My first Women Who Explore getaway fuelled by Hippie Snacks

This summer, I was able to experience one of the most amazing, gratifying, and incredible experiences of my life. I was able to host my first getaway for Women Who Explore. Let’s take a step back real quick and find out more about the Women Who Explore community. The group was founded by two sisters and was created for women to feel comfortable and safe while exploring the great outdoors.

Women Who Explore Getaways 

Recently, the team started to great getaways all across North America. The getaways are for amazing women to get together and check things off their bucket list in a non-judgemental and affordable atmosphere. The getaways have included everything from dog sledding in Alberta to a week long road trip around Iceland. Not only do these getaways allow you to experience a once in a life time opportunity, but they also allow you to meet eight strangers that soon become life long friends.

My bucket list getaway this summer was a surfing trip to Tofino B.C. I arrived in Tofino and greeted by a room full of amazing women ready to have an amazing weekend. We spent the first day of our trip getting to known each other a little bit better, went for a delicious dinner, and then had an early night to get ready for the adventurous that awaited us the next day.

Starting the day with delicious breakfast provided by Hippie Snacks 

We started the day with our delicious Hippie Snacks Granola. Hippie Snacks is a local BC company made with whole food ingredients and taste delicious. The company got its idea in 2005 and came up with the name Hippie in celebration of the 1960’s movement of eating natural foods and keeping real foods in our diets. They have several tortilla chips, granola, and snacks.

Their Maple Quinoa was the perfect start to the morning to get us set for our fun filled day. You can really taste the natural ingredients in the crunch in the ancient grain granola filled food. After a breakfast fill of delicious food and great conversation we were ready for our adventure.

Stop #1: A secret hike 

The first stop of our day was searching for a hidden plane wreck on a hike in the Pacific Rim National Park. The Royal Canadian Air Force Canso crashed shortly after takeoff on February 12th 1945. The remains of the plane still sit on the side of the hill in Tofino. The plane was amazing, still main intact despite the crash. We stopped for plenty of pictures before making our way back to the house.

Snack time with Hippie Snacks 

At the house, we grabbed some organic Hippie Sesame Snacks. Don’t be fooled by the size of these snacks. They are full of flavour and will definitely get your energy up again. They are made with crunchy white and black organic sesame seeds and sweetened with coconut sugar. Satisfying and nutrient packed we were ready for the next stage of our adventure weekend.

Surfing the waves in Tofino 

Our next stop of the day was to the beach where we met with the team from Tofino Surf Adventure. We went through a quick on land lesson with the girls before hitting the waves. It was amazing because it was such a mix of experience, but every single one of the girls had a smile on their face and got up on the board. It was amazing to be on the water and take in the beauty of the beach around us. By the end of the day I must say all the ladies were pretty darn good surfers. 

From strangers to friends 

The whole weekend was amazing. From going on beautiful hikes in the Pacific National Rim to trying our hand at surfing some of the best waves in Canada we had so much fun. Yet the best part of the whole weekend was getting to meet 8 strong, beautiful, and incredible women. These women come from all backgrounds, ages, and stories and what started off as a room full of strangers quickly became a room full of friends.

I am so thankful for my Women Who Explore family who have taught me not to be afraid of the outdoors. They have taught me not to be uncomfortable in unfamiliar territories. They have taught me to open up my heart, and soul, and go out and explore.

Why Sooke is Vancouver Island’s Hidden Gem

I have visited Vancouver Island on several occasions, but most of my trips have taken me to shorelines of Victoria or Tofino. I had never hard of a town called Sooke, that is until my boyfriend planned a surprise getaway for the two of us. Not knowing much about the town, I didn’t really know what to expect on the trip.

About Sooke 

Photo credit; Connor McCardle

If I did have any expectations, they would of been blown right out of the water. Sooke turned out to be the most quaint, beautiful, and relax place I had ever visited. Known as the place where the rainforest meets the sea it offers so many hidden gems just waiting to be explored. From beautiful hiking trails like the Juan De Fuca trail and ocean front homes it is where you go for ultimate tranquility, and with few hotels it is a lot less busy then some of the other spots on the island.

Where to stay

photo credit; Connor McCardle

As mentioned, there are very few hotels and motels in the area so we turned to airbnb to find the perfect spot to stay for our trip. I highly recommend this because you never know what adorable spot you will find. We stayed in a cute cottage right on the ocean. We ate all of our meals right above the water, searched for whales right from the window, gazed up at the milky way, and fell asleep listening to the waves crashing against the rocks below. It was truly a little slice of heaven.

