I had the pleasure of visiting Toronto very briefly during the Toronto International Film Festival a few years back and instantly fell in love. I am also a big fan of Mardi of Eat Live Travel Write (those are all of my favorite things!) who lives in Toronto, has an amazing food blog and introduced me to Willow’s Inn on Lummi Island where I had a very memorable meal. So I’d have to say I am smitten with lots of things from this beautiful area of Toronto, and now I am adding one more.
Natalie of Near.Afar. is based there and through her writings has shown me how much more there is to see of the town for my next visit. It is a city of villages and Natalie explores them with gusto. But as her blog name, which I love, might indicate she also heads afar and blogs about those excursions as well. She is just one more AFAR Ambassador that I am thrilled to get to know better! She enthusiastically agreed to be a part of my Traveler Tuesday series so we can all get a peek into her travel life.
 When and how did you become a traveler?
I’ve always had a traveling spirit but was stuck at home, not knowing how to get out. The wanderlust was sparked at 16 on a fundraising trip with a Scout Group to England and Scotland; at 25, I went on a short trip to New York and knew I needed to travel more and then I finally took flight solo at 26 when I took a three month trip to Europe. It changed my life and as a result, I changed my career, knowing that travel and writing made me the happiest. I haven’t done a huge trip like that since so on my blog, Near Afar, I write a lot about home and my travels, focusing on hyperlocal finds and experiences.
My big goal in life is to live abroad so we’ll see what happens in the future!
 What is travel to you in 10 words or less?
Fun. Experience. Education. Life. Perspective. Colour. Curiosity. Connection. Senses. Revealing.
 What is your favorite mode of transportation and why?
That’s a hard one! I think bike tours are the most fun way to see a city upfront. For me, it gives me a sense of where everything in the city is in a short amount of time. I do like walking though, because you never know what you’re going to stumble upon. Trains are fun too because it’s another way to see the countryside and provides time for reflection.
 What do you typically do while traveling by plane?
I related to Lindsey’s answer on this one. I always bring about 5 magazines and two books with me, thinking I’m going to get SO MUCH reading done on the plane. Then I become one of those Chatty Cathys talking to the person next to me if they’re interesting enough and taking photos of the sky after we’ve taken off. I’ll get slightly distracted by the in-flight magazine. Then I’ll watch the in-flight movie while eating my food.If it’s a late or early flight, I’ll sleep. When we’re ready to land, that’s when I’ll get to the book.
I need to follow Andrew McCarthy’s method, which is having his articles finished for his assignment by the time he lands. Seriously!
 What is your favorite travel memory involving food?
I have two answers to this. One is NEAR and one is AFAR.
NEAR: I really wanted to try this restaurant Nota Bene. They were having a special promotion on their suckling pig and boudin noir tart. They invited me to come to the restaurant and blog about my experience. I brought a close friend with me and we were allowed to eat the whole menu.
It’s rare that restaurants allow for a tasting of the menu unless it’s for a blog/journalist dinner. We had a personalized sommelier and it was probably one of my favourite meals of 2012. Blog posts:
Near Nota Bene Part 1
Nota Bene Part 2a Suckling Pig and Boudin Noir Tart
Near Nota Bene Part 2
AFAR: My favourite meal goes back to 2006 in Ljubljana at a restaurant called Sokol. My 10 roommates at Hostel Celica and I bonded over a snoring Irish woman (yours truly had to sleep beside her and stifle laughter).One of our roommates was named Jean Baptiste and he recorded the woman’s snoring.
From there, we decided to celebrate her departure and ended up at this traditional Slovenian restaurant. Over goulash and wild boar, we were sat beside a choir of 29 elderly Germans singing EdelWeiss. There was a lot of wine and a lot of laughter during that meal.
 What is one blogging tip or lesson that you have learned along the way that you can share with my readers?
I think finding a niche is really key. For me, this was the most difficult part of trying to establish my blog. My niche happened by accident: I started writing about Toronto where I live for the visitor, at first for Blackbook Magazine and then on my blog, because I have commitments keeping me here.
Most Toronto blogs were speaking to those who were local and I wanted to show my readers that I was a tourist in my own city and give them a curated overview of the best things to see here. It’s worked out for me: I was a local expert on Toronto before becoming an AFAR Ambassador; I’ve written for Toronto Tourism and am able to pitch articles based on what I know.
People usually want to know who’s the best at what. For instance, if I had a Paris question, I would ask Lindsey Tramuta. If people have a question on traveling to Toronto, they know I’ll give them the best advice based on what they’re looking for. I’m also able to cater to their request because I know the city so intimately. It’s gratifying to give people a local and hopefully, memorable experience of my hometown. It’s a source of pride.
 Where to next?
I’ll be in Chicago April 10-14 so there will be blog posts to come for sure. Then, I’m headed to Niagara On the Lake in May and then New York City in June. I’m excited to return to NYC because it’s been three years and it will be my fifth trip there! I need at least three months to explore it this time around.
Natalie Taylor is a freelance writer, social media specialist based in Toronto. She blogs about hyperlocal travel from Toronto and beyond. Likes: stinky cheeses, Chablis, Portlandia episodes on You Tube and the J Crew catalogue. You can see all of Natalie’s AFAR Highlights and Wanderlists where she shares her experiences all over the world as well as keep up with her on her blog Near. Afar. or her Facebook page and check out her chatter on Twitter. She’s also on Instagram. Wherever you catch her, I am sure you will enjoy her adventures!
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