Nearly a year has passed since The Amazing Race Canada’s Steph and Kristen stepped onto the victory mat in the season four finale. This victory made them the first females to win the Canadian competition — and the first all-female team to win the competition in Canada or America.
The race was a whirlwind tour of seven Canadian provinces, Vietnam, and Cuba, with some harrowing mishaps (Steph cutting her finger on a machete in Cuba) and some hilarious wardrobes (Kristen donning a Sir John A. Macdonald costume) along the way. But the nail-biting trek across twenty-five thousand kilometres, while stressful, was life changing — and a journey they say they could only have made together.
Since the win, the pace of life hasn’t exactly slowed down for the couple. They’ve been using the time and financial freedom afforded by the show’s prize to—what else?—travel the world. Following adventures in New Zealand, Fiji, the UK, and Costa Rica, I spoke with them as they were preparing for a new adventure at home: recreating the most entertaining auditions from last season in a five-city Canadian tour for The Amazing Race Canada Auditions, airing only on Bell Fibe TV.
Travelling the world and competing on the show were two long-held dreams of the couple, both of whom grew up watching the American version of The Amazing Race. But life interfered; following university, the two retired athletes jumped into careers and found themselves with two weeks of vacation a year, which boxed them into a quick, all-inclusive approach to travel. “It was fine for relaxing, but it was never really what we wanted to do,” says Kristen.
When the show came to Canada, family members encouraged them to audition; the pair were fiercely competitive and seemed like a natural fit. But at that time, Steph and Kristen didn’t feel that they were ready. They hadn’t been together long and still lived apart. By the time season four auditions rolled around, however, they had been living together for a year and were up for the challenge. And despite their initial uncertainty about how the relationship would fare in the face of extreme pressure, the competition has only made them stronger.
“We were a little bit nervous that it would possibly rip us apart or break us up, because it’s just so stressful, and we didn’t know how two Type A personalities were really going to handle it all,” says Steph. “But it really brought us closer together, and now we really feel as though we could take on anything. And it’s funny, because now we don’t even sweat the small things — it’s like, if we could get through that on The Amazing Race, we can crush anything in real life.”
Just as the competition helped them grow closer as a couple, it also changed the way in which they approach travel. Now that the stakes of competition are no longer a factor, Steph and Kristen are enjoying a more laid back, just-roll-with-it approach to their adventures.
On a recent trip to Ireland, for instance, they learned just how much the game had impacted their attitudes and outlook. The couple were staying in an Airbnb on the mainland and left their rental car behind for the day to take a self-guided bike tour of the Aran Islands. In their desire to make the most of their time there, they explored the whole island — and missed the last ferry of the day by four minutes. Before The Amazing Race Canada, they might have been stressed by this turn of events; however, the seasoned travellers simply turned to each other and laughed. Embracing their newfound ability to not sweat the small things, they simply bought fresh t-shirts and toothbrushes and set off in search of a pint of Guinness.
The ease with which they now approach their travels was hard-won; the couple certainly experienced ups and downs on the show, but despite mishaps and missteps along the way, they were proud to watch the show with friends and family and feel that they had represented themselves truthfully.
“That’s how we are. That’s how we were,” Steph says of their portrayal on the show. “I think going into it, Kristen and I just wanted to run [the race] so that we were proud of ourselves, but also so that our friends and family were proud to know us. We totally were ourselves on it.”
“I’m so proud of how many friends we made,” Kristen adds, “and that we had such a good time doing it.”
This ability to stay true to themselves is perhaps one of the reasons that Steph and Kristen have become such fan favorites — especially with parents in search of positive role models for their daughters.
“One of the most special things that’s happened since the race is that we’ll get tons of messages from young girls or even from their parents, being like, ‘I’ve spent my child’s whole life trying to tell her that she’s just as tough as the guys, but it means a lot to see an example,’” says Kristen. “It’s crazy to think of ourselves in that position as role models. But at the same time, it almost frustrates me, in a way, that in this day and age, it’s still a big deal that girls can do something just as well as the guys can…I wish it could just be, ‘Steph and Kristen won’ instead of, ‘two girls won’, but it’s still special to be looked at as inspiring for younger women.”
Offering advice to future Amazing Race female hopefuls, Steph adds, “Definitely just be yourself and know that girls can kick just as much butt as guys can. The best part about the show [is that] it really tests you mentally and physically in things that you could never really prepare for. So I think that’s why anyone can honestly do it.”
Following their cross-Canada tour for The Amazing Race Canada Auditions, Steph and Kristen will be staying close to home this summer. But travelling will continue to plays a big part in their lives; their upcoming destinations of choice are Europe (they plan to attend Oktoberfest in Germany) and Africa. However, there’s one thing that the Race and no amount of travel since has taught them: the art of packing.
“We’re the worst,” they laugh. “We suck.”
The Amazing Race Canada Auditions premieres June 5th. It airs exclusively on Bell Fibe TV, channel 1.