Born Curious

10 weird and wonderful things about Calgary

Posted by Carl in January 24, 2013

Known as one of the world’s most livable cities, Calgary is quickly gaining a reputation for being not just a great place to live but a cultural and business destination, too. It’s an incredibly dynamic and diverse city with plenty to attract old and young alike. Below are a few fun facts about Alberta’s capital:

Calgary city

It’s very diverse
Over 120 languages are spoken in Calgary, though the dominant language is English.

It’s squeaky clean rated Calgary the cleanest city in the world in 2007, thanks to its clever urban planning and compact design.
Sunshine all the time
You’ll get more days of sunshine per year in Calgary than in any other major Canadian city.


It’s easy to make money…
Calgary is becoming Canada’s industrial and technological hub, and its booming economy means that it’s become home to a lot of very wealthy people. In fact, it has the greatest number of millionaires per capita of any Canadian city.

…but it’s easy to lose it, too
Calgary has also recorded more instances of mortgage fraud than any other city of Canada. Looks like all those millionaires are defaulting on their home loans!

It’s the home of delicious treats
The Canadian delicacy Ginger Beef was invented in Calgary at the Silver Inn in 1974. Additionally, Canada’s favorite cocktail, the Bloody Caesar, was invented for the opening of a restaurant in Calgary in 1969.

It’s a young city
Calgary’s median age is just 35.9 years – so all those millionaires made their money young! Young people have flocked from all over Canada and across to the world to work in Calgary, and it’s home to a lot of tech startups and media companies.

It’s a great place to be single
We already know that Calgary’s a great place to be young and rich, but it’s also a great place to be single. Calgary dating can be a lot of fun, whether you meet through work at one of the many hip young companies that exist in the downtown area, or at one of the trendy nightspots or theatres that make up this city’s lively cultural scene.

Bring on the Stampede!
The famous Calgary Stampede takes place in July every year, and is a highlight on Calgary’s cultural Canada. The Stampede attracts over a million visitors per year, featuring not just one of the world’s largest rodeos but shows, concerts, exhibitions and a parade.

Canada’s first winter Olympics
You may be surprised to learn that it took Canada until 1988 to host its first Winter Olympics, despite being known as a country with freezing temperatures and plenty of snow. Calgary was the lucky first city in Canada to receive the Olympics, and since that time, the city’s population has grown significantly. Interestingly enough, the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics was also the year that the Jamaican national bobsled team competed, winning the hearts of viewers everywhere and inspiring the Disney movie Cool Running

Calgary - Olympic Plaza & Calgary Tower

Which of these fun facts most attracts you to Calgary? free polls 

Resource Box

Facts about Calgary
NileGuide’s life of interesting facts about Calgary

Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics
Information on the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary

Calgary Stampede
The official website for Canada’s biggest hoedown

5 amazing gap years you’d never have thought of

Posted by Carl in January 24, 2013

Taking a gap year between high school and college or university is one of the most rewarding experiences you can give yourself. It’s a great opportunity to discover the world while getting to know yourself. You will meet new people and face new challenges and bridge the “gap” between your high school years and the future that awaits. Here are some ideas for exciting gap year plans.

Learn something new

Just because you’re no longer in class doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning. A gap year is a great opportunity to learn something new outside of a curriculum-based model. Commit to learning a new language, taking up yoga, or making five new dishes from scratch. You’ll be amazed at how much there is to discover when you’re no longer cooped up in a classroom.

Go wild

If you’ve always nurtured a love of animals and nature, now’s the time to explore the flora and fauna that abounds throughout Canada and across the world. Spend a month on a nature reserve in Kenya, Uganda or South Africa, or spend the summer on a farm in rural Canada. You’ll learn incredible life skills and meet wonderful new people to give you a fresh perspective on life.

Safari at Madikwe, SA


Okay, so volunteering or doing an internship isn’t exactly a “new” gap year idea… but with organizations like Projects Abroad, you have the opportunity to do almost anything your heart desires, almost anywhere in the world. Whether you want to teach English to students in Korea, build schools in Ghana or protect the rainforest in Peru, there is a program and a destination for everyone. You’ll have the chance to meet great people while truly making a difference.

Get paid to party

If you like spending your days at the beach and your nights on the dance floor, you should consider working at a vacation resort like Club Med. You could work as an activities coordinator, fitness instructor or bartender. It’s an amazing way to meet new people from all over the world while enjoying the resort lifestyle 24/7.

