Find Your Bliss

In partnership with the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, Expedia recently launched a contest to win a trip and “Find Yours”. Film has always been a powerful forum to share a story and the subject of travel is no exception. Participants were asked to identify which destination they would select with a choice of Seattle, Paris, London, Morocco or Australia. The winner will star in a 2-3 minute film which will be featured on Expedia Viewfinder.

I have always believed that my life should have a purpose; I should be passionate about what I am doing and be making a positive impact. Consequently, I challenge you to “Find Your Bliss”.

Which location did I choose? Why, Seattle of course!

This may seem like an odd selection, but hear me out!

The other places offer outstanding history and culture, with once in a lifetime attractions. Yet, what happens when you get back to the reality of home. It’s often a letdown. So many people are in a monotonous routine and are only truly “alive” when they are on vacation. Is that really how you want to exist? To only be excited when you are off in an exotic locale?

Why not be grateful for the small joys you experience each day?

For instance, in Seattle you can delight in:

  • Eating fresh food at Pike Place Market
  • Watching sailboats from Gas Works Park
  • Catching a local indie band at one of the many festivals
  • Discovering hidden gems at a Chinatown bookstore
  • Going for a jog at Green Lake
  • Practicing yoga at one of the many studios
  • Having a picnic at Carkeek Park
  • Feeling like a kid on The Seattle Great Wheel
  • Perusing art at Pioneer Square’s Gallery Walk

These are the types of activities that many others can do in their hometowns as well.

Understand that each day can be brilliant and that there is so much to be thankful for!  “Find Your Bliss” in daily life and truly realize your potential. 

Jesse Labelle in the Bahamas!

Every trip I’ve won is special and unique in its own way but staying at the Atlantis Resort was pretty fantastic! Upon arrival, my friend and I were given the VIP treatment with a limo ride to the Royal Towers! We also each received a Saint Tropez Toy Watch. 

Walking into the Atlantis is incredible. The lobby is the ultimate in luxury and you can see the Dig/Ruins lagoon (the largest open-air marine habitat in the world, second only to Mother Nature!) 

The Aquaventure water park has attractions for all ages and the beaches are lovely! We perused the Marina Village and enjoyed the nightlife at the club Aura. 

We were also treated to an intimate performance by Toronto’s own Jesse Labelle! This was held in the former suite of Sol Kerzner who developed the hotel. Sitting on a couch with Jesse performing in front us was surreal! 

Aryka’s Advice: Give Jesse a listen! Here’s a video filmed from his Bahamian performance:

Smirnoff’s Red Door Party & Flare’s World Runway Tour

I’ve always seen those commercials advertising exclusive parties (think Coors Light Silver Bullet Express) and wondered what happened. Considering I live in a house with a red door, I thought my odds were good to attend the Smirnoff Red Door Party. A frat house was converted to host the event with Cazzette and Zeds Dead performing. Patrons were given 2 drink tickets, pulled pork sandwiches and spray-painted shirts. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I was still the age of a frat  house resident.

I also attended Flare’s World Runway Tour. I loved hearing Liz Cabral, Flare’s Fashion Director, speak about upcoming trends (jewel tone eyes, precious hues, vampire glam, all things leather and peplum!) Designers to watch include Christopher Kane and Kenzo. Guests had plenty of appetizers, drinks and received a sweet swag bag upon leaving! 

Aryka’s Advice: Smirnoff’s Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka is a hit! I would definitely recommend it for those that enjoy, or secretly enjoy, girly drinks! 


This was my second time attending TIFF and I knew I could do a better job of leveraging contests this year. Twitter was a gem! I was literally in Toronto almost every single day attending a movie, concert or party!


Movies - I loved the diversity in all of the films I watched. I ended up seeing What Maisie Knew, To the Wonder, The Sessions, Emperor and Song for Marion. Each captured relationships in a different way and definitely caused you to reflect on your own life. However, To the Wonder was my least favourite screening due to its lack of dialogue. Perhaps, I need to be a former film student to “get it”. 

Concerts - Lauryn Hill was in town for an intimate performance benefiting the ONEXONE foundation. She definitely still has a stage presence and exceeded expectations! Jason Mraz also had an amazing concert at Molson Amphitheatre! Finally, I lucked out with 4 lawn deck seats for the City & Colour show. Lawn deck = incredible. 

Parties - I started TIFF off right by attending a pre-TIFF party hosted by SKYY Vodka. The alley setting had a blue theme and the Good As Gosling drink was fab. I also attended the official TIFF fundraiser at Corus Quay. The James Bond set design was amazing and made for a memorable red carpet. Unfortunately, they couldn’t attract the star power they had hoped for. Finally, I ended TIFF on a high at the Closing Gala at Roy Thompson Hall. British fare was served but I couldn’t resist Marble Slab Creamery. I may have been sick later but it was worth it to ask for all of the toppings. 

