How Much Are We Spending on Subscriptions Every Month?

How Much Are We Spending on Subscriptions Every Month?

Quick question: how many of you know the exact dollar amount spent each month on your subscription services?

‘Cause I don’t know about you, but it took me a few minutes to figure it out.

I feel like, in 2019 (and almost 2020!), there seems to be a subscription service for everything. Most subscriptions for premium content (music, news, tv, movies) come out at around $10.00 a month — give or take a handful of dollars — which doesn’t seem like a lot at face value. Over time, these can begin to add up without you realizing.

Capital One Canada challenged me to take a look at my monthly subscription spending and run a financial checkup to become more money mindful in 2020. Building and following a budget is the first step towards being mindful with my money each month, but it’s also helpful for reflecting back on how I did at the end of the year. In order to run my check up, I simply opened my financial institution’s mobile banking app, and took a look at the last month of subscription services. Tip: Capital One can spot double charges and notify you about subscription renewals.

So, turns out my monthly subscription spending looks like this:

Recreational (i.e. they entertain me, but aren’t necessary):

  • Music streaming platform: $10.00
    • Do I want to keep this? Music keeps me entertained during my workouts, and my workouts are positive for my mental and physical health.
  • News subscription platform: $10.00
    • Do I want to keep this? I find that I spend less time worrying about misinformation when I have a dedicated & trusted news platform.
  • Digital content streaming: $10.00
    • Do I want to keep this? Especially during the colder months, digital content streaming keeps me entertained.

Business (i.e. I need these to run my operations)

  • Premium cloud storage: $4.00
    • Do I want to keep this? For a small sum of money, I get 200GB of storage, which I think is great value.
  • Suite of editing tools: $45.00
    • Do I want to keep this? While I wish my editing suites cost less, the reality is that they’re pricey. However, I need these to effectively run my business.
  • Website maintenance: $7.00
    • Do I want to keep this? I need this to effectively run my business.

The biggest benefit I received from running a financial checkup was the total amount spent per month: $86.00! Personally, I wouldn’t want to increase that amount by more than $10 in 2020. At this current point, I can afford to spend $86.00 each month on subscription services, based on the value I’m receiving from their services.

However, if you run your own checkup and find subscriptions that you don’t need anymore, consider starting (or adding to) an emergency fund. In this way, you’ll be better prepared for any unexpected events in 2020!

To learn more about Capital One’s products and tools, visit the Capital One Canada website here.

-MR

HOW WILL CANADIAN CHARITIES KEEP UP WITH TECHNOLOGY?

HOW WILL CANADIAN CHARITIES KEEP UP WITH TECHNOLOGY?

Hey peeps! Ready to use technology for a good cause?

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Over the course of two days — November 17th & 18th — I attended Capital One’s Digital For Good Tech Jam & Summit. It was my second year attending the event, and every year I leave more motivated to use my knowledge of digital technology for the better.

The Capital One Digital for Good Tech Jam and Summit enables charities and non-profits to thrive in a digital future by providing them access to tech leaders and facilitating collaboration among like-minded peers. So, what does that mean, exactly? Well, Capital One pairs volunteer coders, developers, and designers with Canadian charities to determine a technology problem the charity is facing.  That problem is solved and developed over the course of a weekend at the Tech Jam. Not only do charities get to keep their team’s created solution, but this year, all tech solutions created at Digital For Good Tech Jam will be accessible to other Canadian charities and nonprofits.

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At the Digital for Good Summit, charities and nonprofits have access to tech leaders during a full day of thoughtful panel discussions and keynotes on how to use technology as a force for good.

Did you know that 74% of Canadian charities believe a growing tech gap threatens the long-term success of their organization? That’s NOT sustainable! Charities and non-profit organizations (including some fantastic LGBTQ+ organizations that helped many of us through-out our acceptance journey) are the bedrock of a healthy society.

I had a chance to briefly speak with one of the attending charities to get a first-hand perspective of someone at the forefront of a charitable organization.

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I’m here with Jody from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada, and you’re one of the featured charities here at Digital For Good! How has your experience been so far?

It’s been an absolutely fabulous experience! We have such an incredible team from Capital One with a balance of marketing and tech skills. They are helping us build a learning platform for our agencies across the country. Their energy and commitment have been incredible. I’ve never taken part in a Tech Jam before, so it’s a new experience for me, and I’m really excited about the product being developed for our charity.

Capital One found that 57% of Canadian charities believe their social mission is held back or at risk by falling behind in technology. Is this something your charity has faced?

At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we have over 100 agencies from coast to coast, so we really need to utilize technology better in order to have a consistent experience for young people in our programs across the country. That’s ultimately why we’re here — to serve young people better. If technology is going to help us — and we believe that it can — then we’re really excited to be here and leverage it to figure out the ‘how’.

What kind of tech solutions are you looking for at Capital One’s Digital For Good?

What we’re building is a learning platform for our agencies across the country. Having a platform that’s going to keep all of our agencies aligned around brand, mission, and vision is so important – technology is necessary for our organization to ensure we’re serving more kids and serving them better!

 

Feeling inspired? Pass it on! Have a conversation about digital technology with your family or friends this holiday season. Capital One found that 31% of Canadian charities feel staying up-to-date is a challenge — but it doesn’t have to be this way! If we can start having more conversations around technology and our digital world, it’ll start becoming less of an unknown, and more of an endless possibility.