What to do

Day 1: Potholes, Markets and Stars 

Day one of our trip took us to the Sooke Potholes, a very easy hike that takes you alongside the Sooke River. Gaze at the rivers unique rock formation that was formed from the last ice age millions of years ago. The park has several trails and all of them are beautiful. We followed the river to  a secluded rock pool and beach. We daringly jumped in to the freezing water and hung out on the beach.

On the way home form the potholes, we saw signs pointing to the Country Market. The market located at Otter Point Road runs every Saturday from May to October and it is absolutely adorable. Explore the local artists and taste some delicious fresh local fruits. Pick up a homemade piece of jewellery as a souvenir.

Living in the city, I sometimes forget that stars even exist in the sky. Away from the lights and pollution, the Sooke sky offered a perfect canvas to star gaze. We stayed up well past my bed time and gazed at the Milky Way. We even caught a glimpse of Mars.

Day 2: Rainforest hikes and river floats 

The second day of our trip took us on a little drive to explore some of the beautiful rainforests hikes in the area. We made our way through the trees of the Juan De Fuca trail down to Mystic Beach. On the beach you will find beautiful rock formations, forests on either corner, and a small water fall in the centre of it all. It truly fit its name, mystic to say the least.

A little bonus, about an hour and a half from Sooke on the way to catch the ferry in Nanaimo we discovered floating on Lake Cowichan. Hundreds of people cooling off in the water on their floaties. While we didn’t have our donuts on us, we did jump in. Definitely plan to come back to get the full experience.

Just a few weeks ago I had no idea Sooke existed, now it has become one of my favourite spots in B.C. It is calming and beautiful and truly a small hidden gem on a giant island.

 

 

 

 

 

A Beginners Guide to Back Country Camping

It has been nearly a year since I moved from Toronto to Vancouver and during that time, I have tried to explore as much of the B.C. as possible.

They don’t call it beautiful B.C. out here for nothing. From the mountains, to the ocean this place is filled with such beauty.

Since moving here I have experienced the mountains through hiking and camping, the ocean through paddle boards and kayaks. I have seen whales and bears. Every inch offering some spectacular view. It is hard to believe that this is now home.

Over Canada Day long weekend though, I decided to experience something I have never done before; back country hiking and camping at Elfin Lakes.

The Experience 

We left early Sunday morning and made our way up to Squamish. Squamish is abut 45 minutes from downtown Vancouver. You really feel like you have left the city and entered a fairy tale. So much greenery and nature.

We then started our hike. 11KM up the first day, and part of me wanted to turn back for the first 5KM. It was extremely steep and pretty difficult with my backpack, but trust me it is worth it. During the first half of the hike we observed hundred year old trees and waterfalls. The air was so fresh, the views stunning. It wasn’t like any experience I have ever had.

The second half of the hike was gruelling in a different way. I don’t think I was quite prepared for the amount of snow we would have in July. My shoes weren’t quite as waterproof as I had hoped and navigating through the snow while rolling over hills was difficult, but again the views from here were magnificent. Snow capped peaks in the distances, clear blue water peaking out through the iced lakes.

 

We eventually made it to the top, and were lucky that we were one of the first ones there because they only had a few uncovered sleeping decks. We set up our tent with an open view of the endless mountain range. I couldn’t believe that would be my morning wake up.

Then we opened up the grill and started cooking outside in the wilderness while playing card games, drinking from the lake, and cracking open our boxed wine.

We watched the sunset while dancing to some music. Watching the colour disappear behind the mountains was magical. A sense of accomplishment came over me.

An early wake up call, some oatmeal and coffee, and then we started our decent back down. 11KM to go, and again plenty of snow stuck in my shoes.

This was one of the greatest experiences of my life to date. Back Country hiking really puts you out in nature, really forces you to put your phone down and appreciate the beauty that is all around you. I cannot wait to experience more hikes and camps like this.