Aryka’s Advice: Twitter had the best odds of winning tickets. By searching “TIFF12 win” or “TIFF12 contest” numerous promotions could easily be found. 

Official CNE Blogger!

To be honest, I hadn’t visited the CNE since childhood. However, when I saw a contest to be an Official CNE Blogger I decided to apply. I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain further blogging experience…particularly while I have some time off! I was tasked to write 3 blog entries and tweet during my visits. 

Walking in, the smell of greasy goodness got my mouth watering. I had my very first deep fried Mars bar and many other goodies over the course of the fair. The attractions and shows definitely exceeded my expectations! I loved the SuperDogs, Hypnotist Terrence B and the aerial acrobatics/skating performance! I also had a targeted shopping visit where I perused the hobbies, crafts and international pavilion! 

After spending more time at the CNE this year than I have in the past 2 decades, I am definitely a future loyal visitor! There’s something magical about strolling the grounds at night and seeing all of the lights in the city. 

As an Official CNE Blogger I was given two 18-day admission passes, one-18 day parking pass, a Samsung Galaxy Note and best of all meal tickets! At the conclusion of the CNE, I received a pair of VIA Rail passes for the Windsor-Quebec City corridor and a prize package which included Ride All Day tickets for next year. 

Aryka’s Advice: I found visiting during the first week is far less busy than week two. For next year, keep an eye out for ticket deals. For instance, certain days had admission of $5 after 5pm. 

Jump for Jamaica!

After Usain Bolt’s sprinting performance at the Olympics, Jamaica has definitely received significant media attention. However, the other cause for celebration was that it celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence on August 6th! 

Toronto recently held a Jamaica Land We Love Gala which had been designated as an Official Event of Jamaica 50 by the Jamaican government. Of course, I found a way to win tickets and enjoyed the many performers in the Jamaican Jubilee show! 

Aryka’s Advice: Who are the media hosts of the event you are looking to attend? This is a great way to find out about prospective contests as they almost always have free tickets. 

Beer Me

If you’re over the legal drinking age, step away from the beer pong table and visit  one of the many events featuring alcoholic beverages in this city.

I’ve been to the Drinks Show, Wine & Spirit Festival, Chilean Wine Festival and of course the Toronto Festival of Beer. They provide a great opportunity to sample unique flavours and can be paired with one of the many food vendors which are usually on scene. 

My most recent experience was the Girl’s Guided Beer Tour. Our tour guide, Mirella Amato, was a beer specialist. She was the first woman in Canada to become a Certified Cicerone (beer sommelier), has advanced brewing certification and judges national competitions. 

She told numerous stories about women and the origins of beer. For instance, Saint Brigid is said to have turned dirty water into beer (they didn’t teach us this in Catholic school!?!) The founder of Moosehead, Canada’s oldest independent brewery, was also a woman (Susannah Oland). It was a fascinating tour! 

Aryka’s Advice: I won my tickets from the Beer Store. However, look up who the vendors are at these festivals. They will likely have contests through their social media channels. 

Contests for Professional Development?!?

Sure it’s fabulous winning vacations, attending gala events and receiving gift cards…but that’s not exactly going to be pay a mortgage! 

Hence, I would like to introduce contests for professional development! 

There are numerous conferences and luncheons held in Toronto which can range from being free to upwards of hundreds of dollars. 

If your organization isn’t going to pay for you to attend, why shouldn’t you see what the experts are saying? (for free of course!)

I’ve attended Women of Influence luncheons, the Art of Leadership and Social Mix 2012 to name a few and found many of the speakers quite compelling. 

Aryka’s Advice: Follow the event on Twitter as they will be promoting their own contests. They will also be retweeting free tickets giveaways from their sponsors. 

Hip & Jazzy

The wins have continued and I recently had the opportunity to attend two fabulous concerts! For the first time, I went to the Toronto Jazz Festival and saw Ziggy Marley! There was definitely a diverse crowd who were living out all of their Bob Marley dreams but he put on a great show! 

I also celebrated Canada Day weekend by checking out The Tragically Hip in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I have to admit, I enjoyed Death Cab for Cutie’s performance prior to the Hip far more.

 Unlike the jazz fest, this crowd was the opposite of diverse. 

Aryka’s Advice: This may seem like common sense, but if you want to save a few dollars drive around and park farther away from the venue. In Niagara, we were able to find free parking and laughed at those who spent $25+. 

Summer Sports!

It’s a slow sporting season in the GTA; particularly because of the inability for any of Toronto’s teams to make the playoffs (no, Toronto Rock I’m not counting you). 

Shamefully, I’ve never had as much interest in female sports in comparison to the big 4 professional sport leagues. I was pleasantly surprised when I attended the first ever Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. 