If you are a Canadian Charity or nonprofit and would like to get involved in next year’s Digital For Good – visit www.digitalforgood.com for more information!

-MR

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Capital One Canada. 

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Tackling My Finances as a Millennial

Tackling My Finances as a Millennial

Hey peeps!

 

This week is Credit Education Week, which is intended to highlight the importance of talking about finances, feeling supported and being equipped to plan for a positive financial future. Now, I KNOW — no one likes talking about their finances. BUT! It’s Financial Literacy Month in Canada and I’m using it as an opportunity to start a progressive conversation about money.

Having Credit Education Week in November feels very fitting, as this time of year has historically been tough on my wallet. During this time of the year, my work in the entertainment space usually slows down. While most people earn their salary over 12 months, I earn most of my yearly income over the span of eight months. As such, I’ve had to work on budgeting and developing my financial literacy skills to ensure that I have enough funds to last throughout the year.

In 2016, when this “eight-month income” structure started — I was NOT equipped to deal with it. I managed to run out of most of my savings by mid-winter, so I had to really cut back on spending until work picked back up. Fast forward to 2017, with more of an understanding about income fluctuations, I made sure to scale back my holiday spending to avoid running into the same issue.

The cool thing is, I am not alone. Capital One and Credit Canada Debt Solutions surveyed Canadians this year to better understand their views on financial literacy, debt, and credit education. Here are the top three statistics from the survey I found most surprising:

  1. 57 per cent of Canadians said they felt overwhelmed and stuck with their financial situation
  2. Almost 6 in 10 Canadians (58 per cent) say they didn’t get the financial education they needed when they were young
  3. 49 per cent of Canadians admit they do not know their credit score. This figure is highest in Ontario, where a full 56 per cent say they do not know their score

 

So, what does this all mean? We could all benefit from support and education when it comes to financial literacy and credit education. Capital One and Credit Canada have partnered to bring Credit Education Week to life across the country. This year’s theme is #MyMoneyVision, and it’s an opportunity for all of us to envision and work towards a brighter financial future.  You can attend a session on credit education to talk about setting goals and being mindful about money. Visit the Credit Education Week Canada website to find an event near you. If you can’t attend in person, join the #MyMoneyVision conversation online.

 

To avoid feeling stuck in your financial situation, Capital One Canada shares the following tips:

 

TIP #1

Track spending and identify areas to cut costs on an ongoing basis. If I wanted to cut back on unnecessary spending, I would scale back my barber visits by 50 per cent (I love my haircuts, but they definitely make a dent into my wallet!) and opt for public transit over rideshare.

 

TIP #2

Get ahead of debt and scrap together savings (even if the amount is small to begin with!) to create an emergency fund so you’re better prepared for unexpected events. I know this is easier said than done but preparing a little emergency fund can make a big difference in the long run.

 

TIP #3

Make credit card payments on time to build habits that can help improve your credit score. Personally, I prefer to make credit card payments two times per month. That way, I can split my monthly bill in half each time, which makes tackling my debt a lot less scary.

 

TIP #4

Ask for help when you need it. Surround yourself with a network of people you can depend

on during times of hardship to provide emotional support and advice during difficult times. Whether it’s a parent, friend, or family member, find someone that you can communicate your thoughts to. It’s a great way to ensure that you’re always receiving a second or third perspective on your situation.

 

TIP #5

Ensure you have access to credit, especially for emergency situations. Establish and repair your credit with a card such as Capital One’s Guaranteed Mastercard.

 

Do you have money management tips that you swear by? Leave them in the comments section!

 

-MR

Traveling Safer in FIVE Easy Steps

Traveling Safer in FIVE Easy Steps

Ad Disclosure: this post was created in paid partnership with Capital One Canada. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Over the last 7 years as an online digital creator, I’ve had the unique experience of traveling to many different locations around the world. When I was 19-years-old, I traveled to Anaheim, California to meet fellow creators and subscribers at YouTube’s VidCon. By the time I was 21, I found myself working alongside Taiwan’s travel board, and at 23-years-old, I covered a 3-week Spain excursion with a top adventure brand. While my travel experiences have been one-of-a-kind, I’ve only recently come to the conclusion that I still have a lot to learn regarding safe travel.

Safe travel? What does that mean, exactly?

We all talk about taking certain precautions while traveling. These things are great in theory, but in reality, life has a way of throwing curve balls at you.

This month, I’m partnering with Capital One Canada, to share personal travel tips and stories to better prepare you for your next adventure. For instance, using a credit card like the Capital One Guaranteed Mastercard provides you with a series of priceless benefits that give you a sense of calm while traveling. Through my many travel adventures, I’ve come to realize how helpful it is to be able to rely on these credit card benefits. However, it’s not enough for me to list what a Capital One credit card can do for you, so I’m going to share personal stories to highlight why they’re so important.

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Benefit #1– Common Carrier Travel Accident Insurance

I’m going to be very honest with you – I’ve traveled to many places without common carrier travel accident insurance, and I truly regret it. Especially as a young person, it’s easy for us to ignore the realities of our health and travel without accident insurance. Just recently, I was traveling through Germany when my partner, Christian, accidentally cut his finger relatively deep. Luckily, we were able to find a first-aid kit and properly cover the wound until we arrived home in Toronto. However, what if something happened? What if some dirt or bacteria got under the band-aid and infected his cut? Now we’d be in a foreign country with the pressure to seek a doctor without common carrier travel insurance.

