Preparing and Planning (Or Lack Thereof)
Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.
(Summer, 2014) Stagnant- that is how my existence felt post-graduation in Ottawa, ON. I had pursued a university education solely to study topics I loved the most: world religion, literature, writing, philosophy, and of utmost importance, the human condition. I loved everything I studied, but as graduation approached, the reality of the matter began to set in: I hadn’t the slightest idea what was going to happen next. In June 2014 I graduated with a Bachelor of Humanities with a double minor in English and Religion. I had a 40,000 dollar piece of paper, absolutely no job prospects and zero direction.
Immediately following graduation I began working at a pub in Ottawa. At the time this job was a blessing. My entire university career was poverty level, balancing the stress of assignments with the nagging thought, how can I afford to eat this week? I was finally in a place where I could comfortably pay my bills, afford to fill the fridge with food, and with a little extra on the side. It was extremely rewarding to not worry about money. At least, for a while it was. On a daily basis customers would ask, what do you want to do? what did you get your degree in? And what do you plan to do with that? I hated these questions with a passion. They angered me. These were the questions I was suppressing, I didn’t want to think about them. When my family posed these same questions, I’d have the same reaction. My chest would tighten, I’d feel short of breath. My biggest fear at the time was that I wouldn’t amount to anything, I’d disappoint my family, and ultimately I’d disappoint myself. There is no amount of money that can heal those wounds.
(Summer 2015) It was during this time that Jon and I would talk about our dreams. Where we would travel, what we wanted to do with our lives. We talked about these things on a daily basis, yet we were so lethargic that I wondered if we would ever make it happen or if we would succumb to the reality of our lives in Ottawa, and give up on our wandering dreams. As I explained in Part 1, Vancouver had always been a dream destination for myself, and having lived there previously himself, Jon confirmed that it lived up to its reputation. My dream of a trip across Canada re-emerged. One evening Jon came into my work while I was bar-tending and asked me if I wanted to make our dreams a reality, drive across Canada and settle in Vancouver. Of course my answer was YES!! And so it was settled. Two impulsive 20-somethings were going to drive across the country and live in Vancouver.
The Art of Budgeting, Downsizing and Letting Go
We began half-heartedly planning what we would do once we actually arrived in Vancouver, focusing all of our energy on planning the trip itself. Our first order of business was to begin saving rather than spending. I had to kick my materialistic habits, so rather than spending my tips at Sephora, I’d put them into our Vancouver savings jar. Since neither of us had taken a trip of this capacity, it was difficult to really know how much money we would need. We came up with a rough estimate by drafting a budget. Our original plan was to leave around August 19th and spend 10 days on the road so we could take our time, enjoy various camp sites and explore our beautiful country. Our (approximate) budget was as follows:
- Gas: ≈ $400
- CAA (Canadian Automobile Association): $100
- Food: ≈ $200
- Rent (First month, security deposit, pet deposit): minimum $2000
- Camping costs (Equipment, campsite costs): ≈ $400
- Living costs upon arrival: ≈$2000
- Total cost: ≈$5100
Since our job hunt would begin upon arrival, we needed to have as much extra money as possible to support ourselves until we began receiving an income. We only had a couple of months to save $5100, and with our combined income this goal was next to impossible. Furthermore, Jon’s Mazda 3 sedan was not going to fit us, our dog and all of our belongings, so the answer was clear: Anything we didn’t absolutely need was to be sold on Kijiji. We sold our electronics such as our TV and Playstation 3, any furniture that hadn’t been found on the side of the road, and the most heart-breaking, our hockey equipment. We rid ourselves of everything and anything that could help us reach our goal. We did in fact reach our goal, yet we still had way too much stuff to bring with us to Vancouver. The downsizing continued, this time with the one area of our apartment I had been avoiding: the closet.
I had 4 categories for my clothes and shoes:
- Clothes to bring for the trip
- Clothes to have shipped via Greyhound (1 box each cost around $50/box; we decided on 2)
- Clothes to leave at my parents house
- Clothes to throw away
Much to my surprise and disappointment, this part of the downsizing was by far the most difficult for me. It really confirmed how attached I was to material belongings, so much so that I had numerous emotional breakdowns while trying to decide which clothes I had to let go of. I remember sitting surrounded by piles of my clothes, crying my eyes out as I threw that little black dress that I loved (and wore once) into the “throw away” pile, while simultaneously yelling at myself for caring so much. We were finally taking that leap to make irreplaceable memories, yet I couldn’t let go of replaceable clothes? Once I began to look at the bigger picture, letting go of my material belongings became much easier, almost like a weight off my chest. I learned so much about myself simply in the process of preparing for the trip. I realized I had been buying happiness. I was trying to fill a void with stuff rather than experiences. Why spend $50 on a new eyeshadow palette when that money could be spent camping for two nights in Banff? Spending money on stuff brings instant gratification, but experiences are priceless. We packed and unpacked the car until we finally made everything fit, each time downsizing more and more. Eventually, everything we absolutely needed fit, and that felt like a huge feat.
Lake Louise, Banff, AB.
As our departure date approached, we still hadn’t the slightest clue where we were going to live or work upon arrival. Our attempts to solidify a living situation failed because most rentals in Vancouver aren’t pet-friendly, and those who were wanted to meet us and Marley prior to making any arrangements. We had however planned our route. We decided to take the Trans Canada Highway, the most direct and fool-proof route for first time road-trippers.
We would span 5 provinces (Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia). We used Google Maps to pinpoint campsites in each province that were also easily accessible via the Trans Canada Highway. While we could have planned an even more scenic trip by venturing off-track, we decided it would be best to play it safe and allow the Trans Canada to guide us.
And so, on August 20th, 2015, our adventure across Canada began, with only a destination in mind.
Part 3 and beyond will cover our experiences on our journey, from a sneak peak of the Northern Lights to breathtaking Banff and even a near death experience. Also, if there is interest, I want to conclude by writing a reflection on what I learned on this trip, and what I would have done differently.