“Not all who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien
At the brave young age of 8, I discovered my personal wanderlust. I fantasized about having a little cabin in the hills a few hours from my prairie home, in a glacial valley which cut through the prairie landscape with gentle bald slopes, meandering streams and soupy green, magical lakes. I knew these hills and lakes well, spending weeks there every summer as a boy, hiking the hillsides and paddling a canoe through the algae dense lakes. My dreams were elaborate, with many wild animals as my companions, a large garden of potatoes, corn and all my favourite vegetables, and an unobstructed view of the valley. I sketched elaborate plans and landscapes. I named each of my animal friends. And I could nearly feel the smooth logs I’d hewn to build the small but comfortable cabin. It was all there. And, for some reason, I felt as though it would come to fruition in my younger years. So one sunny Sunday, after yet another disappointing hour spent at church, I decided to embark on my journey of freedom and discovery. I put on my favourite spring coat, a thin denim hat my sister had sewn for me, and set out on the greatest adventure of my 8 year old life with no material possessions besides the clothing on my body and a willow hiking stick I’d used whenever I walked with purpose.
Of course, I didn’t get far. The hills I'd had my mind’s eye set on were a couple hundred kilometres away and I’d never been on my own away from home in my life. After walking clear across town, the furthest I’d ever traveled on my own, I realised my defeat and walked back home. To my surprise, not one person in our busy beehive of a house noticed my absence of several hours.
Fast forward to a 22 year old young man, living far away from the prairies in the shining metropolis of Toronto. Although I temporarily abandoned my dream of life on the hills, I still had an insatiable hunger for adventure. So, I sold most of my belongings, bought a bicycle and packed it with my camera and some camping gear and pointed it south towards the Mexican border with Texas. In a time before cycle touring was commonplace, I left Canada with $400 in US currency and cranked out mile after mile through New York, into the south and crossed the Mexican border near Padre Island. For two months, I traveled by bicycle and lived in a small tent. It was glorious and life affirming.
After returning to Canada and a somewhat conventional life, I went back to college, got married, had a couple of kids, and raised them in a small town, in a small house, with big dreams. Adventure and an unconventional life still nagged at me.
Don’t get me wrong; raising a couple of kids on my own in this modern world was one hell of an adventure, perhaps the greatest of my life. And we had many small adventures, in the Rockies, on the Pacific coast, and everywhere in between. But life marched on and ,eventually, my children found a life of their own. So when I was once again on my own, I embarked on another long distance adventure, hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, beginning on the south coast and finishing on the northwest Atlantic coast. When I returned from that walk, I wondered why not walk a pilgrimage of sorts in Canada, perhaps the Kettle Valley Rail system in British Columbia. Or leave my then home in Victoria and walk south through the US to Mexico. Again, the conventions of day to day life got the best of me and I succumbed to the usual.
Fast forward again to the present. I’ve recently left a good job that provided me comfort and purpose with the intention of setting out on the most challenging adventure of my life, so far. Beginning January 1st of 2022, I’ll leave Signal Hill, Newfoundland and make my way west on foot, most likely for ten months or so, until I am able to cool my feet in the Pacific Ocean at mile 0 in Victoria, British Columbia.
I’ll be chronicling my journey, here and on some sort of social media. Please join me - I look forward to sharing with you.