15 Travellers share what’s inspired, delighted and transformed their adventures.
THE JOY OF DISCOVERY
Whether we travel around the globe, in our backyards or through our imaginations, the trips we take make us who we are. The best journeys are not merely about exploring new geography and flavours, but about people and fresh ideas about the world. Our inspirational movers and shakers who will change the way you see the world
SINGER-SONGWRITER (and, now, movie star)
WHICH TRAVEL EXPERIENCE MOST CHANGED YOUR WORLDVIEW AND WHY?
Traveling to Ghana and visiting the rural areas, as well as the metropolitan city of Accra, because I got to see people that live directly from the land and who struggle to get by, in contrast with the people in a big, bustling city, trying to live the modern life. It gave me a deeper appreciation for the quality of life I live in the United States.
In the new Imax film America’s Musical Journey, now playing at Montreal’s Science Centre, host Aloe Blacc takes viewers to the home of Louis Armstrong, to Motown Studios and to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, considered to be the birthplace of grunge. Best known until now for his vocals on “Wake Me Up,” a megahit for Avicii, the Swedish DJ and producer who passed away earlier this year, and for his own 2010 hit “I Need a Dollar,” Blacc proves to be an affable guide to the breeding grounds of some of the most seminal sounds on the planet. The singer-songwriter takes us along to New Orleans, Chicago, Nashville, Miami and New York to explore the roots of American music. But Blacc’s yearning to see the world is not restricted to the 50 states of the union. “Brooklyn in the Summer,” released this spring, is the first single off a new album expected later this year.
LEARNING TO BE A GLOBAL CITIZEN
Though Brett Tollman lives in Los Angeles, the chief executive of The Travel Corporation travels about 225 days a year. His most memorable destinations have included Okavango Delta in Botswana, Maasai Mara in Kenya, Croatia, the Balkans (recovering thanks to tourism), London (his favourite city), Moscow, Cairo, Madrid, São Paulo, Lima, Prague, Budapest, Havana, Sydney, Darwin, Fiji, Tasmania, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Auckland, Namibia, Tulum, Vancouver and Lima. “There are still countless places I am yet to enjoy with my family, even in our own backyard,” says Tollman.
We asked the founder and director of The Treadright Foundation a not-for-profit organization that supports sustainable travel and tourism projects, about how travel has shaped his life.
WHAT TRAVELLING MEANS TO ME
I grew up in a travel business with two very dedicated passionate parents, who taught me how to respect and engage with the people I work with. Travel has given me the opportunity to fly around the world and engage with people in so many different cities and in so many countries, which makes me a better, more informed person. Many of these people I meet become friends and make my life richer and better.
Travel allows me the opportunity to show my wife and children so many different, diverse and wonderful parts of our world, which in turn makes them also better, more informed individuals. I am always inspired, motivated and excited when travelling, though it does mean I’m away from home more than I’d like to be.
WHAT TRAVEL HAS TAUGHT ME
Travel has taught me that our perceptions and views of others are almost always different from the reality, which is almost always so much better than what we originally perceived. Travel has taught me to be more accepting of others, myself and my own community, and to appreciate how blessed I am, how much I have and how fortunate I am compared to so many others around the world. Travel opens my heart to visit other communities and see how happy they are, how much they appreciate what they have, how creative and inventive they are and how they adapt to their realities.
Travel has taught me that I am a global citizen and that is more important than the passport that I carry. While I am proud to be a dual American and South African citizen, I’m equally proud to be a human being involved with and supportive of many other human beings around the world.
Travel makes me happy to be alive and to appreciate what it is to be a human being living on our planet Earth.
CHEFF AND HOST OF LA DOLCE VITA
Travelling changes people. It reminds me that we all put our pants on the same way, no matter where in the world we’re from
David Rocco’s travels have been seen in more than 150 countries on series including La Dolce Vita (now entering its sixth season), La Dolce Vita India and the upcoming La Dolce Vita Africa.
