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women’s adventure travel


When does tribal tourism become unethical? P.6

VOLUNTOURISM The fastest growing sector within travel space P.18

HIKING HEALS The trail to health and happiness P.24

BALANCING CHEQUES How to work and travel P.30


in this issue


|in this issue| STRAYER is a quarterly published magazine that highlights women in adventure travel culture; a niche within the travel industry that involves travelling to dangerous places or participating in dangerous events. Whether it’s hiking through the Mojave Desert or Shark diving in South Africa, STRAYER aims to feature stories of women who are pushing society to recognize that extreme travelling is not just for men. STRAYER is a women’s interest magazine that embodies the boldness of a travel culture that is typically

occupied by male travellers. STRAYER is bold, inspiring and at times uncouth, covering the real and gritty stories behind women’s extreme adventures. In this issue we cover women who break out of the mold to chase their adventures no matter what the odds are. From travelling with a disability to beating men at their own sport, the women in this issue all have one thing in common: they aren’t afraid to stray from the norm and jump into an adventure.

- the contrib

utors -

Brittany Campbell

Brittany was shoved onto a plane before she could walk and from then on it was love at first sight. An avid traveller and wanderlust enthusiast, Brittany’s life goal is to travel to each continent and learn every culture, custom and history imaginable. Her favourite place in the world, thus far, is Costa Rica and she is obsessed with travel shows such as: Departures, No Reservations and Girl Eats Food.

Eric Pember I’m just some Canadian wannabe journalist. I was at Centennial College for five years, but am now ready to move on to the next adventure. I haven’t quite decided what that will be yet, but that’s part of the fun. I also intend on engaging in more writing, although again I have to figure out what that will be. I like exploring new horizons, much like travellers do. I can’t really afford to travel, but it would be nice if I could.

Roxana Chiriac Roxana is a journalism student who embarked on her life journey in Bucharest, Romania. She continued travelling through Hungary, Turkey and the U.S. over the years, presently resides in Canada, yet dreams to live in Japan. Roxana enjoys camping, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking and skiing adventures, working through her remaining list, including, but not limited to; abseiling, parkour, rock climbing, scuba diving and… forming a bond with a dangerous, wild animal. While looking forward to visit as many countries as possible in her lifetime - particularly Germany, Scotland, England and Israel - the aspiring writer hopes to reunite with her Creator in eternity’s infinite unknown, as her final destination.




Human Zoo: when does tribal tourism become unethical?

Balancing cheques: how to work and travel



Gap years inspire the love of travel



Passion to travel transcends all ages Hiking heals: the trail to health and happiness


18 Voluntourism: a wide spectrum


Parkour women are on the rise

Disability Accessibility travel

13 Just don’t go: female travel safety and how it is represented in the media


dervla murphy

GLOBE DERVLA MURPHY CYCLING ACROSS THE GLOBE Getting to meet Dervla Murphy is no easy task; the recluse Irish cyclist and adventure traveller rarely does interviews, rarely makes public appearances and rarely is photographed. As one of the most famous travel writers in Europe, Dervla Murphy, in her 80’s has published over 20 travel books and an autobiography called Wheels within Wheels: The Makings of a Traveller. She has cycled throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America and has visited over 15 different countries including: Ireland, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Cameroon, Romania, Laos, Yugoslavia, Siberia and Cuba. Seeing as this issue is covering women who break the mold and chase their adventures no matter what the odds are, we feel that Dervla Murphy is the ideal pick for our first installment of Globetrotters. To learn more about Dervla Murphy and her travels visit her website at:





tribal tourism

HUMAN ZOO When does Tribal Tourism become unethical? By BRITTANY CAMPBELL


hen avid traveller and popular UK travel blogger, Helen Davies decided to venture deep into a remote tribal village in Africa, friends and family were puzzled with preconceived notions as to why a young woman would want to travel to a place where access to modern technology is limited, and tropical diseases are prevalent. “Being an avid traveller, I’m really interested in learning about other cultures,” Davies said. “I really became interested in tribal culture whilst watching a TV show. I find it quite fascinating to see how different people live and see the world, even if I don’t always agree with what they do.” The decision for Davies was clear she yearned to experience the social dynamics, traditional customs and folklore of a civilization that seemed untouched. With a camera secured around her neck and a headscarf tied through her hair, Davies set out on an adventure that turned out to be much more than just an experience.

“I’ve visited numerous African tribes, each tribal visit has been similar in some ways but different in others,” Davies said. “Everyone has his or her chores. The men graze the animals whilst the women look after the kids and many of the domestic duties, like cooking, gathering wood/water and building. The kids all pitch in too, often helping to take care of younger siblings.” To date Davies has visited five different tribes in Africa ranging from the Maasai Mara in Kenya to the Mang’ati in Tanzania. On her many trips to Africa, Davies, who began visiting tribes with friends, experienced what most tourists would experience.

