Category Archives: Hobbies

The Five Takeaways of Gardening: Genie Gratto

Some of the best things in life happen by accident.  This was the case of Genie Gratto’s foray into the world of gardening.

“When I lived in the DC area, I tried to grow things and hadn’t been very successful.  My husband bought me an herb kit that had seeds, tools, pots, and an herb dryer.  I didn’t get anywhere close to having anything good that could even be dried!  Stuff sprouted up but couldn’t be used,” she sighs.

Gratto did not take up gardening again until she moved to Iowa City, a place described as having some of the best soil in the country.  Gratto put in a garden in 2006 and became fascinated with the idea of growing food.

“Gardening is a little bit miraculous to me – it amazes me that you can throw some stuff into the ground and have no idea what you’re doing, and then things, edible things, just grow out of there,” she says.

Gratto now lives in the Bay Area, and chronicles her adventures and misadventures in gardening in her blog, The Inadvertent Gardener. Below, are five takeaways gathered in conversation with Gratto.

1.  Gardening requires only a few basic tools.

Beyond the basics of seeds, soil, light and water, Gratto recommends a couple other tools.

“You need some kind of tool to dig.  It can vary based on the scale and size of your garden – for example a trowel for small containers, or a big shovel so you can move dirt around,” she explains.

“The other thing I recommend is having a sprinkly attachment for a hose or a watering can.  I thought they were silly at first, but I realized that if you pour a giant pitcher of water on a plant, it displaces the dirt.  You should sprinkle the water instead, let it soak into the ground, rather than creating runoff,” she says.

“If you want to get really fancy, a hoe is good to have to weed easily,” Gratto recommends.

2.  When planning a garden, remember that plants need their space.

“When you have a garden, you need to have a modicum of planning.  When you plant seeds into the ground, it’s easy to think ‘these plants will be small and cute,’” explains Gratto.

“However, most of the time, you don’t realize how big plants actually get.  For example, I had no idea how big zucchini plants would get. Artichokes are the same – they are these huge thistle-y plants that support one tiny artichoke, and they completely take over the space they’re in.  They consistently shade out the other guys,” she warns.

3.  Beware the guilt and heavy lifting of gardening.

Gardening, despite its geriatric and gentle connotations, has some minor hazards.

The first is a moral hazard.

“There is always that fear that you are killing things when you garden, and of course, guilt ensues,” says Gratto.

In one particular inadvertent gardening mishap, Gratto planted tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants under a tree that she hadn’t realized was poisonous – a black walnut tree.

“I had no idea how poisonous it was… I had never heard of this tree!  What happened was, as rain would run off the tree, the poison would run off with the rain and fall on the plants, and the plants were dying as a result.  This led to a transplant operation on a July 4th weekend – five tomato plants and two pepper plants were moved, but I left the eggplants under the tree,” she says guiltily.

On a more positive note, the post about the mishap ended up being one of the most popular storylines to ever hit her blog.

Transplanting operations also lead to the second hazard – that of physical hazards.

“There are standard physical things to be cautious of when gardening – remembering to lift from your knees and not your back, like when you’re hauling around piles of dirt or transplanting tomato plants.  There’s also a lot of resting on your hands and knees, so you need to remember to cushion all of that,” she recommends.

4.  Growing your food is the only way you can control what goes into it.

“One thing I do not understand is why someone would use something non-organic or synthetic in their garden.  Actually, a few years ago I caught my dad red-handed with a couple bags of Miracle-Gro, so I of course yelled at him.  This is your one opportunity to completely control what’s going in your food, without having to worry about government certification or about food miles.  This is the closest you’re going to get to your food source – why sully that?” exclaims Gratto emphatically.

5. After gardening for awhile, you begin to notice that plants have their own set of idiosyncrasies.

Michael Pollan discusses in his book The Botany of Desire, amongst other things, how certain plants have evolved in tandem with humans, how we both rely on each other for survival, and how some plants are quirky for a reason.  Gratto, while gardening, has noticed some of these quirks.

“One example is that of marigolds – if you plant them near tomatoes, it keeps the nasty bugs away.  There are also these flowers called Four O’ Clocks, which are both pretty and funny.  They have the name because they allegedly open at 4PM in the afternoon and after 12 hours, close again.  I planted them, and thought they were the lamest flower ever.  I would walk outside at 4PM and they were always closed.  However, one night when I walked out into the garden, they were actually open, and I thought to myself ‘how weird!  What kind of purpose does this have?  What kind of pollinating insects does it attract, how did it evolve into such a plant?’” explains Gratto.