His television debut did not find him donning an apron, however, but instead opposite Neve Campbell in a TV commercial. It wasn’t until he and wife, Nina, began living on and off in Italy, that the two were inspired to document their travels on film.
Senior Vice-President, Cards at RBC
WHICH TRAVEL EXPERIENCE MOST CHANGED YOUR WORLDVIEW AND WHY?
I’d have to say seeing the dichotomy between industrialization and nature in the Appalachian Mountains region. It’s incredible to think about the industry that once thrived there surrounded by such beautiful landscapes. The diversity is difficult to absorb.
As Senior Vice-President, Cards at RBC, Athena Varmazis has a sharp eye for what will excite customers. Sometimes it’s great rewards and sometimes it’s making it much easier to track and use them, like with the mobile app RBC introduced just last year. Their latest innovation is a North American first: a metal credit card with tap functionality.
The exclusive RBC Avion Visa Infinite Privilege for Private Banking credit card adds cutting edge technology to the core features and benefits of RBC’s Private Banking card. Yet Varmazis still manages to find the time to see the world.
Actress and Social Activist
Being a traveller means you’re gritty and authentic, and you get in there and take off your shoes and walk barefoot in the street, or whatever it takes to have a very authentic connection with the culture of the place you’re visiting
Actress Lisa Ray has distinguished herself as a social advocate and philanthropist, campaigning for the rights of girls around the world, and raising funds for cancer charities (she was diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2009 and was found to be cancer-free a year later after a stem-cell transplant). Born and raised in Toronto in an Indian-Polish family, her career has spanned multiple continents. In 2016 she starred in romantic comedy Ishq Forever – her first appearance in a Bollywood film in 15 years.
DANNY SMILES & CHUCK HUGHES
Food Network Celebrity Chefs
Montreal-based chefs Chuck Hughes and Danny Smiles spent a good part of the past year touring the country for the debut of their Food Network show, Chuck & Danny’s Road Trip. Cohabitating in the tight confines of an RV was not an issue. Many of their meals, made with ingredients and recipes they discovered across the country, were made in the great outdoors, over an open flame.
UNEXPECTED INGRIDIENTS AND TALENTS
Danny Smiles: We met a merchant fisherman in Victoria who brought us a rock crab from I-don’t-know-how-many feet deep. And weird scallops we’d never seen before, rock scallops.
Chuck Hughes: We’ve eaten wild rice before but we actually got to go collect it the old-fashioned way near Holland Marsh, Ontario. It’s very Zen. You go out in a two-man canoe, you hit the branches, it falls in the canoe, you collect it. There’s a whole ceremony and way of preparing.
Special Adviser at Ponant Cruises
Which travel experience most changed your worldview and why?
When my son was 14 years old I took him on an African safari to Kenya. This truly changed my view of the world, and his. One can truly understand how blessed we are to simply have running water, food, clothing, housing, etc. To see a family of five, like the Maasai, live in a hut made out of elephant dung with no utilities truly gives a new perspective on life.
After overseeing a massive two-year expansion and re-envisioning of the luxury travel company Crystal Cruises, last fall Edie Rodriguez took on a new role. The New York/New Jersey native was appointed Americas brand chair and corporate special adviser at Ponant, a French small-ship luxury line, known for its fine dining and refined approach to cruises. Rodriguez is tasked with raising brand awareness on this side of the Atlantic.
Food Network Celebrity Chef
My wife Lora Kirk, who is also a chef, had worked at The Connaught in London and has some wonderful friends there. We wanted to take our daughter Addie to go see some of the places her mom had worked at and visited. She went out to every restaurant, museum and gallery with us. Our cabbie was so incredible. He gave us a full-on tour, including Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. The London cabs are great because you can literally roll a stroller right inside
Chef Lynn Crawford has her fingers – and sometimes her spoons and knives – in an astonishing array of Canadian food institutions.