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Benefit #2– Car Rental Collision or Loss

Back in 2017, Christian and I traveled through Spain for three weeks. During our trip, we visited the beautiful island of Formentera, where we rented a car and explored the terrain. Looking back, I really regret not having proper car rental collision coverage. New locations mean different kinds of roads, rules, and surprises. Our day in Formentera was beautiful and everything we wanted it to be – why take the risk and possibly ruin that without the necessary protections?

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Benefit #3– Baggage Delay

WELL, do I have a story for you! Back in 2015, Christian was doing an internship in Peru for three months. I decided to visit him for a week during his internship, so that we could visit Machu Picchu. The plan was for me to land in Lima, Peru, and six-hours later take a charter flight towards our Machu Picchu adventure. Unfortunately, I landed in Lima with the realization that my bag did not arrive with me. I was lucky to be traveling with my partner, who let me wear his clothes for the week, but it was a huge eye-opener for the risk that baggage delay and loss poses.

Benefit #4– Travel Assistance

This is a big one, as traveling often leads to a sharp time difference between home and your adventure. Luckily, Capital One offers 24/7 assistance for medical referrals, emergency cash transfers, lost documents and ticket replacements, lost luggage assistance and legal referrals when traveling outside of your home province. When all your associated costs are charged to your Capital One credit card, you can keep focusing on the adventure at hand!

Benefit #5– Mastercard Zero Liability

After you’ve fully utilized benefits 1 through 4, there’s still a chance that someone may attempt to fraud you – this is the reality of life and travel, as sometimes there are things we cannot foresee. Luckily, Capital One has Mastercard Zero Liability and you’re protected against unauthorized use of your card.

 

Let me leave you with this thought: travel is one of the most lifechanging experiences anyone can ever go through; understand the features your credit card offers, and opt-in to services (like two-way fraud alerts!) ahead of your next trip.

 

Happy traveling,

-MR

Colourful & Instragramable Spots in Kissimmee, Florida (includes DisneyWorld!)

Hey humans!

If you’re like me, you like to scope out fun & Instagramable spots before you travel to your destination. Recently, the Experience Kissimmee team invited me to experience everything that their city has to offer — and I was not disappointed! The city is *filled* with colourful & picture-worthy spots, I decided to compile a handful of the best Instagramable locations (with photos!).

SPOT #1: Margaritaville Resort Orlando

Located in the heart of Kissimmee, Margaritaville Resort Orlando has both hotel accommodations and colourful cottages for larger groups! I was instantly drawn to the beauty of their cottages — hundreds of colourful homes in the cuuuutest community of other vacation-goers. Their end-game goal is to build over 900 colourful cottages, which pretty much amounts to my DREAM community.

If you plan to stay here while traveling in Kissimmee, Florida, be sure to bring your camera, because this will be a spot you won’t want to miss!

SPOT #2: DisneyWorld Magic Kingdom

SO, I know it’s pretty common knowledge to snap a picture in front of Magic Kingdom’s castle, but placement is key! If you plan to visit Magic Kingdom, don’t fuss over snapping a shot with the front of the castle. To be honest, there’s so many people trying to do the exact same thing, it’s quite difficult to capture the beauty of Magic Kingdom. Instead, cross over to the right side of the castle on the bridge, and you’ll capture the side profile of the castle with gorgeous greenery & water. AND don’t forget — always strike a pose!

SPOT #3: DisneyWorld Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom has some incredible photo opportunities, and to be honest, you don’t need to prepare much before heading into the park. You’ll see plenty of beautiful trees and organic structures as you naturally walk through the park. However, a little known spot allows you to capture their Expedition Everest ride with a beautiful mountain in the background. Right after you’ve finished the ride, you’ll exit next to a line of shrubs — this is the prime spot to snap a picture (see photo above!).

SPOT #4: Disney Springs

Best known for being the go-to shopping, dining, and entertainment destination for Disney lovers, Disney Springs is a gorgeous place to bring your camera for some eye-turning shots! We ended up arriving at Disney Springs later in the afternoon, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time to shoot, but I can assure you there are plenty of photo opportunities. Everything from their hot air balloon ride, to bustling cobble-stone streets, to their picturesque bridges & ponds, you’re bound to find something you’ll like. Personally, I was just amazed at the beauty of Disney Springs’ greenery & lakefront!

SPOT #5: Celebration, Florida

If you’re traveling in the Orlando area, you have to visit it’s neighboring town, Celebration. The land that Celebration sits on was originally bought by Walt Disney, but was later sold to developers in order to create a picture-perfect town, with white-picket fences and all! I’d recommend taking a tour with Celebration Bike Rentals, and snapping shots of the picture perfect town along the way. From perfectly aligned palm trees, to white-picket fences and tripped hedges, to a 1-mile long boardwalk in the middle of the forest, you’re bound to find a shot that speaks to your creativity!

Happy Traveling!

-MR

Supporting Innovation with Capital One

Supporting Innovation with Capital One

This month, I had a really unique opportunity to attend Capital One’s third annual Gift the Code HACKATHON. The event brought together over 200 of the country’s foremost charity leaders and young digital experts. Leaders from technology companies like Microsoft and Facebook, as well as like-minded peers and experts, shared knowledge in an effort to help non-profit organizations understand the tools available to help advance their digital journeys. The six charity partners that attended this year’s event were Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, Camp Quality, The Centre for Mindfulness Studies, Kids Help Phone, The Movember Foundation and Toronto Cat Rescue.

