Fortunate as I have been to do a great deal of travelling during my time on this earth, I’m often asked what my favourite destinations have been or which countries I’d like to experience more of. My answer to both may surprise you. It’s Canada.
Sure the bright lights of Las Vegas and NYC can draw your attention, the Swiss Alps are magnificent, and the mega yachts that fill the harbour in Monaco are a sight to behold, but no other country offers the diversity in scenery and culture with the same level of hospitality and warmth as our very own country.
This Canada Day I’m reminded how I celebrated back in 2009. I had been offered a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide CVO without any time or mileage restrictions. When else in my life, I thought, would I ever have such an enviable opportunity? I decided to take full advantage by spending a month riding across the country by myself. Told to cross over into the US in some parts, that didn’t strike me as very patriotic and I opted to not even bother bringing my passport. I didn’t make any plans or even reservations, I just got on the bike every morning and started riding. I ate when I was hungry and found places to sleep when I got tired. To this day, it stands out as one of the best trips of my life.
The Joshua Jackson film One Week had been released the year prior and I was often asked if I was retracing his steps. I was not. Truth be told, I didn’t actually watch the film until years later out of spite, but it turns out we happened upon many of the same places. If you’re taking the Trans-Canada Highway, it would be silly not to stop and see the Big Nickle in Sudbury, the Goose in Wawa, or the Terry Fox monument in Thunder Bay. And that’s just one province. There is just so much else to see.
Thankfully not suffering from the same affliction as Jackson’s character, my timeline was not as finite and my trip more flexible. I caught my own lobster in Shediac, New Brunswick, ate poutine in Quebec City and smoked meat in Montreal. I watched chuck wagon races at the Calgary Stampede and went white water rafting in Golden, BC. I dipped my toes in the ice-cold waters of Lake Superior and Lake Louise – its colour so vibrant, it seems like its not even from this planet. I watched an otherworldly sunset following a thunderstorm as I crossed the prairies, an area so flat that you can see the curvature of the earth. The fresh smell of summer rain still lingering on the wind, I enjoyed a wall of rainbows behind me as the setting sun reflected off of the sun showers I’d been riding through.
The concept of a singular national identity is challenging to quantify and is the source of much debate. For me, Canada means street hockey, Mr. Dressup, The Tragically Hip, the Toronto Maple Leafs, skiing in the winter and cottaging in the summer. It means the CN Tower, crisp lager and Bloody Caesars. However, even those born the same year would have a different perspective growing up anywhere between Victoria, BC and St. John’s, Newfoundland.
There are periodically unifying symbols and experiences but agreeing on a single identity or political doctrine is still unlikely to happen. And that’s okay. Diversity makes us stronger, and more interesting. So, this Canada Day, let’s celebrate what makes us different and appreciate what we have in common. Being Canadian. It may not be perfect, but there is nowhere else in the world I’d rather live. We should all get out and see more of it.