What North America can learn from Iceland

Emily! Do you want to go to Iceland? Those were the first words out of Nicole’s mouth when I answered the phone in the middle of the winter last year. Flights: booked.

Not long afterwards, we picked up another travel partner, Hilary.

After months of postponing planning, we decided on two things: 1. rent a car and 2. figure it out on the fly.  Three girls, an SUV, a must-see list and a draft outline drawn on a map is all we had planned for our week-long trip in July.

There are a lot of great things to see and do in Iceland – glacier hikes, waterfalls, volcanos, helicopter rides, off-roading, scuba diving, luxury spas, culinary experiences, and Reykjavik, the nation’s capital, is a blend of history, business and culture.

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We decided to drive both the Golden Circle (short circuit just outside Reykjavik) and the Ring Road (main highway all around the island). Here’s what I discovered about Iceland and what we, as North Americans, should take away from this country.

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Iceland hasn’t always been so lucky. It suffered a lot from the 2008 financial crisis and the major volcanic eruption in 2010. The value of the krona collapsed and the prices of goods remained expensive – it’s not easy transporting items to a remote island in the North after all. For a tourist, the cost of food and goods is still quite expensive so it’s worth spending your time and money on adventures.
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Some say their tourism spike is thanks to agreements with major airlines that use Iceland as a stopover from North America to Europe, some say that it’s because the millennial generation is looking for that picture perfect background – either way, Iceland’s getting back on their feet… In a sustainable way.
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Locals pay very close attention to the ecosystem and the environment. There are no forests in Iceland – certainly not like you’d see here on the East Coast of Canada. Moss – basic green moss – can take upwards to 5-10 years to grow. Needless to say, when we stayed in a bubble in the middle of the “woods” we were sheltered by a few skinny trees that provided barely enough privacy for us to run to the outhouse in the middle of the night!
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Icelanders will not put up with your North American bullshit – they don’t have time for it and they want to have an environment to go back to once this tourism boom starts to downturn. Play by their rules or stay away. It’s a very fragile environment so be sure to respect the boundaries set out by the tourism bureaus, park officials, the governments and the locals – otherwise you will be ridiculed… a lot and by everyone.
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The majority of Iceland’s power is fuelled by renewable energy such as hydroelectric and geothermal. Iceland is full of volcanic activity that makes geothermal energy easy to access – essentially, they don’t have to dig too deep to find it. In fact, they love geothermal energy so much that they built one of the nicest spas in Iceland directly beside the plant. Tourists are literally bathing in the by-product from the plant – and it’s awesome. Silica and sulfur are so good for your skin that companies have started to bottle the product in hopes to make a profit.
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Hydroelectric = waterfalls. There are so many waterfalls in Iceland, I’m pretty sure we saw a different one every day! Hilary was on this photographic kick where she tried to capture the perfect milky waterfall – so we spent a lot of time visiting them…. and saw them from many different angles. It was totally worth it. There’s something soothing about watching waterfalls. Especially knowing that the governments and business leaders of the day were smart enough to realize that the force from the water could power the majority of the country’s energy requirements. (Gee – I wonder how much 160 billion tonnes of water twice a day could power *hint hint* Bay of Fundy…)
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One more thing that I learned about Iceland: they have a very unique breed of horses. Icelandic horses are said to have been preserved by isolation – there has been no cross-contamination between these horses and other horses from around the world. I really don’t know much about horses, but I can say I literally fell in love with a short, shaggy haired Icelandic horse named Dorri. I seriously think this horse either had some cognitive issues or he was just simply just a klutz – whatever it was that made Dorri special, we were meant to ride together.  While Nicole and Hilary looked oh so graceful on their horses, Dorri and I bumbled along like YouTube compilation of “People walking into things”.
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All in all – Iceland is absolutely worth visiting. My advice: rent a camper or SUV and travel around. We stayed in some pretty cool spots along the way, but there are many different ways to travel this beautiful country – budget conscious to top-of-the-line luxury*.
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 *Side note: we had a brief moment of luxury when we pulled into a swanky hotel/restaurant for dinner with our new American friends. I had a nut burger – most delicious thing ever. If I didn’t like meat so much, this would have definitely convinced me to try vegetarianism.
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E.

With shared content from Nicole Rowan and Hilary Brown

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What You Need to Know About Traveling for Work – When You Return

You’ll meet a lot of people when you travel. As mentioned in my last post, the best way to jog your memory is to jot down a few notes on their business card. Now it’s time to use that info! 