“Most of the time when you visit a tribe you pay for the ‘tribal experience.’ It’s not 100 per cent fake, but it isn’t real either,”

Davies said. After her many tribal visits Davies suddenly started to consider what effect this kind of tourism was having on the communities that she had become so fond of. For Davies, the debate suddenly became real. Was her choice of tourism threatening the authenticity of the cultures that she was so fascinated by? “There’s a debate as to whether tribal visits are ethical or exploitative and how tribal cultures are suffering due to western influences,” Davies said. “It depends on why you are visiting and what you do.We live in a money economy now and this is the way many tribes people make money, however it is important to visit tribes on their own terms, some are exploited by locals and land owners.” On the other hand, for Michele Thomas visiting remote African tribes was more than an adventure, it was her way of life for 25 years. As a Westerner living in Gabon, Thomas was constantly exposed to a number of different ethnic tribal groups and their customs.

tribal tourism


Photos courtesy of Jane Jackson

“The Gabonese have over 30 Bantu Tribes and they are divided into different groups. So during my time there I was able to experience various authentic tribal lifestyles. I have attended a witchcraft ceremony in the deep countryside, an instance of what I call ‘real magic’ and a possible human sacrifice,” Thomas said. For Thomas, the presence of a westerner didn’t seem to affect the customs of the tribes she visited; in fact it became an experience where the

tribal customs and traditions affected her lifestyle. “I think you have to make sure to not only visit and observe but to immerse and respect,” said Thomas. Tribal tourism is quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular tourist excursions. With hotels and tour groups adding tribal visits to their programs it has also become a way to help financially support some of these tribes. Tribal Tourist is an African adventure tour company that strives to turn travellers into explorers. Tribal leader and founder of the company, Matthew Kearns, describes his company as a way to experience authentic tribal customs. “All our Tribal Leaders are based in Africa and not sitting in an office on another continent. We know Africa, its

people and the best places to travel,” Kearns said. One of the aspects that makes Tribal Tourist unique is its deep concern for preserving cultures and customs of the tribes that they include in their tour packages. “One of our most vital aims is to conserve the natural heritage of the countries where we operate,” Kearns said. Although it is difficult to say if tribal tourism is unethical, what remains clear is the increasing interests of travellers who have a passion to explore the unknown, experiencing cultures that are very different from their own; yet tourists who are thinking of visiting tribal areas should consider the potential effects very carefully before deciding to make the trip.

gap years


Gap years inspire the love of travel By ERIC PEMBER


n issue women commonly have to face is balance between their life and their work. Some women end up realizing that they can’t properly balance these things and that they need to change their life. Sometimes, this leads to them realizing that they’ve picked the wrong career. Sherry Ott worked for the information technology department of a company that only allowed her one week of vacation time. “It limited my ability to go overseas and I had a sister living in Singapore,” Ott said. “I wanted to be able to see her, but one week isn’t enough time.” As a result, Ott left her job and took a gap year. She quickly discovered that there were no resources to help travellers during their gap year. She decided to fill that gap herself. “When I finished my trip, I decided to put some resources together for people like me,” Ott said. “I met two other people who were also thinking the same thing and together we started Meet Plan Go.” It allows people to meet the kind of like-minded, supportive people she wished to meet while taking her gap year, by giving them tools and tips to plan their career break travel and finding inspiration to go by hearing the stories of people like Ott. Meet Plan Go’s intent isn’t for people to take a permanent break. However, there are other people who take gap years and ultimately decide to follow in Ott’s footsteps and devote their lives to travel. Another example of someone who did this was Nora Dunn, who writes a monthly column for creditwalk. ca, which is a resource for reward and credit card planning. Dunn ran a financial planning practice before she decided to sell practically everything

she owned and spend her life travelling. “It wasn’t the easiest decision to make in the world, but I realized that from a financial standpoint, the cost of maintaining a home filled with stuff I wasn’t using, in a home I wasn’t living in while travelling the world, wasn’t financially sustainable,” Dunn said. Dunn has since travelled all over the world and has managed to sustain this lifestyle by finding ways to get free accommodations, often by volunteering.

“I’ve painted murals, I’ve designed marketing plans, I’ve done landscaping, I’ve cooked and I’ve even taught conversational English, all in trade for a place to stay.” She also works occasionally as a house-sitter. Dunn says it’s a great way to truly immerse yourself in another country’s culture. “It is a beautiful way to experience local life and what it’s like to actually live in the destinations you’re visiting, as opposed to just passing through.” Her previous career comes in handy when it comes to budgeting carefully for her life of travel. “One of the first things I recommend that someone do when budgeting [for long-term travel] is track all of their expenses. It’s only when you know what exactly you’re spending that you can create a type of budget for your travels,” Dunn said. Jo Fitzsimmons ( is another example of someone who quit her career to travel full-time. She used to be a lawyer. In 2010, Fitzimmons

Photo courtesy of Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn exploring Peru’s ancient ruins. decided to take a year-long break from her law practice – and she never came back. “I realized when I was travelling that I didn’t want to go back to being a lawyer, but I had to make money somehow,” she said. Fitzsimmons says being a travel writer requires certain compromises, just like any other job. There are moments when she has to force herself to write about a locale when she has nothing in particular to say about it, or there are moments when she has to forego something she’ll enjoy in favour of something she won’t. “Sometimes, while people are going off to the beach, I have to stay indoors and work, so that’s something you really have to force yourself to do.” However, Fitzsimmons still doesn’t regret her decision to switch to full-time travel. She would heartily recommend the lifestyle to people. She just thinks they should make sure they’re mentally suited to such a lifestyle before they embark on it. “You need discipline, and the money isn’t great, so you need to hustle and you need to hustle a lot, so really think about whether you have the characteristics to do it before you quit the day job and decide to do it, because it’s not as easy as people think it might be.”

