Growing up, I always on the lookout for other like-minded girls and groups to join. I would have been thrilled to have been a part of a group like Sole Girls as a pre-teen and teenager.
Sole Girls is an amazing organization that via creative running games empowers girls ages 6 through 12. They provide them with tools to develop healthy ideas about body image, media, healthy living, peers and self-esteem. They offer weekly sessions, camps as well as workshops for these girls. They also organize events such as Sunday’s Sole Awesome 5K for the entire family, with funds directly going to some of their scholarship programs.
Sunday, I had the chance to partake in their Sole Awesome 5K thanks to MEC and got to meet some of the most incredible young girls. It was a fun morning filled with both running and also super fun activities like 3-Legged Races, on-course obstacles, dance parties, and more! Every kilometre of the run highlighted one of the Sole Programs’ core values, which are: Support, Open-Mindedness, Listening and Enthusiasm.
In addition to Sunday’s events, Sole Girls have lots of programs and initiatives planned for the summer including their Summer Camps, which start in July in and around Vancouver, North Vancouver, South Surrey, Langley and Calgary.
There is no doubt in my mind that if I would have been able to join a group like Sole Girls, when I was younger, that it would have been such a huge help for me after my parents’ divorce. It would have been such a great support system and would have without a doubt helped me with my self-esteem and maybe even help counter the eating disorder I had during my teens.
I was really inspired by all of the positivity that radiated from all the girls present at Sunday’s Sole Girls that I’ve decided to become a Soleteer, a volunteer with Sole Girls! If this is something that might interest you or to find out more about Sole Girls, go here.
A big thank you to MEC and Sole Girls for allowing me to be a part of Sunday’s Sole Awesome 5K, it was a truly memorable experience!
Ventura County Coast is a beautiful coastal area located just north of Los Angeles. The area encompasses Camarillo, Ventura, Oxnard and Port Hueneme. There are lots of amazing outdoor adventures that can be had in the area so I’m sharing with you today some of my favourites.
1) Go hike on Santa Cruz Island with Island Packers – Head out for a day-long adventure from Ventura Harbour to Santa Cruz Island, the largest island in California. There are 3 mountain ranges, canyons, springs and streams to explore as well as coastline cliffs, sea caves and stunning beaches. It’s the perfect place to go for a day-hike or swimming and snorkelling around their pristine beaches. It takes just over an hour to get to the island with the Island Packers boat. While on the island you will be able to spot tons of local wildlife such as birds, foxes and maybe even whales. We saw tons of local dolphins on our way there. It’s also possible to camp overnight as there are lots of camping sites available on the island.
2) Go for a run at San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura – This multipurpose trail runs along the ocean past the Ventura pier. Along the way, you will see a few local surf spots, lots of pretty places to picnic, kitesurfers, volleyball nets as well as majestic sand dunes. The paved trail also goes past the Ventura County Fairgrounds and then connects to the Seaside Wilderness Park. You can easily park along the street close to the entrance of San Buenaventura State Beach.
3) Relax at the Residence Inn Marriott Camarillo – This luxurious property is located just a few minutes away from historic Old Town Camarillo, where there are lots of shops and restaurants to check out. The Residence Inn Marriott offers guests a wide array of amenities – they have a basketball and tennis court, a pool, state of the art gym as well as free breakfast in the morning. The hotel is the perfect place to unwind after a busy day of exploring around the area. Some rooms are even come equipped with a full kitchenette so that you can make your own meals, if you’re planning a lengthier stay.
4) Explore the Oxnard coast on a Jet Ski – Located in the Channel Islands Harbor, Southern California Jet Skis offers 1-2 hour jet ski rentals so that you can head out and explore the Oxnard coast and open ocean. Chances are, you will spot local wildlife like dolphins or even sea lions during your excursion. It’s a great way to also check out the surf at Silver Strand or off the Oxnard Shores. Once you’re done riding, you can grab a post-excursion snack at Honey Cup Café located adjacent the departure area.
