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Off Track Travel’s Best Adventures in 2018

My, oh, my, 2018 was something of a crazy year for us. Besides all of the thousands of kilometres of travel across Canada, this was my first year as a full time travel blogger.

There have been so many intense highs and lows but it feels like such an accomplishment to have made it around one full calendar year. JR jokes about being a kept man, but the truth of it is that he pulls his own weight in a variety of ways (for one, our van conversion is pretty stellar as you’ll see below).

The best part about it all is the flexibility and freedom this amazing lifestyle brings us. Here’s the best of our adventures in 2018!

Read next: For more detail about our year, check out our quarterly updates
gemma and jr at luckett vineyards, Nova Scotia
gemma jr algonquin provincial park ontario
brier island whale watching gemma jr on zodiac boat

Hiking the Great Stones Way, Wiltshire, UK

Actually our first adventure of the year, we proved that winter thru-hiking is possible in the UK with a trip along the Great Stones Way. Starting in the beautiful cathedral town of Salisbury, the trail wound alongside Stonehenge and other iconic ancient (and mysterious) landmarks dotted around the Wiltshire countryside.

We dodged mud and January rain to discover pretty villages filled with thatched cottages, quiet country lanes, endless sheep fields and the odd military range or two. A pint of cider in the pub awaited us at the end of the day, the best reward for a long walk. 

jr old sarum views great stones way

Starting a New Vanlife

One of our big projects this year was converting our Savana workvan into a fully converted campervan. I say ‘our,’ but it was almost entirely taken on as a solo venture by JR with a little help from family and friends.

The original plan was to start work in March, but due to the exceptionally long and snowy New Brunswick winter, nothing really happened until mid April.

Despite the setbacks, JR managed to craft a van conversion far beyond my highest hopes. The design and finish is perfectly suited to us and our lifestyle.

It has all the storage we need for life, travel and outdoor adventure. After testing it out with six months of travel, I can honestly say there isn’t much we’d change. 

finished gmc savana van conversion vanlife

Road tripping in Nova Scotia

Without a doubt, exploring Nova Scotia was the absolute highlight of our year. We spent seven weeks travelling the length and breadth of this gorgeous province, from tiny isolated Brier Island in the south to Meat Cove at the tip of Cape Breton Island.

We wine tasted in Wolfville, rafted the tidal bore in Maitland, kayaked the 100 Wild Islands, feasted on local seafood, got up close and personal with humpback whales, stepped back in time at Louisbourg, hiked along the Bay of Fundy, celebrated Canada Day in Halifax….the list is so, so long.

If the summer was more extended and the winter less snowy, we’d seriously consider moving to Nova Scotia. 

hiking the coastal trail brier island nova scotia

Attending WITS (Quebec City) and TBEX (Finger Lakes, New York)

I’ve been blogging for years (since 2012 as a hobby, 2015 as a business) but one big thing missing has been the social side.

There’s a huge travel blogging community out there and I had barely even connected with it. JR and I decided that 2018 would be the year we’d finally change that.

As the first travel blogging conference I attended, the Women in Travel Summit (WITS) blew my mind. Seeing a room full of women who love to travel and share it online was a revelation. I felt like I had gained dozens of friends and colleagues overnight.

Plus some inspiration of course, which drove us both to attend TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) in New York in September. Meeting so many friendly, creative and generally wonderful people in the industry this year has been a game changer. 

gemma quebec city wits canada

Paddling in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia

A year just wouldn’t be complete without at least a few long paddling trips. A week in Kejimkujik in Nova Scotia fit the bill nicely, especially as so much of our time in this province was focused on the coastline rather than the interior region.

It wasn’t the most ‘wild’ experience we’ve ever had, but there was just something so special about our time in Kejimkujik. Perhaps it was the nesting turtles, the silence of the intricate lakes, the wonderfully private campsites or the warm sunsets.

A mixture of all four maybe, but it was definitely my favourite multi-day paddling experience this year. It was also exciting to work with Parks Canada in promoting the area. 

Gemma Kejimkujik national park

Holidaying on Prince Edward Island

We almost didn’t go to Prince Edward Island. With the size and popularity of the island, we figured that PEI wouldn’t have much to offer on the (wild) camping side of things.

Happy to be proved wrong, travelling on the island was a dream. We found so many quiet, pristine beaches with ideal camping spots.

red sand beaches prince edward island canada

Our week on the island was a true holiday with no work or even talk of it. It was perfect. Wonderful local produce, friendly locals, small distances and a real, relaxing holiday vibe – thanks PEI.

Hiking the Cape Chignecto Coastal Trail, Nova Scotia

We kicked off our summer season with a four day hike on Nova Scotia’s 51km Cape Chignecto trail. It was one of the best backcountry experiences I’ve personally had in the last few years, featuring an ever changing and interesting trail plus comfortable cabin accommodations and epic views of the Bay of Fundy.

It was just the right kind of adventure to kick off our road trip around Nova Scotia. We had pretty good weather too, minus the one night of frost that killed much of the province’s strawberries and vines.

cape chignecto gemma by the beach

Other top adventures this year included: 

Discovering Canada’s capital city – Ottawa 

Exploring the Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec

Paddling in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario

Glamping in the Gatineau Valley, Quebec

Some of my personal highlights of 2019:

Becoming a Canadian citizen

Increasing website visits by over 50% and working with tourism boards

Surviving a real Canadian winter in New Brunswick

Being approved to join the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC)

Gemma with mountie at Citizenship Oath Ceremony
jr and gmc savana diy van conversion pei
gemma canola fields pei canada

Looking to adventure in 2019

2018 was exciting, challenging, rewarding and exhausting. Over the coming year, I’d love to balance out those highs and lows a bit more and find the ideal work/life/travel weighting for us. One way we’ll be doing this is hopefully travelling a lot slower.

For now though, we’re starting the year in Australia before heading to Thailand at the end of January. I’m not sure what the rest of 2019 will bring but we’ll be sure to share it all with you! Thank you for following our adventures in 2018. 

gemma jr ottawa parliament buildings ontario canada
gmc savana diy conversion van brier island nova scotia
gemma jr west kennett long barrow great stones way

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