This winter consider taking a gap year as your New Year resolution...



Brandee Laird looks on at Freeway Park, an iconic parkour location designed by prominent American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. It was used to train during the 2015 annual North American Women’s Parkour Jam.



Strayer Magazine explores an untapped market in travel tourism, Accessible Travel. There are approximately 180 million people with disabilities who travel worldwide. Travellers with disabilities spend over approximately $23 Million on their adventures per year, according to the Open Doors Organization and the Travel Industry Association of America. One of the most popular forms of accessible travel are cruise ships because they are the most accommodating.

passion to travel transcends all ages


Passion to travel transcends all ages By ERIC PEMBER


any sing praises for the pioneers who do truly outrageous or extreme things. However, you can be a pioneer just by doing ordinary things – Evelyn Hannon can attest to this. She was among the first women travelling to faraway places by herself, with the simple intention to experience common aspects of life. “I have done everything, from herding cows in the Swiss Alps, to going with my daughter to bring home an adopted Chinese granddaughter,” Hannon said. People looked at her strangely at first, just because it didn’t occur to them that a woman would want to do that. She got invited to a lot of dinner parties by people who wanted to know what kind of adventures she got into. “It was just a world so far away from them that they thought it was totally exotic,” Hannon said. “They couldn’t understand why I just couldn’t be a normal female and stay married and bring up my kids and not have to run around in the world.” In 1984, Hannon was divorced and her kids had already grown up. She realized that she wasn’t cut out for a usual grandmother lifestyle; she needed to go and see the world. “What I did, even though I was really afraid, was make a deal with myself. I said that if I could go out for 35 days and not die, then that will probably be a metaphor for the rest of my life. So that’s what I did. I went off, I didn’t die and that was the beginning.” She is now 75 years old and continues to travel. There are others like Hannon, who started travelling well before that was a common thing for women to do and continued doing so as they grew older. One of these women is Jane Jackson. She travelled a lot with her parents growing up and started travelling on her own as soon as she could afford it. “Of course, it was a different world in those days too, but I’m an only child

Photo courtesy of Jane Jackson

Jane Jackson rides the London Eye, a giant ferris wheel, while wearing gauze around her trach to stop the plastic from rubbing across her skin.

and didn’t have siblings to travel with, so doing things on my own was my normal,” Jackson said. Jackson liked travelling so much that she continued even after receiving a tracheotomy during treatment for thyroid cancer. She now has to make sure she is able to procure saline solution for her breathing tube wherever she goes, since she can’t take it on the airplane with her. This somewhat limits her mobility, but it still hasn’t stopped her from travelling all over the U.S. and U.K. since receiving the tracheotomy. “I figure I have two options. I can either sit back and feel sorry for myself or I can keep going on and doing the best I can do,” Jackson said. She continues to be a pioneer over the years, showing people you can still live a full and happy life even as you develop health complications. She doesn’t find it too difficult to actually replace her trach tube, but finds that people sometimes stare at her awkwardly. A little boy once looked at her with his mouth agape at the procedure, unsure what to think of what he saw. “I think because I’m not making a big deal about it, other people soon stop staring and soon realize that I’m

the Jane that I was before and we just keep going,” Jackson said. Being a pioneer doesn’t just reap results for those who follow in their footsteps, though. It often reaps results for the pioneers themselves as well. Janice Waugh, another solo female traveller, sums up the kind of thing that made it worth it for these women to go out on their own. While at St. Andrews by-the-Sea in New Brunswick, she asked the proprietor of a local shop who the most interesting man was in town. The answer was Jamie Steel, an eccentric man who gets his bushy hair cut once a year. He is their unofficial cultural liaison, who brings in musicians from other places to play in the town and gets local musicians booked in other places. The night she met Steel, a musician himself who grew up in St. Andrews by-the-Sea, he was booked and returning to town. “This man was coming into town with his band, many of whom have won awards for their music,” Waugh said. “They were coming in from Nashville and I was invited to hang out with the band that night, which I did. That doesn’t happen usually when you’re with other people.”


disability accesibility travel

Disability accessible travel technology By ROXANA CHIRIAC


he can climb mountains, ski and speak four languages; but Laila Grillo could not attend language school in Ireland, because “they didn’t want a blind student.” Others told her it was impossible to pursue a farm internship once she expressed her interest to study international agriculture, yet since then, Grillo completed two internships and is currently enrolled in her fifth semester at the Bern University of Applied Science, in Switzerland. The 24-year-old doesn’t let people tell her what she can or cannot do, but seeks ways to work around any circumstance, instead. “I never had a school saying we don’t accept blind students,” Grillo said. “I was sad, because I couldn’t go with my class, but at the same time I was also lucky to come to Canada.” Grillo is fond of travel and passionate about both mountain, as well as rock climbing. She also visited Italy, France, England, Wales, Liechtenstein, Spain and eventually Ireland, scaling nine mountains and various indoor climbing walls, including those in her Swiss homeland. At that time, she studied economics and languages to become a business employee. Currently, Grillo speaks Italian, German, French and English. During her mandatory studies in an English speaking country, she lived in Toronto with her friend, Sheila Ford. According to Ford, all that could stand in the way of success for Grillo and others with disabilities are people, not a disability itself. “I know this from personal experience, because of being deaf myself, there’s a huge price you pay for it,” she said. “The stress of trying to become a part of the world that you would usually be excluded from.” Ford felt discriminated against in a previous workplace. Once a month, the business firm asked its employees to take turns filling in for the receptionist during her lunch hour. Ford was unable to answer the phone and tried

