Amy Aubertin and Angèle Prevost, school of hospitality and tourism grads, visiting the Canadian rockies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After being laid off from their jobs at Fairmont Chateau Laurier back in March, two Algonquin College School of Hospitality and Tourism grads decided to make the best out of a bad situation.

Amy Aubertin, 25, and Angèle Prevost, 26, graduated from the travel services program earlier this year.

“We both had very different trips planned to celebrate graduating and putting our travel services diploma to good use,” said Aubertin. “Angèle was supposed to go to Peru for two weeks in May and I was supposed to go on an Indo-China tour in September.”

That’s when they came to the realization that the pandemic was not only going to affect the tourism industry but force people to travel domestically for a while.

“Knowledge and experience are power in this industry,” Prevost said. The women packed up Aubertin’s lime green 2014 Hyundai Accent on September 17, and set off on a cross-Canada road trip to explore their own country.

“We want to see and do as much as we can before we start selling Canada as a destination,” explained Aubertin.

For Aubertin, the journey started in her hometown of Welland, Ont. “I picked up Angèle in Ottawa and we set off with almost no plan other than heading out West,” said Aubertin. “Every day, we drove and stopped wherever was convenient. We kept our eyes peeled for signs marking any tourist attraction, trail, or picnic area we wanted to go to.”

Map of Aubertin and Prevost's route to western Canada.
Map of Aubertin and Prevost's route to western Canada. Photo credit: Breanna St-Jean

The women stopped in Sudbury, then visited Lake Superior Provincial Park where they set up camp for a night. The temperature dropped to minus two, making it the coldest night of their trip so far.

“We then visited Kakabeka Falls near Thunder Bay,” said Prevost. “We stayed in Kenora for one night before crossing Manitoba and then relaxing at Moose Mountain Provincial Park in Saskatchewan for two nights.

The women kept heading west towards Canmore, Alta. “Canmore served as our gateway for Lake Louise, Moraine, and Lake Agnes,” said Prevost. We drove west and stopped at Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, drove the scenic highway through Glacier National Park and walked the boardwalk in Revelstoke National Park before arriving in Kelowna.

Kelowna was their turnaround point before they head east, to Jasper, Alberta.

Their month-long journey was filled with adventures, from parasailing and hiking canyons to visiting Kangaroo Creek Farm in Kelowna. “My main goal was to see the mountains,” Aubertin said. “I wanted to explore them, soak it all in and I think we’ve done exactly that, with some amazing bonuses on top.”

Amy Aubertin at Kangaroo Creek Farm in Kelowna, British Columbia.
Amy Aubertin at Kangaroo Creek Farm in Kelowna, British Columbia.

For Prevost, who is culinary trained, cooking has been a highlight of her trip.

“We have all the tools, all the seasonings and oils to make anything delicious, like classic beans and wieners,” she explained. We even made garlic confit over a fire one night and have been putting it on everything.

Aubertin did all the driving while Prevost made the accommodation reservations and searched for nearby points of interest. “I got pretty good at dodging cattle on the prairie roads,” said Aubertin.

“I can’t even count how many times we cried from laughing too hard,” added Prevost.

Although the pandemic has affected the tourism industry, the women are convinced that it will bounce back and tourism students should not be discouraged.

“The people who love to travel and want to travel will as soon as they can safely,” said Prevost. “The jobs will come in due time. For now, watch your favourite travel videos and read all the books. Explore as much as you feasibly can. It never hurts to start planning future adventures.”

The women were well-prepared with masks and hand sanitizer for their trip, as these practices have become engrained in their daily habits. “The down-sides of the pandemic during this trip revolve mostly around closures and unavailable amenities, and higher prices for some things,” said Prevost.

Prevost believes travelling your own country has many benefits: you don’t have to worry about passports, currency or language.

I can say wholeheartedly that Canada has more to offer than anyone is looking for in a single trip,” she said.” “There is so much landscape, friendly locals, wildlife, adventure tourism, fantastic restaurants, and that’s just scratching the surface.

Aubertin exploring a Canadian National Park.
Aubertin exploring a Canadian National Park.

Andrea Dixon, a professor of hospitality and tourism at Algonquin College, had the pleasure to work with Prevost as she was selected as a finalist for the Baxter Student Ambassador Program. In their last semester, Dixon was Aubertin and Prevost’s teacher for two classes.

These are both high-achieving, professional students who will be an asset for our industry when it recovers,” said Dixon. “I have no doubt that with their newfound practical experience gained from travelling across Canada, they will be ready to jump into a position of their choice as the economy recovers and lead our industry back to prosperity.”

Ryan Bonacci, hospitality and tourism professor at Algonquin College, had both women in the travel simulation services course in Winter of 2020. “One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it’s gotten people to support local, especially when it comes to travelling,” he said. “Tourism will bounce back and people will be looking to experts to help them in their planning. I think travelling the country is a great idea.”

Martin Taller, professor of hospitality and tourism and coordinator of the tourism and travel program, had both women as students but was not aware of their travel plans. “These students reflect the spirit of travel and the learning opportunities it presents,” Taller said when informed on Prevost and Aubertin’s cross-Canada road trip. “We wish them well and wish them a safe and worry-free journey throughout their travels.”

Aubertin and Prevost will spend their Thanksgiving weekend ordering room service: one night in Edmonton, one night in Saskatoon and one night in Winnipeg.

“From there we’ll be heading back through Northern Ontario on Highway 11,” said Prevost. “We will hang out in Smooth Rock Falls where I grew up for a few days with my family before making our longest drive of eight-and-a-half hours before arriving back in Ottawa.”

To follow the rest of their journey, find them on Instagram: @amyyaub, @traveledanddiscovered, @cookeatandwine.