5) Surf at Port Hueneme – Nestled between Oxnard and Ventura, this little oceanside community offers gorgeous sandy beaches and quality surf spots for locals and visitors alike. Port Hueneme Beach Park is a beachbreak located on the north side of the pier. It’s right by the walking and biking trails so the commute to and from the beach can be done easily.
Other activities worth checking out:Ventura Pop Up Yoga in Marina Park – outdoor donation based yoga classes, catch the sunset at Surfer’s Knoll beach, walk along the Ventura boardwalk and pier.
For more information on Ventura County Coast or more travel recommendations, go here. A big thank you to the Ventura County Coast for their help setting up this trip!
Since moving to British Columbia last year, I’ve learned a whole lot about the outdoors but one area that I still consider myself a newbie in is camping. That said, thanks to MEC‘s gear rental program, last summer I got my first taste of camping and was pleasantly surprised by how fun and easy the whole experience was.
As a girl who grew up outside of Montreal and then spent most of her adult life in downtown Toronto, camping was never a part of my life. Before moving to Vancouver last year, I 100% considered myself a city girl. Fast forward a few months later, I would say that I’m now close to being 50% city, 50% nature. There’s still so much for me to learn about camping and the outdoors but working with MEC and being surrounded by so many adventure enthusiasts has really taught me a whole lot about the great outdoors.
So I wanted to share with you today some of my newfound wisdom and tips for camping so that all you who want to give camping a go or who are still novices to camping, can have a great time!
1) Packing – One of the major differences between going camping and going to stay at a hotel or an Airbnb, is how you pack for a camping trip. There are so many more variables to think of and therefore packing for a camping weekend can be more complex but it really doesn’t have to be. If you’re simply going car camping for the weekend (and don’t have an RV or van to store all your camping stuff in), I would first suggest making a packing list. I would also suggest breaking that list down into different categories: clothing, sleeping, food, safety, entertainment, transportation, etc. This will help get you organized and can easily be cross-referenced as you’re loading everything into the car.
2) Gear – In my experience thus far, I have learned that gear can make or break your camping experience. If you’re a city person like me, chances are you probably don’t own very much or any camping gear at all. Thankfully, MEC has a great gear rental program, which is available across Canada that allows people like us to rent all sorts of amazing camping gear at a super reasonable rate for your upcoming camping trips. You can rent anything from tents, to sleeping pads, sleeping bags, backpacks, kid carriers, etc. You can even rent a canoe or kayak, if you’re thinking of portaging or even doing some water sports while out camping. Rentals are available either daily or weekly.
If you’re like me and hoping to have a ton of camping experiences this summer, you can also purchase some of the best and top of the line camping gear at an MEC store or even online. For someone like myself who spent most of their life in a city, walking into a MEC is like a kid walking into a candy shop. This week, I had the opportunity to try out MEC’s Cabin 4 tent, which was totally revolutionary for me. Not only was it incredibly simple to put up (even a rookie like myself was able to figure it out and put it up in under 10 minutes!) but it was also tall enough so I didn’t have to crouch when in my tent. I could easily get changed and stand up in the tent, which brings the comfort level up a big notch. I also used the MEC Reactor 6.5 Sleeping Pad, which is a super comfy self-inflating pad that makes sleeping in a tent that much more enjoyable. Goodbye uncomfortable sleeps! And did I mention my MEC Hut Booties? As someone who always has cold feet, these are a game changer!
3) Food – Camping food doesn’t have to be boring and tasteless. Thanks to all the options that are now available, cooking while in nature is easier than ever. There are lots of great ways make food while camping. If you’re not someone that likes to cook, there are plenty of dehydrated snacks or even meals that you can purchase in advance and just re-heat or add hot water to. There are many vegetarian and vegan options to choose from, so being plant-based while camping isn’t an obstacle at all.
It’s also important to make sure that you dispose of the food your bring with you or any waste you create while cooking or even camping properly. For more information, I highly recommend you check out this post here (which also includes lots of great other camping tips).