Photo courtesy of Laila Grillo Grillo climbs Mt. Altmann in Switzerland.

to arrange for a co-worker to take her turn, in exchange for completing the other’s work. The company said it wouldn’t be fair, was unwilling to make the accommodation and Ford lost her job. Following that, she underwent surgery to receive a cochlear implant and presently works as a corporate secretary at an investment fund. While Grillo realized she doesn’t want to work in an office, she noticed her other friend who is blind struggling to find the same work. “Many enterprises fear it is too much of an effort and too much of a cost and that’s something I don’t understand,” she said. “Today you have so much technology that can be adapted for use. There are institutions who help you cover it if you employ a person with a disability.” Grillo uses screen reader software to complete her daily computer tasks. It’s a form of assistive technology that communicates with users through a text-to-speech function and identifies what is displayed on the screen, whether it’s navigating between different windows and programs, performing other commands or reading eBooks, emails and various files, such as documents.

The VoiceOver utility on her iPhone also serves as a screen reader. It is now used in conjunction with evolving navigational smart phone applications, such as BlindSquare and taught by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. “The VoiceOver utility is amazing,” CNIB Toronto Regional Manager of Service and Operations Sue MarshWoods said. “But then you add these apps that interface with the GPS and for somebody who doesn’t want to always rely on a sighted person to give them directions, this gives them that level of independence.” Some of BlindSquare’s features include shaking the phone to hear the user’s current address, describing environments, including information about the location of the nearest street intersection and surrounding venues, according to its website. It uses information gathered from FourSquare and Open Street Map. The Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Intelligent Transport Systems, based in England, published a report in September 2015 indicating over 80 per cent of elderly and disabled people aren’t aware of or using smart travel technology, including journey planning websites, smart phones, apps or texts that could make their lives and trips both easier and more independent. “A great step would be to help new users overcome initial apprehension and uncertainty towards unfamiliar technology,” IET Principal Policy Advisor Sahar Danesh said. “If people have the chance to inform the elderly and disabled of the opportunities adopting these new technologies could have for them, they are helping them to become more independent and confident in their travels.” On her next internship, Grillo dreams to work on a development project in Nepal. “I read a lot about this country and that would be the perfect opportunity to go there,” she said. “Also because it’s in the Himalayas and I could discover the mountains there.”

travel safety



QUOTE OF THE ISSUE “Being a strong woman is very important to me. But doing it all on my own is not.” - Reba McEntire

Female travel safety and how it is represented in the media By BRITTANY CAMPBELL


mong the majestic Pokhara Mountains and the jagged rocks that frame the Seti rivers just outside of the city, on Aug. 28 Nepalese authorities discovered the body of 25-year-old Dahlia Yehia, brutally beaten and carelessly discarded in the shallow water. Family and friends desperately began their search for Yehia in late August when the free-spirited traveller went missing during a volunteer trip to Nepal. The art teacher from Texas had resigned from her job to work as a volunteer, aiding in earthquake relief in Nepal. But the search came to an unfortunate end on Aug. 28, when Yehia’s family received word from the U.S. Embassy that she was beaten to death by a local man who was hosting her at his home. As media outlets caught hold of Yehia’s story, comment sections across the Internet were littered with debates on women who travel and whether it was safe. Sarah Kaplan, a contributor to the Washington Post, covered the news of Yehia’s death in an article entitled, “Missing American volunteer, Dahlia Yehia beaten to death in Nepal.” One of her readers who called himself ‘Dooki Fried’ wrote, “advice to you young stupid women, planet earth is a bad place. Do NOT be stupid.” It was clear that to many, like Dookie Fried, this was not a case of unforeseen or unfortunate events, it was yet another account of a woman putting herself into a risky travel situation and ultimately losing her life abroad.


Photo courtesy of Vawn Himmelsbach Vawn Himmelsbach and Tanya Enberg started Chic Savvy Travels, a backpackers’ website.

