In case we haven't met before, my name is Lisa, I'm 24, and I'm based in Toronto. If you've ever wondered why and how I started a cross-Canada tour company, then you're in the right place. Today I want to tell you a bit about myself and all about the origin story of FML Adventures.
PS: This ain't the quickest story so if you just want to browse through the spark notes, go for it! And if you're stuck in quarantine and are bored in the house, and in the house bored, then I hope you enjoy my story.
On January 22nd, 2018...
I had a one-way ticket to go "find myself" and I began my journey down under via my favourite city, Hanoi. En route to the other side of the world, I sat on the plane feeling nervous, excited, and inspired, and I jotted down my dream trips. #1 on that list was an East to West Coast Canada Road Trip. Coincidence? I think not!
On January 22nd, 2019...
My Australian working holiday visa ended, and after the most incredible year abroad, I flew home from Australia to surprise my best friends. These were my thoughts on my journey home.
On January 22nd, 2020...
I launched FML Adventures.
Looking back on these lil' journal entries always gets me in my feels. It's like I was manifesting this new adventure without even knowing it. Of course, none of this happened overnight, and there were many chapters in my life that led me to FML Adventures.
So let's backtrack a little bit, and start at the beginning (ish).
Chapter 1 - Wilfrid Laurier University
I graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a Bachelors in Business Administration, specializing in Marketing and Economics. Throughout my program, I had the opportunity to intern for three companies, which taught me what I liked and more importantly, what I didn't like in a workplace. When my post-university full time position fell through (thank goodness), I began my traveling adventure.
My journey began at Wilfrid Laurier University, where I graduated with my Bachelors in Business Administration and specialized in Marketing and Economics. These four years were where I met all of my best friends and where I truly had the best four years of my life. There was a lot of learning, and a whole lot of good times. No matter what anybody says (Queens and Western I’m looking at you), Laurier is the best university and Waterloo is the greatest university town in Ontario. Bold statement but I’m sticking by it.
During my program, I was lucky enough to make it into the co-op program, in which each student had three 4-month internships throughout their studies. These internships were HUGE in teaching me what I liked, and more importantly, what I didn’t like in a workplace.
For my internships, I had the opportunity to work for three different departments in three different companies. Cue my final internship where I worked as a Trade Marketing Intern for a large Consumer Packaged Goods company (think companies that produce, market and sell favourite household brands such as Dove, Aveeno, Neutrogena, Axe, Crest, etc.) I was so excited for this internship as I was so sure that this is what was in store for my future.
However, as excited as I was, I ended up really struggling throughout these four months. The position was highly stressful, competitive, and definitely didn’t have the best work-life balance. These four months were full of anxiety for me, and yet I kept trying to do everything possible to secure a full-time job with the company after my internship. And that I did.
I was offered a full-time position for the following January with the company, and of course, I signed my contract and was beyond excited that I didn’t have to stress about full-time job applications in my final semester at university.
Now I’m a huge believer in the fact that everything happens for a reason. A month before finishing my studies and leaving for my travels, I got a call from the CEO of my company. She let me know that they were going through a massive company reorganization, and that my position was now going to be outsourced to a third party. I was offered a position with this company, and was told that “maybe” after a certain amount of time, I would have the option of rejoining the initial CPG company.
After a teeny, tiny, bit of thought, I knew that the job falling through was exactly what I needed. Looking back on this, I can see that this was the best thing that could have happened to me, and thankfully, I had declined the position.
And so, in August of 2017, I finished my degree at Laurier, and in September, my two best friends and I flew out to South-East Asia for a trip like no other.
Chapter 2 - South East Asia & New Zealand
My best friends and I headed to South East Asia and New Zealand for a two and a half month adventure, and this was when I officially caught 'the travel bug' and fell in love with the backpacking vibe. This was also when I met a ton of backpackers either heading back home from their working holiday in Australia, or were making their way there. Since I no longer had a full-time job waiting for me at home, I thought why not drop everything and head down under?!