4) Safety – Though I have yet to learn everything about camping safety, there are a few key things I now keep in mind when preparing for a camping trip or going camping. Packing things like a whistle, bug spray, first aid kit, headlamps, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, etc. is important. Since I am now camping in BC, I’m also careful to not leave any food in the tent or close to my tent. I’ll keep the food stored in a sealed container if I’m car camping. I pack lots of water and additional snacks for hikes and runs and I also make sure that someone outside of my camping group knows where I am and how long I’ll be there for. It’s also important to respect wildlife. Though it may be exciting to spot eagles, deers, bears, chipmunks etc., on your adventures, it’s important to not feed them and give them their space, not only for our own safety but also for the safety of the animals.
5) Entertainment – Not sure if it’s the city that made me a restless person or maybe it’s just my personality but one of the things I struggle with the most in life is not being able to just sit still or relax. And with camping being all about relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, this definitely comes as a challenge for me. That said, there are many ways to stay entertained while camping and tons of things to do. If you want to be active, chances are there are some trails located close to your campground, so going for a hike or a trail run (like I did below at Golden Ears this past week!) is a great way to not only get some fresh air but also discover the area.
A lot of campgrounds are also located close to a lake, an ocean or even a river, so going for a swim or taking part in some water sports (kayaking, canoeing, SUPing, etc.) may also be a possibility.
If you’re someone that prefers to lounge a little more, reading a book fireside on a MEC Park Chair or bringing portable boardgames or outdoor games like Bocce Ball is another way to have a great time. The reason why I’ve been loving camping is because it forces me to ditch my electronics and in many ways makes me feel like a kid again, just being outdoors and finding creative ways to pass time.
I’m really excited to take my camping experience to the next level this spring and summer. I’m even thinking of going from car camping to trying out camping in the backcountry… Got some camping tips that I didn’t mention in this post? Share them with me below!
If you’re planning a camping getaway for the May long weekend or later on in the summer and want to get more info on the MEC gear rental program, go here. For more camping tips go here. For a full camp kitchen checklist, check out the following article here.
This article was written in collaboration with MEC but all opinions are my own.
SLO CAL is without a doubt one of the most underrated regions of California. Located smack dab in the middle between Los Angeles and San Francisco, this county is host to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the entire state, from beautiful beaches to pristine mountains and valleys, there’s really something for everyone. SLO CAL is home to cities like San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles and Morro Bay just to name a few. Though it was impossible to visit the entire county in the 3 days I spent there earlier this month, I was able to discover some amazing local gems. I completely fell in love with all of the outdoor and wellness activities that you can do in the area so I decided to share with you today some of my favourites.
1) Relax at East Wellbeing & Tea – Located in downtown San Luis Obispo, this luxurious concept spa and tea room is the perfect quiet oasis for anyone looking for a little self-care during their vacation. Specialized in Eastern massage techniques, all of the rooms at East Wellbeing & Tea have been carefully created and decorated drawing inspiration from different parts of the world. They offer a wide array of treatments such as massages, acupuncture, facials, baths and cupping just to name a few. I had the opportunity to enjoy their 60-minute Signature East Massage, which also included a 30-minute soak in this beautiful in-suite tub prior to my treatment. Once your treatment done, you can enjoy some of their healthy organic and plant-based snacks or organic teas while reading and relaxing either indoors or outside at their cafe.
2) Go Trail running at Bishop Peak – There is an abundance of hiking and trail running trails located in the entire SLO CAL region. With the area nestled between the Nine Sisters (five of which have beautiful trails to hike/run on), a string of beautiful mountains that stretches from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay, there is plenty of terrain to discover. Bishop Peak is easily accessible from downtown SLO. You can also visit some of the local State Parks such as Montana de Oro or opt for the challenging Hazard Peak that offers 360-degree views of the coastline and Morro Rock.
3) Surf at Morro Bay – If you’re into watersports and want to spend time at the ocean, there’s plenty to do at Morro Bay. Whether you want to kayak, SUP or just go for a surf session, both the bay and the ocean are available to you. Plus, chances are you’ll be able to scope out some local marine life such as dolphins, seals and otters playing in the waves or just straight up chilling in the bay. The stunning Morro Rock is a beautiful backdrop for your water adventures. The large sandy beach and Morro Bay is perfect for a picnic lunch or a post-surf nap. Though the water can be a tad chilly, the lack of crowds in the surf lineup is a major plus. If you came without any gear, do not fret, the local Azhiaziam surf shop has everything you will need for some fun activities in the water. And if you’re planning on spending a few days being active in the water, stay at the 456 Embarcadero Inn & Suites, located right on the main street in Morro Bay. They have beautiful suites that come with a fireplace and a patio that overlooks the ocean and Morro Rock.
