When I realized I would be driving alone from Vancouver BC to Niagara Falls, Ontario earlier this year I was convinced it would be a good time for me to relax and get some real thinking done. I had been living in a cramped one bedroom apartment in downtown Vancouver with a roommate who was an extrovert in every sense of the word. Having my own personal space and quiet was next to impossible to achieve, and so I looked forward to having several days of complete solitude.
I have always been fairly introspective. I figured that having this time alone would allow me to dig deeper into my brain to sort through a myriad of thoughts and feelings that had accumulated and built up there. I thought I could pick away at them one by one, boxing up and storing the ones that I liked, and throwing the rest out the window to scatter behind me on the Trans Canada Highway. I thought that within five or six days I would be a new, clean person who wasn’t bogged down by all the unnecessary junk I had hoarded in my mind.
The truth is I don’t remember anything I thought about on that drive. I had put so much music, so many podcasts on my iPhone to fill my time. Instead of thinking, it ended up that I was just in awe of everything that I was seeing. Despite having made the drive through the Rockies more times than I can count, I still get blown away by it every time. I do recall the level of exhaustion I felt when I finally reached my sister’s house in Calgary. I can’t tell you how many rocks I had to dodge and how hyper vigilant I had to be with my driving because of avalanches that had occurred. The last thing I needed was to hit a rock and blow a tire in the middle of the mountains.
The next stretch of my drive took me from Calgary to Winnipeg. Anyone who is familiar with Canada does not need to be told that the area between these two cities is a vast nothingness. Despite the roads being straight and clear and the weather being favorable, this was by far the most exhausting portion of my trip. I don’t recall thinking or feeling anything except the fact that I so desperately wanted it to be over. I didn’t even turn on my own media but instead opted to listen to local AM Radio stations. I enjoyed feeling connected to the people who lived in the area; It was just nice to hear voices of other human beings that were near by, even if I couldn’t see them and even if civilization seemed to completely elude the place.
What I remember most was the realization that even if I wanted to drive off the road and commit suicide out of complete boredom there was not even a deep enough ditch, a pole or anything for me to drive into… I’d just continue across a flat expanse of fields and probably wouldn’t even see a cow or another animal on my way.
When people think of Canada, they tend to have this idea that it’s all the same: Snow Everywhere. Let me tell you something about Canada: Every single province has it’s own distinct look and feel. You may not realize it, but once you have driven through the bulk of the provinces you spot the differences. I used to tell everyone that Ontario was all concrete and hard, whereas BC was soft and beautiful. Despite my exhaustion and the snow the trip through my home province was my favorite.
There are so many tiny towns I passed through which was a pure delight for me being that the bulk of my trip had felt like I was in the wilderness and totally isolated. I loved looking at all the people, the little buildings and seeing what they had to offer. I loved driving south and seeing the advertisements for all the camp sites that were still closed for the season and imagining myself going there one day just to see what these places would look like when winter had passed and the trees opened up bloom. I loved the little rest stops which, despite being in the middle of nowhere, always seemed to have people in them and everyone seemed familiar with each other. Where did they all live? I always wondered but it seemed that even in these places there was a sense of community.
I also loved going into the bathrooms (they’re not THAT bad) and seeing little gems of graffiti which made me wonder who the author was and what they were thinking and feeling when they wrote their phrases. Maybe they were just like me and on a trip home, or a trip to somewhere, and just had to get that little piece of advice out of themselves.
Funnily enough, I was driving home to Ontario to pursue my own dreams. I can’t say for sure, but I believe when I saw that scribbling on the wall I had tears in my eyes. If past behavior is an indicator of the future, then it’s very likely that I cried.
I thought that when I left Vancouver I would feel sad to leave it behind. I thought that by uprooting myself from a job that I had stayed at for so long and work so hard at that I’d feel out of my element and lost. The truth was that I didn’t think about Vancouver at all. When I woke up in the morning to make my drive, I shed some tears as I bid farewell to my roommate and my cats. His friend walked me down to my car with the remainder of my things and we hugged. I sat in my car and I sobbed. After collecting myself, I set my GPS, turned on my car and said goodbye. As it turns out I was too excited about the life I was driving home to feel overly upset about leaving.
The fact was that I had tried very hard to make Vancouver work and despite building up my career I had not set down roots there. I had not invested in my own life there in any capacity. I couldn’t. I think I was the only person in my office who hadn’t settled into my own desk complete with pictures of my cats, my family and a plant that I would have killed through negligence anyway. My apartment was devoid of any possession I had bought for myself outside of my mattress and computer. On the whole, I felt disconnected from the city as beautiful as it was.
The truth was that on this car ride, for the first time, I didn’t feel lost. I felt like I had purpose and direction. I felt that I’d have something and someone to come home to. I felt that I was making the first right choice for myself in my entire life and it felt good. As therapeutic as “thinking” would have been on my drive home, I felt emptied out of all of my bad choices and could feel myself emerging from all of the rubble that had piled up on top of me. Exhausted as I was by the time I arrived, I could not have been happier to be home. I realized that when I acted in my own best interest everything flowed smoothly and I didn’t have to worry.
Life lesson learned.
- Driving home: Ian Brown on the Banff-Vancouver run and what it means to be Canadian (theglobeandmail.com)
- Mini Memoir Monday: Call for Submissions (TheHeSoProject.com)
- Mini Memoir Monday: I Was a Man for a Month (thehesoproject.com)