Maybe it was because Canada opened up my eyes. It is so multi culture and so welcoming, it taught me about acceptance, about sharing, about peace. I never grew up understanding discrimination, hatred, violence.

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Maybe it was your exterior beauty. Your mountains, oceans, landscapes. Your exciting cities, your wildlife. There is just so much to explore, to see, to do. There is no where else in the world like you.

I had the chance to follow my dreams, to pursue my goals. Something I too think I take for granted because how many countries still don’t allow women equal rights. Would I have been able to study broadcasting and become a sports reporter if my family had stayed in South Africa? Who knows, but what I do know is that here in Canada no matter what I dreamed for myself, I was given the chances, the education, the opportunities to follow those dreams.

Canada thank you, thank you for the lessons, thank you for the opportunities, thank you for welcoming my family with open arms. Thank you for your hospitality, your safe neighbourhoods, your history, your beauty, your peace, your love. For allowing me to leave, but always letting me back.

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On your birthday, I hope that every single Canadian takes a moment to say thank you, because I know there are many just like me, first generation Canadians who were given a chance thanks to you.

xo

Mia