These golfers were truly impressive! Their drives were farther than most men at the driving range and their putting abilities were outstanding! Personally, I also enjoyed seeing the fashion and each golfer’s individual style. I would definitely go to a future tournament! 

Despite my recent appendicitis surgery, I also ventured out to my very first Toronto FC game. Watching live soccer is far more impressive than on tv and the team actually won! It’s a nice change of atmosphere from the more “stuffy” Leafs games.  

Aryka’s Advice: Be prepared to do a lot of walking if you want to keep up with your fav golfer at a pro tournament…make sure you have comfortable shoes and wear some sunscreen! 

Party Rocking at the MMVA’s!

The MMVA’s is one of the hottest awards shows of the year in Canada. With Justin Bieber in attendance, it definitely was a must-see for all of his Beliebers. I was fortunate enough to win wristbands that allowed me to bypass the line and have prime access to see the performers. 

After much thought, I notified the sponsor to give the prize to someone else. I knew it would make another person’s teenage pop dreams come true. 

However, I also won tickets to Universal Music Canada’s Official After Party which featured LMFAO as hosts! I gladly accepted that invitation. 

I’ve walked a red carpet in the past. Yet, I’ve never had multiple photographers taking pictures at once. This was definitely my first paparazzi experience. To make matters even better, these images were continuously projected on a giant screen inside the venue with the other celebrities. 

We mingled with NHL athletes and Canadian musicians while also receiving free Guess products! 

Aryka’s Advice: If you’ve always wanted your picture with a certain famous person, don’t leave early like I did! My friend met many of the MMVA nominees and the boys from Glee at the end of the night. 

A Fantastic Father’s Day!

Throughout the year, events or holidays may cause stress about finding the “perfect gift”. Myself? I see it as an opportunity to win contests! There were recently numerous Father’s Day promotions and I was certain that I would win one! 

To start, I found out that CityLine had an upcoming episode for Father’s Day via Twitter. Interested audience members had to write about their Dad’s in order to win tickets. Anyone that has met my “Papa”, aka Kenji, knows that he is epic so it was easy to write a short submission. Not surprisingly, my entry was selected and we had a great time attending the taping! We also left with numerous freebies including items from the limited edition Champion line for Old Spice, Nivea products and Denver Hayes merchandise! 

Additionally, a local hotel had a giveaway to write why your Dad is the biggest golf fanatic. A free round of golf for two was the prize. My entry was simple and honest. 

"My dad loves golf. However, he loves his children more! He gave up his sporting passion in order to save money so my brother and I could play in organized sports".

Yes, I won. 

Aryka’s Advice: Use special occasions throughout the year as an opportunity to win exciting contests and create memorable experiences! 

I’m a cheap date

I’m not a relationship expert, but I am a savvy saver. Whether you’ve broken my heart or we’ve had a memorable encounter, I will use the story for contest submission purposes (without too many identifying details of course!)

Recently, I’ve been able to create thoughtful dates through contest wins.

First, ask questions. What are his interests? Is there someone he idolized growing up? Or perhaps a trendy locale that he’s always wanted to visit?

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve gone to a documentary screening, dined at great restaurants, laughed at comedians, listened to talented musicians and visited a brewery (all for free!)

I guarantee he’ll be impressed!

Aryka’s Advice: Once you have a few ideas, Google is your friend! Find out what are the upcoming events in your city because I assure you there are contests associated with them!

Night at the Museum

Every Friday night until June 22nd, the ROM in Toronto has a unique experience for those 19+. The museum is transformed into a party with music, drinks and dancing! The galleries are open until 9:30pm while the event continues until 11pm. With only a $9 cover charge, it’s definitely an inexpensive night out for the young professional on a budget! ROM bucks can be purchased and used towards beverages or food from local vendors ($1 = $1 ROM buck). For the single folks, where else can you chat up girls in 4-inch heels and short dresses posing with dinosaur skeletons? If you’re attached, it’s a perfect date night! 

Aryka’s Advice: I was lucky enough to win VIP tickets which allowed me to skip the line. However, Friday Night Live @ ROM starts at 6pm so get there early or you may have to wait awhile! 

May the odds be ever in your favour….FREE MOVIES!

Team Jacob

If you happen to live in a major Canadian city, then you must know about the wonder that is advanced movie screenings! There are a lot of contest skeptics, but the odds are in your favour…it’s an entire theatre of winners! Almost all films are screened in advance to show critics and generate publicity. From my experience, movies are generally on weeknights or Saturday mornings. You can easily win tickets to at least one movie every single week! Plus, even a bad movie seems decent when it’s free!

Aryka’s Advice: For those in the GTA, this is the most comprehensive website in Toronto that lists contests for free screenings!
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