RCMP constables and siblings Courtney and Taylor Callens put their police skills to work this spring as they trekked through the stages of the Amazing Race Canada.
The duo were one of ten teams competing in the reality TV series. Contestants travel to Canadian and international destinations and complete a series of sometimes silly — eat an entire blueberry pie — and complex tasks — tie a falconer's knot. Those who finish last in each episode are usually eliminated from the race.
"Our time in the field helped us out a lot," says Cst. Taylor Callens, 25, who works at the RCMP detachment in Williams Lake, B.C. "Completing tasks were like going to calls: stay calm, analyze the situation and find a solution."
The pair applied for the race on the advice of their family. They also saw it as an opportunity to re-connect.
"We don't get to see each other that much and it was great to spend so much time together and build up the memory bank. I couldn't have done the race with anyone else," says Cst. Courtney Callens, 27, who had previously travelled in Asia and Europe, but not much in Canada.
"It just never occurred to me to go to places in Canada," she says. "Now it's like, I want to figure out which province to visit. There are so many cool spots to see."
As of this writing, the brother-and-sister team have raced in parts of British Columbia, the Yukon and Indonesia.
Since the show began airing in early July, Courtney says one of the biggest race challenges is outside of Canada — the taxis.
"We don't speak their language and they don't speak our language," she says. "It was hard to race and leave your fate in the hands of a driver you couldn't communicate with."
Season six of the series is dubbed the Heroes Edition, featuring volunteers, first responders, coaches and others who give back to their communities.
It's a label Courtney, based in Langley, B.C., says shouldn't automatically apply to her or Taylor because they're police officers.
"I never wanted to go into the race thinking of ourselves as heroes," she says. "We're just two people who go to work every day — two Mounties doing their job."
But for Taylor and Courtney, it's also a family tradition. Their father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all members.
Despite the lineage, it wasn't the family's connections with the RCMP that prompted Courtney to join. It was the encouragement of a female officer who thought she'd be a good fit.
Her brother, on the other hand, knew from an early age he wanted to join the RCMP.
For Taylor, it started at the supper table, listening to his father, uncles and other relatives — all of whom were RCMP officers — talk about their work.
He says his career will be a successful one if he can recreate that scene one day.
"If I can get to that point — sit around the table and tell stories like the ones I heard when I was growing up, where everyone seemed to be having so much fun and it didn't seem like a real job — then I'll know I had a successful career."
After several successful legs on the sixth season of the Amazing Race Canada, the Callens finished second in the reality TV competition.