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The room was filled with young, smart, passionate coders that came together for one common goal: to help Canadian charities solve some of their most pressing problems. Over the past year, I’ve been so lucky to attend a handful of Capital One’s tech events, and learn how the company is influencing Canadians to #UseDigitalForGood. There are many charities in Canada that lack the funding and resources to help them keep up in an ever-changing digital world — and that’s where Capital One aims to help!

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In my opinion, the best part of Gift the Code is that all code created will be available open-source on public code repositories to provide other charities with the possibility to leverage and further develop the solutions. So, even if you weren’t one of the charities attending the event, you’ll still have access to coded solutions that can be personalized for your charity!

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Over a full weekend, coders came together in teams to listen to their respective charity partner’s problems, and identify a solution! At the end of the weekend, teams had five minutes to present their solutions to a group of judges in a science-fair style set-up. *AND* I had the opportunity to act as a judge for the coding teams that created solutions for the Toronto Cat Rescue!

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After chatting with the Toronto Cat Rescue team, they told me that their charity faces three main problems:

  1. They needed a fluid, user-friendly, enjoyable adoption process for adopters and an easy to use, one-stop-shop, frictionless system for adoption managers.
  1. They needed a living, comprehensive and user-friendly solution to store, analyze and utilize information about their cats (basically, they needed a cat database!).
  1. They needed a solution for how to manage the transportation of their cats in an efficient, safe and user-friendly way that can be accessed by their many volunteers and fosters.

Think about it… all these problems had little to no digital solution just one decade ago. Within just a handful of years, our digital world has made it possible to solve these problems; but yet, how do charities, with a growing lack of funds and resources, access these solutions? That’s why an event like Gift the Code is so vital for Canadian charities.

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Also, my team of judges were SO interesting. Admittedly, I was the least qualified to be judging coding-based solutions — however! I think I was able to bring a valuable perspective on judging the visual & eye-catching qualities of the coders’ projects, since I have experiencing building social media platforms for my audience. While I’m not the most tech-savvy person, I’d like to think I have an eye for effective solutions that are visually pleasing; which, if you take a look at the charity’s three main problems, is part of their difficulty.

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After careful deliberation, we awarded a group named Catalist (I love a good pun!) as the winning team for the Toronto Cat Rescue. They created an online database for the charity’s cats that auto-filled a Google Spreadsheet, allowing Toronto Cat Rescue to always have a master list of their cats’ information. I thought it was a genius approach, as many charities need a safe place for their information.

On top of the winning team’s coding solution, Toronto Cat Rescue (and Canadian charities alike) will have immediate, open source access to countless codes for their charity to use. Now THAT’S a way to #UseDigitalForGood!

Until next time,

-MR

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Capital One Canada. All opinions are my own.

A Story of French Polynesia

A Story of French Polynesia

While I could write for ages about my experience in French Polynesia, I want to tell you a story of Tahiti through the lens of my camera.

Flying from Toronto to Pape’ete was a JOURNEY! Well worth it, don’t get me wrong… but nonetheless, a journey. From Toronto, we flew to San Francisco, then from SFO to Pape’ete with a budget airline, French Bee. Honestly, a really great airline for the price.

Once we landed in Pape’ete, we took one last flight to Bora Bora, where our paradise adventure began. We actually had no idea we were headed to Bora Bora, as it was a last minute itinerary change by the tourism board. Honestly, it was probably the best change we could of asked for, because Bora Bora was breathtakingly beautiful. The water was crystal clear, and the volcanic mountains were large and vast.

With our luggages, we boarded a water taxi and headed to a nearby beach for lunch.

aaaaaaand had myself some fresh coconut water… when in Tahiti, right?

Of course, I had to give myself a peachy Bora Bora moment once we got to our accommodation for the night. While most people stay on the water in over-water guest houses (which can be VERY expensive), we got the opportunity to stay at a bed & breakfast called Villa Rea Hanaa.

Listen, I understand the hype with over-water guest houses… but I mean COME ON. The view from my room was spectacular, the art was local, and their accommodation is a fraction of the price of over-water guest houses.

But before we left Bora Bora, we took a ride to a top lookout point on the island, and enjoyed the views. Breathtaking. My favorite thing about Bora Bora is the island’s diversity in terrain. There’s vast mountainous spots that capture your attention, yet flat and accessible areas where local’s come together to share their culture.

All I have to say is that Bora Bora is far more than a luxury vacation spot; it can be a destination for true adventure, without breaking the bank.

With a 1-hour flight from Bora Bora, we arrived in Mo’orea (Air Tahiti is the primary flight service throughout French Polynesia)! We stopped at a nearby resort for lunch, which was a unique experience, as most of our trip revolved around staying in local guest houses. It was really cool to see the over-water guesthouses up close, pictured above.

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Here are a couple drone shots from Mo’orea. The incredible thing about flying a drone in French Polynesia is that the wind is almost non-existent; which, if you own a drone, you’ll know that wind speed is a big factor in restricting flight. If you’re planning to visit French Polynesia, I would highly recommend investing in a consumer drone! Your shots will be AMAZING.

Later that day, we checked into our Mo’orea accommodation, Hotel Hibiscus. It’s labeled as a 2-star hotel, but honestly felt more like a 3.5 star. Don’t get me wrong, the accommodations at Hotel Hibiscus are quite simple, but you didn’t come all the way to Mo’orea to hang out in your room. The accommodation offered everything I needed (hot running water, clean room, simple breakfast), in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

This is when I learned that the coral reef is very sharp… I landed myself many cuts on the bottom of my feet. If you’re going to swim in French Polynesia, bring water shoes. Lesson learned.