“The questions and comments about a woman’s safety abroad always seem to be the same,” Alice Driver says, author of More or Less Dead, a book analyzing violence against women and how it is represented in news media. “With female travellers there are real risks, but patriarchal society in many parts of the world never gauge what men’s roles are and how men should treat women, so the only way the media addresses these kinds of situations is to tell women how to act or scare them into not travelling at all.” Driver believes that with movies like Taken – a movie about two girls getting kidnapped in Europe – and news coverage trying to convince women that it’s not safe to travel, there will always be scrutiny towards the decision of the female victims and not the men who attacked them. “There was a statistic from the United Nations that said women were more likely to be beaten, raped and killed in their own homes rather than during their travels,” Driver says. “So when people argue about the safety of women who travel it becomes a distraction to the real story at hand, which is a woman was murdered.” Despite widely publicized stories like Yehia’s, women are still choosing to travel and are quickly becoming the biggest demographic for travel companies. According to the Harvard Business Review, within the past six years women in North America have contributed to a remarkable growth in the travel industry. Not only are

women choosing to travel more, but 75 per cent of female travellers are taking their adventures abroad. For Vawn Himmelsbach, Toronto based travel blogger and avid traveller, it was a matter of wanting to have an actual adventure, whether people thought it was a good idea or not. “Maybe you want to learn to surf in Nicaragua or wander the souks in Morocco — we’re drawn to those places not because of the risk, but because of our fascination with the culture or our desire to experience something completely different” Himmselbach says. “And with that comes a certain degree of risk.” Although Himmelsbach agrees that Yehia’s story does accurately outline the real risks out there for female travellers, she says that for now female travel references provided by the government are an ideal way to add a bit of security to your travels. In Canada, the Her Own Way - Travel Guide outlines useful information on how to use the country’s resources if there is ever a situation where you need help on your travels. “The Government of Canada assists thousands of Canadian women in distress abroad each year,” Rachna Mishra says, spokesperson for media relations of the Government of Canada for the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada department. “The problems they face are diverse – from petty and violent crime to medical assistance and issues associated with overseas relationships.”




Toronto based commercial and editorial photographer Anya Chibis, travels across different countries and cities photographing Parkour athletes for a personal and self-financed project. Driven by her desire to meet the athletes, discover their communities and learn more about each advancing technique, Chibis launched and started telling their stories in both words and photos over two years ago.









ach day is a journey for Brandee Laird. Living in motion, the 28-year-old pulls herself over walls and balances on rails. Running both indoors and outdoors, the head coach of Seattle’s Parkour Visions Gym vaults over fences, flips off bars and rolls across various types of terrain. She hosted the fifth annual North American Women’s Parkour Jam for the first time in July 2015, welcoming 75 women travelling from across the United States and Canada for a two-day weekend event in Seattle, Washington. “It was surreal to host the event,” Laird said. “It was also powerful and touching to visually see the impact of my leadership, as if they were all trying to prove to me – and some do, verbally – that I am a valued part of our community and an inspiration to many.”

But this self-described warrior-poet is not alone; along with other Parkour leaders, they coach women and men alike in a discipline originating from France in the ‘90s. Dan Iaboni is the head coach at Toronto’s Monkey Vault Movement Training Centre – the world’s first Parkour Gym opened in 2008 – he sees an increasing popularity among women in what used to be a male-dominated discipline. He trains classes that started having an equal participation rate among both men and women. “It’s definitely growing, now that there are women meetups and there are lots of women’s classes and organized groups, girls can look up girls doing Parkour on YouTube,” Iaboni said. “I think it’s going to open up the possibility of more girls entering the sport.” Drawing its roots from military obstacle course training, the objective of this discipline, also known as the art of movement, is travelling from point A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible while using one’s body to overcome obstacles. “Parkour is for everyone who has a body and would like to learn to use it better,” Laird said. “It is exploration of one’s human body in relation to personal goals and interests.” Practitioners are known as a traceur or traceuse, whether male or female, respectively, with both terms derived from the French verb ‘tracer,’ which means ‘to trace’ and refer to tracing one’s path. The novice-oriented gathering featured workshops for improving technique, including both indoor and outdoor training at Parkour Visions Gym and iconic Seattle

locations such as Freeway Park, Gasworks Park and Volunteer Park. “Both Saturday and Sunday mornings offered different workshops from women to choose from, ranging from a talk on trusting yourself to a falling workshop,” Laird said. “This year also contained a challenge night, structured to build a challenge around a single skill or idea, like traversing or precision jumping and build four levels of challenge for women to work through.” While people use the term Parkour to describe their practice of movement, it can mean something different from one individual to the next. Some regard it as a sport, others as a training method for sports and a number perceive it as a fun hobby; but for others – including Laird – it’s a lifestyle. “Parkour is as much a part of my life as breathing or eating or sleeping,” she said. “I also subscribe to a philosophy much closer to the original intent that the Yamakasi (the original founders of this discipline) laid out… the essence is to explore your world, challenge and explore yourself personally, maintain a novice mindset and improve yourself every day in one way or another.” For 23-year-old Monkey Vault student Florence Kwok, it also means a career investment. “I want to be a police officer, so it seemed like a good skill to have,” she said. “I really like the physical aspect of it, it’s a full-body workout, it helps you keep fit, keep strong and there’s a lot of coordination to it.” [...]