She first made her name as executive chef of the Four Seasons hotels in Toronto and New York City. Now star, judge, contestant and regular guest on some of the country’s biggest food-oriented TV shows, including Chopped Canada, The Marilyn Dennis Show and her own Pitchin’ In.
Crawford also oversees The Hearth restaurant at Toronto Pearson airport, and is the face on the Waterview Market line of shrimp products and, with partner Lora Kirk, runs Toronto’s Ruby Watchco restaurant.
The birth of the couple’s daughter, Addie Pepper, late last year has barely broken Crawford’s stride. Her newest book, Farm to Chef: Cooking Through the Seasons , published last September by Penguin Canada, aims to spark a reader’s creativity by embracing ingredients that are locally available at different times of the year. “It was a pretty spontaneous choice of what I love to cook, a real snapshot of what people can do that’s delicious, things they may not have thought of themselves,” she says.
CHEF, AKIRA BACK, TORONTO
Chef AKIRA BACK may be be based in Las Vegas, but the whole world is his kitchen.
ON BEING A CHEF
Being a chef, I love to make really good food and I take it seriously, but I like my restaurants to be fun, with lots of energy. Design-wise, I’m very hands on. All my restaurants have my mom’s art. Even though the customers might not know my mom’s art, I think it makes them feel very comfortable
A former snowboarder who used to shred up the mountains of Aspen, Colorado, chef Akira Back likes to keep things fun and casual. “I love Canada. It’s chill, but not really chill.” Huh? “Like when you go to the beach, you feel relaxed, but when you start surfing, you feel all the energy. It’s a feeling I want to have in my Toronto restaurant,” he tells me during a phone call from his home in Las Vegas, where he oversees two restaurants in a city that’s been on the forefront of celebrity chef culture.
The opening this winter of his eponymous restaurant at the luxe new Bisha Hotel & Residences, at Blue Jays Way and King, is just one of a string of openings the chef is overseeing in the next year.
Hanoi, Bangkok, Singapore and Dubai will all soon get a taste of Back, which means he’s on the road about one-third of each year. His Toronto menu will be identical to the others in his self-named brand (he has six others), with one or two locally inspired custom dishes – perhaps something that references Canadians’ penchant for ketchup potato chips.
Best known for his classic Japanese cooking, his broader style could be described as Korean fusion, some of it adapted from his mother’s recipe collection. –
CANADIAN MANAGING DIRECTOR, HUGO BOSS
NAME A PLACE THAT MOST LIVED UP TO THE HYPE
Bali! Stunningly beautiful, creative and spiritual, with some of the most charming and happy people you could meet. Many of the people live a very frugal lifestyle, but are very happy and almost serene overall, very spiritual.
In my view, it puts a different framework around what our real needs are, what we really need in western society to make us happy
As Canadians grow increasingly astute in their fashion choices, famed German brand Hugo Boss has itself had to become more savvy in bringing its sharp, classic looks to consumers. For the last six years, Canadian managing director Lanita Layton has been at the helm, overseeing expansions across the country, including new store-in-store locations at Harry Rosen, Holt Renfrew and Hudson’s Bay.
Formerly a VP at Holt Renfrew and currently a member of the board of governors at OCAD University, Layton is known both for her creativity and professional polish.
Daren A. Herbert
STAR OF Music Man
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met on your travels?
That honour would have to go to a very young boy I met during military training in Kenya back in 1998. I was attached to the Royal Anglians and it was my first opportunity to travel to any part of Africa. It was an eye-opening and very challenging time. This boy, who spoke at least four languages, had no shoes and asked for nothing, managed to dumbfound some of my less “culturally sensitive” comrades to such a degree, by way of a stick-in-the-dirt geography lesson, that I literally saw a new kind of respect for African people dawn on them before my eyes. I would love to know where he is today
In his Stratford Festival debut, Daren A. Herbert plays the bamboozling salesman Harold Hill, whose attempt to con the residents of River City does not turn out quite as planned. The lead role in Music Man requires tremendous charisma and Herbert, who won the 2015 Dora Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male in the Musical Theatre Division for his turn as the vaudeville clown Burrs in The Wild Party, has got charisma to spare. Making his film debut in 2006’s Dreamgirls, the triple threat has appeared in an astonishing array of roles, from This Means War to Designated Survivor and Baroness Von Sketch Show. The Music Man plays at Stratford Festival’s Festival Theatre until November 3.