There are certain things we will never answer, however Gratto nails on the head what it is that is so great about plants and gardening – that simple sense of wonder of caring for something and watching it grow.

Gratto’s The Inadvertent Gardener can be found at


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The Five Takeaways of Hula Hooping: Alexandra Malone

North Carolina is the unlikely setting for this week’s Five Takeaways.  It was where Alexandra Malone, the protagonist of our story, first saw people carrying something unusual down the street.  Hula hoops.

“I used to live in North Carolina, and hula hooping is really big there – it’s actually one of the main hooping centres in the US,” she says of the sparsely populated state.

“I ended up reading about it and thought it was interesting, but it wasn’t until I moved to Ottawa where I decided I needed a new hobby, and actually started hula hooping t here.”

Several years later, Malone is now a hooping teacher in Ottawa.  Below, she provides the five takeaways of hula hooping.

1.  There is more to hooping than flinging a hoop around your waist and awkwardly gyrating.

“The basic skill is being able to move the hoop around your waist.  To do this, you need a strong core, as well as balance and coordination, which you can develop through hooping.  The second move is bringing the hoop from your hips to your waist,” says Malone.

“Then there are a couple more advanced moves.  One is chest hooping, where you bring the hoop up to your chest with your hands above your head.  Then there’s shoulder hooping, neck hooping, and hooping with the thighs and knees.  There is also hooping ‘off the body’, where you are using your hands to spin the hoop or move it around your body,” Malone explains.

2.  Hula hooping is not really a competitive sport, but more about performance or fitness.

“Don’t get me wrong – there are competitions, Guinness Book of World Records “who can hoop for the longest duration” type events, but most hoopers are more focused on performance and teaching and sharing.  The performance aspect is the most prominent one – you’ll often see hoopers performing at festivals like Burning Man, or events like Cirque du Soleil, or even filming short hooping videos to post on YouTube” explains Malone. 

3.  Hula hoopers are mostly female, but beyond that there isn’t a specific age demographic.

“There isn’t an average hooper.  Basically anybody can hoop – it’s for all ages, shapes and sizes pretty much. The hooping community is mostly female, and anywhere from age 16 to age 60,” she says.  “That said, there are also some incredible male hoopers out there with very unique styles and impressive skills.”

4. Hooping is exercise cleverly hidden in nostalgia, self-expression, and amusement.

“Hooping has a whole range of health benefits – obviously it’s a good cardio workout and helps you strengthen your core, and increase muscle tone.  And it’s also really low impact, and helps with balance and coordination.  But beyond that, it reminds you of being a kid, and as you get more comfortable, it is extremely creative and people use it as a mode of expression, and even stress relief.  I’ve even seen people doing ‘meditative hooping’!” she exclaims.

“I’ve also taught people who are trying hooping for the first time and spend the whole hour laughing, so even if you don’t get the hang of it right away, most people want to keep at it because they’re having so much fun!” laughs Malone.

5.  Many hoopers make their own hoops (and it’s not that hard.)

Malone makes her own hoops for herself and sometimes for her friends.

“Some teachers have business making hoops and selling them.  It’s not that difficult – hoops are made out of polyethylene plumbing tubing, the kind that you use for radiant floor heating – and you can get them in all kind of weights and diameters.  There is a specific weight and diameter for a basic beginner hoop for adults, which is 3/4 inch 160psi.  If you’re more advanced, you get the tubing with a smaller diameter, and lighter weight, which makes it more difficult to control with your body.  Then, you cover your tube in pretty tape, and you’re done!” she explains.

Malone teaches classes at Fitness Fusion in Ottawa.  Find out more information at or by emailing

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The Five Takeaways of LEGO: Nathan Sawaya

Nathan Sawaya has the job that every kid dreams of having.  He’s a LEGO Artist, a Certified LEGO Professional.  What does that mean exactly?  It means he spends his days in his New York studio building awesome things out of LEGO.  A casual scroll through his website reveals things like a LEGO replica of Stephen Colbert; a scale model of a Blackberry with a working screen, a giant set of LEGO milk and cookies, an anatomical heart, a life sized cello, a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, Han Solo encased in carbonite.  Pop art, but in LEGO format.