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Reconnecting with your contacts 

LinkedIn is how I personally prefer to keep in touch with professional connections. It’s like having a summarized CV of your connections and it gives you more credibility by having your CV available. 

When adding contacts to LinkedIn, try personalizing your intro message own using the notes from the business cards:

  • If they mentioned they were taking a vacation, wish them a great trip. 
  • If they mentioned they were expecting a new grandchild, send your best wishes.
  • If they mentioned that they were looking to do business in your area, offer them a coffee next time they are in town. 
  • If they had a lot to say about something, reference it in your message. This way they will know that you were actively listening and had a genuine interest in the conversation.

You get the gist of it. Remember to add contacts that you ACTUALLY met; don’t just blindly add people – it’s both annoying and unprofessional.

Send follow up messages

If you were traveling for meetings, remember to send a quick message when you return home thanking the people you met with for their time. If there were any action items from the meeting, this is a great opportunity to remind yourself and others of their responsibilities.

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Take a moment to reflect. 

I can’t stress this enough. Too often when you’re traveling for work you forget to take time to look back on how the trip went. Some things to keep in mind:

  • meetings: were there any action items (things you need to do)?
  • hotels / restaurants: how was the service? would you go back? Is it somewhere you could recommend to someone who might be travelling there?
  • new thoughts: what did you learn? Was there anything new that you discovered that can be applied to your career?
  • goals: what was the main purpose of your travel? Did you achieve your goals? Did you discover something that you should remember for a future opportunity?

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Meet with your supervisor

If you were traveling on behalf of an organization, setup a time to meet with your supervisor to discuss the outcomes of your trip. This is where you can have an open conversation about what went well and what could be improved for the next trip. If you found that the travel was somewhat unnecessary, as in the trip didn’t provide as much value as originally thought, speak up. Your supervisor will appreciate your honesty and you can use this conversation as an opportunity to explore other more suitable options.

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The people you meet when you travel – whether for work or for pleasure – can open doors, provide insights, and help influence your career path in many different ways.  It’s important to foster a connection because you never know when you might be crossing paths later in life. These are connections that you can’t find at home, because what makes them special is that they are from a different part of the world. And as for the experiences you shared together … well… everyone loves a good story.

What You Need to Know About Traveling for Work – When You Arrive

When You Arrive

Killing it at networking events.


Pay Attention – opportunities are everywhere at a conference. Be sure to keep your head up and your eyes open when you’re at an event. You never know who you might be caught in a conversation with. Last year when I was at a cruise conference, I struck up a conversation with Mickey Arison while standing at the bar. It was a simple “Beautiful evening to be on a patio, eh?” Which triggered a 10 minute conversation about how I “must be from Canada”, the weather in Toronto and what it’s like to travel north. Oh, and my boss couldn’t believe how I just casually started a discussion with one of the biggest players in the cruise industry.

Read Body Language – if someone wants to talk to you, you’ll know. Eye contact is key here. If they keep glancing around the room, they are looking for an “exit”. Its good to know when a conversation is over and let them go. They’ll appreciate it and likely remember it for the future.

Raise Your Voice – A strong animated voice implies confidence, so be sure to speak loud enough that the person you’re speaking with can clearly understand you. Be careful not to be so loud that the entire room can hear you.


Easy on the Topics – no politics at these events. Trust me, people are more interested in talking about the weather than digging into the latest political scandal. A short jab here and there might be okay if you’re further along in the conversation but keep it light.

Dress the Part

Fashion Tip – keep it a bit conservative. A structured dress with a longer hemline and a higher neckline make women seem more approachable, while suits with a crisp white shirt are generally a safe bet for men, ties optional. Scruffiness is a gamble – keep yourself groomed. I should also mention that a woman in a tailored tuxedo is also a pretty fantastic sight.

Remember to dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Keep on top of the conference

Keeping Track – You’re going to receive a lot of business cards. Make notes when you return to your room (what they look like, what you talked about, etc) You’ll see why later.

Attend the Sessions – when you want to skip out on the sessions, remember that your employer is paying you to be there absorbing what you can so you can become a better employee. Better yet – you don’t know everything so sit your butt down and take it all in. You’ll be sure to take something away that you can bring back to the office or use as a topic of conversation at the networking events.

 

Choose Wisely – your time is valuable and your spare time is sparse. Use it wisely and take some time for yourself. It’s important to recharge those batteries so if it’s between 20 mins reading emails or 20 mins to go for a walk around town, opt for the walk. The fresh air will help clear your lungs from the stale convention centre air and boost your energy.