Moorea, French Polynesia

Hit the slopes

If you’ve been longing to indulge your inner snow bunny, why not consider spending your gap year abroad working as a ski instructor or chairlift operator? You’ll get paid to teach kids and adults how to ski or reassure them as they’re beginning their descent. In your downtime, learn to snowboard or take up another winter sport, like ice skating or tobogganing.

Skiing in Annaberg
Resource Box

What’s your ideal way to spend a gap year? free polls 

50 Great Gap Year ideas
A comprehensive list of things to do and where to do them.

Independent Gap Year
UK newspaper The Independent’s guide to your ultimate gap year.

Ten Reasons to do a Gap Year
Just in case you weren’t already convinced.

Be curious. Try a new sport this year!

Posted by Carl in January 16, 2013

If you have promised yourself that you will change things in your life this year, do something new that will be fun and exciting. For example, you could try a new sport, whether it is one you have always wanted to have a go at, or one you don’t really know. You might discover yourself a new passion, or at least have a healthy hobby and meet new people. There is surely a leisure centre near your home or your work, so just pop in and see what’s going on here.

Team or individual sports

If you like doing your activity whenever you want, then you should probably look for an individual sport. There are the classic ones such as running and cycling that you can practice alone as well as with groups, or tennis and badminton which only require one person to play with. But why not be a bit adventurous and go for a sport that is a bit more intense such as squash.

But if you really like a challenge as much mental than physical, then try rock climbing. With the increase in indoor climbing wall, you can learn this more and more popular sport, that is bidding to be in the Olympics in 2020, safely before going outdoor. If you are really not a fan of hanging on a rope meters away from the ground, bouldering is more up your street. This is a discipline of rock climbing that is practiced on short walls or boulders without ropes. The problems are harder and more technical and you land safely on crash mats. Do, challenge yourself this year and try a new sport.

Be audacious, make your own pizza

Posted by Carl in January 11, 2013

If you like food, you have probably noticed how different a fresh pizza taste from the frozen or packaged ones. Instead of going out every time you want to eat one, you could make one at home and enjoy the simplicity of italian food as well as the satisfaction of being the one who created it. There isn’t much to making a fresh pizza and with a bit of practice you will quickly perfect it. All you need is to pay attention to some crucial steps, then the rest is up to your taste and imagination.

Kneading, rising, kneading, rolling

If you have a bread-maker, then you have no excuses for not making your own pizza dough! Just put the ingredients in the machine and run a dough only program. If possible, use some white strong (or even very strong) bread flour, but plain flour will still work. Manually, put the flour in a large bowl or on a surface and mix yeast, sugar, olive oil and water together for a few minutes until it’s foamy. Slowly add the mixture to the flour and bring in the flour until it comes together.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface if it was in a bowl and knead it with your palm until it is smooth and springy.
The next step is what will make your pizza light. Put the dough into a clean bowl dusted with flour, cover it with a damp cloth that doesn’t touch the dough, and store for an hour in a warm place. In winter, you can put the bowl under or near a radiator. When it has risen and doubled in size, knocked it back by kneading it a bit to chase the air.

Then it is time to roll it. Most quantities are for 2 pizzas, so divide it and keep one part covered with cling film in the fridge while rolling the other. As you want your dough to rise around the toppings, only roll it in one direction, and give it a quarter of a turn clockwise after each rolling movement. Once it has reached the side of your tray, or the desired size, put it on the tray and prick its surface with a fork, keeping an area around for the crust. Put your tomato sauce and toppings and cook it.

If Neil Armstrong can do it, so can you!

Keep Being Curious

Posted by Carl in December 20, 2012

Don’t hide in a safe bubble. Push the boundaries in any field you’re in; one thing you need to remember is that the possibilities for anything are endless. If you’re curious enough to explore those boundaries, you’ll be the first to find out.

With the right mix of epic natural landscapes and vibrant urban wonderlands, Canada is an exciting place to explore as a couple. Romantic experiences are everywhere; stroll hand in hand around the world’s third largest garden or soak up the sun on Jericho Beach. Don’t leave the romance till Valentine’s Day – whether with someone special you recently met on or with your long-term partner, check out these top love spots together.

1. Calgary Tower, Calgary

Calgary Tower

Candlelit dinners are a typical romantic outing. In Calgary, try dining with a difference at the top of the Calgary Tower. The tower itself is an epic monument to Calgary’s transformation from rural town with roots in the Wild West to an important business center. The charm of tradition is still present in the city. However, the wealth that followed the oil giants has brought Calgary firmly into the new century.

