Friday, 7 February 2014

Four Strong Winds.........

After a long trip to somewhere requiring a passport, a long flight and potentially a visa, there is no place like home but once it's in your blood and your heart, soon the travelling itch creeps up and before you know it, you are into planning to get away from home again.  That usually meant another country, another culture, a big trip!

Well, home to me is truly Western Canada.  I was raised a prairie girl in the 1950's and 60's when travel was for the rich and a big trip was a few hundred miles from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Dryden, Ontario.  Since then, I have spent a month in China, embraced Cuba and sojourned into SE Asia.  There are still many destinations to the other side of the world on my bucket list (and in my retirement plan), but one piece of wisdom I have discovered in my brief flirtation with my travelling dreams is this: the true experience of travelling is not in the location; it is in the eye of the beholder and the heart of the traveler.  

My limited forays as a tourist left me gasping to catch my breath and feeling like I had just been past an amazing experience without fully being in it.  This makes me think of the countless hours I spent driving past all of those trail heads as I headed west from Calgary through our beautiful Alberta Rockies, on my way to a quick family visit in Vancouver. I would often wonder, as I sped past, 'Where does that trail lead?  What beauty and adventure liesbeyond the treetops and how would it feel to stand in the middle of the mountain vista instead of taking a picture from the official highway look out?'

The gap in my experience as a tourist was just that - the experience - smelling the alpine meadow in the heat of a summer day after an uphill hike through spruce and pine or feeling the freezing cold spray from a mountain waterfall hidden at the end of a long gravel road.  Experience that gives you the moment to just being able to breathe in the fresh mountain air without the diesel fumes of the tour bus idling 10 feet away - that experience.  I slowed down and finally did discover some of the hidden gems in my own backyard that tourists and movie stars have been raving about for years and became a traveler, if only for a day!

I also thought about how many times I had attended events during the great Calgary Stampede, tasted the beef-on-a-bun or pancakes served from a chuck wagon and watched the rodeo from a safe distance with thousands of tourists but never, not once, got close enough to smell the anticipation of the cowboy's sweat or to hear the grunt of the whirling bull. Having since lived in real cowboy country, I was able to sort out the common place from the superlative, and got to know a few real cowboys, rubbing elbows with them at church, drinking coffee with them at the local cafe and hollering like a fool for the local boy in the small town rodeo, but, by that time I was a local, not a tourist and not a traveler. 

So, this year, we will stay in this beautiful country, I do not seek to put another notch in my rather notch-less travelling belt.  I am throwing away my preconceived ideas of what traveling is and just doing it! That means immersing myself into the moment and not rushing to the next photo-op!

So if it's GaspĂ©sie and PercĂ© Rock from my elementary school daydreams or a quiet cove up the Sunshine coast looking for the hippie in me - no matter.  To the child-me, these places were the other side of the world where they spoke a different language or felt the ocean spray and where you could see creatures no prairie chicken could ever hope to meet: - whales, caribou and Northern Gannets. My imagination saw me standing there, hearing the waves lap on the shore and I so wanted to just do it.  

So, fifty six years later, here I am, doing it - well, planning to do it!  Stay tuned - will it be East or will it be West?  Which way is the wind blowing?  

For now Alberta is home - have a listen (and enjoy the landscape) - it is WORLD CLASS!

According to Ian Tyson but sung by Neil Young....


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