4) Visit the Farmer’s Market. Every Thursday night, the city of San Luis Obispo and its neighbouring towns get together on Higuera Street to support local artisans and farmers while also grabbing some delicious grub and watching some of the best local musical acts perform. The market has become a must-attend for locals and a great way for visitors to really catch the spirit of the region. I made a few delicious local discoveries while at the market such as Whalebird Kombucha and Atsa Superfood Bars, companies that were both started by young locals.
5) Explore the Sand Dunes at Pismo Beach – Just off the scenic highway 1, the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area are the last remaining coastal sand dunes that are open to off-highway vehicles in California. There’s around 1,500 acres of dunes to play around in. If you’re looking for a great place to rent a dune buggy or ATV, check out SunBuggy, not only do they have one of the largest fleets of rentals but they will also drive you to and from the recreation area. It’s a great outing for thrill-seekers!
Other suggestions: visit the local wine country in Edna Valley, go bouldering at The Pad Climbing in SLO, rent a bike and cycle from San Luis Obispo to Avila Beach on the Bob Jones City to Sea Trail.
A big thank you to Visit SLO CAL and their partners for all of their help setting this trip up. Watch for a special plant-based food post coming soon!
Video by: The Offners. Shot entirely with GoPro Hero 6 + Karma Grip, thanks to Sport Chek and GoPro.
Canadian Apple Watch users are now able to pair their Apple Watch Series 3 directly to their cardio equipment of choice during a workout thanks to the arrival of GymKit in Canada. Whether you’re using a treadmill, an elliptical, an indoor bike or a stair stepper, you can now get all the metrics you’ve been wanting directly on your watch with just a simple tap . Global equipment manufacturers such as Matrix, Technogym and Life Fitness are just some of the brands that have come on board to provide this technology for gym goers.
How does it work?
Apple Watch users can tap their Apple Watch on the VFC logo on the cardio machine either at the beginning or at any point during their workout (the data can be synched retroactively). The watch will then immediately connect to the workout app and ask you to choose your workout. As soon as it is connected, whether you start, stop or pause a workout on the cardio equipment, the watch will do the exact same.
With GymKit, you will now be able to receive calories, distance, speed, floors climbed, incline and pace in real time directly on your watch, thus permitting more accurate measurements and results that will help you achieve your daily or weekly fitness goals. This data will also be store in the Apple Health app.
Will my personal information be safe?
By using VFC, which is the same technology Apple uses for ApplePay, as soon as an individual walks away from a workout or a cardio machine, the user’s personal information is automatically removed and cleared from the equipment.
Where can I use it?
Apple GymKit launched last week at Equinox in Canada. The first rollout is at Equinox’s Toronto Yorkville location but will be rolling out to other Equinox locations across Canada such as Vancouver very shortly. Plus, with 80% of the world’s cardio equipment manufacturers on board with GymKit and with it being included by default in all new cardio equipment that is launched, it’s only a matter of time before GymKit is seen almost everywhere
As an avid Apple Watch Series 3 user, the launch of GymKit in Canada will allow me to get even more use out of my watch. Though I’ve been using my watch already for all of the activities that I do such as running, hiking, swimming, HIIT workouts and more, now being able to use it cardio machines will be great, especially for when I’m on the road!
For more information on the Apple Watch Series 3 and all of its features, go here.
Spring might be in full swing in the city, but it still feels very much like winter in Whistler. So there are still lots of winter adventures to be had with The Adventure Group (TAG) this season and all-year-round for that matter!
TAG offers a wide-variety of outdoor adventures for everyone from 7 to 77 years-old. They offer a ton of kid and family-friendly expeditions as well as some more extreme adventures for all you thrill-seekers out there. The one constant with TAG, is the good vibes and professional service you get throughout.