Sat 155m above the city’s skyline, the Sky 360 restaurant offers dating couples panoramic views alongside delicious New Orleans style cuisine. Admire the scenery together while the restaurant slowly revolves – during dinner, a full revolution takes one barely-detectable hour.

2. Jardin Botanique, Montreal
If a more natural landscape is what you’re after in a romantic destination, swap metallic skyscrapers for ancient trees in Montreal’s Jardin Botanique. One of the largest gardens in the world after Kew in London and the Botanischer Garten in Berlin, this organic utopia is a blissful experience. Share a moment amongst 700 species of orchids and traditional pavilions in the Japanese garden.

3. Jericho Beach, Vancouver

Fiona Beaches Grouse 011

The snow-tipped peaks and thick forests that surround Vancouver make it a popular destination for visitors. Jericho beach is a secluded gem set away from the hustle and bustle of the main metropolis. Locals favor this beach over the more crowded shorelines; there’s plenty of space to admire the mountainous landscape across the water. For the perfect romantic evening, nestle amongst the old waterlogged trees and watch the sun sink below the horizon.

4. Scandinave Spa, Montreal

An option that never fails to impress is an indulgent day at the spa. Conveniently located in the heart of Old Montreal, the Scandinave Spa offers European-inspired pleasures for couples. After a massage, step into the traditional Scandinavian bath for a totally sublime sensation.

5. Orleans Island
Formally known as Bacchus Island, Orleans Island is a pleasant retreat from the traffic jams of Quebec. Discover the romance of rural Canada while still within 20 minutes of the city. Although agricultural tourism is the island’s main attraction, it has plenty to offer more adventurous couples. Take in scenic views while cycling along the main circular highway around the island.

At least one of these top love spots in Canada should appeal to most couples, but if do you want more romantic ideas for your day trips, it’s easy to find inspiration online. Visit the eHarmony CA Googleplus page, for example, and see what others are up to on their dates.

Five lazy ways to learn German

Posted by Carl in November 8, 2012


German is spoken all over the world and there are plenty of ways to pick up the language. Using mobile phone apps and taking audio courses are both good methods for developing the basics. Listening to music and watching TV and films takes it a step further as you can develop more conversational and everyday German. This guide tells you all about different methods.

There are plenty of ways to learn German, from the simple to the more involved. You can stay at home, study in class or use music and television to pick up key phrases. In this article you can read about the best ways to learn German, including using mobile phone apps, music, watching films and immersing yourself.

German music

It might not be to your taste but listening to German music is a good way of getting to grips with the language. Songs tend to use more colloquial terms and if you study the lyrics you’ll get a feel for this type of language. Who knows, you might learn to love all forms of German music and even go as far as to start dancing in your lederhosen one day!

Five lazy ways to learn German

Watch TV and film

You’ll get another good insight into how German is used in everyday exchanges by watching films. Viewing films with subtitles will help you read along and check your understanding too. Films and TV programmes are also a great way to see German used in conversation, rather than just picking up the odd word or phrase.

Take an audio course at home

Another way of learning German is audio courses. You can take one in the comfort of your own home and go at your own pace. Put on your headphones, listen to the words and then speak them back. Audio courses are a good place to start before you move on to more advanced methods.

Try mobile phone apps

There are plenty of good language applications available for Android and iPhone systems. Pick up key phrases, ask the app to translate words from your chosen language to German and learn practical phrases.

Apps are really good at helping you learn how to get by in everyday situations like asking for directions, ordering in a restaurant and for simple greetings. However, there is no substitute for immersing yourself in the language.

Five lazy ways to learn German

Immerse yourself

Immersing yourself in the German language is going to be the best way to learn. One great way of doing this is to sign up for a course. You can study languages with ESL, where you’ll learn from expert tutors and be able to practise what you’ve learnt on your classmates.

When you place yourself in situations where you’re surrounded by German speakers you are going to pick up the nuances of the language much more quickly.

Take a trip to Berlin or Munich if you can and put everything you’ve learned into practice. Take this a step further by studying German courses in Germany. Immersing yourself is definitely the best option, so if you’re serious about it do everything you can to develop your language skills.

Five lazy ways to learn German


Resource box

Tourism in Germany

German tourism board’s official site.

German TV

Information about German TV stations from the BBC.

Germany and cultural trips

Information about German culture and destinations in the Guardian.

