Title Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst
Living in the 21st century, it’s hard to imagine the lives our ancestors led. Aside from trying to eke out a living from the land and raise a family without the conveniences we’ve grown used to, I have a difficult time with the idea that the vast majority of people came into the world, grew up, raised families and died, all within 50 miles of their birthplace. I know that statistic is debatable, but the idea is the same; travel was inconvenient, expensive and arduous. Road trips were unheard of, except for those crazy few “pioneers” who went off to seek a better life!
The concept is charmingly stated in this quote from a book written in 1865:
“There is one kind of extravagance rapidly increasing in this country, which, in its effects on our purses and our habits, is one of the worst kinds of extravagance; I mean the rage for travelling, and for public amusements. The good old home habits of our ancestors are breaking up… Look at our steamboats, and stages, and taverns! There you will find mechanics, who have left debts and employment to take care of themselves, while they go to take a peep at the great canal, or the opera-dancers. There you will find domestics all agog for their wages-worth of travelling….”
Travel as a Necessity
I have a very different travel philosophy, as I’m sure do most people. For me, travel is as necessary as food, water, and exercise. I simply can’t imagine my life without the ability to travel.
I grew up in Eastern Canada, a product of the ’60’s “nuclear family”. We lived in a split level home in the suburbs with my brother, 2 sisters and my parents. Mum and Dad were pretty frugal with their money, so we certainly didn’t travel much. When we did, it was road trips.
We did spend a couple of weeks every summer on the beach in New Jersey, or Lake Winnepesaukee, or rustic cottages in the Laurentian Mountains, so my parents always made a point of having some kind of summer “holiday” away somewhere.
This was my limited travel experience as a child. But then my sister and I turned 16, and that summer my parents gifted us with a trip across Canada by train, by ourselves! This was to be an epic journey, 3,000 miles of steel ribbon taking us from Montreal right to the West Coast! Vancouver! Then on to Victoria by the most amazing ferry boat!
The world changed for me that summer, in so many ways. I grew up a lot at 16, and travelling across the country with my sister had an enormous impact. And I became restless.
Once I could drive, I discovered a way to feed my restless urges. Sometimes I would awaken in the middle of the night, get in the car, and just drive. Before I had my own vehicle I would grab Dad’s car keys and hit the road. I don’t think they ever knew about my late night road trips.
The Magic of Road Trips
Being out on my own, with my own car, I discovered “Road Trips”, those magical journeys that could whisk me across vast road miles to warmer, stranger places. I found I could drive for many hours without distraction or boredom. I loved the open road. It instilled a deep sense of wonder and fascination in the world outside my windshield.
My first significant work experience was with the CPR. It started as a summer job in Quebec at 17, and exposed me to places in my home province I had never been to before. Travel for work, what a great concept!
My 18th summer I continued with the railway, this time in Ontario. More new places to see, and every week I would board a train in Montreal for the seven hour journey to London, our base for the summer.
The Call of the West
I worked for CP off and on for the next few years after high school, but I was restless and bored with my life. Everything seemed the same; same friends, same activities, same routine. It was time for a change, and change came my way with an offer to head to the West Coast with the railway. Getting on the train to head west again was thrilling, this time as a working adult.
I spent the next three years with CP Rail in BC, traveling all over the province, living and working wherever the tracks went. I saw more of the province than most native BCers will see in their lifetimes.
The first place I went to work upon arriving in the province was Ladysmith, on the east coast of Vancouver Island. I was quite taken by this small town with a lovely harbour waterfront. I had no idea that, 22 years later, Ladysmith would become my home.
Over the years in between I did my fair share of travelling. After spending some time in Alberta going to school, I returned to BC and went into business for myself. This made it much easier to grab my backpack and hit the road. As long as I could make enough money to pay my bills and put gas in my car, I was free! I truly lived by the old saying, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
Finally, I’m Home
I found a kindred spirit when I met my future wife, Heather. She shared my love for road trips, and together we explored on day trips, weekend getaways, and epic, cross-country journeys. I was still living on the Mainland of BC when we met, but her folks lived on Vancouver Island, so we made many weekend excursions across the Salish Sea to visit. And that was how I rediscovered Ladysmith.
Those weekend trips to Vancouver Island stirred something in my soul that I didn’t know was there; the concept of “home”. Ever since moving West from Montreal, I had lived in many different places in BC and Alberta, but none had ever felt like home. They were simply places to live. I never felt really connected to where I lived, but I never noticed it at the time. It was while riding the ferry back to the Mainland from our many Island trips that I had a sense. “Going back to the Mainland feels like I’m leaving home.”
We began to talk about moving to the Island and living in Ladysmith, where her family lived. We thought it was the perfect place to raise a family. And when Heather was pregnant with our first child, we made the jump. Almost fifteen years later I still think it’s the smartest thing we’ve ever done.
Vancouver Island Mystique
I have always been completely gobsmacked by the vast beauty of Vancouver Island. I vowed from the beginning of my life here that I would never take my home for granted. As my wife Heather says, “We get to live in a place that people come from all over the world to spend their vacations!” We remind our children this every time we’re camping in one of the excellent Provincial parks, or walking one of the thousands of stunning trails, or strolling on one of the myriad picturesque beaches, or enjoying one of the endless activities to be found up and down this vast and diverse Island. I think they get it, though they may be tired of hearing it!
I’ve had several conversations with my fellow Vancouver Islanders about the idea of sharing our location with Non-Islanders. The consensus generally is, “Tell ’em it rains here all the time!” I used to think that, but I realize how much I really like to brag about Vancouver Island to people who have never been here. And so this little blog was created!
So what is it that makes travel so great? For me, it’s the pleasure of doing something outside of my routine. It’s sharing new places or rediscovering old haunts with my children, and watching their faces as they soak it all in. And it’s learning new things about our history, culture, environment and human stories that are deeply embedded in our travel experiences. Travel is learning, and growth, and the sheer joy in discovery.
In a nutshell, I love that I can travel in my own backyard, my island, and always feel like I’m on vacation. I don’t need to fly to Mexico or road-trip to Utah to feel like I’m getting away. Vancouver Island is my home. My best getaways are just out my door.
What does travel mean to you? Is it just a way of getting out and exploring, or is there a deeper connection for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on travel, so feel free to share in the comments section below.