I had the chance to go one two of their winter expeditions. Last year, I tried their Cruiser Tour, one of their snowmobiling tour for beginners. Since I hadn’t been on a sled in a while, it was the perfect 2-hour re-introduction tour. They took us all around the trails on Cougar Mountain and also let us zip around on the frozen lake for some added thrills. This year, I took their BC Tour, which was a little more advanced and the perfect balance between single-track trail riding and “off-roading” through the Ancient Cedar Forest. They also offer more advanced backcountry and custom tours for those looking to only ride the most difficult terrain.
But sledding isn’t all… TAG also offers Zipline and Snowshoe Tours during winter and spring plus they offer Heli Sightseeing, Bungee Jumping as well as Scandinave Spa experiences.
If you’re thinking of heading up to Whistler once the snow has melted, you’ll also have a ton of summer activities to choose from. TAG offers everything from RZR Tours, Whitewater Rafting, Treetop Adventure Courses, Jet Boating, Mountain Biking and Stand-Up Paddleboarding, just to name a few.
What’s great about their tours is that they all happen in small groups. The ratio of guide to guest always makes you feel like you’re having a semi-private experience. On the latest sledding tour I just did, we were four guests total with one guide. All the guides are super friendly and professional. The guests’ safety is their number one priority and they also make sure that each guest feels comfortable no matter what activity they’re doing. They’ve also got a great shuttle service that will bring you from the Whistler Village to their base camp, where they have restrooms, lockers to store the guests’ belongings, snacks, etc.
I’m really excited for summer to arrive so that I can go back and try some of their other excursions. Whitewater Rafting is definitely on the bucket list!
Thrilled to have already reached the 10th podcast mark!
My guest for this 10th episode is Kelsey Serwa. She is a Canadian freestyle skier that just recently won, a gold medal at the 2018 Olympics, in ski cross. This is the British Columbia native’s 3rd Olympic games and 2nd Olympic medal, she had won silver at the 2014 Sochi games. I got to speak to her a couple of weeks ago, just a few hours after landing in Vancouver, post-Olympics. So without further a due, here’s Kelsey Serwa.
The podcast is just one click away or you can also listen to it below. If you enjoyed our chat, make sure you subscribe to the MELSAYS PODCAST here -> iTunes and Google Play.
There are so many incredible trails located in and around Vancouver. With that said, it was hard to pick only five but here are some of my go-to’s in the area.
1) North Shore Spirit Trail (North Vancouver) – If you’re looking for a multipurpose trail for road running with minimal elevation and that is not nearly as busy as all the trails in Vancouver, you must go for a run on the Spirit Trail. Created in collaboration with the City of North Vancouver and the local Squamish Nation First Nations community, this trail offers up a mix of city, park, mountain and ocean views. You can run from Lower Lonsdale all the way past Ambleside Park and well into West Vancouver.
2) Lynn Loop (North Vancouver) – Is the perfect terrain for someone who is just getting into trail running. There’s very minimal elevation and the packed gravel make it easy on your feet. You also get the most gorgeous views of the forest and feeling completely immersed in nature. Plus if you’re feeling good after the loop, the trail connects to a handful of other trails, so there’s always the option of extending your run if you’d like.
3) Buntzen Lake (Port Moody) – Located just 30 mins from Vancouver, this lakeside trail offers something a little bit more challenging with uneven terrain, roots, rocks and some elevation. This trail is always super quiet and easy to access through their parking lot or even through Sasmat Lake and the Belcarra Regional Park (you can prolong your run really easily and add a ton more elevation to it if you follow the Sasmat Lake Loop, the Diez Vistas or Buntzen Ridge Trail).
4) Baden Powell Trail (North Vancouver) – Though a very popular trail, I’ve often found myself completely alone for most of my runs on the Baden Powell Trail. The Baden Powell Trail can take you either all the way up to Grouse Mountain or down to Deep Cove. There are definitely some more advanced portions like the switchbacks that make up the Pipeline Crossing but all the trails are clearly marked and beautiful.