How does one exactly do this sort of thing?

“I started doing large scale sculptures out of LEGO bricks about ten years ago.  I had sculpted with more traditional media, but I wanted to explore using a toy from my childhood as an art medium.  The sculptures got a pretty good response from friends and family, so I put photos of them up on my website.  Soon after, I was getting commissions from folks around the world.  Within a few years, I was a full time LEGO artist.”

Below, Sawaya provides his five takeaways of LEGO.

1.  LEGO can take you anywhere.

“Since becoming a Lego artist, I have put together museum exhibitions and gallery shows all over the globe.  I have been asked to send sculptures to Hong Kong, Dubai, Paris, London, Singapore, even Kansas City.  I never dreamed that creating with LEGO would take me to places like Hawaii, Stockholm or Appleton, Wisconsin, or even as a guest on the The Colbert Report and Mythbusters.  I got to design a LEGO room on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  And weirdest of all, my LEGO artwork actually became a category on Jeopardy!” he exclaims.

2.  There is no such thing as cheating in LEGO.

“I don’t know how many times folks have come up to me and said ‘Are you gluing your bricks?  Well that’s cheating!’  And I wonder to myself, ‘Are you the LEGO referee?’ he laments.

“The thing is LEGO bricks hold together remarkably well.  They are an amazing construction tool.  But my sculptures are shipped around the world.  And the shipping process can take a toll on any artwork.  I find that museums get kind of grumpy when I ship them a sculpture and they receive a box of loose LEGO bricks, sometimes with a note reading ‘some assembly required’.  So to make sure my sculptures arrive in one piece, I glue them together.  This is not cheating.  Anything one does creatively with LEGO cannot be considered cheating.  In fact, the only way there might be cheating in LEGO is if one was to use only Lincoln Logs,” he says of the building toy made with wood that comes with instructions.

3.  There is nothing that cannot be built out of LEGO.

Sawaya sees infinite possibilities with Lego.

“When I was a child and wanted to get a dog, my folks didn’t let me, so I built myself a dog.  It was multi-colored, and of course being built out of those rectangular bricks, it was a bit boxy in places.  I called it a boxer,” he jokes.

“LEGO is a versatile medium.  As a toy, it lets your imagination rule the day.  Growing up, if I wanted to pretend to be a rock star, I could build myself a guitar.  If I wanted to pretend to be an astronaut, I could build myself a rocket,” he explains.

“As an artist LEGO is a great medium for creating anything I can imagine.  I still use those same rectangular plastic bricks that I had as a child, but now I try and use them in a way that hasn’t been seen before.  I have an entire museum exhibit touring North America that is very popular with both kids and adults, who are attracted to the idea that there is artwork that is created solely out of LEGO,”  Sawaya says.

4.  Having 1.5 million LEGO bricks is not enough.

At any given time, Sawaya’s New York studio has 1.5 million bricks stored in it.

“The LEGO company says that there are 62 LEGO bricks for every person on the planet.  That means there is a pretty big group of people who are missing some bricks all because of me.  As an artist, I want to make sure I have enough bricks on hand that I can build whatever I can think of, at any time.  That means I have to keep an art studio full of bricks in all shapes and colors.  They are all arranged by size, and are in clear plastic bins lined up on shelves based on color.  Walking into my studio is a little like walking into a rainbow.  I need all those bricks because who knows what I might be creating next:  a life-size human form, a dinosaur skeleton, maybe even a full size boat?  As I use the bricks up, I have to keep that inventory up to date, so I am ordering new bricks monthly.  I don’t know if that means there are less or more bricks for everyone on the planet,” he ponders.

5.  The LEGO art movement has begun.

“One of the most common questions people ask me is ‘How can I get your job?’  I tell them just to go do it.  I am an independent artist, and I use LEGO bricks as my art medium.  It can take weeks to create a LEGO sculpture, but I’m so passionate I fall into a near-trance while I’m working and creating.  Many of my works centre on the phenomena of how everyday life, people and raw emotion are intertwined.  Often my art is a reenactment of my personal feelings.  I am inspired by my own experiences, emotions and the journeys I am taking,” he explains.

But being an artist, why did Sawaya choose LEGO as his medium?