CHEF, THE INN AT BAY FORTUNE, PEI
In 1991 New York City-born chef Michael Smith arrived at Prince Edward Island’s Inn at Bay Fortune, where he helped reinvent the historic property as a gourmet destination.
In the late 1990s, Smith left the inn to work in food media, hosting such shows as The Inn Chef, Chef at Home, Chef at Large, Chef Michael’s Kitchen, Chef Abroad and judging on Chopped: Canada, as well as writing a series of books.
In 2015, Smith returned to yet again reinvent the Inn at Bay Fortune, located on the eastern end of the Island, this time as proprietor with his wife Chastity. Menus are seasonal and ever-changing, based on what the inn’s farm and local producers have available. “There’s lots of brainstorming going on. That’s for sure,” laughs Smith. “But our chowder is our chowder. Our bread is our bread.”
Big food loves to dangle money in front of guys like me, to shill for this, shill for that. I’ve turned them all down. The Half Your Plate campaign, working with the folks who promote and sell fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada, is a real opportunity to remind Canadians how simple it is to eat healthy
CHEF, ARAXI RESTAURANT, WHISTLER
One of Canada’s pioneer farm-to-table chefs, James Walt has been at Whistler’s legendary Araxi restaurant since 1997, with breaks for cooking for the Canadian ambassador in Rome and launching Vancouver’s Blue Water Cafe. A graduate of the Stratford Chefs School (where he returned for a residency earlier this year), Walt has won many awards for his innovative cooking style and won over the hearts of many producers for his sustainable approach to ingredients. He’s also known for his calm demeanour in the kitchen; up in British Columbia’s Coast Mountains, Walt is about altitude, not attitude.
LIVING IN ROME, ITALY …
I lived in Rome for a year and a half on a working sabbatical at the Canadian embassy. The thing I picked up the most in Italy, which changed my whole style, was the simplicity of things. Sometimes you’d think, ‘That looks kinda boring,’ but I never had a bad tomato, I never had lousy cheese. It was always done really well. The embassy was only a 10-minute walk from Piazza Navona, so when I had breaks at work I’d walk down past the Forum and go sit there
Managing Director of Los Cabos Tourism and former head of the Mexican Tourism Board in Canada
Thoughts on Canada
Canada is a nation as diverse as Mexico with native communities as diverse and rich as Mexico’s, and with urban centres as complex and multicultural as Canada’s largest: Toronto. The inclusivity of the Canadian identity offers Mexico a colourful template for the inquisitive explorer
CHEF, LANGDON HALL, CAMBRIDGE
Going into his fourth summer as executive chef at Lang don Hall Country House Hotel & Spa in Cambridge, Ont., Jason Bangerter will only have a complete sense of what his menus will look like when he sees what the 75-acre property has to offer. A big part of his job is roaming and exploring. Within an hour of foraging, he can often fill a container with more than 30 varieties of edible plants. Throughout the season, all the veggies on the plate come from the estate. “Each day there’s something new that blossoms that ends up on the menu somewhere,” says Bangerter, who trained at Toronto’s George Brown College and who has worked in kitchens in Paris, London, Germany and Switzerland.
MY INTEREST IN COOKING…
My mom is from Nova Scotia and growing up we used to spend a lot of summers on the beach there with my grandparents. I believe that’s where a great part of my interest in cooking came from. My grandfather is 95 and still bakes fresh bread. We’d wake up to cabbage rolls and stews and baking. When the tide went out we’d go out and dig clams and have clam boils on the beach. So I always put something that’s a tribute to my roots and, in this case, it’s Nova Scotia lobster, lightly poached.