• Allie Buxton

To the Wanderlusters Stuck at Home

Cancelled travel plans can be the motivation to finally explore your own backyard. If not now, then when?

After my first round of university, I celebrated by taking a cross-Canadian road trip. I bought a teal ‘96 Ford Windstar off Kijiji for $1000. It needed new brakes and the fluids ran black but it was a good deal. A firefighter my dad knew did the repairs for cheap. Firefighters always seem to have a side hustle.

I fitted the van with a bike rack, an air mattress, and a plug-in cooler. Marking the kilometres on the dash with scratch-and-sniff stickers, I headed west to Vancouver Island then east to Pugwash, Nova Scotia. The only time the van faltered was on the first day, along the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper National Park. One of the battery cables fell off; I hammered it on with an axe.

That summer, I visited 8 of 10 provinces.

I missed PEI and Newfoundland, being too cheap to pay the tolls and ferry fare. Despite my frugality, I traveled over 18,000kms that summer. I climbed mountains, visited waterfalls, and swam in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. I attended music and theatre festivals, museum and art gallery exhibits, and stopped at as many "World's Largest X" statues as possible.

Don't Drive Through

Despite being a cross-Canadian road trip, it was tempting to drive right through certain places. New Brunswick was on that list. Seeing David Myles perform at the Home County Folk Festival in London, Ontario changed that. He had written a song for the CBC Great Canadian Song Quest about his home province of New Brunswick titled “Don't Drive Through”. He promised that I'd '...be missing lots'. I was convinced, or at least intrigued. I ended up spending over a week enjoying the squishy shores of the Bay of Fundy at low-tide, cruising under the world's longest covered bridge, and eating the chocolate-filled cinnamon candy unceremoniously named 'Chicken Bones'. David Myles was right, 'I'm so glad that I didn't drive right through'.

Travel is a privilege; a chance to experience a reality different from our own. To escape, to learn, to grow. Driving across Canada that summer, I came to appreciate the unique landscapes and identities the country has to offer. Each province I visited had its own stories to tell, its own traditions, and its own hidden treasures.

During the pandemic, a lot of us are lamenting the lack of international travel. But even when there are no travel restrictions, many of us favour a holiday abroad over one in our own backyard. We put off backyard travel because we think it will always be there.

But now it's not.

My parents were going to come to visit this past spring; we planned to go to Newfoundland to see the icebergs. My sister was coming over the summer - she hasn't been to Nova Scotia before. As Saskatchewanians, the Atlantic Travel Bubble prevents them from visiting without 14-days of self-isolation. This policy is also partially responsible for the low cases of COVID-19 across the Maritimes, so I support it. But I know we're among many folks disappointed our adventures are postponed.

So for the Wanderlusters feeling stuck in their hometowns, provinces, and countries, wherever you are, I encourage you to explore your own backyard. Visit the places you haven't been to since an elementary-school field trip. Explore the parks, the trails, the hidden treasures you've put off in place of more extravagant endeavours. Don’t drive right through.

And for those with cancelled plans to the Maritimes, we've been exploring for you. We've put together a gallery and some sounds for you to travel vicariously. We hope it inspires your next adventure in your own backyard, when the time is right.


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