Trvlbees
Today’s member interview takes a deep dive into the life of Toronto based travel journalist & editor at Crumb – Amanda Blakley. Traveling runs through her veins and she tells us more about some amazing family travel adventures in places as Thailand, Central America and England.

Please tell us something about your life journey- Were you born and raised in Toronto or elsewhere?

Surprisingly, for someone who has such an affinity for large cities, I grew up on a hobby farm in rural Ontario, before eventually moving into “town” (population 30,000). Later a stint in England followed. Living on Europe’s doorstep was the most incredible gift our parents gave us. The history and culture from our adventures were catnip to my budding wanderlust. Eventually we moved back to Canada where I went to University before embarking on my grand tour. I remember I could not wait to finish school so I could get out and continue to explore this big beautiful world.

 

How did your passion for travel and sharing travel stories continue?

I spent all of my spare time planning my travels, scouring books and making notes in their spines. After an epic adventure, my year abroad came to a close and I returned to pursue a post-grad in Toronto. But my itch for travel and adventure stayed with me. I started my career in advertising, bright-eyed and ambitious. But as it turned out, it wasn’t for me.

I eventually became an entrepreneur, starting a business with one of my best friends (we met in Bangkok of all places on that aforementioned gap year). We spent almost 10 years growing a successful business that fueled my desire to travel and explore with chapters in Toronto, New York, Miami and pop-ups in Los Angeles. These years were full of some of my greatest joys & accomplishments. But they were also full of that 20-something angst, questionable decisions and chaos. I sure am relieved to have come out the other side. When we had our first son, it was the perfect excuse for my husband and I to take a time-out from the daily grind of life and plan some extended travels. We called it a traveling paternity leave and we spent 5 months in Central and South America changing diapers, going on city safaris, devouring local cuisines, and learning how to parent.

You travel a lot and get to see many of the most beautiful places on our planet earth. How many weeks per year do you travel? And how do you combine that with family life and your kids having to attend school?

I think it depends on the year, but I’m usually away about a week out of every month. This has been the first year that I have felt a bit of pressure around school absences. My eldest son, Atticus, is now in Grade 2 and my baby, Archer, started Junior Kindergarten in the Fall. Two kids in full day school now means that we try to observe the natural rhythms of the seasonal school holidays and definitely take advantage of summer break!! My mother is a retired primary school teacher and I’m beyond lucky we often get to travel with her. It also means I have the best sounding board and supporter for those times I do decide to miss some days here and there. Btw, her advice is always “just go – bring their journals and soak it up”.

As a travel journalist you write for prominent publications like Globe & Mail, National Post, CBC, Four Seasons Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, HERE Magazine, and others. Which titles, besides TRVLBEES, are on your wish list to contribute to in the (near) future?

Some of my favourite magazines to read are AFAR, Enroute, Elle Canada, The New York Times T magazine, The Sunday Times Style Magazine and of course the New York Times Travel Section (my grandmother still saves them for me weekly and I collect a stack each time I visit. I would love to be a contributor to any or all of the above (in addition to all the amazing current publications I get to work with).

TRVLBEES focuses on family friendly, boutique and green hideaways- so let’s talk:

– Family friendly: when searching for your own family holiday, do you specifically focus on this feature? How and why?

Definitely – this is generally at the top of our travel wish list. But as you know, family-friendly doesn’t have to mean unsavoury. Some of our families favourite hotels around the world would be just as fun with or without kids. How: we love using trusted sites like TRVLBEES since fellow families have already done the research and your team does such an incredible job curating the types of properties we usually enjoy.

– Boutique: does this category appeal to you? How would you describe ‘boutique’ in terms of stays?

This will always appeal to me – I find boutique properties often give a better sense of time and place when visiting a particular destination.

– Green: is this important for you and your family while booking a hideaway?

Absolutely! I can’t stand seeing and thinking about the scale of waste produced by the travel and tourism industry. I love to see eco hotels and resorts solving energy and waste conundrums in creative ways. Truly, sustainable travel should be the only way forward.

Which locations/areas/properties should be on our wish list? Do you have any favorites you would like to share?

We recently spent some time in Southern California – Laguna Beach is such a special little town. Full of bustling galleries, great cafes, book shops and playgronds on the beach, it was paradise for a young family. We stayed at two properties in the area – we loved both. The Ranch at Laguna Beach is set in an extraordinary canyon minutes from the coast. Their Hook to Harvest restaurant was delicious but also kid-friendly and the whole family enjoyed the daily evening happy hour with live music outside at Ben’s Pantry.

Do you still have a (family) bucket list in terms of travel or experiences?

Definitely – it’s one of my favourite things to update every January. Now that our kids are getting older they want to have a say too.

What do you want to teach or show your kids both during travels and in life?

I hope that travel will give them the gift of compassion and connection with people and places beyond their little Canadian bubble. In travel, as in life, curiosity will always be rewarded with discovery. I hope this curiosity fuels them to continuously ask the big questions and challenge the status quo.

What are your favorite places in and around Toronto to unwind and recharge with your family?

I got to know Toronto up close and personal after moving here in my early 20’s. Before having kids my husband and I were constantly exploring every corner of our city. From China Town to little Portugal, we knew the best restaurants and hotels. Curious? Read the Toronto Travel Guide that Amanda has put together especially for TRVLBEES here.