Also, you can now call me Queen Mikey.

At the end of our second day in Mo’orea, our Tahitian tour guide took us to try-on traditional Tahitian Grand Costumes. I was hesitant to call this a costume, but our guide (and the locals we spoke to) reassured us that these are called Grand Costumes. They’re made using the fibers of the hibiscus tree, and can take weeks to make. Since the hibiscus tree’s fibers are so strong, each Tahitian Grand Costume has a lifespan of about 50 years!

Next on our itinerary was visiting the remote island of Ahe. The island is so remote that it only has 2 accommodations (we, of course, stayed at one of them). Our accommodation was called Pension Chez Raita, and was by far the most memorable part of my trip. I mean… check this place out…

HOW IS THIS PLACE REAL??? The water is calm and still, and the water doesn’t make much sound. Everything is quiet and peaceful.

By far, one of the highlights of visiting Ahe was fishing my own lunch! YUP! We went to the middle of the lagoon, fished our lunch, and had it prepared for us about an hour later. It doesn’t get more fresh than that!

The island is shaped like a hollow circle, surrounded by the ocean with the lagoon in the middle. For lunch, we simply travelled by boat to another point on the island. All I have to say is that there were palm trees EVERYWHERE! It was spectacular.

All in all, visiting Ahe was like entering a postcard. It didn’t feel real, because everything felt perfect. In our digitally-driven lives, it can often feel difficult to unplug and enter a quiet space (especially on vacation!). In Ahe, there was limited internet connection, and quiet spaces were practically everywhere. It made relaxation easy!

I would totally recommend visiting Pension Chez Raita in Ahe with your romantic partner. If you’re looking for a getaway, away from the modern world, Ahe is the place to go.

With a budget airline out of San Francisco, and accommodations that don’t have to be luxury, French Polynesia is getting more and more accessible for the average traveler. With that in mind, I can honestly recommend the Islands of Tahiti as a must visit with your romantic partner. The remoteness offers the perfect balance of beauty & disconnect from the modern world.

Happy traveling, friends.

-MR

5 Things I Wish I Knew About Cannabis

5 Things I Wish I Knew About Cannabis
Disclaimer: This post is meant to further educate and inform people about recreational cannabis. As I write this, recreational cannabis is legal throughout Canada. I wanted to write this post right after legalization, as many newbie cannabis consumers will rightfully have many questions about the basics.

Remember when Michelle Obama famously said about Republicans: “When they go low, we go high!” Well… Canada might be going just a little higher!

It’s a historic time for Canada, as we become the second country (and first major economy) to legalize the sale and possession of recreational cannabis. It’s a long time coming for Canada, as Canadians have been (illegally) consuming cannabis for many years. In 2017, Statistics Canada found that 18% of Canadians consume cannabis; of course, it’s widely believed that this number is closer to 30% – 35%, as many people might not disclose their activity.

I find the outlook on cannabis very interesting, especially because it varies depending on your geographic location. I know that people in the U.K. are a lot less friendly towards recreational cannabis than Canadians (I have no source for this, just experience from speaking to my friends). Regardless of the location, it’s a fact that cannabis is far less harmful than cigarettes or alcohol, when looking at its effect on responsible adults.

While I may not be a cannabis pro, I do enjoy consuming cannabis in a responsible manner. This includes consuming in my apartment, after I’ve completed my work, with no intention to operate any motor vehicles, or make any important decisions. I treat cannabis the same way another Canadian might look at a glass of wine or scotch.

Now, there are a few things I wish I knew about cannabis before I started. It would have taken away a lot of confusion and misunderstanding around it!

1. You may feel NOTHING the first time you consume 

Yep! As you may have heard, it’s surprisingly common to not actually get high the first time you try cannabis. What’s even more surprising is that no one’s quite sure why!

There are theories, of course: firstly, you probably didn’t consume cannabis 100% properly the first time, which is totally understandable. But those beginner’s mistakes don’t necessarily account for everything. Some experts also think there’s a “sensitization period” during which you won’t feel high. That’s because THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, can cause your brain to increase its amount of cannabinoid receptors. You’ll have to wait for your body to create enough receptors in order to feel high, which might take a couple of tries.

Remember, cannabis is not (and should not) be compared to drugs like heroine. Don’t feel that you’re going to lose control of your body and inhibitions just because you consumed some cannabis. The main feelings you’ll get are relaxation, laughter, followed by a bit of the munchies!

NOTE: If you’re someone who experiences mild to severe anxiety, please consume cannabis slowly. Start with a very small amount, and work your way up!

2. INDICA vs. SATIVA vs. HYBRID : Which do I choose?!

Cannabis has three strains: indica, sativa, and hybrid (both combined).

Sativa grow taller and thinner than Indica strains. Sativa strains originated in the equatorial countries of Columbia, Mexico, Thailand, and South East Asia and thrive in warmer weather. The leaves of Sativa are much more narrow than those of Indica, and are typically a lighter shade of green. Think of Sativa cannabis sort of like products with 25% less salt. It’s still cannabis, but the psychoactive effects are more muted, and don’t last as long as indica. This is why most people tend to smoke Sativa during the day!