“Curiosity Killed the Cat…”

Posted by Carl in October 17, 2012

“…But the satisfaction brought it back”

Discover a different amusement park

Posted by Carl in August 22, 2012

Amusement parks come in all shapes and forms. There a theme parks, rollercoaster parks, amusement parks and family parks. But some parks have and edge to them and stand out from all the others. Curious as we are, we hunted down three of the best amusements parks that offer something extra special.

Parc Aventura in Brasov, Romania

Imagine a jungle, towering mountains and a crystal clear lake. You climb up in the trees and swing from branch to branch until you reach a lake..

Have you pictured it yet?  Well, that’s the backdrop as well as the playground of Parc Aventura. The adventure park consists out of ten adventure tracks that have been set out (high up) in the trees. The tracks include multiple challenges such as abseiling, climbing, jumping and even crossing the lake. This park is great for people who enjoy being out in nature and love adventure tracks. If you want to read more about this park, please visit this post.

Lotte World in Seoul, South Korea

Take a trip around the world in this amusement park. There is an indoor area that will take you from the streets of Paris to the streets of New York in just a few steps. It is a miniature world including indigenous shops, restaurants and even parades. The outside area will take you to a fairy tale country full of beautiful castles, an ice skating rink and several exciting walking trails. Lotte World is an experience like no other.

Efteling in Kaatsheuvel, The Netherlands

Although the park aimed at children there is more than enough fun to be had for grown-ups. There are exciting rides, beautify walking trails and stunning views from high up. But the most exciting part is the fairy tale forest. This is where all the fairy tales you have grown up with come alive. Take a seat on the musical mushrooms, walk around the gnome village or visit the gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel. It truly is an enchanting experience. Fairy tales do exist!

Voluntourism is a compound word that has crept into our language to describe those on gap year programs or taking a career break who travel to volunteer and volunteer to travel. Where does this new breed travel to and what do they do when they arrive? Here are the five best places in the world to go to as a voluntourist.

Digging the Inca Trail in Peru

The Incan civilisation has held generations spellbound following its sudden collapse at the hands of the Spanish conquistadores in 1533. Rugged remains perched high on hills, approached through a challenging series of winding paths, still bear testament to what was once a magnificent and powerful civilisation. The majestic ruins of Machu Picchu and Cuzco are iconic must-see destinations.

There still remains more to dig than just the visible remains, however. An archaeological project abroad offers you the opportunity to dust off your Indiana Jones hat and help out on digs that include some amazing new sites hidden in the local cloud forest.

The precise significance of such sites may be still to emerge but their importance for our understanding of Inca history already looks writ in stone.

Diving into Cambodia

Angkor Wat may delight above sea level but underneath the pristine waters of the Gulf of Thailand lie many more marvellous sites. Koh Rong Samleom is a remote island where a marine conservation project is surrounded by lush jungle. Here volunteer divers are being trained to conserve the marine life at threat underwater.

Cambodia is one of South East Asia’s best kept diving secrets and most of the jewels in its diving crown lie nearby, including extremely rare seahorse breeding grounds that the project works to protect.

Human rights and Serengeti sights in Tanzania

Tanzania is perhaps the world’s greatest safari spot, with more than a quarter of the country protected as national parks or conservation areas. Some of the real drama though is in the lives of the people of its towns and villages.

Working with an independent NGO as a Human Rights volunteer offers the chance to have a positive impact on the lives of the most vulnerable. On the savannah you should leave only footprints but in Tanzania you could be making a lasting change to the lives of others.

Understanding India

India is a country that it is hard for the tourist to ever really do more than scratch the surface of. Its bewildering complexity has had cultural historians grasping at never-ending straws for centuries. It rewards and frustrates visitors in equal measure but most leave with an embroidered badge proclaiming ‘I Love My India’.

The best way to get to know a country is through its people and teaching English will certainly help you to make a start at understanding their lives that bit more.

Chinese medicine

The powerhouse economy of China will see its society and culture impacting more and more on our lives. Historic sites like the Great Wall suggest the sheer scope of this huge country and natural wonders like the panda bear sanctuary of Chengdu cannot help but inspire.

For those looking to notch up some experience while enjoying the sights a medical internship in China offers serious work for those serious about travelling.

Resource box

More volunteering abroad ideas

Research ten more must-see places and must-do things.

Voluntourism Gal’s thoughts on it all

Keep track of the voluntourism industry.

The Voluntourist’s blog

Read the blog of two girls with itchy feet and helping hands.