I’m sorry I’ve been MIA this week (although, I’m sure you didn’t lose any sleep over my absence). It’s mainly an apology to myself. I love writing and connecting with the blogging community. It’s just been one of those weeks- do you ever have days or weeks like this? When it feels like a huge feat simply to get out of bed in the morning? I spent all of my energy just to get through the work week. Fortunately, the weekend has finally arrived, meaning I can catch up on what I missed in the blogosphere, and even contribute a little something of my own!
I wanted to conclude my Road to Vancouver series with a final reflection on the entire experience (To get caught up: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). It’s been over a month since my last post in this series, but I needed to take the time to really reflect on everything. I’m hoping this series will help to educate and even inspire anyone who wishes to embark on a journey across their country, whichever country it may be. Learn from what I did do, and also, learn from what I didn’t do. I want to provide an in depth analysis of this journey: Issues we had prior to the road trip, things we did well, things I would have done differently, and what I have learned since arriving.
When the Signs are Saying, Don’t Go
Leading up to our departure, an uncomfortable amount of events occurred that could have been interpreted as fate’s way of telling us not to embark on this journey across the country.
A month before leaving, our car window was smashed, and luckily only a few replaceable things were stolen.
Soon after, my partner was in a car accident, luckily minor, but it damaged the bumper, hood and rad support of the very car we planned to drive across the country. We were on a very tight budget, every extra dollar being put aside to make this road-trip possible. We feared that car would no longer be in good enough condition to bring us across the country. Luckily, the damages to the car weren’t as bad as we anticipated, and didn’t hinder us financially. We were grateful that my partner arose from the accident unscathed, and the car turned out to be just fine, but the implications were unnerving. We started to second guess ourselves. Was this accident nature’s way of telling us not to go through with our move across the country?
With the rental availability in Vancouver already at an all-time low, and the pet-friendly accommodations even more bleak, it’s not all that surprising that we couldn’t secure a place over the phone prior to our arrival. Any landlord we spoke with insisted on meeting us before they would agree to finalize (and rightfully so). Once we hit the road and left our apartment in Ottawa, we would officially be homeless.
Making matters more trying, a few acquaintances who had previously resided in Vancouver gave us promise of job connections upon our arrival. Much to our disappointment, once the time came, these connections fell through.
On top of everything, we had more naysayers than supporters in our dreams of an old fashioned Canadian road-trip. It seemed that no one could fathom why on earth we wanted to embark on this journey. I faced so much doubt and so many questions that I became numb to them.
Why do you want to move to Vancouver? What will you do once you’re there? What’s your plan? Why drive when you can fly? Why would you leave Ottawa? Move back to Toronto! You know it’s expensive right? It won’t fix your problems. You guys are crazy.
And so on.
Through it all I masked my worry with a courageous smile, what else could I do? These questions and concerns crossed my mind on a daily basis, and it didn’t help that everyone around me was asking them. Of course I was scared. It’s terrifying to leave everything you know on a whim. It’s also exhilarating and by far the biggest adventure I’ve embarked on so far.
Despite all of these “warning” signs, my gut never once told me we shouldn’t go. If we had allowed our doubters to stop us from going, we always would have wondered what could have been. Even if it didn’t work out and we ran back home with our tail between our legs, at least we could say we tried.
To quote a true Canadian, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Gretzky.
If I Could Do It All Again…
Due to our sheer lack of organization and planning of this trip, we are extremely happy with how everything fell into place. That being said, there are some things I’d have done differently given the opportunity:
Camping, Camping, Camping
For what was supposed to be a camping trip across Canada, we did very little of it. We were ill prepared and hadn’t planned much in advance. We didn’t have the proper equipment for a successful camping venture; the most we had packed was a tent. We also didn’t think to pre-book campsites, because frankly we didn’t really have an idea of where we would be and when. A tip for anyone camping in Canada in late August: Do not sacrifice warm clothing and sleeping bags. The night we did spend camping in Banff was beautiful but uncomfortably freezing. If we had been more prepared we could have spanned our trip over many more days, taking our time and enjoying the beauty of Canadian wilderness. C’est la vie.
