This week brought two bits of good fortune my way: meeting Jada Yuan and my third trip of the year to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, “the Paris of the prairies.” Saskatoon is the only Canadian destination on The New York Times’s list of 52 Places to Visit in 2018, and Jada is writing about all of them within the span of a year.
When I arrived at the Delta Bessborough, one of a string of castlelike grand hotels built by the railways that are a Canadian signature, Jada was in the lobby bar. It was too early for drinks. Rather, she was writing about her trip through Chile’s Route of Parks in Patagonia, a previous stop.
Jada said that the people of Saskatoon were enthusiastic when it came to offering tips about how to spend time in their city. Tuesday evening we met with several hundred of them at the Remai Modern, the city’s spectacular new art museum on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River for a sold-out New York Times Subscriber Event. I moderated, and part way through, Charlie Clark, Saskatoon’s mayor, joined Jada on the stage for some questions.
Here are highlights of our conversation, edited and condensed:
How do you pack for a year on the road?
Let’s say that I packed a lot of stuff that I now would not pack. At the beginning I sent home maybe 13 pounds of stuff and then I sent home more stuff and it’s down to a pretty bare minimum of things. So basically I excised anything cute out of my wardrobe, which was really painful. And then I went back to New York and I bought a few cute things. It’s really hard to live without color.
I guess you don’t pack a tiny Swiss Army knife which got confiscated on my way here at the La Guardia Airport, which had made it through three months of travel. That was interesting because I have not known LaGuardia to be particularly vigilant.
As a woman, do you have specific concerns about traveling alone?
It’s a fine balance during this experience of going around the world to keep watch of my own safety but also be open to new experiences. Generally what helps is that most of the people I meet up with are women or, I think, are sympathetic groups. But it doesn’t help much for the love life.
Do you try to act like a local?
I’m walking around with a sporty backpack and a camera around my neck. I don’t look super in with the in-crowd.
But I want to find things that aren’t in the guidebooks, that aren’t typical tourist hangouts even though sometimes those are fun. In Colombia, in Bogotá, I went to the most over-the-top restaurant that I’ve ever seen in my life. Even if it’s a tourist trap it’s a great tourist trap. So go to those things.
I do find that when I get in trouble safety-wise, it’s always because I’m trying too hard to be a local.
There’s just sort of a wariness that you have to have as a tourist that I think is important to keep.
How much did you know about Saskatoon?
Zero. But when I got this job the most congratulations came from Saskatoon. You guys went on my radar immediately. When things were kind of tough in some places I just kept thinking: Well, Saskatoon likes me.
Has the trip ever been lonely?
Sometimes I can lean on having social media as a crutch. So if I do get lonely I will log on to Instagram and reply to people, and things like that.
The first time that I felt actually lonely was when I was driving around a beautiful rain-forest park in Chile and I had no cell signal. There were a few moments when I was climbing the volcano by myself and thinking no one knows where I am and they can’t even locate me by GPS.
A friend who was supposed to come and meet me couldn’t come at the last minute. So not being able to share this beautiful thing that I was seeing with anyone really felt lonely in the moment.
Where do you suggest that your friends visit? (From an audience member):
Chile is a pretty great starter South American country. There’s a low likelihood of getting sick and the landscape is really beautiful. La Paz, Bolivia, is one of the most unique places I’ve ever been. It has this great Indigenous culture, it’s actually a majority Indigenous country. You can get to this unbelievable landscape of the salt flats from there which is like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life.
You can find a full audio recording of the event here. And when Jada’s account of Saskatoon is posted, it will also make its way into the Canada Letter.
Coming New York Times Subscriber Events in Canada include a session during Toronto’s Luminato Festival moderated by Ben Brantley, the chief theater critic. On June 21, he’ll be discussing political resistance by artists with members of the Belarus Free Theater following a performance. They’ll be joined by Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot. All the details are here.
This month’s picks for Netflix viewers in Canada from Watching, The Times’s viewing guide, include Gary Oldman’s performance in “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and, as legal recreational marijuana use nears in Canada, “How High,” a stoner comedy.
The National Hockey League continues to deny that there’s any link between degenerative brain disease known as C.T.E. and repetitive, on-ice head trauma. Researchers now say their work shows that the league is wrong.
—One participant in Toronto’s march and vigil for the 10 people killed in a van rampage on Yonge Street called the reaction of Torontonians “a testament to our unity.”
—Brock Crouch, 18, was snowboarding at Whistler, British Columbia, when an avalanche swept him away. He became a rare avalanche survivor, however, thanks to his friends.
—In Opinion, Damien Gillis, a documentary filmmaker from British Columbia, argues that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s support for a pipeline project to that province from Alberta has undermined all of the government’s environmental efforts.
A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 15 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.