5) Lighthouse Park (West Vancouver) – A shorter trail than most in the area as the longest distance you can run is a 6k loop. However, the views from Eagle Point or Shore Shine Point are magnificent. On a clear day you can see the Washington Mountains, the islands, Howe Sound, etc. plus you’re running around in a lush forest. The park tends to get crowded on the weekends or during the summer so plan accordingly if you don’t want to be surrounded by people the entire time.
Looking for more trail ideas? I love checking out the Vancouver Trails website or even just going on Strava and looking up popular routes in the area.
I’m super stoked to be releasing today’s podcast because it features one of my favourite entrepreneurs and vegans!
My guest for this episode is Lauren Toyota. She is a former MTV host, turned Youtubber, and vegan chef (@hotforfood), and is the author of the best-selling cookbook: Hot For Food – Vegan Comfort Classics. She recently came to Vancouver to celebrate the launch of her book and I got to catch up with her and talk about her brand new book and all-things vegan! So without further a due, here’s Lauren Toyota!
The podcast is just one click away or you can also listen to it below. If you enjoyed our chat, make sure you subscribe to the MELSAYS PODCAST here -> iTunes and Google Play.
Can’t believe it’s already been six months since I started my Scotiabank #SavingsJourney. My goal with was to save up $5,000 CAD in 180 days by using the Scotiabank MomentumPLUS Savings Account. This money would allow me to buy a used vehicle to explore my new backyard in British Columbia. After moving here last year, I quickly realized that I would be needing a vehicle if I wanted to spend as much time as possible adventuring in the mountains, by the ocean and anywhere my heart desired.
The reason why I chose the Scotiabank MomentumPLUS Savings Account is because it allows you to earn more by offering a higher interest rate the longer you save. You can select a savings period of 90, 180, 270 or 360 days. A longer Premium Period allows me to earn a higher Premium Interest Rate, with regular interest paid monthly and the Premium Interest paid at the end of the Premium Period. I was able to track the progress of my savings online and the fact that there was no monthly fee and no minimum balance was a bonus.
With the account, my 6-month #SavingsJourney started off on a great note. Throughout the fall, I was able to make regular contributions to my savings account because I was working quite a bit as a fitness instructor and also via this very website. What I enjoyed is being able to monitor my progress online whenever I wanted and making adjustments by adding either a little more or a little less to my contributions in order to stay on track.
Things were going swimmingly until I received a letter in the mail, just a few days before the holidays. The letter came from the CRA and was requesting that I pay $4,000 in income taxes within the next two weeks. Last year was the first year that I worked as a full-time freelancer and when it came time to do my income tax return, I went to the first place I could find in Vancouver, after just having moved to the city. Little did I know, the woman who completed my tax return wasn’t experienced with self-employed clients and didn’t do my return right. As a result, I had to send all the money I had been saving up for a car to the government.
I was gutted to say the least but when I came back from my holidays in January, I was confident I could still reach my goal in time because of the high potential to earn interest in my account. However, the reality of being self-employed is that some months are a lot slower than others. January and February are notoriously slow months for creatives. So although I’ve been working extra since the beginning of 2018 to compensate for the money I had to access in my savings account, I unfortunately was not able to make back the money I had saved up in time for the end of my determined savings period. That said, this journey has taught me a lot. Even though things didn’t go according to plan, I am really thankful that I had a high interest savings account to get me out of a bind. Seeing my savings grow has made me more determined than ever to keep working toward my goal of buying a vehicle, just a bit later than planned. It has also taught me the importance of planning ahead as well as putting aside a little extra money in case of emergencies (like mine in December!) and also making sure I get a good accountant!
I’m happy that the Scotiabank MomentumPLUS Savings Account allows me to have flexible savings periods. Because of this I have gone ahead and increased my savings period to 270 days to replace what I used and save up enough in time for the nicer weather that is right around the corner. I have already started planning some of the hikes, camping weekends and surf spots I want to hit up in British Columbia when the warm weather returns, so I’m now more excited than ever to make my #SavingsJourney a success. I’m definitely not letting this little bump in the road stop me from achieving my goal.
I hope to see you out on one of my adventures this spring and summer!
This post was written in collaboration with Scotiabank, but all opinions are my own.