 

Preparation 

As a relatively new hiker, I wanted to make sure that I was as prepared as possible. I knew that I wanted to make sure I had all of the necessities, but also wanted to pack light because I had a 22KM hike ahead of me. It was difficult finding the balance and hard to know exactly what to bring and what to leave at home. Here is a list of some of the essentials that I found helpful if you are hoping to try Back Country hiking and camping yourself;

  • A good backpack: I went with the MEC Mistral 55 Backpack. It was lightweight but had plenty of room to fit my needs. I loved the padded straps to make for comfortable hiking. I also loved the cross wind back, so that it doesn’t rest directly on your back and allows air to flow while hiking.
  • An all season lightweight tent: It is important to have a tent that can withstand the elements, but one that isn’t going to be too heavy during a hike.
  • A sleeping mat: You are going to be sleeping on the ground, so to make the experience as comfortable as possible, you may want a mat to lie on. Having that extra layer also makes for warmer conditions. I went with the MEC Deluxe Sleeping Pad. Light weight, but also extremely comfortable. Easy to inflate and deflate.
  • A sleeping bag: I used my Topquilt sleeping bag. You can find more info on what makes this the perfect sleeping bag in my previous blog post.
  • Layers: Canadian weather can change in an instant and so it is important to bring minimal amount of clothes, but clothes that can be used in the elements. Make sure you have warm socks and layers in case it gets cold at night. Also make sure you have enough dry socks. I learned that lesson the hard way.
  • Bear Spray: You definitely want to be prepared in case you run into any trouble.
  • A whistle: Again, a great way to be prepared in case of a dangerous situation.
  • Food: I packed some instant food from MEC. All you have to do is add water and you have a delicious meal that is easy and light to carry. Way easier than trying to bring a ton of different ingredients.
  • Matches: No matter what kind of hiking trip you are going on, you are going to want to have something that can light a fire.
  • Flashlight
  • Swiss army knife

For a full list of hiking essentials check out MEC’s awesome list. It really helped me prepare for my trip.

 

Safety first

I cannot wait to experience more of B.C. through these excursions and trips, but a reminder if you are going to go hiking and camping be prepared. Know the area, know the route, and let someone know where you are going. Because while the wilderness is beautiful but dangerous all at the same time.

You hear stories of people getting lost and hurt and you never think it can happen to you, but trust me if you aren’t prepared it most definitely can.

Have you every been back country hiking? I would love for you to comment below and share your experience!

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

Topquilt Review: Making camping more comfortable

Since I moved out to B.C. I have been enjoying the great outdoors. I mean with the mountains and the ocean, how could you not want to be outside. Along with my new found love of exploring, has come a passion for camping. Before moving out west, I had never camped in my life and so I will admit it was hard at first. Learning how to pitch a tent, eating food out of a bag, going to the bathroom outside, packing light, and finding the right equipment.

One of the hardest parts was finding the right sleeping gear that would make the experience comfortable and enjoyable, but that was also easy and light to carry. I am a 29 year old female who is still relatively new to camping and hiking. The thought of carrying a heavy bag up the mountain petrified me. So I reached out to some experienced hikers, and some had recommended gear from Outdoor Vitals. I was pretty impressed with their selection, and decided to give their topquilt sleeping back a try.

After doing a bit of research, I found out that the founder of the company had one goal in mind, to lighten his pack and stay comfortable while in the backcountry. I trusted this brand right away because it came from someone that understood what camping is like and has experienced the difficulties of camping first hand. I knew this product was coming from someone who really understood camping and was excited to give it a try.

About Topquilt 

This weekend, I took it on my first camping trip to Bowen Island and I really did love this sleeping bag. The three best features for me was the fact that it was super light but also durable, it was waterproof and comfortable, and that it could be used for multi purposes.

Extra lightweight  

What I learned was hat this sleeping bag was actually originally designed as as hammock with an under quilt to cut the weight. It was extremely light and didn’t make my bag extra heavy. I was able to carry it up the mountain with ease and didn’t really have to stop for any breaks. It was also very compatible and easy to pack in my backpack.

 

Feels like a down

The second part that I loved was that it was really comfortable. As someone who definitely enjoys my down comforter at home, I had found it tough in the past to get a good night sleep while camping. From the noises of nature, to sleeping on the ground. What I loved about this sleeping bag, was despite it being really light weight, it is a pretty thick to sleep in. The company uses exclusive LoftTek imitation down that acts like an insulation. This is lighter and more compressible, but is still able to insulate even when wet because of the synthetic insulation. No matter what the weather is outside, stay warm, dry, and comfortable even when you are in the middle of the forest.

Since the camping trip, I have found so many other uses for the Topquilt sleeping bag. I take it with me to relax on the beach, for outdoor concerts and festivals, and for cottage weekends. It is so much more than just a sleeping bag for camping trips.

Your personal discount code

Now for the best part, if you use my Outdoor Vital code, you can get 10% off your order of a TopQuilt sleeping bag today. Just head over to their website and use the code “MIAWGORDON” at checkout and make your camping experience so much more enjoyable.

