I was born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, but I spent most of my childhood in Shoal Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) after my parents decided to move back home. As soon as I was finished high school, I moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia for university, and I spent roughly ten years trying to leave that place, but constantly finding myself back there. At least one escape attempt found me in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and I’ve lived there twice after that. Along with Winnipeg, I’ve also lived in Montreal, Toronto, St. John’s, and Vancouver.
So, given that important parts of my life were spent in different parts of the country, I never really know where to say I’m originally from! I guess NL has the biggest piece of my heart, but there are plenty of other bits scattered around the world.
Annika: You live a pretty nomadic life and seem to be able to experience areas as more of a long time traveller or local with your movement style. Do you have a home base and what propels all your movement?
Ryan: The closest I have to a home base would be my parents’ home back in NL. Outside of that, I live out of my backpack, which has become considerably smaller since the last time I visited my folks. I made the jump to carry-on only when I left NL for Ireland, and I don’t regret it at all!
Along with now being able to move with relative ease, I guess I still haven’t found where I want to settle down. Of course, I’m not entirely sure if I ever will. Even before I was travelling around the world, I spent plenty of time touring with bands across Canada and the United States, and I’ve always felt rather comfortable in at least a minor state of flux.
Plus, travelling lets me experience things I may never have had the chance to see and do if I had stayed in one place. I’m privileged enough to be able to be mobile, so I don’t let that go to waste. I want to see the world, and talk with people all over. I want to learn bits and pieces about what drives them, what limits them, and what similarities and wonderful differences we have.
At some point down the road, whether it’s through ageing, finances, or something else, I may not be as privileged, which pushes me to try and do it all now. When I die, I want stories, not regrets.
Annika: When I first interviewed you, you were living in British Columbia. I’ve only been there briefly and found it beautiful and can only imagine that the vegan community and scene there is thriving and growing too. What were your observations as well as your time there like?
Ryan: British Columbia (BC) is beautiful, and the islands are probably my favourite part. Of course, that beauty comes with a price tag, and it’s one I (along with plenty of other people) can’t afford. Luckily, despite their lack of a poverty reduction plan or any real signs of wanting to tackle the housing crisis, the BC government at least has put some effort into maintaining a lot of the beauty that dwells within that province.
Of course, like any place, it’s the people that really make the province great. I had lived in Vancouver before last year, but I had not had the chance to explore much outside of the city. This time around, I was able to visit a couple of the islands and spend even more time in Vancouver. In fact, I even ended The Wild T.O.F.U. Tour in the city when I first arrived, and at the start of this year I launched The Book of T.O.F.U. there as well.
Needless to say, one of the reasons I chose to hold those events in Vancouver was because of how great the vegan community is. Similar to Oregon, and to some extent California, BC has plenty of folks who think a little differently. Along with a variety of vegan and veg-friendly restaurants, there are plenty of events related to animal rights and much more happening at any given time.
Granted, as a self-employed resident, I wasn’t able to take full advantage of what the city offered for food due to its high cost. However, I did manage to find a few good meals, and plenty of donuts!
Annika: The last I checked (on your social media) you were in Greece after time spent in Ireland and Sweden. First, Ireland. What brought you there and what were your impressions (in general but also as relates to vegan scene).
Ryan: I ended up in Ireland because I was lucky enough to confirm a sit for a blind red setter named Bru. Unfortunately, during the sit I didn’t get to explore much of the country. I spent most of my time working on the next issue of T.O.F.U. and hanging out with Bru in a small community outside of Dublin, and I only ended up in Dublin the evening before I left for England.
That being said, I do hope to get back there at some point to explore more. Although the area I lived in was rather suburban, it still had small bits of history, which was nice to see. Plus, my one evening in Dublin at the Dublin VegFest was enough to show me that there are some great things happening there. I believe it was only the second time they’ve hosted the event, and it was packed. Luckily, I showed up in the afternoon to see my friend Kristin of Will Travel for Vegan Food talk, and the line-ups around the block had cleared.
Annika: How did you enjoy the Swedish capital and did you travel elsewhere in country?
Ryan: One of my best friends lives in Sweden, so when I decided I was coming to Europe, I knew I had to spend time there. Luckily, I was able to plan three weeks in the capital between a sit in England and one in Greece. Although most of that time was spent in Stockholm, we did manage to escape out to her cabin for a night, and I also spent some time with her coworkers and her about an hour or two outside of the city while they were working.
Previous to that visit, my last trip there involved more exploration, and I hope the next time I’m there leads to seeing even more of that beautiful country!
Annika: You are in Greece now correct? What has connecting with the vegan community been like there and what have some food highlights been?
Ryan: I’m currently taking care of two dogs in Kızılağaç, Turkey. I left Greece a little over a week ago after my house sit there ended, and I’m here in Turkey until the end of the month when I head to SE Asia for the rest of the year.
In Greece, I was taking care of ten cats with my sister, so I didn’t really connect with many other people there. Most of our time was spent exploring a number of the tourist destinations in the city, and we also took a couple of nights to visit Aegina Island.
Luckily, during my time there, I found out that the first Greek VegFest would be happening the weekend before I left, so I was able to take that in. Similar to Ireland, and St. John’s before that, the fest was packed with people and I was really surprised at how great the reception was to the whole thing.