“I like using LEGO as a medium because I enjoy seeing people’s reactions to artwork created from something with which they are familiar.  Everyone can relate to it since it is a toy that many children have at home.  I want to elevate this simple plaything to a place it has never been before.  I also appreciate the cleanliness of the medium – the right angles, the distinct lines.  As so often in life, it is a matter of perspective.  Up close, the shape of the brick is distinctive.  But from a distance, those right angles and distinct lines change to curves.”

If pointillists worked with round dots and it looked like curves from afar, then the LEGO must be a cubed, three dimensional version.

Sawaya is optimistic about the future of LEGO art.

“Many people write to me and tell me they are going to become LEGO artists themselves.  They send me photos of their sculptures and creations.  It looks to me like a new art movement has begun.  I call it the LEGO art movement, and don’t be surprised if five or ten years from now they will be teaching it in art classes.”

More of Nathan Sawaya’s work can be found at his website, Brick Artist.


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The Five Takeaways of Craft Shows: Benita Hsueh

Many of us dream of one day quitting our day jobs and doing what we love instead.

Several years ago, Benita Hsueh did just that.  She worked at a large computer company, and decided that she was tired of working for the man.  Instead, she decided to craft.

“It all started when I was little.  When I was growing up, I would make paper cutout dresses for my dolls – either doll clothes were really expensive to buy, or I always found something wrong with what was out there and wanted to make something I liked,” she explains.

All this designing and experimentation led Hsueh to build House of Hsueh and We are Wedges, her bag/accessory design and stuffed toy ventures, respectively.  Craft shows have been an integral vehicle to showcase her work and to earn a living.  To date, Hsueh has participated in over fifty craft shows, and is something of a Toronto craft show veteran.  Below, Benita provides the five takeaways of craft shows.

1.  The best time to do a craft show is hands down, Christmas.

When I ask Hsueh when the best time is to participate in craft shows, the question is a no-brainer.

“Christmastime!  Christmastime!” she says emphatically.

“Spring is okay, there’s more browsers then.  But Christmas, the time from September to the end of December, people are always looking for unique or odd gifts.  Any other time of the year is pretty hit or miss.”

2.  Participate in the established shows – if they build it, people will come.

“To figure out what show to participate in, I check with the organizer if the show is established.  The way to know is if these people know what numbers come through to the show each year, or the ones that I see who do advertising, both online and in any popular local papers,” she explains.

Otherwise, there are craft shows where the only thing moving through the aisles are a couple of tumbleweeds.

3.  Never underprice your work.

“I definitely encourage people to craft, however when doing this, I recommend that people don’t underprice their craft.  Selling for under cost doesn’t help anyone – you, because you’re not making your money back, and second, because it’s damaging for people who make a living out of this kind of work,” says Hsueh.

4. Etsy is often used as a supplement to craft shows, and can be both a bane and a boon.

Many crafters often use the website Etsy to create an online presence beyond craft shows.

“Etsy has made it really easy to set up an online store, and it is very user friendly.  The nice thing about it is that it makes the world your market.  However, Etsy is something you have to work at.  There are millions of products on Etsy, and there are so many new products every day that you have to pour hours of work into it.  It’s hard to keep up.  Also, if you’re trying to make original items, it’s really hard to keep it original, and it’s often a place where your ideas can be taken.”

5.  Lastly, at craft shows, never forget tape (especially of the duct variety), a pen, change, and coffee.

For those people who prefer to stick to physical craft shows, the above items have been necessities for Hsueh in a variety of scenarios.  Duct tape is good for sticking and fixing.  A pen is great to jot down information.  People always run out of change, and coffee is a godsend for early mornings.

And of course, don’t forget your crafts.

More information about Benita’s work can be found at House of Hsueh and We are Wedges.  Benita’s work is also going to be at the One of a Kind Show in Toronto.

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The Five Takeaways of Soapmaking: Teresa Mak

Soap is something that we often take for granted, yet it’s something we can’t live without.  We pick it up at the pharmacy for a couple dollars, it cleans, and somehow melts away, only for the process to be repeated again.  Soap has existed for centuries, yet the average person knows little about how it is made, save for glimpses of the process in the movie Fight Club.  Of course, there’s no better way to create interest in a hobby than having Brad Pitt’s face attached to it.

