We had the good fortune of connecting with Erin Elizabeth Hynes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erin Elizabeth, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I wouldn’t say that I purposefully chose to work in an artistic career. I was always creative, starting in childhood, and so it was a natural move for me to end up in a creative field. I grew up playing the violin, and I was obsessed with reading and writing short stories as a kid. By the time I got to high school, I’d developed a passion for photography and videography. After school I spent my time filming videos with my friends and shooting photos on my DSLR. Eventually, I went to university, where I double majored in English Literature and Film Studies. I’ve always loved storytelling, and so it makes sense that I’ve ended up in a career that’s all about creating written and visual content.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I started my blog, Pina Travels, and my podcast, Alpaca My Bags, because I wanted to dig into issues around travel. I found myself often thinking through questions that came up on my own travels. Like, how can I make sure that I support local people when I visit their city or region? I felt that a podcast was the perfect format for me to connect with experts and thought leaders who could help answer the questions I had. I wanted to learn, and I figured that by making a podcast, I could help other people learn, too! On the blog, I write more traditional travel blogs which cover destinations that I myself have traveled to. But, I weave into every blog tips about how to travel that specific place in a mindful way.
When I started out, I had no idea how to make a blog or a podcast. I was able to learn how to do both thanks to community. Early on, I connected with other bloggers who shared advice with me, and I discovered online forums where I could find answers to challenges I was facing. I started the podcast shortly after the blog. I had posted in a couple forums to see if anyone had tips or resources for making one. Kattie Laur reached out to me and we went for coffee together. At the time, she was looking for a podcast project to work on with the goal of launching her own freelance career as a producer. She liked the idea I pitched her, and agreed to help me make the show. Over the last three years we’ve grown the show as a team, and we’ve also become great friends.
I think what sets Pina Travels and Alpaca My Bags apart from other blogs and podcasts is the focus on responsible tourism. Responsible tourism is all about addressing the pitfalls of tourism, like overtourism, carbon emissions, and the negative impacts that tourism has on local communities. The goal of my content in general is to share my own journey into responsible tourism. By sharing what I’m learning as I travel, I hope to encourage casual travelers to consider the impact of their travels on the planet and people.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If you’re headed to Toronto for a long weekend, you’ll have a jam packed trip! There is so much to experience in this city, which makes it an exciting place to visit. First, try to visit in June, July or August because Toronto comes alive during the summer. The weather is gorgeous, the patios are all bustling, the city’s parks are in bloom and there’s street festivals on almost every weekend. What I love most about Toronto is that there is truly something for everyone. The city has green space for nature loves, a huge food scene, arts and music scene, tons of museums and more.
Your first day in Toronto should be all about walking through the city’s famous neighborhoods like Distillery District, Harbourfront, Kensington Market, Queen West, and Chinatown. Be sure to have dim sum on Spadina, and grab a bubble tea after for dessert. Head to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see some of their large collection of Canadian works, and art from the global art scene. You can then wander down Queen Street, popping into the neighborhood’s boutique shops. Eventually you’l reach Trinity Bellwoods park, where you can lounge in the grass before heading to Ossington Street, a trendy restaurant district for dinner.
On your second day in Toronto, head to the Toronto Islands! They are a small collection of islands just off the coast of the city in Lake Ontario. The Toronto Islands are a haven for Torontonians in the summer months because there you can lounge on beaches, go swimming, cycle nicely paved trails, or have a picnic under the trees. There’s plenty of well-marked signage to help you navigate the islands, and you can rent a bike to get around on. Ferries leave from Toronto Harbourfront every 15 minutes, and it takes just 20 minutes to reach the Islands. If after a day of island exploring you’re up for some fun, be sure to head to Drom Taberna. It’s an Eastern European inspired bar that serves delicious food, great drinks, and always has fantastic live music.
If it’s a long weekend, you’ll have a third day in Toronto! I would head up to Yorkville to visit the Royal Ontario Museum, or go a little further north in Toronto to the Aga Khan Museum. Both museums are worth a visit. Afterwards, wander over to Casa Loma, Toronto’s only castle, and the Spadina House museum. When evening rolls around, it’s time to go back to the city centre. Grab a bowl of ramen on the patio of Tondou Ramen, and then head to the Rogers Centre for a Blue Jays game. Seeing a baseball game is a quintessential way to spend a summer evening in Toronto!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Definitely my parents. They have always been supportive of everything I do. When I launched the first season of my travel podcast, my mom would listen to every episode as soon as it was out. She would then send me a long text message sharing her thoughts about what we’d discussed in the episode. And she always ended the message saying how much she enjoyed hearing my voice. Those texts made me feel really validated as a podcaster. Especially in the beginning, when my podcast didn’t have much of an audience, it was so nice to know that there was at least one person who loved the show that I was so dedicated to making.
2x podcast photos, Photo by Gabby Frank.