Stack Them Up…

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Happening upon a TVO series “Main Street Ontario”, I realized that in this episode they were talking about Unionville.  My aunt and uncle lived in Unionville and I spent many years enjoying the village.  The very next TVO episode then covered Picton, in Prince Edward County, where I worked a contract for eight months.  This series reminded me of the adventures that shape our lives.  There is a quote I like by Annie Dillard that says, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.”

In Picton, I was lonely.  Even though I needed time away to think and agreed to a real estate development project, I cried regularly and missed my home.  It was there that I decided to take as many courses as I could find, including getting my motorcycle licence.  I bought my first motorcycle for $600, had a retired, farm-owning mechanic get it running for me, purchased an annual Provincial Park pass, and took myself for a ride to any park that was within a few hours, every single non-raining day I could.  Prince Edward County is a quaint area to visit and I loved exploring.

In thinking about it, I have ventured to various areas of the world for a number of reasons and it adds up to an abundance of memories that will remain with me forever.  Some of the memories were excellent and some were not so great.  I went to a high school of the arts for dancing, in the Toronto area for one school year and had the pleasure of living with my aunt and uncle.  I spent three weeks in Japan on a group dance exchange trip, even though it was the worst trip of my life.  I couldn’t handle the heat, hated the smell of raw fish everywhere, was grumpy most of the time, was at odds with the treatment of some women in Japan and missed home.  Going to university in London, Ontario, for three-and-a-half years, I loved the beauty of the city and it reminded me of home.

I spent almost two months on beautiful Gabriola Island in British Columbia, while my husband took timber and stone crafting courses.  I hitch-hiked for the first time, as this is what residents without cars often did to get groceries, on the other side of the Island.  I then borrowed a hippie-style VW van on the next grocery run, from one of the local yoga instructors.  Even though I have never tried marijuana in my life, I felt like a flower child that day, with the long standard transmission gear stick, my sandals, and tanned skin from the walks and morning photos on the ocean.  I even took a temporary job at the local marina waiting tables, to pass the time, serving wealthy yacht owners.

I did a three-month training contract in Dawson Creek, British Columbia flying on 62 plane routes during that time.  I was really glad to return home, but there I met Bill, the elderly gentleman where I rented a room.  We would eat dinner on tv trays, watching Ice Road Truckers, and walk in the evening to burn off our meal.  Bill’s son called me the month after I left saying he died unexpectedly.  I felt grateful for the deep spiritual conversations I had with Bill while I was there.

With buying a home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and spending over eight months in Newfoundland, where my twin grandchildren were delivered, I will never forget exploring the amazingness of Newfoundland, from St. John’s to Gros Morne National Park, to our place on the south-western coast of the Island.   I drove to and from Newfoundland on my own, three times and slept in a cabin on the vehicle ferry that travels from Nova Scotia to Port aux Basques. (By the way, if you are looking for an east coast adventure of your own, my five bedrooms, plus office home with two kitchens and two bathrooms, or an in-law suite, is for sale.)

Adventures have been a theme and I have certainly been struggling with travel restrictions; however, the memories will never fade.  Our dream trek around Italy was based out of a small quaint town, taking the train to explore Tuscany and Cinque Terre, renting a car last minute to travel to the hot springs of Saturnia, along the winding roads and on the Autostrada highway (after my daughter sent me an article she read about this natural wonder), and hanging our laundry outside our Lucca apartment, in view of all the locals.  The downside was my legs swelling on the long flights and crying in the Toronto airport from the pain.

We visited Greece and held hands on a boat to some Greek Islands, walked in the early morning to the Parthenon to beat the 40-degree weather,  but it is also where I burned a whole chunk of my hair off from the wrong electrical adapter.  Back in America, we rented a PT Cruiser in Las Vegas, where we were rear-ended on the main drag, and then visited the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon driving endlessly on a dirt road, during our honeymoon, where we thought we would run out of gas and die in the desert.

We also took a 58-hour bus out west, which I do not recommend.  We ended up getting off in Calgary to rest before continuing our journey.  Ups and downs were part of each adventure, but still worth every minute.

My explorations also included driving myself to Florida and Nashville for a month-long road trip while trying to soothe my broken heart.  I have spoken to an audience of hundreds of people in Halifax, Nova Scotia, driven to Myrtle Beach myself, visited many beaches on the East Coast of the United States and attended seminars in California, Arizona, Texas, Puerto Rico, Mexico and more.  I have zip-lined in three areas of the world, snorkelled in cenote underwater caves, visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa, took a horse and buggy through Central Park in New York, explored the Mayan Ruins and went on a cruise from Miami to Belize, Honduras and other scenic ports.

I also spent fifteen days travelling to twenty-one communities across Canada during the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference on private planes, commercial airlines, trains, shuttles, boats, rafts, and buses.  I also slept in an authentic large teepee in Northern Quebec, until it poured rain and ended up in a sleeping bag in a dining tent.

Most times, I did these trips on a shoe-string budget, for free due to speaking engagements, courtesy of a sponsorship organization or work contract, with gifts from family, travel points, saving our change in a jar for a year, booking $99 flights from Detroit, seat sales from Toronto, and more.  When I love doing something, I always find a way.

During the past year and a half, I also managed to travel.  I did a teaching contract for two months west of Parry Sound and got to stay in a waterfront room and travel around the area on weekends and holidays.  We rented Airbnb locations, lodges, campers, bed and breakfasts, and stayed in a family trailer before getting our own.

We have taken our motorcycle on day trips, overnight trips, and two-night trips.  We rented cabins on the water, seven minutes from our home, slept in tents and camped in Provincial Parks, stayed in Yurts, and travelled on ferry boats to get to our destinations, all close to home.

Life certainly is fragile.  We do not have a guaranteed end date.  All we have is each day, one opportunity at a time.  If adventure is calling you, find a way.  Explore your hometown, take yourself for a picnic, drive to a new place, join a friend for a meal an hour away, indulge in an apple fritter at Voyageur’s Lodge in Batchewana, take a cab to a waterfall nearby, hike Robertson Cliffs, visit a beach for photos, or do anything that brings you a few minutes or hours of joy each week.I hope that you eventually get what my husband and I discovered several years ago;  once you realize that there are no guarantees, it is essential to create your life, one adventure at a time.  What is your next adventure?  Just keep stacking them up and the memories will follow.

“Write the story of your life. Sharpen your pencil, freshen the ink & get to it. You are the author, the world your pages.” ~ Megan Hine

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