The travel industry is full of bloggers, vloggers, influencers, photographers, journalists and content creators. Done well, their content can entice us to travel with their stunning photos, interesting histories, honest reviews and responsible travel tips.
Done poorly? It’s simply annoying.
The pandemic has made us more aware of travel within our own backyard. We seek out local resources and people for suggestions and information about places we’ve likely overlooked for years.
This is why you need to meet Ben McBride.
Ben is 12 years old and going into grade eight. He issomeone you can rely on for quick, helpful and fun information about multi-use biking trails in Kitchener and beyond. He uses his YouTube channel, Spokes on You, to provide trail descriptions and reviews, rating them on a ‘five-spoke’ scale.
Ben’s mom, Laura McBride, records the video of their full ride with a GoPro camera. Ben points out interesting things along the route to capture on video, writes the script, makes the editorial choices for the footage clips and records the voice over. Laura helps with some of the video editing and coaching. He packs the essential information into a one-to-two minute video.
This summer, Ben and his family plan to ride and review seven community and inter-neighbourhood trails listed on the City of Kitchener website.
They’ve already completed the Iron Horse Trail and the Spurline Trail, which leaves another five to complete.
Ben, his older brother, younger sister and parents are an active family. They have been biking together since the children were very young as a way to stay active and go places without using the family car.
“It’s a really nice sport for all of us,” Laura said. “And we can cycle through the year. It gets us exploring and choosing our locations, and Ben is good at it; he took to it really naturally.”
Ben realized this himself after a family trip on Le P’tit Train du Nord, a 234 kilometre cycling trail in Quebec.
“That’s when biking went from just another thing I occasionally did, to an actual skill I had,” Ben said.
Spokes on You began as a pandemic project in February 2021. The first videos took over three hours to complete, but, just like his biking, his video making skills are improving. Now his skills as a content creator are adding something of interest, humour and quality to the online world of local travel.
These are Ben’s recommendations for a good ride:
1. Pick a trail where you can get into a good flow. Ben likes to feel like he “did something” but doesn’t end up “exhausted or hurt.”
2. Choose a motivation for the ride to keep you going to the end. Ben is motivated by milk shakes, ice cream and McDonalds!
Juanita is a freelance travel writer and community engagement professional based in Kitchener. As a traveller, she is partial to slow travel and holds high regard for community bulletin boards and actually talking to people as the richest sources for tapping in to local experiences.
Juanita is a regular contributor to several neighbourhood blogs and websites focused on community development. Find her on Instagram @juanita_metzger