Venture Off the Beaten Path
For the sake of ease, we followed the Trans Canada Highway for the entirety of our trip. If you aren’t aware, the Trans Canada is one of the world’s longest highways, and it connects all 10 provinces in Canada. It is by far the most direct route to take you from one province to the next. The down side of blindly taking the road most travelled is that it limits the experience of a trip across the country greatly. While we were still exposed to so much Canadian beauty, there were also many hours of flat nothingness, especially in the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. It was mostly wheat fields and sky.
Wherever you are in the world, this same rule applies to your travels. Take the road less travelled: it may be bumpier than the paved path, but it’ll be sure to provide unforgettable adventure.
Even When You’re Done Planning, Keep Planning
Plan until the night before you leave. You can never be too prepared for a trip of this nature. Luckily we were able to prepare ourselves financially, and in case of emergency we signed up for CAA (Canadian Automobile Association). Our planning didn’t go much further than this. In hindsight, we winged it. It would have been nice to have compiled a list of landmarks, maybe one per day, to see or experience while passing through each province. Also, it would have made for a much more comfortable trip if we had sold the sedan in exchange for a roomier SUV. Finally, do not underestimate the importance of a food cooler. We would have saved ourselves a chunk of change if we hadn’t had to buy every meal along the way.
What I’ve Learned
I’ve learned more about myself in the past 10 months than I have in the entirety of my life, and it’s all thanks to this trip. It wasn’t simply a drive across the country. It was just as much an outward journey as it was an inward one. There was one very obvious destination, Vancouver, and another that we would stumble upon accidentally, the self. My existence felt as though it screeched to a halt, and it was no one’s fault but my own. Some people are content with taking life as it comes, but it was driving me crazy. I was a university graduate with absolutely no career prospects and thousands of dollars of debt. I hadn’t the slightest direction in life and I was terrified that I would never find my path. My boyfriend was feeling much the same. Even though we actively decided that it was time for change, I didn’t fully understand how necessary this trip was until months afterwards.
I’ve also learned that running away from your problems doesn’t solve them. We still fight the same internal battles as we did back then, only now we’re thousands of miles away from home. It’s human nature to try to run away from our problems, whether it’s quite literally running thousands of miles away, suppressing them with drugs and alcohol, or seeking constant distraction. You can only internalize your battles for so long before they inevitably begin resurfacing. Don’t expect running away, partying or material goods to bring you happiness. It starts from within.
As much as I crave travel and adventure, being this far away from my friends and family has made me realize just how important they are. No matter how much I want to see the world, at the end of the day what I want most is to come home to see the people who mean most to me.
Finally, I believe I’ve truly found myself since being here. In Ottawa, I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew I wanted a title. I wanted to be able to call home and tell my family I no longer had to serve tables, and that I had found a “real job”. I wanted this title so badly that I didn’t stop to think what I actually wanted, or what I was passionate about. It was only once I arrived here, and I got this title, this “real job”, that I realized it’s not everything. While I am grateful for the stability and experience, I have come to understand that I mostly wanted it to make my family proud. With this, I now know what I truly want to do with my life, and I feel so at peace with this revelation. I want to be a writer someday. This became truly evident a few months ago when I started blogging more consistently. I’ve wanted to write for years, but it was only when I began blogging that I realized I might actually be able to do it. Previous to this blog, I was terrified to share my words with even my closest friends, let alone strangers. The more I share, the more I come out of my shell. Even if I never monetize it, I’m so happy to have rekindled my love of writing. There is no better therapy than self expression through art.
Final Words of Wisdom
For our entire lives we are taught to listen to our elders as they are wiser and have a lifetime worth of experience. At some point, you have to start listening to yourself. While your elders may be wiser, they don’t know what’s best for you, you do. I urge you to listen to your gut. If you aren’t happy with your circumstances, fight to change them, even if the end goal is uncertain or the road a little bumpy. If you’re craving new surroundings, just go for it, what’s the worst that can happen? If you hate your job, find a way to pursue what you’d rather be doing. Ultimately, take control of your life. Ask yourself, What do I want?Don’t let fear and doubt hold you back. I promise you won’t regret listening to yourself before others.