I travel, frequently. Mostly enthusiastically, sometimes reluctantly, I’ll confess. For me, what makes the privilege of travel precious, compelling and worth doing over and over, is having a place to come home to: a tether, an anchor. Otherwise, it’s just an itinerary of endless of stopovers.
I wasn’t born here, although since I’ve been here more than half my life, I think I qualify for status as a naturalized Torontonian. I’ve lived part of my adult life away from this city, in other provinces – and for a time, even outside of the country. You could say I’ve been around. And I’ve chosen to live here, for more than one reason. I really believe this is one of the most interesting, dynamic, safe and livable cities in the world. Admittedly, it’s far from perfect. There are times when I curse the traffic, the hectic pace, the TTC, the construction, the mayor’s antics … but I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
I frequently travel around the world and I consider myself an ambassador and a host. I work in tourism and my job is to take our message abroad, to tell people who are not from here why they should visit. It’s not just my job, it’s a passion for sharing all the good things about where I live. I’m schooled on what our official tourism organizations want to promote. I’m familiar with the brand messaging, the iconic attractions, and the approved images. And I would never suggest that visitors should skip the highlights. (I wouldn’t go to Paris and bypass the Louvre, or Florence and skip the Academia or visit Iguazu and not see the falls.) And we do have some pretty special experiences that many of us locals take for granted. Every tourist to Ontario wants to see Niagara Falls. And let’s face it, to many of us it’s tacky, commercial, overrated and an experience we’ve relegated to the back of our minds, amongst the other family road trips we took in the back of our parents’ station wagon. But to this day, when I do have reason to go back to Niagara and I see those falls, or watch the fall colours erupt along the highway, it always takes my breath away, like it’s the very first time.
When I travel to a new place, I want to find out what the locals like about their city: quirky neighbourhoods, interesting views that aren’t in the guidebook, more authentic experiences. And Toronto is full of those. The type of things I’ll share in my blog are my own personal discoveries. Maybe you already know about them, maybe you don’t. Maybe there’s food involved, maybe not. Maybe there’s an admission fee or maybe it’s just a new view from a familiar place. I came upon some of these experiences by just looking for somewhere level to push a stroller or an open space to walk the dog. There are so many events and community happenings in this city I’m always frustrated to hear about them only once they’ve already passed.
So I’ve made a commitment to be a more curious and more active tourist in my own city. My goal in launching this blog was to inspire myself and to encourage others to share in my curiosity and appreciation for what Toronto has to offer. And hopefully others will share their own discoveries, and join me in my exploration and observations, as a local tourist and ambassador for my city.