Overall, my time in Greece was spent mainly eating at home due to my budget. However, when I did go out, I ate a lot of side dishes, but that wasn’t a problem since the produce there is incredible! One meal worth noting happened the evening that I arrived when I decided to visit Avocado on the recommendation of the home owner. I had their house burger, and it was great. Sadly, I didn’t get to go back before I left, but it will be on my list for next time! Otherwise, I also had a great falafel at Falafellas, which I would recommend too. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you see a line-up outside the door!
A note of caution though: Greece tends to use tahini sauce with their falafel, which I found out later typically means tahini, yogurt, and paprika. In at least one place I ate, the menu simply said “tahini and lime”, but when I went to pay I noticed the board behind the bar had it listed as “tahini sauce”. Unfortunately, mistakes like this can happen when you’re travelling, especially when you don’t know the language. So, I find it’s always best to be honest about it to help others avoid the same issues.
Annika: In addition to being a magazine editor, do you have other jobs or creative/professional roles?
Ryan: A little over two years ago, I quit my job as a Copywriter and Social Media Manager at an agency in Canada. Since then, I’ve done a small bit of freelance work with an agency I previously worked for, but that’s about it. Otherwise, I house sit for free, so that doesn’t really count as a job, even if it can involve a fair bit of work.
Needless to say, I’ve been focusing on ways to try and create a sustainable income out of my work with the magazine. Running a successful Kickstarter campaign to print an anthology helped a bit at the start of the year, but I’m now looking at alternative methods of crowdfunding to try and develop a foundation that will let me focus on creating content instead of worrying about how I’m going to pay my credit card and other things. I think the shift back to print will help in many ways, but getting over that initial hurdle of printing costs is proving to be a daunting task. I believe it’s possible, so now I just need to find other folks that want to see it happen as well!
Annika: Were you always attracted to magazines, the world or print and publications?
Ryan: I love the idea of print. I’ve always been a fan of being able to create a tangible object that people can take the time to enjoy. Despite the magazine being digital for most of its history, returning to print with The Book of T.O.F.U. and (hopefully) continuing that with future issues is something I’m incredibly happy about. Sure, digital has its advantages, but it also seems to devalue the work in some way. I saw it happen with music while I was working with bands a decade or so ago (I feel old just writing that), and I think books and the written word are falling prey to it as well. Plus, social media has pushed content to the point where it only really works if it’s small enough to fit in a tweet or a sensationalized headline, and that’s not the game I want to play. I’m not trying to sell ads, I’m trying to promote ideas. In order to do that, the magazine needs well-written works that provoke thoughts and actions, not clicks. Personally, I feel that print helps to encourage that since it requires the reader to at least interact with the piece on a level beyond hitting a like button.
Annika: What are you reading right now?
Ryan: Sadly, going carry-on only doesn’t leave much room for books, and I haven’t really learned to love eBooks. So, any reading I do comes from websites, which are mainly pointed out to me by friends on social media. Given the role fake news and filtered social content played in the US election recently, I’m thinking I need to start working on opening up the way I access information, but I’m not sure if books will be included in that until I know I’m sitting still long enough to finish one.
Annika: Favorite magazines?
Ryan: Although I haven’t read many physical magazines in some time due to the reason I mentioned above, I do have a pile of issues sitting at my parents’ place that need my attention the next time I’m there. Luckily, a number of those magazines also come with digital versions, so I’ve been able to check out at least some of the content while travelling. Like I mentioned before, digital does have some perks!
Currently, some of my favourite publications are:
Project Intersect [http://cargocollective.com/projectintersect]
Annika: As a photographer, I’d ultimately prefer to photograph everyone I interview, for example in their habitat or workspace. Your’s is constantly shifting! If I had the opportunity I’d propose doing some photos connected with your favorite means of traveling from one place to the next. What is it- plane, train, car, walking, boat?
Ryan: Although I’ve had some great experiences on trains, I think I would have to go with walking. Personally, I’ve never owned a vehicle, and I don’t intend to change that. I’ve been lucky enough to have the ability to be mobile using my own feet, and I’ve also had access to public transit or friends with vehicles when needed. Obviously, the sort of travelling I’ve been doing can’t rely solely on walking, but I do try to go that route whenever possible.
Thinking about this has actually reminded me of a book I read years ago called Planet Walker [http://planetwalk.org/] by Dr. John Francis. I’m not sure how I ended up with the book, but it’s story of John’s decision to walk everywhere and remain silent for a number of years is inspiring in many ways.
Annika: I’d also be keen on doing photos in one of your favorite places of lodging you have stayed to date. What has a standout home or accommodation been and why?
Ryan: Although I’ve enjoyed every place that I’ve been for some reason or another over the years, I think the current home I’m in is high on the list. I have yet to swim in the pool, but I’ve been able to enjoy the view from the patio and eat olives and other things from the garden. Along with this place, I also spent three months in a small house in the forest on Vancouver Island in BC. During that time, the only neighbours I saw were deer, a raccoon, some hummingbirds, and a dog or two, which is great in my books!
Annika: What is your favorite season for traveling?
Ryan: For travelling, I would have to say I enjoy summer the most. I’ve been on a number of tours during that season, and it makes driving and so many other things a lot easier. Of course, I’m basing this on my experience in North America, but I would probably say any time of the year when it comes to somewhere like SE Asia or even the part of the world I’m in right now. In fact, I might even prefer the winter in these regions since the temperature is much cooler!