Indica are short and stout in composure (2-4 feet tall), and typically yield smaller (1.5 to 2.5 ounces per plant), higher quality crops (~18% THC) than Cannabis Sativa. The plants are believed to have originated in the Middle East (Pakistan & Afghanistan), and thrive in cooler environments. Indica strains are typically darker green than sativa and have shorter, fatter leaves. When you’re thinking of Indica, think of in-da-couch; when you consume Indica cannabis, you’ll be sinking into your couch, feeling much more relaxed, lethargic, and hungry.

Hybrid cannabis has a few different categories: Sativa-dominant, Indica-dominant, and 50/50. I think those are self-explanatory? Basically, one has more sativa, one has more indica, and one has an equal share of the two! If you’re a beginner, I’d stay away from hybrids; it’s best to go for an indica or a sativa, as you’ll know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.

3. Edibles 101

For this section, I have to already assume that you’ve found someone to bake and sell cannabis edibles to you. Unfortunately, I don’t have any tips for sourcing edibles, as they’re very difficult to regulate and sell in a safe manner. When you bake an edible, you have to merge cannabis’ THC into a fat, like butter or oil; because of this, it can be difficult to measure each edible’s individual THC %. If you bake a tray of “weed brownies,” it’s very likely that some brownies might be more potent than others.

Regardless, the main rule for consuming cannabis edibles are to TAKE THINGS REALLY SLOW. In my personal experience, it takes about 1.5 – 3 hours to fully feel the THC effects of cannabis edibles. This is due largely because the food product needs to make it to your liver, in order to process the THC.

Please don’t consume edibles by yourself! Have a friend or family member nearby, incase you accidentally consumed too much THC. DON’T WORRY: you’re not going to “overdose,” but rather, your brain’s cannabinoid receptors will get overloaded with THC. Your body will need to filter out the THC over the course of a few hours, so having someone nearby never hurts.

4. How much cannabis should I buy?

Whenever I walk into my local dispensary and see a new customer (they usually state that it’s their first time), I always hear them struggling with how much cannabis to buy.

Cannabis is sold by gram, but you might hear buyers using terms such as quarter ounce (7g), half ounce (14g), and ounce (28g). If it’s your first time purchasing cannabis, stick to 1 gram! While it might sound and look like too little, you only need to consume a pinch of ground cannabis at a time.

In regards to pricing, these can vary depending on the strain. Just like there’s various kinds of vodka (Smirnoff vs. Greygoose), there’s different levels of cannabis. In my experience, cannabis ranges from $8 CAD – 18 CAD per gram, with some exceptions. This is pretty self-explanatory, as the cheaper cannabis has less THC, and the expensive cannabis has more THC.

All in all, head to a legal dispensary or legal online store and spend $8 – $10 on 1 gram of cannabis for your first time.

5. What are some tips for smoking cannabis in a safer way?

Overall, cannabis consumption is quite safe for adults, although there are questions surrounding its safety for those under the age of 25 (with developing brains). However, there are some things to keep in mind, in order to make your cannabis consumption as safe as possible!

Tip #1: Buy hemp twine! By using your lighter to light hemp twine, you won’t be inhaling the small amounts of butane that transfer from lighters. Once your hemp twine is lit, you can use it just like you would with a conventional lighter.

Tip #2: Try vaping! Instead of smoking joints, or buying a bong, try investing in a vaporizer. Vaporizers are devices that heat cannabis flowers or oils at temperatures low enough to melt fatty cannabis resins and oils without burning plant material. Once melted, these resins transform from their solid form to a type of steam. This steam is the vapor you exhale after using a vaporizer. Heating at lower temperatures has several benefits. However, when purchasing a vaporizer, it is important to opt for a device that allows for temperature customization.

Tip #3: DRINK WATER! If you’re going to indulge in the arts of cannabis, make sure to chug a bunch of water before the occasion like you’re about to play in a high school state championship game.

Tip #4: Know your limits, and never apologize for turning down cannabis from your friends. If you’re stoned out of your mind after one hit, feel free to pass on the joint in rotation. Your mission was to get high for the first time, not melt your entire face off. Know your limits and act accordingly.

Tip #5: Never, ever, under any circumstance, smoke cannabis & drive. You’re endangering the lives of others, and your own.

Happy 420, and consume responsibly!

-MR

WHERE I STAYED: Thailand

WHERE I STAYED: Thailand

Throughout my 8-day adventure through Thailand, I stayed at 4 different hotels / resorts. They were all beautiful and unique in their own way, which is why I wanted to share some additional photos of my hotel experience with you!

Thailand can be quite expensive to fly round-trip, especially for a Canadian like me. However, their accommodations are quite inexpensive, especially for the quality, service, and amenities that you receive in return. SO, here’s my personal review of four different hotels / resorts in Thailand…

CHIANG MAI – 137 PILLARS HOUSE – 4.5 / 5

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During my stay in Chiang Mai, Thailand, my group and I stayed at the 137 Pillars House. It’s located in the heart of Chiang Mai, so you really can’t do much better in regards to location.

While checking into the hotel, we were offered chilled sweet tea and cold facial towels. Especially in August, the temperatures in Thailand are quite humid, so the chilled welcome package was very much appreciated.

  • ROOM SIZE: Perfect for two, feels very intimate
  • BED: Very large, romantic bedposts, solid wood
  • BALCONY: Very large, perfect for relaxing with morning coffee or tea with a loved one
  • VIEW: Covered by trees and branches, gives the room a private feel
  • BATHROOM: *Huge* bathtub, indoor & outdoor shower, private toilet section
  • OVERALL: Incredible!! My only constructive criticism was that the hotel rooms were not very modern (this may not be important for many people, though!)