Avoid the Afternoon Coffee – your adrenaline is going to be pumping all day. If you think you need a pick me up, try a bottle of water instead. It’s important to stay hydrated and it will help you sleep better at night (not that you’ll be sleeping much)

Manage Your Expenses – carrying around the company card is nice, but don’t go crazy. If your workplace allows alcohol on the dinner tab, limit it to 1-2. The rest is on you, unless you receive permission from your supervisor. Be sure to set the ground rules about hospitality and hosting clients before you leave – excessive drinking on company time is not something you want to face in a performance review.

 

What You Need to Know About Traveling for Work – Before You Go

Work travel is a great opportunity to network and be immersed in the culture of a given industry. You’ll quickly learn who’s who in the industry after you’ve spent a few concentrated days at meetings and events. Here are a few things you should consider when travelling for work.

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Plan Your Outfits – you likely won’t have a lot of time to pull yourself together in the morning. Plan ahead so your outfits are coordinated and thought-out.


Pack Light – there’s a good chance your going to need to bring some extra promotional materials, gifts and meeting kits with you so make sure you leave space in your bag. Don’t worry, you’ll be returning with many gifts and materials from your trip.


Workout Clothes – one set is enough. I don’t care if you wear the same shirt 2-3 runs in a row and neither will anyone else. If you’re really put-off by it, invest in dry fit so you can wash it in the sink and it will be ready for your next run.

Create an Itinerary – there’s going to be a lot going on during your trip having an itinerary with addresses and phone numbers will help a lot. Plus it gives you a chance to plan personal time and stick to it.


Check In With Your Boss – this is your number one priority. Your boss is sending you on this trip for a purpose. Clearly identify and make note of expectations, target clients, key messaging and other important information. Don’t assume you know everything your boss is expecting.

One Day in St. John’s, Newfoundland

All types of travellers are bound to find wonderful things to see and do in Newfoundland – but what if you only had one day?

There’s a likely chance you’ll want to visit the oldest city in North America and the province’s capital city, St. John’s. Whether you’re in on a conference or your planning a multi-week tour around the area, you don’t want to miss these spots in St. John’s and the Avalon Peninsula:

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Jelly Bean Row – these brightly coloured homes throughout the city are a result of a long tradition where fishermen painted their boats to match the colour of their house as a means of identification. You can still find this practice is some of the smaller villages.

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Signal Hill & Cabot Tower – if you’ve ever watched the Canadian Heritage Moments, you’ll know that Signal Hill is where the first telecommunication transmission from North America travelled “through the air and across the ocean for the first time ever” reaching Europe in 1901. From here you can fantastic view of the city scape, the narrows and the Atlantic Ocean.

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The Rooms – A hub for art, culture and history The Rooms are not to be missed. Enjoy a snack at the cafe on the fourth floor and take in the gorgeous view overlooking the city and harbour.

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Quidi Vidi – This historic fishing village, now a St. John’s neighbourhood, is home to Newfoundland & Labrador’s largest microbrewery, Quidi Vidi Brewing. Quidi Vidi Harbour – known to locals as “The Gut” – is regularly active with local fishing operations.

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Cape Spear – known for being the easternmost point in North America (excluding the Danish-governed Greenland), Cape Spear is a hot spot for shore-side whale watching. During certain times of the year you can even see the puffin, Newfoundland’s provincial bird.

The Regatta – one of the oldest recorded sporting events in North America, the annual Royal St John’s Regatta draws over 50,000 people to Quidi Vidi lake on the first Wednesday in August. Carnival games, local artisans and street-food line the shores of the lake from first thing in the morning to late at night.

Local Tips

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Favourite Souvenir: Nonia on Water Street has the best selection of Salt & Pepper hats. You’re sure to find a gift for anyone in their selection of wool goods – and you’ll be supporting one of over 175 Newfoundland knitters.

Favourite Place to Grab a Brew: YellowBelly Brewery is a multi-level gastropub offering beer for every palate with a deliciously-tailored menu. If beer is not for you, the basement houses a speakeasy with some talented mixologists.

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Favourite Bakery: Rocket Bakery & Fresh Foods always has line but don’t let that deter you from trying the quiche, the sausage rolls, the salads, the bread, or anything else for that matter. Where the trays are actually baking sheets and the food is just like Mom’s, Rocket uses fresh ingredients and is never light on butter.

Favourite Coffee House: Fixed Coffee & Baking – this artisan coffee shop brews one single-origin coffee a day and serves it to your taste. The baristas are always on-point with their coffee art skills, but the bagels are what you really want to go in for.

