Canada: A Little Bit of the West

‘Society is just a clearing in the woods.’ Osho

Vancouver Island 

When JV and I (my Canadian brother) arrived in Vancouver, we couldn’t see much. The forest fires had painted everything white, but with ten days to explore we remained hopeful!

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Taking the ferry to Vancouver Island.
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Luckily, the smoke cleared within a few days and it became nature-heaven: colours, textures, rivers, hills, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, beaches, creatures and the tallest trees I’ve ever seen, EVERYWHERE! Cue the pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moments…

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We chose to wiggle up to Port Hardy, a fishing town of 4000 people. Why? Because no one had mentioned it, it was at the opposite end of the island from Victoria (the capital) so it was more of an adventure, and there was a lighthouse nearby (JV’s thing.) Described in a local magazine as ‘the last stop in Western Canada for relaxed and spontaneous eco adventure… unspoiled and largely undiscovered’, when we told locals where we were heading, one said ‘I haven’t been there since the 80s!’ and another described it as ‘harsh and eerie’. In a nutshell, if the tourist trail goes left, we try to go right.

We also took logging / service roads (instead of just taking the highway) to make it more fun, and that’s where we saw the most breathtaking views (below). We also only encountered about 6/7 other cars a day which is pretty special.

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Sunset at a beach south of Tofino.
Port Hardy itself was a friendly, serene, little town. Much poorer than other places we’d visited before, it felt like real, rural Canada. It was lovely, but we couldn’t deny that part of its charm was knowing we could leave, unlike the majority of inhabitants. I think I’ve learnt now that some of the magic of being free to wander, comes from knowing you’re free to wander…

The Rockies 

It’s really hard to describe how I felt in the Rockies. Like many others, I was in total awe, speechless for many of the hours I drove / walked around, more than once I had a lump in my throat. Crazy, beautiful, I wondered what the hell so many of us were doing living so far removed from magnificent, free (!), energizing nature.

Visually, they reminded me of the plates (the triangular webbed-looking things for you scientists like myself, ahem…) of the stegosaurus:

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(taken from dinosaurpictures.org)
I hope you can see what I mean in the photo below:

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Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta

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Mount Rundle’s steep, narrowing peak of reminded me of a huge wave.
The photo above was taken from Banff, the famous town inside the national park. It’s very touristy but it’s clear why: Unique mountains and colour for miles and miles and miles…

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Lake Louise as the sun went down.

So after three weeks in Canada,

I’m a little bit smitten. Of course it helps to have cultural/linguistic similarities (sarcasm!) but it goes beyond that. It feels like a positive place to be, people smile a lot and I guess I’ve always associated that with hot countries, where the way of life is inevitably slower, and warmth / blue skies make people happier. So for a country that gets well below freezing, where do the good vibes come from?

SPACE? The streets of Vancouver and Calgary felt like London on a Sunday morning: Busy enough not to feel uncomfortable, but spacious enough to avoid absorbing each other’s frustrations after a long day at work.

NATURE? Having only spent time with Canadians this trip, I’ve seen how they make time to be outside and the links between this and good mental/physical health have been proven. I’ve also never seen as many recycling bins in a city as in Vancouver.

COMFORT?  Even in the big cities, people seem to dress for practicality, rather than for fashion. You see a lot of sportswear, and the vast majority of women I’ve noticed wear little / no make-up, which to me says a lot.

EQUALITY? Again, from speaking to people, it seems most people live quite well here. Of course, there’s poverty and suffering but not compared to most of the world. That said, I was told that young people were having to leave the West coast because it was becoming too expensive.

Of course, these are just first impressions and as I head East, I’m intrigued to see if this list grows / changes. For now though, I’m trying to remind myself to enjoy as many moments as I can.  This is the first time I’ve travelled plan-free (beyond my 10 days with JV) and although plans usually go out of the window, it’s hard not to worry about what I’m doing with my life sometimes. Oh, first world problems…

To finish, a gorgeous little text by Osho. Thanks for reading!

Totality

No one is an island, we’re all part of a vast continent.
There are lots of us and we’re different, but that doesn’t mean that we’re separate.
Our variety is phenomenal.
A part of us is in the Himalayas,
another part is in the stars.
We’re in the roses,
we fly with the wings of birds
and we’re in the green of the leaves.
We are everywhere, everything.
And if we begin to play with this idea,
and let it become a reality,
it’ll change everything we do,
it’ll change our very selves.
Osho
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