Bonus point! I had no idea of this prior to checking in, but every room receives a butler service. Now, I’m not a very high maintenance person, so I didn’t see the need for this… until I got back from the Patara Elephant Farm. Upon arriving back to the hotel, my shoes were filthy with dirt and dust. My butler offered to clean my shoes, and return them the following morning before check-out. LET ME TELL YOU: my shoes were *spotless* when my butler returned them. Definitely a nice touch on an already spectacular hotel.

 

CHIANG RAI – ANANTARA GOLDEN TRIANGLE – 3.5 / 5

Upon driving a few hours North-East towards Chiang Rai, we arrived at the Anantara Golden Triangle. If you’re looking to visit the Golden Triangle, which is a unique spot where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet, this is the hotel to stay at!

  • ROOM SIZE: Standard, more functional than elegant
  • BED: Standard, with a variety of pillows offered
  • BALCONY: Standard
  • VIEW: Breathtaking, with a clear view of the Golden Triangle
  • BATHROOM: Connected to the main bedroom area, with an *ENORMOUS* bathtub/shower, easily the highlight of the room
  • INFINITY POOL: Quite beautiful, with a view of the Golden Triangle, and attentive service to bring you beverages or food (if desired
  • OVERALL: Great! My only constructive criticism was that the hotel rooms were a bit outdated, and could use some modernizing.

 

FLIGHT – CHIANG MAI > PHUKET – 5/5

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While we primarily used a mini-bus to get from location to location, Phuket was a bit too far away to transit by bus. Instead, we used Bangkok Airways! Bangkok Airways is an affordable, boutique Asian airline, that really reminds me of Porter Airlines (those who are Central / East Coast Canadians will get the reference!). They have a premium lounge available to all of their passengers, filled with drinks, snacks, and sandwiches! Nowadays, when it feels like airlines are constantly cutting down on premium perks, Bangkok Airways does it RIGHT.

I’d highly recommend y’all use Bangkok Airways if you’re travelling in Thailand.

 

PHUKET – PARESA RESORT – 5/5

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Let me introduce you to the pinnacle of elegance in Phuket, Thailand: The Paresa Resort! Perched on the seaside slopes, amid tropical forests, over azure blue waters and a picturesque panorama of the Andaman Sea, Paresa is an oasis of tranquility and unrivalled luxury. A secluded retreat to get away from it all and enjoy an island escape!

  • ROOM SIZE: Large, plenty of space to run around!!
  • BED: Large, and notably the most comfortable bed I slept in during my Thailand trip
  • BALCONY: 10 / 10! A large, wide balcony with a private infinity pool, two reclining chairs, and an outdoor shower oasis
  • VIEW: My view was *slightly* obstructed by a large tree, but I’m really stretching to find something wrong here. The view is breathtaking, with a great view of the ocean.
  • BATHROOM: Easily the largest bathroom of all the hotels, it’s about the same size (if not larger!) than the bedroom. Perfect for couples, there’s two sinks, closets, showers, with a shared toilet and tub!
  • OVERALL: A perfect spot for an oasis getaway in Thailand! My only constructive criticism is that my breakfast took about 20-25min to arrive at their restaurant, with only a few other guests present. Other than that, it was a perfect experience.

 

BANGKOK – BANYAN TREE BANGKOK – 4.5 / 5

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Our final hotel during the 8-day Thailand trip was the Banyan Tree Bangkok. With 61 floors, this hotel has everything you could possibly need. While the three previous hotels could be labelled under the luxury category, the Banyan Tree Bangkok was slightly more family-friendly. However, the ambiance, service, and cuisine at the hotel made it feel like the most luxurious family-friendly hotel I’ve ever been too!

  • ROOM SIZE: Larger than standard, but no balcony
  • BED: Large and comfortable! I had no trouble sleeping on the bed.
  • VIEW: While there isn’t a balcony, the views from the room are spectacular. I don’t know if you’ll find a better room view in Bangkok. Towering over the city, the hotel is the second-largest building in Bangkok.
  • SENSES: The Banyan Tree Bangkok is all about sensory pleasure. My room had both an daily incense and essential oils kit, which scent changed from day-to-day. It was a marvellous touch that, in my opinion, elevated the hotel from family-friendly to slightly luxurious.
  • BATHROOM: Cozy, but quite functional. It might be tough for two people to get ready at once, but definitely not a deal-breaker for the hotel.
  • POOL AREA: As hectic as Bangkok can be, the hotel pool area is a quiet oasis where you can swim, sleep, or just sit back under one of the many trees surrounding you.
  • BARS: There are two bars at this hotel, both located on the upper floors.
  • OVERALL: The Banyan Tree Bangkok is THE place to visit if you’re staying in Bangkok. Especially if you’re someone who enjoys taking advantage of every hotel amenity, this hotel has carefully thought out how to offer you as many perks as possible.

 

If you’re planning to travel to Thailand in 2019, consider these hotels! While I visited some different areas of Thailand, most people visit Bangkok — so with that in mind, I would definitely recommend the Banyan Tree Bangkok. I just wanted to make an extra note that I completely felt at home during my stay, and I know y’all would have an equally pleasant experience.