Ahhh - the beginning of my travel bug. My best friends (Lyss & Vic - hello friends!) and I flew into Bangkok and began our totally awesome backpacking trip across South East Asia. Over 2 months, we travelled across Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Bali. From Bali, we flew to New Zealand to meet up with our friend Connor who had been living in Queenstown, and the four of us went on a 2 week roadie of the South Island.
What an incredible two and a half months it was. We saw the sights, we visited temples, we did Thai cooking classes, we played with elephants (in an ethical manner), we snorkelled, we got attacked by monkeys, we hiked up mountains, we scootered around Nam, we got tattoos, we drank - a lot, we watched sunsets & sunrises, we skydived (skydove? What’s the past tense of skydive SOS). Above all, we met the most amazing people from around the world. (In other words - we totally lived, laughed, and loved zomg!)
Jokes story before moving on: My first parachute failed during my skydive. Second parachute worked though - SCORE!
Throughout all these travels, I was on an absolute high and was having the greatest time ever. I fell in love with the backpacker vibe and I never wanted it to end. From that point, I just felt like I needed to keep going and going.
It was during this trip that I started meeting backpackers who were either returning from their working holiday in Australia, or were on their way there for their one year. I had never, ever considered something like this but now that I knew my job had fallen through and that I had no commitments waiting for me at home, I thought WHY NOT?!
And that all leads me to my final chapter pre-FML Adventures, my year abroad in Australia.
PS - If you would like to request a free custom itinerary for any of the above places, I’d love to help ya out! Let’s feed that post-Covid travel bug together.
Chapter 3 - Year Abroad in Australia
Australia really changed everything for me and it served as my introduction to the travel industry. I worked in hostels for 10 out of my 12 months down under, and I did everything from folding laundry and scrubbing toilets, to running events and taking backpackers out to the bars, to being a full-time receptionist. I was fully immersed in the backpacker lifestyle and I couldn't ask for anything more. I absolutely loved the vibe and I knew that I wanted my future career to be travel related, I just didn't know what it would be.
Australia was my very first solo-travel experience, and what a year it was. This is where I was first thrown into the travel industry, and where I was inspired to start a travel company of my own. A LOT went down this year - but I’m gonna summarize it to the best of my abilities to highlight the more “relevant” parts to my journey.
I landed in Sydney the night before Australia Day and went straight to my hostel, Bounce Sydney. I chose this bad boy as I was hoping to land a work for accommodation position (where you work in return for a free place to live), so I wanted to make sure I picked the nicest hostel possible. I had reached out weeks before arriving asking for any kind of cleaning position, and the Monday after the Australia Day long weekend, I finally got a response from the hostel manager. She let me know that a spot had just opened up and that I was in!
And so, I became a kitchen & laundry cleaner at the hostel in return for free accommodation, and I got a charity call center job down the road for the whole “survival” thing. It was quite full on, but I absolutely loved my new backpacker lifestyle. Living at the hostel was wild, but it was where I met all of my new international besties. I loved every crazy minute of it.
After a month or two, I got recognized for my stellar cleaning (YE BOI) and for my happy, bubbly, outgoing personality. That’s when they asked me to join the events team - aka my dream job. From that point on, I got to welcome new backpackers to the hostel and keep them entertained for a living. HOW GOODS THAT?!
A few months into that new gig and I got asked to join the hostel reception team (about 1 million times better than working at a call center where you get yelled at 24/7) on top of running the events. From then on, I was repping Bounce all-day, er-day and I couldn’t be any happier. I loved Bounce and I truly thrived in the backpacker atmosphere.
By that point, I was obsessed with the travel industry and I knew for certain that I wanted my future career to be within the industry - I just didn’t know how or when or what it would look like. I definitely dreamed of opening up my own hostel, but due to the lack of millions of dollars, I knew that dream was slightly unrealistic (at least for now!).
