A Few Books, One Map, and a Little Time

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I gawked as I crossed the border into British Columbia and saw the sign read “the most beautiful place on earth”. Nothing is more beautiful than Washington state. I had just spent the last couple nights in my most favorite place in the world, the Cascade mountains. However, as I continued to weave north into the Cascades through Canada, I was shocked I had never been to this place before.

Much of the last two weeks were spent in the mountains with my dogs, and when I was lucky, some amazing women. Walking in the woods with the things I need on your back is refreshing and leaves me feeling appreciative for the things I take for granted. Good conversation and someone to share the experience with makes it exceptional. I was fortunate that, for a whole week, I had this opportunity. I even met a woman with a degree in global studies, a rare find for me!

The memories of solo travel began to unravel the minute I was alone in my first campsite. I thought back to my first extended road trip alone, and the reason for going. I was heart-broken and destroyed but a glimmer of self-worth remained as I took off south to go find something, although I was unsure of what. I’ve spoken about it before: it was an attempt to hide the dark secrets of the years before, and the solitude of my destination would help me find myself again. This time, I wasn’t running, but I was curious and searching.

Loneliness still rears its’ head from time to time, although this time I wouldn’t call its head quite so undesirable. There are trade-offs to being alone, such as being able to make whatever decision you please and being able to move at your own pace. As everyone who knows me knows, I am not one to sit still for too long and it is also nice not to have anyone waiting on me. However, being alone leaves a lot of spare time to think about things as well. I was able to listen to podcasts to think about things that interest me, ponder what truly is my “passion”, and sit with the things that I only blurt out to strangers.

Choosing curiosity over fear was a topic of a podcast that I listened to while on my journey (On Being). They said the interested people make interesting people and I was hoping to meet some. I was also curious what would happen this time around. What would I learn? What would I see? Was British Columbia truly the most beautiful place on earth? Was it still possible to travel with just a few books, a lot of free time, and a map? Would I be lonely and impatient as I had been on travels alone before?

I learned it is challenging to travel alone with dogs. I had imagined myself writing in cafes and sipping coffee, tasting beer from the local breweries, chatting with people within the vicinity, and picking up rideshares and hitchhikers. We all know that I cannot leave the dogs in the car, and Liam makes it challenging to bring them into a highly public place (loves people a lot, hates dogs). So we opted for the introverted option of camping alone. No one on Craig’s List was looking to go where I was heading, so I picked up some of the numerous hitchhikers along the Squamish-Whistler highway. There seems to be something about mountain towns where hitchhiking is a little more on the common side. It was good to talk to someone, even for a little while. Lonely or not, it is weird to not talk to another person for 24 hours.

The plus side of dogs in Canada is they are allowed in national parks, unlike in the United States. Since we were traveling by book (Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies), we were able to explore trails with an unknown visual destination. We were picking hikes based off written descriptions and accessibility, making each day a little bit more of a surprise. The book established a one to four rating, and every hike I did was a two star. Based off what those two star hikes were like, I can’t imagine how the premier ones were. The campground book (Camp Free in BC) was even better for surprises with its’ vague reports yet detailed statement on arrival to home for the night.

I was laughing before I started writing this blog, because I read my journals from one of the nights I opted for a hotel room and drank a little too much wine (camping in the rain still sucks). It reads:

Sometimes you have to sit on the river bank of the Kootenay and savor the remaining minutes of daylight and rainless evening. If I could float around this country, I would be so happy. Like a bird, not like a plane. I don’t want to depend on anything but myself. But what about my iphone… I would trade television, movies, ovens, cans, airplanes, new clothes, to just walk the earth with my friends. Now… if only everyone felt the same way. All I need is shelter, water, food, good conversation, and something to look at. Although books and maps are nice too. Tonight, I’ll just savor every inch of this mattress.

Clearly I was enjoying the map and book idea, but what would I do without that iphone? Canada inspired me in a way that I hadn’t been in a while. It wasn’t all good though. About halfway through, much of my writing became overwhelmed with self-punishment after reliving dismissal and degradation, which I will talk about in another blog.

I left for home a little early to make a layover in Cle Elum, where I got to spend a couple of days with one of my favorite people in my (still) favorite place. Every return home always calls for at least one full day of cooking “gourmet” meals. This was especially rewarding because I had been eating out of a car for the past two weeks. Canada made it pretty easy to eat local and plant-based – I even caught a farmer’s market in Cranbrook – but I was worried about all the little babies at home!

Travel gives me new scenery to connect ideas I have floating in my head, and depending on where I go, new perspectives. My compositional mindset allows me to see things in a way that I may not have before and it forces me to spend more time reviewing the small things, which I appreciate. Being alone gives me an abundance of time to read the books that have been piling up and write down the flurry of thoughts to attempt to make sense of them.

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