Brad Pitt was not the reason that Teresa Mak, my sister and an engineer by trade, got interested in soapmaking.  Teresa was given a gift of handmade soap several years ago, and she realized how much she liked it – it lasted much longer and was much more moisturizing than a conventional bar of soap.  However, upon a return trip to the store to pick up another bar, she was dismayed to find that the soap was no longer available.

What else is an engineer to do?

“I decided to make my own soap.  It turns out that if you had the ingredients and you experimented enough, it wasn’t so hard, and actually it was really fun!”

Leave it to my sister to find soapmaking fun.  She ended up turning this side experiment into a sometime business venture called Sherlock Soaps.

Below, Teresa Mak provides her five takeaways of soapmaking.

1.  Basic soap is made from a combination of a base and fat.

The essence of soap making is a process called “saponification”.  As Mak describes, “Saponification is where a strong base, the lye in this case, reacts with fats to form soap.  As a by-product, glycerin is formed, and it naturally occurs within the soap.  I’m not sure how true this is, but apparently in ancient times the way that soap was discovered was that ashes were accidentally mixed with animal fat and then formed suds, and Romans would wash their clothes with this mixture.”

The miracle of the whole process is that the mixture of strong bases and fats, which on their own seem so useless, can create something so useful.

2.  Most commercially distributed soaps are made of unsavoury fats and/or strange chemicals.

Soaps these days rely on the supply of cheap fats, in which today it is often beef fat, palm oil, or petroleum by-products.  Which seems odd, considering that these products on their own are things that one wants to keep away from their body.

“I’m not sure how comfortable you are with rubbing saponified beef fat onto your body, but essentially that’s what it is when you’re using Ivory Soap,” explains Mak.

So much for that pure image of a baby bathing with Ivory Soap.  Mak prefers to use fats like olive oil or coconut oil.

If not strange fats, then commercial soaps also contain a whole range of synthetic chemicals.

“In a commercially available soap, detergents help to clean, sodium laureth sulphate helps to bubble, and artificial fragrances help to make it smell nice.  This combination creates something ‘soap-like’, but isn’t quite soap,” says Mak.

3.  Making a bar of soap takes about an hour, but the whole process can take a month before it is completely finished.

If you are one of those people who are interested in making your own soap rather than buying it off the shelf at the store, Mak explains the soapmaking process below.

“The process of getting the soap to react initially takes about an hour.  Here, you have to melt the fats, add lye, and mix until initial saponification.  After you ‘cook’ the soap, you pour it into the moulds, after which it goes through the gel phase.  As the name suggests, the gel phase is where the soap goes through a crazy reaction where it gets very hot and starts looking like gel.  After about an hour, it cools down and turns into a harder piece of soap.  What it hardens, that’s when I cut it into smaller pieces.  As for curing the soap, after I cut it I let it sit for about a month before it’s ready to use.”

4.  You can tell if a soap is done by tasting it.

The prospect of tasting soap does not sound particularly tempting, considering that many years ago washing your mouth out with soap was considered a punishment.  However, Mak assures me that tasting your soap is the way to tell if your soap is done.

“Glycerin is slightly sweet, and nice hand formed soap with glycerin should taste sweet.”

5. Always remember to keep some vinegar at hand for any safety mishaps in soapmaking.

If the above process hasn’t deterred you from making your own soap, it is important to remember that when making soap, lye is a very strong base and should be treated with caution.

“I recall one time I tasted a bar with what I thought was glycerin on top, but it was actually lye.  Gross!”

Vinegar, an acid, helps to neutralize any lye splashes.  And of course, when the soap ingredients are mixed, it is close to neutral.

Barring burns, the time commitment, and labour, making your own soap is a great way to build an appreciation for something we so often take for granted.  Cleanliness is next to godliness, after all.

You can also keep yourself clean with Teresa’s soaps, which can be found online at

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The Five Takeaways of Urban Exploration: Sylvain Margaine

I had always been fascinated by old, decaying buildings and what was contained within them – there is a certain romance to them, dreaming of what they were used for, what kind of people were in them, why they were abandoned – however, as a bit of a wimp I never dared venture into them.  Who knew what lurked inside?

Sylvain Margaine, on the other hand, is a seasoned urban explorer and has explored hundreds of abandoned buildings.

Urban exploration is the examination of the unseen or off-limits parts of urban areas or industrial facilities, such as factories, storm sewers, old hospitals, offices, or schools.