The hostel closed down in September of 2018, and what a tragedy that was. The government bought the building for the construction of the Sydney light rail, and had plans to tear the building down. This was a devastating situation for everyone involved - the owners, the staff, and the guests. However, the hostel closing was a huge push for me to hit the road and AFTER 8 MONTHS, it was time for me to start exploring the rest of Australia.
And so, my friends and I flew out to Perth to start our West Coast adventure with Why Not Bus.
SPOILER ALERT: Everything changed on this trip up the West Coast of Australia and the idea of my coast to coast travel company was born.
Before my trip with Why Not Bus, I had been super hesitant about group tours. I’m not sure why, but my perception of them was always negative. As a person who loves to research destinations and is always the trip planner, I had never really thought of participating in group travel. However, after the most incredible 11 days of travelling up the Western coast of Australia, my feelings about group travel definitely changed. We camped in and visited some of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever been to. The vibe was SO chilled out, we visited so many local gems, the nightly campfires with the squad were lit, the beaches were insane, and there was so much flexibility with the tour (of course thanks to our tour guide Myles aka Big Daddy). Overall, the trip was so beyond dope.
It was during that road trip, on one of our long drives, that it hit me. I wanted to start a cross-Canada adventure company. If these super chill Aussie dudes were doing it, why couldn’t I?! I looked up “Coast to Coast Canada Tour” on Google (and about a million other variations) and nothing existed.
I had been looking for a way to combine my business background with my passion for travel, and this was it.
From that point on, when anyone asked me what I was doing after my working holiday, I told them that I was starting a cross-Canada tour company. I continued my travels across Australia (which were awesome) but the new idea was always on my mind. I spent days on end daydreaming and brainstorming about my new coast to coast Canada company - the key values, the must-sees, the vibe, the bus, the equipment - and as sad as I was to be leaving Australia, I was so fired up about getting to work on my new baby.
Around Christmas-time in Byron (where I landed myself a sweet job working on the Activities team in return for free accommodation at Wake Up! Byron), it was time to solidify a name for the company. Initially, I was pushing for Coast to Coast Canada, but it was already taken by a company back home. From there, I started brainstorming some keywords that I felt best represented Canada and the experience I was hoping to create.
Forests, Mountains, and Lakes happened to be the first 3 words I wrote down - and when I looked at them and recognized that it could be shortened to FML Adventures - everything just fell into place.
It was a lil’ controversial from the start (ya know, with everyone thinking it stood for fuck my life), but that’s what made it stand out, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Present (PRE COVID) Chapter - Home Sweet Home
I got home on January 22nd, 2019 and went all-in with FML Adventures. I put everything into getting this company off the ground. Building out the business plans, securing financing, getting my bus drivers license, BUYING A BUS (my first vehicle was a bus, how jokes?!) and putting together a sweet itinerary that hit all the must-sees and hidden gems of Canada. I was also lucky enough to be accepted into a 2-month Entrepreneurial Incubator at Fanshawe’s Leap Junction where the team and fellow entrepreneurs really helped make my dreams into a reality.
In September of last year, I set off on the official test run for the company. I had friends from Australia, Northern Ireland, Netherlands, and Canada join me on an adventure like no other from Toronto, to Halifax, to Vancouver. The test trip was NOT perfect by any means, but it definitely proved how beautiful our country was from coast to coast and that FML Adventures was worth fighting for.
On January 22nd, 2020, everything came together and FML Adventures was launched to the world.
And that my homies, is the story of how FML Adventures was born.
Ready For The Ultimate Cross Canada Experience?
If you're interested in traveling across Canada, be sure to check out our convenient & affordable cross-Canada tours! Due to the current COVID-19 situation, our 2020 season won't be operating as planned, however our 2021 trip dates and costs will be coming soon!
In the meantime, if you want to get inspired about some of the beautiful places you can explore in the Great White North once travel restrictions are lifted, be sure to check out 13 of the best places to visit in Canada.