Category Archives: Travel ?

Five out-of-the-box travel destinations — for students

Being a student is tough. Between balancing classes, jobs, and an ever-limited budget, finding the time to actually see and explore the city is tough. Even when you do find the time, Toronto is expensive. So here are five budget-friendly travel destinations for students:

  1. Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

Under a new pricing model that began on May 25, 2019, admission to the AGO for those aged 25 and under will now be free. So go on, see various pieces of Canadian, Indigenous, and international art, including exhibits like Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room.

  1. High Park

Like nature? Like picnics? Like zoos? Like free things? Well, High Park is the place for you! A spacious park in the West End, it’s known for its annual cherry blossom bloom, but also has a free zoo open all year from 7:00 am to dusk.

  1. Bike Share Toronto

Although not a destination, Bike Share Toronto offers a $7 Day Pass to bike as much as you’d like for 24 hours, from Humber Bay Park in the west to the Beaches in the east. Good for exercise, the environment, and sightseeing, the only downside is you have to dock your bike every 30 minutes or face overage charges.

  1. Allan Gardens

Located at 160 Gerrard Street East, close to Carlton Street and Jarvis Street, Allan Gardens is a mixed-use park and an indoor botanical garden, featuring beautiful plants and flowers from around the world. Open all year from 10 am to 5 am, admission is free and wheelchair-accessible as part of the Toronto Parks system.

  1. Hamilton

If you’re looking to leave the city and not break the bank, spend a weekend in Steeltown! Take a bus from downtown Toronto to Hamilton for as low as $10, and take a day or weekend exploring the burgeoning food, bar, and café scenes while exploring its natural beauty — whether the lake or its various waterfalls!

How to make the most of that dreaded commute to campus

I’ve had my fair share of commuting in undergrad. Half of my time spent at school was commuting approximately an hour-and-a-half to two hours to get to class. At first, I found the journey annoying at best and dreadful at worst, but over time, I somehow managed to make it work.

Everyone has their own routine and rhythm when it comes to commuting. Some people enjoy the hustle and bustle of rush hour, while others try to avoid it at all costs. Here are five tips for everyone to make the best of your daily commute:

1. Meditate – I typically try to avoid sleeping during my commute because of the fear I’ll miss my stop – it has happened before, unfortunately. The next best way to relax and let loose is mediation. If you can muster up the courage to close your eyes and breathe deeply in front of a bunch of strangers, I highly recommend meditating. You could meditate on your own or use an app that walks you through the steps. I personally use the popular app, Headspace, but there are plenty of options out there. It’s a peaceful way to start and end the day.

2. Listen to your favourite podcast – There’s not much you can do on those packed rush hour Subway cars but listen to podcasts or music. If you drive to campus, you’re in a similar boat. My advice is to reserve one of your favourite podcasts specifically for your commute, that way you have something to look forward to. For me, this pod was Song Exploder, but choose whatever suits your taste. Also, if you can afford it, noise cancelling headphones are the way to go. If not, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives that will do the trick.

3. Do your schoolwork – This one’s a little tricky for those who drive in, but us GO Train-er’s can appreciate the beauty of the quiet zone to get a little work done. I wouldn’t recommend finishing your readings if you are prone to motion sickness – I, for one, can’t read on the bus – but your commute is a great opportunity to squeeze a little work at the beginning or end of your day.

4. Socialize – This tip is great if you know someone who has a similar commute. If you have a close friend who gets off at your stop, you definitely lucked out. I’m fortunate that my parents and I share the same commute into the city so, even if we don’t always talk during the trip (again, quiet zone), it’s still nice to spend the time with them. Additionally, for one year, my partner and I were both commuting west of the city and we took the opportunity waiting for our trains to just hangout and de-stress.

5. Catch up on the latest news – During my years commuting, I spent every morning reading the Globe and Mail and skimming through my New York Times daily email newsletters. During the day, I would pick up a print copy of The Varsity and read it on my travel home. If you drive, I recommend listening to CBC Radio at 99.1 FM – Matt Galloway’s Metro Morning is the only thing I want to listen to when I’m rubbing sleep out of my eyes. For those who prefer to check the news on your phone, I would recommend get an app like Pocket which allows you to download news articles and read them from your device when you lose your internet connection.

6. Celebrate the beginning or end of the day with a nice beverage – If you know me, you’re well-aware I’m a big fan of coffee. I often grab Tim’s before my morning commute and a decaf from Union Station’s McCafé for the way home. Occasionally, I’ll grab another drink like a Booster Juice or even just fill up my water bottle. It might seem excessive, but having a drink during my trip somehow made it just the slightest bit nicer.

How to maximize your smugness after a European semester abroad

So, you’ve just come back from a semester abroad — or maybe a whole year. You really enjoyed your time there, but now that you’re back in Canada, you’ve realized that’s not enough.

Other people need to know how much better your semester was than theirs. But how do you manage that? Here are The Varsity’s eleven tips for anyone who has been to Europe at any point in their life — and who needs people to know about it.

1. Show off your pictures

Yeah, anyone can google a picture of the Eiffel Tower, but can they Google you with a glass of wine in front of it trying to get an angle that cuts out the thousands of others in nearby cafes and bars doing the same thing? I think not.

