Hello! My name is Marie-Eve Vallieres from To Europe and Beyond, and I travel the world for a living. I’m a full time travel blogger, amateur photographer, translator and copywriter born, raised and based in Montreal. At age 19 I quit my boring data entry job and moved to England for a year – an experience that would leave a permanent mark on my life path.
Why did I choose to mention Europe in my blog name and not another continent?
Truth to be told – as much as I’d love to spend the rest of my life exploring the white beaches of the Maldives and the mountains of Peru, few places appeal to me as much as Europe currently does. I’ve seen most of what it has to offer and yet I can’t seem to stay away for longer than a few months. Europe (North-Western Europe in particular) is my second home, one that I don’t tire of and one that keeps welcoming me back with open arms.
But deep down I think that perhaps part of my love for the Old Continent is fueled by the novelty of it all; it was the first place I ever travelled to and where I have developed incredible friendships. And if I’m completely honest, I have to admit that the more I travel, the more I want to discover places that are just a little bit further outside my comfort zone. I would be an impostor if I said that my trips to exotic Morocco and far-flung Japan, for example, were not equally eye-opening and fulfilling as Europe has been. Which explains the fact that the Galapagos, New Zealand, Vietnam and Antarctica are now constant entries on my bucket list.
This is why I chose this name. I want to go back to Europe, again and again, but I also want to dive with sea turtles in Japan and go wine tasting in South Africa – between trips to Italy and Norway, of course 😉
The reason why travel is so intrinsically part of my being is still a mystery, even to me. It’s not like I’d inherited that curiosity of the unknown from someone in my family – my parents were never into travel, nor were my friends growing up. But I still suspect it was always underlying, perhaps mysteriously passed on from a previous life (I firmly believe I was an English princess at one point in my existence).
And like anyone fresh out of college, I went on a pan-European backpacking trip that left me penniless, exhausted but most importantly opened my eyes to a reality I never suspected. Travel wasn’t just a finite adventure anymore, with a departure point and return date; it was a way of life, a calling. It was what I wanted to do for a living. Explore, learn, and encourage people to do the same.
I just needed to find a way to make it happen.
As luck would have it, my husband got offered to spend his third year of university in London. Which turned into a job offer in France. And another one at home in Montreal a few years later. We’ve crisscrossed the globe together, from Iceland to Cuba and most European countries – and now I venture out to new destinations by myself, fueled by an unquenchable thirst for discovery, writing and blogging about it along the day in the hope that I can inspire other curious minds to go out there, explore the world and live refined, worthwhile experiences.
Picking a favourite destination is probably akin to picking a favourite child, if I had any children. With 27 countries under my belt, it’s almost unfathomable for me to select just one – so I’ll go with a region instead: Scandinavia. Although I sadly do not have any Scandinavian roots, this part of the world just feels like home to me. I love the human scale of the capital cities, which are not only vibrant and bold, but also incredibly forward-thinking. I appreciate how easy it is to connect with and escape to nature. I love the fashion, the fika (basically an excuse to have cake and coffee multiple times a day), the hygge, the music. And, being from Canada, I don’t even mind the cold one bit!
One of the places closest to my heart in Scandinavia is the Holmen Husky Lodge in Alta, northern Norway. Yep – deep inside the Arctic Circle. Being a dog person, the luxurious Scandi-designed lavvo tents and the yummy locally-sourced meals were all fine and good but I didn’t pay so much attention to that as I did to the dogs. It was such an amazing feeling to be waken up by howling husky dogs, eager to put on their harness and go on a sleigh ride.
These dogs are not enslaved by any means; blissfully happy is what they are. They’re really quite vocal about their excitement as they see their pals being prepped for a ride, hoping they’re next in line. As they glide through the surprisingly lush pine forests of Alta, occasionally slowing down to take a few thirst-quenching bites of snow, it’s obvious these dogs share a rather endearing bond. They’re colleagues and neighbours, after all. As if the ride, complemented by the dim wintry Norwegian light, wasn’t special enough as it was, what almost brought me to tears (okay, I totally cried, I admit it) is the cuddles we get after getting back to the kernel. These dogs are so affectionate! If it hadn’t been for the greenish bands that started dancing the sky – which was the reason I came to Norway in the first place – I would’ve gladly hung out with the 79 husky dogs for the remainder of the night. So many cuddles, so little time.