Hidden Gem

Take a hike around Signal Hill on the North Head Trail. Be sure to wear sneakers as there are some trickier areas. It’s a 1.7km hike and 500 ft descend from Signal Hill to the Battery – including a pass by Chain Rock (I bet you can guess what that is).

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travel domestically

To anyone who thinks that travelling abroad is the only way to experience a cultural rejoice, I have some news for you. Canada – with a landmass of nearly equivalent to that of Europe – has more Instagrammable beauty and Snapchattable experiences than any one person can handle.

Having been blessed with the opportunity to drive across this beautiful nation twice, travel to every province a handful of times, visit 2 of the three territories, study in our country’s largest metropolitan, work on the west coast, and grow up on the east coast (the actual east coast), I am confident that I have enough to say.

When I read this article in the Globe and Mail, I was excited. Get out there and travel Millennials! Formal education is valuable, but not as valuable as the lessons learned during travel. Travelling exposes the deep secrets about a person – you really learn a lot about yourself and the people you surround yourself with when you travel. Stepping out of your comfort zone, entering into a world of unknown.

But remember one thing: it’s a privilege. It’s not about getting the best picture; it’s about taking it all in. Some of the best trips I’ve taken involved a lot of mistakes and no internet to help me figure it out. Sometimes the struggle is the experience. Problem solving, respect, empathy, patience, and adaptability are skills that can’t be learned in a classroom, but are the skills that are required in life. You’re lucky to be able to travel – not everyone can.

So what makes Canada so special? Think about it for a moment – Europe has ~50 countries in its 10M km2, Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories. Name two provinces/territories that are the same in culture… Right? Now name two cities that are similar in culture… Exactly. Just because our government is centralized, doesn’t mean that we are all the same. Even in a small province like New Brunswick –Indigenous, Acadian, Loyalist, and other Immigrant histories have collided to create a colourful multicultural province. A four-hour drive from the North to the South is the equivalent in distance to a drive between Zagreb, Croatia to Venice, Italy (and stopping for lunch in Ljubljana, Slovenia.) One would even argue that there are just as many “languages” spoken in the province of New Brunswick!

This is my point to all of the Millenials who are travelling abroad searching for a “cultural” experience… Canada is multicultural, multi-landscape and multi-heritage. The great thing about meeting new people is learning something new about their culture and teaching them something new about your culture!

Before you travel abroad, travel Canada first – then take that experience with you to show the world why you’re proud to be Canadian!

E.

 

 

 

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Mount Katahdin

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Panoramic View from Pamola Peak

Katahdin – not for the faint of heart.

Mount Katahdin is the highest peak in Maine. It doesn’t take long before you’re well above the tree line over looking some of the most beautiful views on the East Coast. I had the pleasure of hiking alongside 12 other young professionals who, much like myself, were looking to escape the overwhelming work life of a twenty-something.

The peak is reached using a combination of trails. We decided on the following Chimney Pond to Cathedral Trail to Baxter Peak (5,270 ft) across Knife’s Edge to Pamola Peak down Helon Taylor Trail. We completed the trail (with numerous breaks) in 8 hours.

Few tips from experience:

  1. Pack a day pack – I recommend the smallest pack possible with two shoulder straps. Learn from my mistake and don’t bother with a cross body. When you’re bending over and twisting yourself, the last thing you need is your pack swinging around you and ending up at your front. Bring the following:
    1. Wind breaker – It is extremely windy at the peak.
    2. Water – Camelbacks are recommended for this one!
    3. Snacks – Granola bars, something sweet and something heavy (sandwich!)
    4. Whistle – Hopefully you’ll never need to use it, but keep one attached to the outside of your pack.
  2. Coordinate an emergency plan – There is no cell reception at all anywhere around the mountain. If you’re going in a group, have a few “regroup” points along the trail with time periods. We waited an hour at the summit for two people. They ended up taking a different trail because of an injury. Which leads to my third recommendation,
  3. Make friends with the hikers around you – The only reason we knew that our friends were okay was because of a couple who relayed a message after they passed our friends. No one is sketchy on the mountain. Talk to fellow hikers – they may help you down the line.
  4. Take a small camera – Unless you’re a professional photographer and master climber, you don’t need your DLSR. There are too many things that you need to pay attention to when you’re climbing Katahdin. Take the view in and store them in your memory – a picture won’t do it justice anyway.
  5. Good Shoes – this goes without saying. I was happy I had hard soled shoes – there are a lot of jagged rocks!

Have a great climb!

 

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Knife’s Egde

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Plaque at Baxter Peak

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Cathedral Trail