Sylvain Margaine is a French engineer who lives in Brussels, and has been doing urban exploration since he was a child, along with his father.

“My interest has evolved since I was a child.  Whereas before I did it as an adventure, over time I have become more conscious of the heritages of the buildings, and noted that these heritages disappeared when they were destroyed.  It has become a documentary hobby in a way, particularly when I began to  bring my camera with me five or so years ago.  I had this realization that so many of these buildings, built for utilitarian reasons – factories, subways, hospitals – could also be beautiful.”

Since then, Sylvain has documented these buildings on his website, with hundreds still to come.  Below, Sylvain describes his five takeaways of urban exploration.

1.  Sometimes abandoned structures have some strange guests.

Sylvain has come across a bevy of people in the many abandoned structures he’s visited.  “I’ve seen photographers, other urban explorers, squatters, drug addicts – it’s different depending where you are.  The one time where it was a little bit scary was in the UK, when I visited an abandoned mental hospital.  Throughout the 1970s and 1990s, a lot of hospitals shut down due to the improvement in medical techniques, better facilities, and new drugs, and many patients were released.  This one particular hospital I visited, a former patient was inside, and insisted that he show me around, and that we have dinner together – he ended up being really nice, but when you’re in a place like that, the imagination plays tricks on you.”

Sylvain recommends shouting a big hello when first walking into an abandoned building, so as to not startle the person, or yourself, if there are some unexpected guests.

2. To go urban exploring, it’s best to bring at least some gloves, rubber boots, a lamp and some spares, and a multitool.

Sylvain changes the list of items to bring with him depending on the conditions of the building.  However, there is a standard set of items he brings with him every time.

“There are four things that I find very important to bring.  First, gloves are important and people often forget these – people will scrape their hands when climbing around or examining things.  Rubber shoes are also important to keep your feet dry and to protect them.  Lamps are also important to bring – there was a time when I was leading a tour in Paris’ catacombs with five people, we didn’t bring maps and we got lost, and a couple people’s lamps burnt out.  It was very scary, with all of us in the dark with all those human remains.  Now I always bring spare batteries and spare lamps, or both.  The last thing to bring with you is a multi-tool and batteries – one time I got locked in a room when the door shut behind me.  However, with the multi-tool, I was able to open the door again.”

Sylvain suggests a couple extra things.

“It depends on the building – a camera, tripod, lenses, gas masks if the air is foul or contaminated.  Also, I find a yellow jacket helps for safety, and in case anyone is suspicious of what you’re doing, to look like you’re working.”

Sylvain suggests that other people he’s met like to bring other things, like a Maglite or tools – however, he much prefers to store extra things in his trunk and come back out to get them.

Photo from The Horror Labs or The Veterinary School of Anderlecht, by Sylvain Margaine

3.  It’s also a wise idea to bring a friend.

Sylvain also suggests bringing a friend or two, or going in a group, particularly when going into unfamiliar territory.  For example, when going to a local veterinary hospital in Brussels that had been closed for almost 20 years, Sylvain had to enter through a hole in the ground, and then fell into a deep and dank basement.  When he turned his headlamp, he was surrounded by preserved animals and dozens and dozens of rats.

“It was like a horror movie,” he shudders.

It is times like that when a friend can come in handy as support or to get help.
4.  Old buildings are like a puzzle.

Most of the time however, urban exploration is not as frightening as it may seem, and it’s the intellectual challenge that loops Sylvain in.

“First, you have to identify access points to get into the building, and when you are in the building, you have to find the hatch that will give you roof access – you end up learning intimately about architecture from different centuries.  For example, it can take hours to get from Point A to Point B even though its very close – sometimes you have to go through a ventilation shaft to get to the other side of a wall,”  he explains.

As an engineer, Sylvain is always up for a good puzzle.

5.  To stay out of trouble in urban exploration, it’s best to look like you’re not causing trouble (and actually not cause trouble).

I ask Sylvain if he’s ever gotten into trouble while urban exploring.

“Nothing serious – I’ve never been arrested, but at times it’s been very close.  I’ve been stopped by security many times.  However, because they see me with cameras, not smashing, stealing or spray painting – only documenting – they recognize that and are accepting,” Sylvain says.

“It also helps that I have prepared a speech to explain what I do – and it tends to turn out good,” he laughs.

More about Sylvain’s urban exploration can be found at and his book can be found at http://www.forbidden–


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