When I was 22 years old, I studied in Spain for five weeks. That’s when the Travel Bug bit, and I have been obsessed with travelling the world ever since. While I have only had the privilege of visiting a few countries, I have (of course) made a long list of places I dream to set foot in one day.
Over the past few years, though, I’ve been focused on paying off student loans and saving for the future, and haven’t travelled abroad. And with restrictions during this pandemic, travelling overseas probably won’t happen soon, anyway. But what do you do when the travel bug bites again?
You explore closer to home.
I met my friend Alyssa and her husband Clayton about eight years ago. These two have a passion for adventure, and it’s contagious. While they have gone overseas (they honeymooned in France), what intrigues me most is how they explore Canada. Whether it’s backcountry camping in Algonquin, hiking and sleeping under the stars in Newfoundland or driving through the mountains in B.C., they love to experience the majestic beauty of the country they call home.
It was with Alyssa that my love for visiting Toronto first took hold of my heart. We did a Colour Me Rad race years ago in the “big city.” Until then, Toronto actually scared me. But Alyssa and Clayton went to school there and enjoyed the vibrant city to the max. I quickly caught their delight, and the highways and skyscrapers that had frightened me as a child now allure me. We took the subway, ran the race and enjoyed Korean barbecue. Another summer, Alyssa and I and our friends Andrea and Bethany spent a sunny summer day exploring the Toronto islands. It took me back to the days I spent on Bondi beach in Sydney, Australia—except it was right in my own backyard.
Alyssa also convinced the same group of friends (i.e. Andrea, Bethany & myself) to try camping with her, which changed my opinion of camping after a previous negative experience. She and Clayton have taken me hiking, and we’ve explored beautiful trails in my own hometown. And in what might be my favourite memory with them, we took a fun road trip to a little town called Merrickville, on our way to Ottawa for Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration. Merrickville is a unique, vibrant Victorian village on the Rideau Canal, about an hour outside Ottawa. It’s charm took us by surprise. We marvelled at the canal, explored the local museum, and enjoyed a quiet dinner in one of the restaurants in the tiny downtown.
What these friends have taught me is that you don’t need to get on a plane to discover new places. We often miss the gems in our own backyard because we are so set on finding what’s “out there.” Thanks to Alyssa and Clayton, I have learned to love day trips to nearby towns, trying things that stretch me (like camping) and engaging in activities I wouldn’t normally think to try.
Sure, I still have a list of countries I would love to visit. But now I’m equally interested in appreciating the beauty of Canada. And I want to encourage you, wherever you live, to embrace the landscape that surrounds you, too. Go and explore nearby. Discover a place you’ve never been before. Start making memories in your own backyard.
To Alyssa and Clayton: Thank you for all the adventures! I look forward to the ones that await us.