How Wales-England gaffe sparked trip for Canadian TikToker

Not everyone can say they were invited to a country by its political leader - but then not everyone makes a viral mistake that gets their attention.

TikToker Pavlina Livingstone-Sudrich told her followers back in November that Wales was in England, and received a backlash online that led to First Minister Mark Drakeford inviting her to visit.

The error, as it turns out, ended up taking her on an adventure of a lifetime.

"There are so many beautiful parallels," said Pavlina, who is passionate about showing the world how Yukon has shaped her identity.

Yukon is the smallest and westernmost of Canada's three territories and is often mistaken as being part of the Northwest Territories.

The TikToker documents the highs and lows of her outdoor adventures in her "small corner of the world" with some of her videos reaching over 10 million views.

After Pavlina's blunder the first minister encouraged her visit to Wales to show "just how different it is".

The Welsh government paid £1,022 towards her travel costs for the eight-day trip in February.

'Wales co-exists with magic'

Pavlina at Cardiff Castle
Pavlina's first stop was in Cardiff where she lapped up the sights, including Cardiff Castle and a visit to the Senedd

Pavlina and her partner Patrick visited Cardiff, Brecon, Anglesey, Wrexham and Ceredigion on their Welsh tour.

She hit some of the best spots Wales has to offer, Pen Y Fan, Devils Bridge and - of course - Wrexham FC.

The best part however, she said, was being in the homes of all the people who welcomed her.

Pavlina and her partner Patrick on Llanddwyn island
Pavlina and her partner Patrick visited Ynys Llanddwyn, just off the coast of Anglesey

"As much as Wales is populated it also has beautiful access to forests and walking trails so whether you are almost being blown of the top of Pen Y Fan or staring out on what inspired Tolkien's lonely mountain, it is incredibly beautiful," she said.

She said she was inundated with invitations to visit people as "everyone understands that their particular corner of Wales is special and unique in a way that no other place is".

"My only regret is that I can't keep up with the invitations but it is a reason to come back," she said.

Pavlina at the Racecourse ground in Wrexham where the football club play
Pavlina went to Wrexham where she saw Wrexham FC play

In Ceredigion she finally met her friend Belinda Knott, the creator of the "cosymajig" hot water bottle carrier that Pavlina was showcasing during her blunder - stating it was from "Wales, England".

Pavlina said: "We were invited to have dinner with one family and then we were fortunate enough to spend the day with Belinda and her extended family, her children and her parents.

"Absolutely the best part of Wales is at the dining table with people who are from there - so keen and warm and inviting - sharing what they love about Wales."

Belinda, who has been just as swept up in the whirlwind as Pavlina, said: "I don't think either of us in our wildest dreams ever imagined that this would have happened. It has just been nice to spend some time with her after all this happening."

Pavlina at Devil's Bridge
Pavlina says the Welsh "co-exist" with magic

Pavlina added Wales' landscape also sparked her imagination as a "huge fan" of fantasy fiction.

"I grew up on all the old stories of Merlin and without realizing how intertwined that is with Welsh history," she said.

"I was just enchanted by the landscape, being very different from the Yukon but also just extremely beautiful.

"It has a spooky power.

"The Welsh live alongside the history. We went to Bryn Myrddin where Merlin supposedly lived and it's a working dairy farm.

"People all over Wales kind of co-exist with this magic I only grew up reading about, so that was really cool to see."

'Just like home'

Pavlina and Patrick meeting with the Sercombe family in Crickhowell
The Sercombe family were one of many offering to host Pavlina and her partner for dinner on her trip which she says was the highlight

On her visit, it struck Pavlina just how similar Wales and her community in Yukon are.

Both nations are bilingual as many in Yukon also speak French or one of the eight indigenous languages.

And like the Welsh, people in Yukon are "fiercely proud" of their homeland, she said.

"I could tell right away there was something profound and similar in the Welsh characteristic to the Yukon with the response to that initial error I made in that social media video.

"I sensed this exhaustion like 'Why do we always have to tell our story every time?' and it is like that in the Yukon where we have this incredible landscape and an incredible system of indigenous self-governance yet people mistake us with the Northwest Territories.

"So right away I could tell like, OK, there's a fierce resilience here and a characteristic of being overlooked that I can understand."

She said there were "beautiful parallels" with the language protecting culture and navigating devolved powers.

Pavlina and her partner Patrick in the Brecon Beacons
Pavlina and her partner Patrick explored some of the Brecon Beacons

The love of the land is another aspect that captured Pavlina's heart.

"Welsh people were like 'It [Wales] is small, it's gentle' but I would not characterise Wales as neither small or gentle," she said.

"It's a harsh landscape that over centuries has informed the Welsh character to be tough, to be hardy, to be on the land.

"When we were out on Pen Y Fan on a howling, windy day, and people were just like 'this is how it is' and I was so impressed with that.

"We're not waiting for gentleness when we interact with the landscape we love being on the land."

She added there was "little bit of a craziness there that I really liked," and said everywhere she went to met some quirky characters.

'Diolch yn fawr Cymru'

Pavlina in Fishguard
Pavlina explored Wales, including Fishguard and St Davids in Pembrokeshire

Pavlina's next adventure is a bit closer to home as it reaches as far as her back garden.

"I try not to leave The Yukon in the summer as they are very short and as it is 32 times the size of Wales, I could spend my whole life exploring areas," she said, adding Wales had given her more motivation to show off her home.

"The entire experience has been pretty surreal. I started my digital creator platforms two years ago, just out of an interest of sharing my very small remote part of the world with people during the pandemic and it quickly connected me with people all over the world.

"A real objective was for me to show that everyone's corner of the world is magical. It doesn't matter where you live, what you have access to it or what relationships you have.

"But this relationship with the people in Wales that's kind of organically surfaced was really unexpected, and an incredibly beautiful, charming and rewarding element of this whole experience.

"I found that with every Welsh person I interacted with they understood that their corner of the world that their particular life was very special.

"I had the most wonderful and meaningful time and I know it's a relationship that I think will stay with me forever."

Pavlina in the snow
Pavlina says her next adventure is exploring Yukon, which is 32 times the size of Wales

A Welsh government spokeswoman said: "We were excited to welcome Pavlina to Wales and show her and her hundreds of thousands of social media followers, all of the wonderful things we have to offer.

"As part of our warm Welsh welcome she saw many of the beautiful locations and excellent experiences visitors to our country can enjoy.

"Pavlina also got to share with her followers what she learned about our history, culture, language and our values."

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