Kwok started training a year ago and currently works as a security guard. She believes Parkour may help her in a future chase-down and trains twice a week both at the Monkey Vault and outdoors. “I think it’s really great that there are just women’s classes and especially the North American Women’s Parkour Jam,” Kwok said. “You want to get your foot in the door and some girls are kind of intimidated to train with guys. Laird says many women are reluctant to try because of gender stereotypes. “The qualities society associates with women are soft, delicate, pretty, quiet, responsive,” she said. “[Parkour] is very masculine in its practice: commitment, confidence, strength, resilience… I think most women who’ve thought about trying it but never even considered they actually could, literally do not think of themselves as qualified to do so because of gender.” Iaboni is surprised by the number of women who walk into his gym thinking they can’t do parkour, because he believes anyone can do it since movement is for everybody. “We find most females can do the same stuff males can do,” he said. “They’re learning the exact same things. We don’t baby them in any way. They can be very strong.” Kwok says the Parkour community is one of the greatest aspects of this discipline, where members constantly

encourage each other through technique progressions, raise one another’s confidence and help each other overcome their fear. She looks forward to attend her first annual North American Women’s Parkour Jam, which is set in Colorado next year. “I’ve never been to one,” she said. “I’ve seen tons of pictures and it always looks like a lot of fun, so I’m really excited for it.”

Photos courtesy of Anya Chibis

Brandee Laird looks on at Freeway Park, an iconic parkour location designed by prominent American landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. It was used to train during the 2015 annual North American Women’s Parkour Jam.

Hiking heals The trail to health and happiness

hiking heals




arah Wilson wears many hats. She is a New York Times best-selling author, television host of the first series of MasterChef Autralia, an entrepreneur, a former magazine editor and journalist with over 20 years of experience in television, radio, magazines and newspapers. She also has an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis that she manages with constant hiking adventures all over the world. “Hiking gets us in touch with awe,” Says Wilson, “For me, trudging over rocks and earth for hours on end puts things in perspective. Life feels big, I – and my pain – feel small…this heals.” For Wilson, hiking is more than her choice of physical activity it is what she describes as her travel raison d’etre. In an article on her blog, entitled How hiking heals, she writes that, “When you travel solo you have to create a travel raison d’etre…hiking tames and heals any disease, whether it be illness, angst, pain, longing, frustration, and imbalance.” According to the Institute of Cardiovascular Research and Sport Medicine in Germany, there are many studies that show the restorative effects of being outdoors and hiking. A natural environment inspires the mind while hiking increases blood flow and positively affects physical health and state of mind. For people like Wilson hiking is a way to undergo a process

Photo courtesy of

Sarah Wilson hikes along water in Hawaii.

of healing. A process that is as challenging and unpredictable as any hiking trail. From Iceland to Andalucia, Wilson has hiked to tame and heal numerous things in her life, but it wasn’t until after a long night of editing her social media bios that she realized that her favourite pastime was actually helping her to heal in many ways than one. “My bio on instagram read ‘I have a crankin’ auto immune disease that I tame with food and hiking and that’s when I realized that hiking was the reason I was able to keep my symptoms at bay.” Says Wilson. But if hiking can physically help to heal, how does it positively affect the mind? Wilson attests to this feeling of happiness to something that she writes about on her blog called “ the wilderness effect.” This comes from connecting with nature and the world around us. She says it’s the reason why movies like Wild are successful – because people can

relate to the feeling of wonder that comes from reconnecting with nature. According to the American Psychological Association, in a study conducted by Stephen and Rachel Kaplan professors of psychology at the University of Michigan, humans have two types of attention, directed attention and fascination. When people are only experiencing directed attention they become irritable and frustrated. Being exposed to natural environments initiates fascination, which provides a calming feeling and a sense of inspiration. This effect is what relationship expert, Ali Binazir, M.D., author of “The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible”, describes as a sort of mind reset that aids in helping people to emotionally heal. “A lot of the associations that you have with the source of your pain are in your apartment, neighbourhood, city but as [...]


soon as you leave town there are no associations – like in a break up for instance, it’s like a brand new slate and it’s good for basically anything that is bothering you,” said Dr. Binazir. Nonetheless, Dr. Binazir isn’t suggesting that personal trauma can be solved with a trip to the forest. He suggests that your hiking journey must include some sort of survival factor in order to truly be a healing experience. “You are basically adapting to new environments and situations all the time, you have to figure out how to get from ‘point A’ to ‘point B’ and there are a lot of novel stimulants that are coming in that you have to handle,” Dr. Binazir says. “That becomes top of mind, all the other stuff you are feeling becomes secondary and that is therapeutic in its own right because you have to focus to survive.” With this idea of hiking being used as a way to heal, many

hiking heals

organizations have developed organized hikes as a way to get more people engaged in physical activity for a good philanthropic cause. The H.E.A.L Organization is a faith based non-profit organization established in New York City. Founder of the non-profit, Jennifer Wright organized their first hiking fundraiser up Mount Kenya, the second tallest mountain in Africa. “We always wanted to do some great adventure,” said Wright, “And I always wanted to climb Mount Kenya ever since I started the organization. We thought it would be a great way to raise money and it was an incredible experience.” The five-day hike raised over 5,000 dollars to help support children at the Rapha Community Centre in Nyahururu, Kenya, a home built by the organization for children in need. The goal was to make the home more sustainable by

installing a biogas system that eliminates the use of firewood and produces clean fuel in the centre’s kitchen; among other things. After the success of the organization’s first hike, Wright is in the process of making Hiking for HEAL an annual official fundraiser.

