101 Experiences turning northern Ontario passion into virtual adventures
Only one week in, virtual tourism based out of northern Ontario gaining international audience
An organization called 101 Experiences is hoping to boost tourism by offering free online experiences run by local people across northeastern Ontario.
Abby Cook, one of the people behind 101 Experiences, said the original idea for the program started in Temiskaming Shores in 2020. She tried to find regular, everyday people filled with passion who wanted to better their community.
"Someone who sits around the fire and play songs on their guitar, or they love to do a nice snowshoe walk in their wintry forest," Cook said. "And basically, it was taking those types of experiences and showing them how to market that to tourists and sell it so that they could become micro entrepreneurs and develop tourism in their areas."
But then, the pandemic hit.
"It was difficult to pivot tourism, so it did take us a little while to get that established," she said. "We needed to find a few experienced officers who could pivot into an online setting. And luckily, we have about 28 different hosts who have worked with us to create in-person experiences."
Right now, the group is rolling out their spring campaign, called Ride the Third Wave. The courses, or experiences, are all free, and the hosts get paid to deliver the material.
Those include cooking classes, gardening, yoga, open air painting and photography.
"We have a woman who's from Cameroon and she's doing an experience around Cameroonian culture," Cook said. "And we also have an Indigenous knowledge keeper who is a trainer and participant...and she's offering an experience on the myths and misconceptions of Indigenous people, which is pretty neat."
Cook, herself offers her own experience, called Witch Balls and Brewing.
"It's a little bit about witchcraft and the history of women in beer," Cook said. "The original brewers in the world were women because men were the hunters and women were gathering."
"Beer was a very calorie rich-beverage that a lot of the world consumed," she said. "So women were the first brewers, but because of the way brewing developed and hops was put into beer, ...it started to shift and men started taking over brewing, and women ended up being persecuted as witches."
She also delves a bit into the history of witches and their connection to brewing.
"Brewers had cauldrons, and they wore tall pointed hats in market so they could be seen," she said. "And these ended up turning into the signs of a witch. And because women weren't financially stable or had that social backup, they couldn't get over the rumours that got spread about them, about being a witch," Cook said.
"So that's kind of the history aspect of it."
Though it's only been out for a week, Cook said the program is already garnering interest.
"We are seeing a lot of northern Ontario locals signing up for them, but we're also seeing it from further out."
"We've had people sign up from as far as New Mexico and we've been contacted by teachers in southern Ontario and Ottawa who are interested in having experiences for their classes," Cook said.
"And we just keep seeing our radius growing and growing with people. And as they hear about it, they'd like to experience what northern Ontario has to offer."
With files from Up North