Get outside and enjoy the summer in comfort with the Topquilt sleeping bag. I know that mine will be getting plenty of use camping around beautiful B.C. over the next few months. I cannot wait to see what else there is to see, explore, discover in my new home.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

Tips for Traveling on a Budget

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

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Ever since I was a little girl, I had the chance to travel with my parents as my dad took pictures around the world. As a teenager I traveled the world playing tennis tournaments. As an adult I travel the world both for work as a sports reporter, and for personal pleasure, as an adventure seeker. There is something so special when you have a chance to learn about cultures, see the beauty in a country, hear the stories of the locals. Traveling is my drug of choice as they say, but alas it can also be a very expensive drug. From flights, to hotels, to food, to activities it adds up. On top of that, as a freelancer when I am traveling I am not earning any money. If you are like me and love travel but also love having some money in the bank then you might find this blog useful. I wanted to share with you some of my tips on saving money when traveling.

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1. Keep an eye on flight deals 

A friend of mine who is a flight attendant once told me to always try and book your flight either late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. In my experience, it has been a little cheaper during this time. Another idea is a lot of google searches will offer flight fare watcher and will update you if prices go down.

Along with booking dates, is airport locations. Living in Canada, it can sometimes be expensive to fly, so I will always check flights out of Seattle. I have found that doing so can save me about $200 a flight. Do your research because sometimes nearby airports may have a deal.

2. Travel on off-days

 Recently I was booking a trip to Arizona with some girlfriends. I was thinking of going from Friday to Sunday, but I couldn’t find a flight less than $500. Insane, I know. So I decide to search from Thursday to Saturday and boom, I found a flight for $250. I know that sometimes your schedule isn’t that flexible, but if it is this is one way to save.

3. Travel during the off-season

Sure, some places like the Caribbean have a hurricane season and you probably don’t want to travel then. But if you head to Europe in the winter, or south in the spring and summer everything is cheaper. From flights to hotels you are bound to find a deal and trust me, off-season traveling has its advantages. Sure the weather might not be as desirable, but a lot of the tourist attractions will be less crowded and easier to visit.

4. Reach out to Tourism Companies 

No one knows a city and their deals better than the tourism company of that city. Before traveling, let them help you plan your trip. Ask to see if there are any events going on while you are there and see if there are any discount codes for tickets etc. When we were in London, there was a tourism pass you could get that allows you to visit several attractions for a cheaper cost. I would never have known about it if I didn’t reach out to the tourism company first.

5. Book hotels through Hotwire 

I have become a huge fan of Hotwire over the last few years. When I was looking for a place to stay in downtown Rome, I used Hotwire. I got an amazing three star hotel right in the city centre for $60 a night. It was a steal. I know it can be a little scary not knowing where you are going to be staying, but they only work with reputable partners and it is kind of fun when your final hotel is revealed.

6. Stay outside of the main city 

When I was visiting London, I couldn’t find accomidation within my budget so I started to search outside of the city centre. I ended up finding a spot in Cambridge that was nearly half the price and it was still really easy to get to downtown. I only recommend going this route if it is a country you feel comfortable and safe in and if they have good public transportation.

7. Talk to the Locals

Visiting the super touristy spots and restaurants can get pricy because they know that they are well, dealing with tourists. Try and speak with the locals to find out where they hang out and eat. Usually places that are less known by tourists are more affordable.

8. Sign up for travel rewards 

From frequent flyer points, to hotel points, to visa points sign up for everything and anything because those points sure do add up. In fact I am heading to memphis this summer for free (thank you Aeroplan)

9. Follow on social media 

Sometimes hotels and airlines will offer deals that they promote on social media. If you are following you won’t miss any of it. The same goes for signing up for newsletters.

10. Have meals included 

When booking a hotel, especially in Europe, a lot of spots will offer breakfast. Try and also see if they have a kitchen area where you can store some food. Saving on your meals will mean more money left over for shopping right?

11. Earn on the go 

Why not go one step further and make money while traveling. On a trip to Thailand I was asked by some friends to pick up some special Thai pants and shirts only available at their markets. I decided to put the filler out on social media that I was traveling to Thailand and if anyone wanted anything. I then brought a separate carry on bag to store all the goods. Thailand is so cheap, that it was easy to make a small profit and have a chance to help out some friends.

Again I know that the dollars can add up and since I no longer earn allowance I have to pay my own bills. But you should never miss out on seeing the world because it is too expensive. Go out, explore, and do it all within your budget.

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

some of my travel snaps