“We work with a number of children who are dealing with a number of issues, from being forced into marriage at a young age, to not being able to go to school. These kinds of fundraisers help us provide a safe place for these children who need some healing of their own,” said Wright.

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Wright



Voluntourism: By ROXANA CHIRIAC


former lifeguard, weighed down by 30-50 lb. equipment, struggled while learning how to swim all over again along the Honduras Barrier Reef, scuba diving and collecting data for Reef Conservation International. Hoi Yee Ding’s childhood dream lay under the sea, but the 30-year-old Toronto clerical worker left behind her passion, marine biology, back in university. In 2014, years later, swimming around vivid parrot fish, queen conchs, dangerous sharks and invasive lionfish, rekindled what Disney’s The Little Mermaid first inspired in her life. “You sometimes move away from passion and rediscover it when you have a chance,” Ding says. “That’s why I wanted to look for volunteer experience in marine life. The first few days (diving) is a little bit scary, it’s literally learning how to swim all over again.” Changing her regular vacationer routine after travelling across North America, Europe and Asia, she searched for possibilities to give back to the world and planet Earth. A research report by travel analyst Henry Harteveld, shows Ding is one of over 3.5 million people embarking on international volunteer trips each year. The multi-billion dollar volunteer tourism industry – also known as voluntourism – is the fastest growing sector in the travel space, according to CBC documentary Volunteers Unleashed. It is also the most controversial, following instances where voluntourists take jobs beyond their training or ability while rushing to provide international aid. “Medical students operating on people… the dangers of that,” says Jacob Taddy, founder and director of Onwards Inc. “Or I think teachers is the one that really hit home with me, we wouldn’t allow a random high schooler to walk into our elementary school and teach our kids, but it’s totally fine over there (in developing countries.)” Onwards is a non-profit organization based in Milwaukee, seeking to eliminate poverty through

tourism based micro-enterprise development and travel. “We provide loans and training to those businesses and then two-fold service as a non-profit travel agency,” Taddy said. “We run trips to help support those businesses and sectors and provide the initial revenue base for those businesses.” Onwards Board Member Pippa Biddle, 23, is a former voluntourist who experienced “some of the inefficacies and straight-up hypocrisy in volunteer travel” through other organizations, while participating in her high school’s trip to Tanzania. During her stay at an orphanage, Biddle and her classmates were tasked with building a library. After mixing cement and laying bricks, she was surprised to discover local workmen undoing and rebuilding her daily progress overnight. Their success was pragmatically unrealistic and set up for failure, she explains, having received approximately 20 minutes of instruction for laying bricks, a specialty trade requiring year-long training in most of the developed world. “One of the key problems in volunteer travel is that it doesn’t allow for that area’s economic development,” Biddle said. “The labour is volunteer labour, rather than being hired local labour.” Ding had a different experience in Belize. “ReefCI has research they’re trying to do and they depend on volunteers to help them cover more grounds, to produce more numbers,” she said. “Every day has a purpose… to assist and find information for the two main scientists on the island.” The not-for-profit marine conservation organization started operating off the coast of Punta Gorda in 2004. Travellers are lodged on a 1½ acre island named Tom Owens Caye and referred to as guests instead of volunteers by staff, because they pay fees covering both their visit and ReefCI funding. Contributing through “citizen science,” guests are responsible for data collection such as seasonal spawning rate statistics, juvenile and adult counts on commercial species including the queen conch, lobster



a wide spectrum and fin fish, as well as conducting general surveys on the health of coral reefs. “I’d say the most prevalent program that we have right now is the lionfish program,” ReefCI founder and director Polly Alford said. “Our guests help us spear them and remove them and dissect them, collect data from them and remove fins that help make jewelry from them.” Lionfish, initially released as former pets, are an invasive species with a voracious appetite and fast reproduction rate. They endanger native fish populations and their venomous sting can leave divers paralyzed for days. According to Alford, lionfish are the biggest marine disaster in history. ReefCI received the commended award Best for Responsible Wildlife Experiences during the 10th annual World Responsible Tourism Awards in 2013. It received recognition for contributions toward conservation; quality of guest experiences; data quality; local economy through employment and local sourcing; including working with the department of Fisheries

in Belize to help protect the marine life and sustain fish stock and fishing. “We don’t take jobs from local people at all, we do the opposite,” Alford said. “The majority of our staff are Belizean; our marine biologist is Belizean, our cooks are Belizean, our caretakers are Belizean and our tour guides are Belizean – even our

dive masters are Belizean.” Guests receive scuba diving lessons and earn their PADI Open Water Diver certification once they demonstrate the required skills successfully. “It’s a great place to learn about marine life, people come in and learn in-depth detail to help them write their Master of Theories and so-forth,” Ding said. “But if you’re just a regular person coming here to enjoy a vacation and learn about the ecosystem, they also have education materials to teach you.” Overall, Biddle believes volunteer travel is generally a short term Band-Aid solution. “We should be really looking at how to fix systems that are broken in the places that people want to travel to,” she said. “I’m not telling people to stop travelling, I think travelling is one of the best things you can ever do, but go fix a system, don’t just become part of a problem.” Although her friends and family discouraged Ding from travelling alone out of safety concerns, she encourages other women to try it and experience independence. “It makes you become a more confident person. It empowers you to do what you think is right, to think for yourself,” she said. “We still live in a world where people think it’s a man’s world or a woman’s place is in a family or a certain room of the house, but when you’re travelling it allows you to do things that put you in situations where nobody else can help you but yourself.” HOI YEE DING

