An Interview with Lauren Yakiwchuk
Justin Plus Lauren
Home Base: Mississauga, Ontario
Blog: Justin Pus Lauren
Connect With Lauren
I’m Lauren and I write for the travel blog, Justin Plus Lauren. Justin is my partner and my number one travel companion! I’m a part-time traveller based out of Mississauga, Ontario. I work for most of the year as a freelance video editor in the television industry, and I travel as much as I possibly can.
My travels include places all over Canada, USA, and most Caribbean islands. For the month of May this past year, Justin and I travelled all over Italy to discover historical places, natural wonders, and the food, of course! In March 2016, I will be attending a volunteer trip to Kenya, working on a wildlife conservancy in the Great Rift Valley. I’ll be monitoring wildlife, working on anti-poaching efforts, and getting rid of invasive plant species. I’m really looking forward to making a meaningful difference for both the animals and the people there.
At Justin Plus Lauren, we write about our adventures, paired with stunning photos and video. The blog focuses on how to travel in an eco-friendly and responsible manner, particularly when it comes to the environment and wildlife. We are also both animal lovers and vegans, and we love searching out the best plant-based meals from around the globe. At home, we live with our two cats, Chickpea and Peanut.
Justin Plus Lauren
When and how did you discover your passion for travel?
I never set foot on an airplane until I was 22 years old. However, I have always had a passion for travel. When I was growing up, my family used to take these epic road trips from Hamilton, Ontario all the way down to Florida. Although the best part was going to those Orlando theme parks, I really enjoyed the journey, too. Once I was old enough to afford travel on my own, I decided that I wanted to see the world as much as I can.
How has travel changed your life?
Visiting different places in the world gives you a wider world view and new perspectives on how other people live. I love learning about other cultures and the history of a place when I visit there. One of my favourite aspects of travelling is exploring the beautiful natural areas of other countries. Being able to appreciate the glorious terrain of our planet with my own eyes has really changed my life.
What is your biggest pet peeve while travelling?
I really dislike people who are rude or disrespectful, whether it’s at the airport to fellow passengers, to the people working at a particular establishment, or by not following the rules or customs of a place. When we travel, we are visitors to that country, and we should always abide by the wishes of the citizens there. And in general, people should always treat others with respect.
Justin Plus Lauren
What is the one thing you absolutely never travel without?
My camera! I usually bring multiple cameras for various situations. I would never leave home without my DSLR to capture memories of my journeys (particularly important when you want to return home to blog about it). I also bring a GoPro for action or underwater shots. And I use my smartphone on a regular basis, especially for posting images to social media.
What is the most unique experience you've ever "accidentally stumbled upon" while travelling?
In Grenada, we had planned to take a snorkeling tour. Unfortunately, the boat that was going to take us to the snorkeling spots broke down and the tour was cancelled. As Justin and I were walking around, a taxi driver stopped to ask if we wanted a tour around the island. There were two other ladies from the UK in the van already, so we hopped in and took a chance without knowing where we’d be going. It ended up being the best day! We visited a waterfall, a lake inside an extinct volcano crater, watched a spice demo, and drank some homemade moonshine. We will always remember that day.
If you were going on a one-week rest and relaxation vacation somewhere you've previously been, where would you go and why?
I would definitely head back to Bermuda. Justin and I spent four days exploring the caves, hiking the jungle, surfing at the beach, snorkeling, and even went mini-golfing. Bermuda is most known for the pink sand beaches, and it would be great to go back to have a purely relaxing holiday there. I love the adventures that Justin and I had there, but it would be wonderful to simply soak up the sunshine.
Justin Plus Lauren
With the Canadian Dollar being a little weaker than it once was, what is something unique you do to stretch your dollars while travelling?
I love staying at apartments while travelling. It’s great having our own kitchen so we can do some cooking. It saves money on meals because we’re not constantly eating in restaurants. It helps stretch the dollar, plus you get to stay in a typical neighbourhood and live as the locals do.
If you could pack only a carry on sized backpack for an extended trip, what would you pack?
Besides the aforementioned camera, I would bring a journal to record my memories, a bathing suit (if travelling to a warm location), and a little bit of extra clothing.. I have really only travelled with a suitcase before and I’m horrible at packing – I always bring way too much stuff! I’m going to be travelling to Kenya with a backpack, so it will be a challenge to pack light.
Justin Plus Lauren
What kind of mistakes did you make when you first started travelling?
I took a lot of cruises to the Caribbean when I first started travelling. Don’t get me wrong – I love cruises. It’s a great way to see a whole bunch of islands at once, and it’s a very easy way of travelling. You don’t have to lug your suitcase around from place to place, and all of your meals are included. At the same time, I wish that I had travelled to different areas around the world sooner and for longer amounts of time. I would rather now go to one place and spend more time there than jump around from day to day. It takes a little while to get a true feel for a place, and I’m usually left still wanting more.
What is your most embarrassing travel story?
Thankfully, I don’t have too many of these. Perhaps that means that they’re yet to come. Before visiting Italy, I read about all of the tourist scams and thought that I could successfully avoid them. Our first stop was in Venice. We weren’t there for too long and visited St. Mark’s Square. Justin wanted to take a photo of me, so I walked a short distance away. I’m separated from him for only a moment, and a man approaches me with bird seed to feed the pigeons. Of course, I take it from him because I love animals, and I start throwing bird seed around. What a silly mistake – of course he was doing this because he wanted money! When he demanded 5 Euros, I gave it to him without question. I probably could have said no or only given him a smaller amount. Next time, I won’t let a random stranger put bird seed into my hands. Live and learn!
Justin Plus Lauren
What's the craziest thing you've ever eaten while away?
I haven’t been too adventurous with my meals as I don’t consume any animal products, and those types of meals tend to be the crazier ones to eat. Some people would consider walking into a vegan restaurant to be quite exotic though!
What is the most exciting thing/craziest story that has ever happened to you when travelling?
There was that time that I ended up in the back of a police car! It’s not as bad as it sounds. I was driving through a really tiny town in Ohio with my two best friends when my car broke down. It was a Saturday and nothing was open. A police officer noticed that we were stranded and helped us. He called a tow truck, arranged to have my car fixed at the only place open in town, and even drove us to a fast food restaurant for a meal. He offered to let us stay the night at his house if the car couldn’t be fixed in time. Though it was hilarious that we were driving around in the back of a cop car (we didn’t expect that at the start of the day), it truly showed me the kindness and generosity of strangers.
Of all the places you've been, what was your favourite destination and why?
It’s very difficult to choose, but my favourite destination so far is Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast in Italy. The scenery there is amongst the most beautiful that I’ve ever witnessed. We stayed in the middle of Sorrento at a guest room in a family’s home. There was a courtyard with a tropical garden maintained by the grandfather of the family. Lemon trees were growing everywhere. There were magical secret gems in Sorrento, including a grotto with bright turquoise waters nestled behind the cliffs, and an old structure hidden beneath a bridge that was covered in greenery, reclaimed by the earth. We drove from town to town along the Amalfi Coast, each scene more stunning than the next. The meal we ate at the mountainside restaurant used only ingredients grown by the family themselves in their lush garden. The breathtaking views of the deep blue water and terraced gardens from Villa Rufolo in Ravello were unforgettable.
Want to learn more about Lauren's adventures?
Check out her blog, Justin Plus Lauren.