This week on the blog we hear from Matthew Bailey, owner of Must Do Canada. Matthew shares his story about how a massive road trip across Canada became a business! 

Let's dive into it!

Back in 2009, I began my foray into world travel. For years, I had been longing to go backpacking through New Zealand and Australia. I ended up crushing my bucket list by jumping out of planes, bungy jumping over the sea, and scuba diving with sharks. My life changed dramatically and what was supposed to be a one-time adventure turned into a passion to see the world. Since then, my wife has joined me on all my trips, visiting a total of 42 countries spanning 6 continents. But during this time, I also realized how little I had seen of Canada. With parents from both Montreal and Newfoundland, I had seen more than many, but still not nearly enough. One of my big realizations came during a trip to South America when I was discussing hikes with another traveller. At this point, I had done multi-day hikes in New Zealand, Colombia, and Peru, but had yet to do one in Canada, despite living so close to the Banff National Park. It was then that I realized that I should take some time to explore Canada as well.

Armed with a new mission, I created a blog called Must Do Canada in 2013 and invited my parents to do a road trip from Alberta to Newfoundland. We spent six weeks in total, experiencing some of the top things to do in Canada before visiting family in Canada’s most easterly province. I wrote about the experiences on the blog but it was still just a personal blog with no plan for becoming a business. But that all changed in 2017.

With Calgary’s economy in shambles, I wanted to get creative and do something special for Canada’s 150th birthday. Canada was pouring money into the big celebration and publications around the world were writing about their admiration for the country, both for its tourism and its quality of life. I wanted to do something catchy and inspiring and after much thought, I came up with an idea to do a 150-day road trip from coast to coast to coast, featuring some of the top attractions while interviewing people of all backgrounds as to what they feel makes Canada such a special country. At the time, we had no idea how to make videos so we hired a videographer friend to join us, produced a pilot episode, and then pitched it to hundreds of companies, with Best Western signing on as the main sponsor.

From May 15 - October 11, 2017, we drove a total of 27,000 kilometres, visiting 12 provinces and territories and featuring Canada’s incredible beauty throughout all three coasts. We witnessed icebergs in Newfoundland, celebrated July 1st in Ottawa, flew over Niagara Falls, snorkelled with Beluga whales in Manitoba, watched bears eating salmon out of the river in British Columbia, became one of the first people to ever drive the new all-season road to Tuktoyaktuk, and landed on the largest non-polar glacier in the world in Kluane National Park. We interviewed former astronaut Chris Hadfield, got interviewed on CBC and Global News, and featured the stories of Syrian refugees. We ended up producing a 12-part travel series on Youtube that ended up leading to a new career for my wife and me.

Suddenly, Youtube was our fastest growing platform with hundreds of thousands of people watching our videos each and every month. Best Western also loved us as the travel show hosts and wanted to keep working with us. So, we learned how to shoot and edit our own travel videos and kept running with it. After learning a lot more about the business, as well as things like SEO, Must Do Canada has become a full-time business for the two of us and has become one of the top Canadian tourism sites in the country. Our Youtube channel continues to grow and now has more subscribers than all the major tourism boards combined. 

Our initial idea was to create a documentary about what makes Canada special, but that has since morphed into a platform that allows us to continuously promote travel within Canada, as well as promote Canadian tourism companies and Canadian products. We’ve even received dozens of emails from both teachers and kids who watch our videos as part of their social studies curriculum. How cool is that?

Our initial fear with focusing on Canada was that we’d run out of material, but instead, it has forced us to keep digging deeper and deeper, bringing us to lesser-known locations and small towns that really need to share their stories. 

When I think of it, it’s really been a wild ride since 2017 and I feel like it has only just begun. I often joke with my wife about my interests 15 years ago when I was applying for college in Calgary. At the time, I applied for business, film/video, and journalism but was only accepted into their business course. Now, I get to do all three of them.