I absolutely, positively love travelling. I’ll go anywhere really, and there was a time in my “less responsible” years that I would literally get on a plane and go anywhere. No planning, no warning, no worries.

That being said, I am not by any stretch of the imagination a typical tourist. I can only spend so long in the restrictive confines of a resort or hotel, I am very rarely interested in any of the “attractions” listed in the city’s airport brochure, and I’m quite content snapping memorable photos on my smartphone in lieu of lugging around the professional camera and lenses that being a seasoned tourist requires.

My travel mantra is authenticity above comfort. My soul longs for the real neighbourhoods where families actually live and the local restaurants where the waiters don’t speak English. What better way to get to really know a city, inside and out, than from the perspective of the people who live there?

That’s what I like to offer my friends and family that visit Toronto. I can dedicate a day maximum to sights like the CN Tower, Casa Loma, etc. But if I don’t visit those places and I live in Toronto, then how does that reflect my experience in my city?

I take my visitors to Kensington market, where they can literally feel with all their senses the vibrancy of Toronto. I bypass the Eaton Centre for some summer shopping along Queen West, with the abundance of trendy boutiques that underline the city’s incredible sense of style and fashion across all spectrums.

Walking through the downtown core provides the perfect setting for some quality street meat. Yes. That’s what we do in Toronto. And it’s amazing.

Taking in a Raptors game is always fun, and is always a good opportunity to get tourists cheering for your city too. I just love the sound of my New York City cousins yelling “Go Raptors Go!” at the top of their lungs.

And after a fun filled week of running through the shops, restaurants, neighbourhoods, and areas that make up this city, what better way to cap it off than with a day at the Toronto Beaches or, even more authentic, a backyard BBQ with a couple of beers and an awesome crowd.

That’s what I want my friends and family to see. It may not be the Toronto depicted on tourism websites and train station pamphlets, but it’s my Toronto, and I know if they can experience what I experience every day, then they’ll fall in love with it too.

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