I was gone from home and everything I knew for more than three months, living in places unfamiliar to me around people I did not know or barely knew. The Canadian Rockies and the U.S. Pacific Northwest consumed me. Like a wave, the experience swept away many pains, frustrations and annoying attitudes that had been poisoning me. Okay…I know I’m being dramatic. But I believe this trip was a truly life-changing one for me. I am a new person. I am admittedly still annoyed with a lot of things, both about the trip and about life in general. But the shadows I suspect will prove to be permanent are the good ones–memories that will transform into glowing backward-looking beacons of happiness in my old age. The bad memories of my trip are fading, along with bad memories from eons ago. Give me a few more weeks, and I’ll be safe to be around again.
Now that I am home, my mind is swirling from memory to memory like a breeze in a pile of leaves, stirring things up and trying to make sense of it. It might have been easier to analyze each phase of the trip on the spot, I know, but that ability somehow eluded me. For one thing, it was much more difficult and expensive to connect to the Internet while I was gone than I thought it would be. That in itself was a revelation that changed my view of the world as I had known it. It kept me from sharing in the immediate what I will now try to share after the fact, in pieces, as if I was digging nuggets of gold (and some dirty lumps of coal) from my memory.
Some of the wonderful things I encountered on the trip were as fantastic and soothing and breathtaking as I thought they would be: mountains, for example, and more mountains, and more mountains…and opaque blue lakes that became crystal clear when you got close to them. I met rare animals as well as ever-present (but no less grand) animals that seemed to have been placed there for the benefit of tourists like me. I climbed forested paths, walked through curtains of rain, teetered on the edges of cavernous canyons, and breathed in the sultry air around waterfalls. I was surprised by alpine flowers surviving the autumn chill, caterpillars on beaches, and forests of steel-and-glass skyscrapers.
On the other hand (I just want to get the complaining off my chest), at the moment I seem to believe that every single, solitary day was filled with frustration and angst. This is my more personal blog, so I think it’s okay to share that little unexpected bubbles of sadness, fear and horror floated up from the depths of my belly and shocked me with memories and feelings I thought had been long gone. At first, I thought I might be going crazy. But I then realized it was just the openness of my surroundings. Without familiar distractions around me to buffer those pains, old baggage could be dealt with purely, and I hope completely.
Other than complaints of things that ultimately resulted in a positive personal catharsis, I have this complaint, and no one to blame but myself and my incomplete pre-trip research: I knew I would be challenged to find places to sleep in the Jeep, but in truth I was breaking the law (no camping in Canadian national parks except in campgrounds–and I found out early, the hard way, that means no overnight parking anywhere if you are sleeping in the vehicle). I began to feel like a criminal, always looking over my shoulder to see if anyone noticed I had slept in a hotel parking lot, in a remote picnic area, or on a street. I had enough money to stagger stealth nights with legitimate nights in campgrounds–and even one night in a hotel! But the experience was much more intense than I had expected. It added to the stress. I almost came home, but so many things kept me there–kept me moving toward whatever it was I was following, and I have to admit I’m not sure what that was yet.
* Food was extremely expensive in Canada.
* It took a week and a half for materials sent by my clients to arrive from the U.S., which meant I was stuck in place until things arrived.
* Coffee shop owners were not as happy to see me arrive with my computer as they are at home. The most welcoming place was a pizza restaurant in Jasper called LouLous, where I made a few true friends.
* I had a flat tire and my 4×4 shifter went out–in the Canadian Rockies of all places, grrr. My third-party warranty was not valid in Canada.
* I could not afford creme brulee every time it was available.
* There were few picnic areas where I could cook on my propane pedestal stove.
* There were few roads to explore in my Jeep other than the highly-civilized, relentlessly curbed gerbil runs throughout the parks that kept tourists where park officials could control them. Highly annoying, and I think a crime to keep people from experiencing more of the earth that was given to us all.
* The pallet I constructed for the back of the truck didn’t work, and I spent a month of agonized sleeping before breaking down and buying a perfect 3-inch Thermarest LuxuryMap self-inflatable backpacker mattress. (There went more of my grocery money.)
* Okay…many more complaints, but now I’m tired of complaining. As I said, those memories are fading.
Now that I’m getting the annoyances of the trip off my chest, I really do remember a gazillion exciting, wonderful, amazing things I am eager to share. I know I won’t have time to share everything, but I hope you’ll check in here and in my business blog now and then to see some of the photos I post and stories I have to tell.
The good shadows of the trip remind me: We live in a world that is even more amazing than you know. If you are inspired to visit even one of the places I tell about, I think I will have helped to enrich your life. If you are unable to visit, maybe just hearing about those places and the simple treasures I discovered will inspire you and create healing secondhand shadows in your own life.