balancing cheques


Balancing cheques:

how to work and travel By ERIC PEMBER


manda Williams initially tried to turn her A Dangerous Business blog into a career. Like many other travel blogs, A Dangerous Business is a combination of practical travel advice and personal travel stories. “It’s unfortunately really tough, because you are never guaranteed a steady paycheck,” Williams says. “A lot of the time, people don’t pay on time and it was just very stressful to try and make a living that way.” Although travel was still a passion to Williams, she decided to find other ways to pay her bills. She now does contract and freelance work for the websites and social media of various companies. Williams spends her time finding ways to travel around her work schedule. Many people assume that to be a travel blogger you need to drop everything and just be a digital nomad. It didn’t work that way for Williams, however; she decided to press on as a travel blogger and showed people one can change their life to pursue their love of travel, while still continuing their job. “A lot of times, you should just move towards making travel the priority and focusing on that, rather than the time you have off,” Williams said. The kind of advice Williams imparts may not be earth-shattering info, but they’re the kind of common sense things that are easy to forget when you’re trying to plan ahead. One example of that is Williams’s advice to take advantage of weekdays and holidays. The travel blogger says that if you’re planning a vacation, do it over the weekend so you can take more time off during the week. Another way you can maintain your job while on the move is by finding out if your job is possible to do from home.

“It never hurts to talk to the boss about hey, could I maybe work from home or work somewhere else for however many weeks?” Williams said. If it works, that can give you added flexibility to work and travel at the same time. You can also try to negotiate working overtime or on holidays in exchange for getting more days off. Another thing to do – if your workplace allows it – is to donate a day’s pay per quarter and get an extra day off in exchange. If you are willing to put the effort in, there are many ways you can fit travel into a busy work schedule. “It’s just about getting creative with the time that you have, and sometimes, that might mean travelling closer to home,” Williams says. According to travel agent Debbie Lloyd who runs the specialty travel tours through Today’s Woman Traveller, women tend to plan things ahead of time, which is vital to balancing travel with work. “The younger market now likes to arrange things as they go, to leave things open, but when women travel, they like to travel [i.e. plan in] advance,” Lloyd says. Melissa Shearer, an avid traveller and former travel agent, runs a travel blog called The Mellyboo Project. When she was working as an agent, a woman came in when she was still early on in the job. The woman booked an entire trip through the Canadian Rockies through Shearer.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Williams Amanda Williams was inspired to base her blog around a quote from Tolkien.

She was very thorough with the planning. “She was going to use a bus for this portion, and then a tour for this portion and then rent a car for this portion,” Shearer said. Her job was as a pharmacist and she only had about seven to 10 days of vacation time to work with. She decided, however, that a few days at her dream destination was better than no days at all; and so she planned carefully to ensure she could get that. Shearer was curious why she was doing this by herself. The woman responded that her friends just like to shop when they go away and don’t want to do the sort of adventurous things that she wants to do. “If I wait for other people, I’m never going to do it, so I’m going to use my vacation time this summer and go to the Rockies,” Shearer said. She was fortunate that her dream destination was within the nation rather than far away, because otherwise, she may have not been able to pull this off. “It’s just about getting creative with the time that you have, and sometimes, that might mean travelling closer to home than travelling really far away,” Williams said.



- STRAYER HIGHLIGHTS HEAL Holiday Giving Challenge

The HEAL non- profit organization is hosting the HEAL Holiday Giving Challenge. From Nov 24 - Jan 7 founder Jennifer Wright is asking you to be a part of something great!

We are asking our readers to join the team, share the campaign with your friends, family to spread the word about the work that the HEAL foundation is doing in Kenya. Here’s the info: There are two “friendly competitions” between any charity that is registered. The first will happen on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1). The charity that raises the most on that day will receive a $25,000 donation. The second competition will award a $100,000 donation to the charity that raises the most money by January 7th.

There are weekly challenges as well, so there are a lot of opportunities to raise extra money. We can start collecting donations on the 24th, but I’m recruiting volunteers so we can have a team established before then. We have a lot of ambitious goals in 2016, so I hope this will be successful. We’re also offering an incentive. Anyone that signs up and raises more than $100 will be entered in a raffle to win a $50 Amazon gift card and the person that raises the most will win a $100 Amazon gift card. Not bad!

What is an Adventure? What is an adventure?! Travel Vlogger Sona Gil, is your ultimate guide to all things travel! Her YouTube channel, SoniaTravels, has over

100thousand subscribers and has over 11million views! Through her videos she shows us evrything from how to pack the ultimate travel bag to how to find the best beaches in Brazil.

Travel Blogger Spotlight: Helen Davies Where do we go for our fix of wanderlust? HELEN IN WONDERLUST! At the end of her twenties, Helen quit her job and headed

to Africa on a trip that would ultimately change the course of my life forever. Check out her travel blog to join her adventures!

Strayer Magazine

@ StrayerMag

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