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Exploring Western Canada

Q&A with Publishers of The Planet D, Award-Winning Travel Blog

dave and deb alberta
dave and deb alberta

World travellers Dave and Deb provide their insight on what makes Western Canada such a great travel destination.

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What inspired you both to start a travel blog?

We started our blog after splitting our time between working in the film industry here in Canada and travelling the world during our time off. We did that for seven years and each time we travelled, we stepped out of our comfort zone a little bit more to try new adventures from rock climbing in Thailand to taking our divemasters certification in Honduras.

After years of having one foot in travel and one foot in pursuing careers in movies, we decided we wanted to pursue a career in travel. We had an idea to pitch an adventure show where an ordinary couple takes on extraordinary adventures. At the time, we watched a lot of the Outdoor and Discovery networks and saw extreme athletes summiting Everest, competing in the Eco-Challenge, and running the Iditarod, but we didn’t see anyone like us doing adventures.

So we decided to pitch a TV show and signed up for the World’s Longest cycling race The Tour d’Afrique which went from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town South Africa. Cycling the continent of Africa was used as our resume to share our adventure and to create articles and videos about the race. We hired a publicist who booked us on Canada AM, CBC, and other outlets, we wrote a four-part series for the Toronto Star, and we cycled to raise awareness for Plan Canada.

We created our website to keep people up to date on our progress through Africa, but also to have a place to show all of our media appearances, news articles, and videos.

When we returned from Africa, the TV show didn’t pan out, but we had this great website The Planet D, that people were already following and interested in reading about our adventures. So we switched focus to take control of our own destiny and worked on building our brand online. We already had seven years of travelling experience, so we began to write about our previous travels sharing tips and inspiration.

We spent a year after Africa saving money and researching what other travel blogs and websites were doing and then booked a one-way ticket to India to pursue our careers in travel blogging. We gave ourselves a deadline to travel full time for 5 years. We saved enough money to last one year in Southeast Asia, so we had to work hard to figure out how to support ourselves in travel.

After about six months of writing daily, we built a following, and companies and destinations started approaching us to visit and write about our experiences. After that, things started to snowball and although we weren’t earning a living yet, we were getting to travel a lot and creating a name for ourselves. After about two years of crisscrossing the globe on free trips, we started to make money from sponsorship and brand partnerships and the rest is history. We’ve been professional travel bloggers, photographers, and videographers ever since.

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What makes Western Canada unique compared to any other place you have visited?

We love visiting Western Canada because it really embraces the great outdoors. There are world-class cities that offer anything your heart desires, yet each destination feels more like a community rather than a cold and heartless metropolis. There is a perfect balance between urban living and outdoor adventure. What we always say about western Canada is how you can easily get off the beaten path and be away from the hustle and bustle. Other countries have mountains and national parks, but in Canada, everything feels vast and more rugged and remote. Sure you can join the masses at Lake Louise in Alberta, but you can hike into the backcountry and not see a soul. Each province is so big, you can get away from the tourists and yet still see amazing scenery at every turn.

You cannot beat the beauty of the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Driving the Icefields Parkway is one of the most iconic drives on earth as you stop to see imposing mountain peaks and turquoise glacier lakes. It is bookend by two incredible national parks Jasper and Banff and what makes each so unique is that the towns of Jasper and Banff are both located within the parks. You can be in the middle of the wilderness one minute and sipping a cappuccino or beer fresh from a local microbrew in downtown the next. That is really special.

In Vancouver the outdoors are right at your fingertips with three fantastic ski hills within minutes of downtown. We find that people on the west coast balance life beautifully. We’ve always said, out west people work to live and that is what living should be about. With mountains, oceans, and forests at your doorstep, it’s easy to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

What we really love about Western Canada is how vast it is. Getting to Churchill Manitoba from Toronto takes longer than going to Cancun, Mexico. We love working for our travels because the payoff is worth every penny. When we step off the plane in our own country, we can feel in a completely foreign land. You don’t need to go on a safari to Africa to see incredible wildlife, we have polar bears in Manitoba, grizzlies in Northwest Territories, BC, there are cougars roaming the west and buffalo can be found in Saskatchewan and Alberta. We have our own Big 5.

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What do you recommend travelers do on their next trip to Western Canada?

We recommend driving the Dempster Highway from Inuvik, NWT to Dawson City in the Yukon. The rugged scenery will take your breath away as you drive for two days while barely seeing another soul. If you time it right you can see herds of caribou migrating through the plains. Keep an eye out for grizzly bears on the side of the road, and make sure to stop at the arctic circle crossing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

In British Columbia, take a road trip to Revelstoke Resort. It’s less built-up than Whistler, but it has the same awesome adventures. Plus, on your way you get to stop in the Okanagan Valley to sample wine and hike the Trestles of the Kettle Valley Railway in Kelowna’s Myra Canyon. Another very cool stop on the way is the Othello Tunnels in Hope, British Columbia.

In Alberta, make sure to visit the Badlands. While everyone goes to Banff and Jasper, people often miss the beauty of the Alberta Badlands. In the Badlands, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back into the wild west with rock formation and deep canyons for as far as the eye can see. There are hoodoos and coulees most notably the hoodoos of Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the richest collection of dinosaur fossils on earth. When travelling to Western Canada, look beyond the regular tourist attractions and seek out more unique locations. You’re bound to find somewhere you’ve never heard of.

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Any tips and tricks on how to travel on a budget?

One of the best ways to save money in Canada is to camp. There are great campgrounds close to attractions and you can save heaps on accommodation if you bring your own tent. Plus, it’s a great way to meet people. Make sure to book in advance. We also shop at grocery stores instead of eating out. We pack sandwiches for lunch and snacks throughout the day. Tim Hortons is affordable for breakfast if you want coffee.

Renting a car is more expensive in Canada than in other places, but it is the best way to get around. Make sure to book in advance to compare prices and make sure that you can cancel your booking in case you find a better deal.

There are so many things to do in Western Canada for free in the great outdoors. Hiking and cycling are our top picks for sightseeing and if you are driving and camping, all you need to pay for is gas and your campsite fees. You can see a lot of sights without needing to pay. Our top recommendation is to purchase a National Parks pass ahead of time, that way you don’t need to purchase it separately.

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