Happy Travelling! ❤

-MR

Disclaimer: My trip to Thailand was covered by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. For more information, please visit: http://gothaibefree.com/

Top 5 Insta-Worthy Spots in Thailand!

Top 5 Insta-Worthy Spots in Thailand!

Last month, I embarked on a 8-day press trip to Thailand with other LGBTQ+ media. Since we were only in Thailand for a little over a week, I wanted to try and capture as much of the country’s beauty as I could. I mean, if I’m going to travel for 24+ hours, I’m GOING to get some insta-worthy shots to share on my social media.

A lot of us in our new digital age can relate to this desire to capture social-media-friendly images. Pictures that tell a story, capture people’s attention, and (briefly) take them alongside your adventure. SO, here’s my top FIVE insta-worthy spots in the beautiful country of Thailand…

#1: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Overlooking the city of Chiang Mai, the Doi Suthep Temple is a sacred site to many Thai people. On top of that, the sites are straight out of a postcard.

The images above are from the lookout point that is immediately adjacent to the sacred temple, which is why my shoulders aren’t covered in the photos. When I stepped back into the temple area, I ensure to cover my shoulders to respect the Thai traditions.

The lookout point is BEAUTIFUL, and must-visit in Chiang Mai. We were lucky enough to reach the lookout point during a light rainfall, which created a double-rainbow in the distance. The best part about this location is that the breathtaking views do all work for you. While I shot with a 10-22mm wide-angle lens, a smartphone would create a similar impact. The vastness of the clouds, mixed with the mountainous backdrop is sure to WOW your family and friends as they scroll through your vacation feed.

Accessibility Note: Please note that you have to climb about 100 steps to reach the temple. From what I witnessed, there wasn’t any accessibility spots.

#2: Patara Elephant Farm – Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Imagine this: you arrive to a sanctuary farm, and all you see are elephants, jungle green space, and waterfalls. The Patara Elephant Farm is located in Chiang Mai, and is a must-visit (and ethical!) elephant sanctuary. You’ll get a chance to meet, feed, and bathe their elephants, which is a life-changing experience in itself!

Not only that, but the people at Patara Elephant Farm take professional photos of you during the entire experience — for free! Now, I obviously took a few photos of my own, only because I was keen to share the experience on Instagram shortly afterwards. However, for no additional charge, you can enjoy the elephant experience without worrying about snapping shots or video footage along the way.

The farm has thousands of acres, filled with aesthetic waterfalls, lakes & ponds, and beautiful elephants that are quite friendly.

I know “likes” on Instagram can be a bit of a self-serving thing to talk about, BUT! It’s interesting to note that my shot from Patara Elephant Farm went mini-viral (at least for me!) on Instagram. It garnered over 10,000 likes, with almost 100,000 impressions. I think those numbers are more of a testament towards the beauty that you’ll experience at Patara Elephant Farm. Next time you visit Thailand, definitely have this on your list!

#3: The Golden Triangle – Chiang Rai, Thailand

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Located a few hours away from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai’s ultimate Insta-Worthy spot is the Golden Triangle: a unique border spot where you can experience three countries (Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos).

The location of these photos were at our host hotel, the Anantara Golden Triangle. The hotel’s primary selling point is their breathtaking view of the Golden Triangle. They offer an aesthetic infinity pool, which I think helps to amplify the grandness of my shot. Standing on the edge of their infinity pool, you have mountains, trees, and two different countries in the background!

I wanted to highlight some spots in Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai, because so many people skip over to tourist hot-spots such as Bangkok & Phuket (which are GORGEOUS!). If you happen to have some extra time in Thailand, be sure to visit these spots & share their beauty on social media.

#4: Wallflowers Upstairs – Bangkok, Thailand (Old Town)

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Walking around in Bangkok, it can be quite difficult to find the hidden gems amongst all the noise. Trust me when I say: Wallflowers Upstairs is one of those hidden gems! Located in the Old Town of Bangkok, this café is a literal hole-in-the-wall. Once you start moving up the café’s spiral staircase, you’re teleported to a Tumbr-worthy, botanical paradise! There are plants everywhere, cradled by the antique and slightly run-down benches and table tops (it feels really aesthetic though!). When I say “run-down,” I mean it in a positive way; this café is truly one of a kind, and will feed ALL your #CoffeeGoals on Instagram.

To make matters even more aesthetic, the café, in addition to selling coffee items, sells a delicious Rosé Soda. I mean, COME ON. Can it get more aesthetic than that?! I think not.

#5: Vertigo Bar – Bangkok, Thailand (61st Floor!)

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Travelling through a new-age metropololis like Bangkok, it can be difficult to find locations that truly capture the city’s beauty. Let’s be real, the “concrete jungle” of New York is Bangkok’s baby brother; when you’re out on the streets of Bangkok, you’re surrounded by buildings, cars, and pedestrians. BUT, let me introduce you to the Vertigo Bar on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Bangkok — one of Bangkok’s other hidden gems!

Located in the heart of the city, the Vertigo Bar is the second-highest point in Bangkok.  Grab a drink or dinner, and snag one of the most astounding views in Bangkok.

Pro tip: If you want to elevate your shot, use a wide-angle lens to fully capture the immenseness of Bangkok’s size & beauty. If you don’t have a wide-angle lens, simply purchase a wide-angle smartphone attachment. You’ll be glad you did!

Happy Exploring, you cuties!

-MR

Disclaimer: My trip to Thailand was covered by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. For more information, please visit: http://gothaibefree.com/