2. Mention less popular destinations

Pick obscure places to bring up in conversation, but here’s the trick: this only works after you’ve seen all the popular stuff, so that you can definitely insist it’s overrated.

“Yeah, like Paris was amaaazing but after so much time there I definitely preferred Nantes, it’s just way less touristy, you know?”

3. Lie about what languages you’ve learned

The trick here is to find out quickly what language the other person doesn’t speak, so that you can insist you’ve learned a lot of  new phrases from your totally real friends.

“Do you speak any Czech? No? Oh my GGoddd I learned so much, it’s SUCH a beautiful language!”

4. Insist that it was way more than just a vacation

Yeah, you may have been to Europe, but have you’ve lived there? You bought groceries and paid rent; that makes it better, and makes your experience way more legit.

5. Compare everything back home to Europe

Now that you’re back home, you’ve returned to fix all of North America’s problems through your new-found European insight. The trick here is to think outside the box. Out at the bar with friends? Talk about Europe’s totally progressive drinking culture. On the bus? Talk about Europe’s superior public transportation. Out for dinner? Talk about just how much fresher and more organic all European food is. Walking literally anywhere? Talk about how much more walkable those damn fine European cities are.

“Wow, I just can’t get used to Toronto’s downtown anymore, every European city has so many squares and such an extensive metro, it’s honestly so much better.”

6. Don’t let anyone out-Europe you

When talking to anyone, find out quickly if they’ve been to Europe before. If they have, you’ve got to shut that down right away. Try to see if they’ve spent as much time abroad as you. Turn your weeks into months if you have to. And never deny going to a place in any given city; you’ve seen so much, it’s hard to remember, but you’ve definitely been to every museum and seen every site in all those cities you listed.

If they’ve been somewhere you’ve also been, pick a different month and insist that the vibe is totally different.

“Yeah, Vienna in the summer was cool, you were there too? Really filled with tourists though… Honestly, Vienna in the winter is sooo different, it has those beautiful Christmas markets, I really prefer it in the winter, too bad you couldn’t go.”

7. Try to move the conversation East so you can appear totally cultured

London, Paris, and Amsterdam are soo mid-2000s. You, a true European, have travelled to crazy obscure places such as Budapest and Prague. Careful, you don’t want to move too East; you still want people to be jealous, so don’t mention Belarus or Moldova.

“Oh, you’ve been to Budapest? Have you been to Bucharest though? No? Ohhh my God, I used to love Budapest, but it’s just way too corporate now, Bucharest still feels like authentic and real. You should really go some time!”

8. Compare Europe to other parts of Europe

Nothing says ‘experienced European’ more than contrasting the different cities you’ve been to. For example, talk about how the night life is totally different from city to city. Act like you’re informing people of something interesting when you compare the clubs in Belgrade and Budapest. But remember, even though Europe is so amazingly diverse, it’s still nothing like Canada, and Toronto definitely has a worse clubbing  than even the worst in Europe.

“Yeah, North Europe and South Europe are sooo different, it’s crazy. But I loved both Barcelona and Edinburgh, just in different ways, it’s so hard for me to choose! I love all the friends I made in both!”

9. Try to be sly in your bragging

People don’t like talking to smug bastards. Avoid using the word ‘abroad too much; people will catch on to what you’re doing. Use fictional European friends and events as an avenue for talking about your time there.

“Yeah, me and Andreas got sooo drunk in Budapest… oh I didn’t mention Andreas? He’s my German friend. My friends in Budapest were from all over Europe. Anyway, we got sooo wasted in public, but it wasn’t a problem because of Europe’s superior drinking culture and the convenient public transportation…”

10. Be as general as possible so nobody can disagree

If all else fails, talk about things like ‘the vibe,’ ‘the spirit,’ ‘the people’ and ‘the culture.’ It’s important that you make sure that they know, whatever it is, you’ve been there and experienced it, and they haven’t and are missing out.

“Honestly, like, have you been to Europe? For more than a month though? Yeah, see, there’s just such a different way of life there, it’s honestly something you can’t even understand without living there. I can’t really describe it to you, but I don’t think I can get used to Canada ever again.”

11. Become European

This is probably most important. What use is going to Europe just to come back a Canadian?

Measure your height in centimeters. Use the 24-hour clock. Remember, all your friends are European, and you now have authentic European friends in every city. Always insist that you are planning to move ‘back’ eventually. You can’t stay here, a European trapped in Canada!

I hope some of you take these tips to heart. What’s the point of doing anything in life if you can’t prove to anyone it was worth doing? That semester abroad? Stretch it out for years if you can. This is now the most interesting thing about you. Hold onto it for dear life.

Five best places to travel destinations from YYZ for under $700 — once school ends

We all want to travel, especially in May when school’s over and we just want to leave the city and its horrible memories of class.

Travelling is the best. One, it’s super exciting, and two, it makes for a great hobby to brag. This is especially helpful when your actual personality is super boring and dull.

Unfortunately, travelling can also be very expensive at times. Luckily, here are five places you can go to for under $700 from Toronto Pearson Airport this upcoming May.

1. Barcelona, Spain approximately $600

2. New York City, USA approximately $200

3. Cancun, Mexico approximately $450

4. Lisbon, Portugal approximately $700

5. San Juan, Puerto Rico approximately $400