Sunday, January 19, 2014

One Need Not Travel Far to Enjoy The Beauty that is All Around Us

People who travel mostly focus on their travels away from home when they are blogging or sharing on social media. Surely, these travelers (at least most of them) are not traveling 365 days a year so they must be doing something at least somewhat noteworthy when they are home. Travelers usually tend to be engaged in their communities and immersed in their surroundings no matter where they are so where are all the stories about the travels in their own backyards and hometowns? I am a traveler and I have been on many trips away from my home country but I also like to embark on adventures close to home when I am not traveling. I don’t have the money or the time to be traveling away from home all the time so I make use of what is available to me in my own backyard.
When I lived in St. John’s, there was something new to explore each and every day and I took advantage of as many of those new adventures as possible. Even if I had to work that day or it was a bit cold, I always got out of the house and did something, somewhere. At times, I didn’t even have a car available to me and I still managed to find new places to explore. I went to museums, I attended workshops, I explored new walking trails, I visited parks. In the city, there was always something new to be discovered!
Since I moved back to Cape Breton, I’ve been living in a rural area. For the first year, I only had access to a car a few times a week to run errands in town but I still got to do a lot of exploring. I grew up in this neighborhood but even years later, after returning as an adult, I discovered many little places that I did not find when I was a child. The caves behind the fish plant, the little slab of beach down the street that used to be someone’s backyard (the house was torn down sometime while I was away), the giant fields beyond the power lines. I re-explored places that were my favorite haunts as a child. The gravel pits behind the baseball field, the beach that ran along the shoreline from the fishing wharfs, the (now grown-in) foot paths that created a maze in the wooded area behind my house. And on days when I had access to a car, I explored beyond my backyard.
As a child, my parents often took my sisters and I on road trips and family vacations. We were always on the road exploring or going somewhere new. On my 17th birthday, Mom woke me and led me outside to receive my birthday present. I opened the front door to see a car I had never seen before. It took a few seconds for it to register; when she handed me the keys, I realized it was my car. Within minutes of being handed the keys, I was gone. I remember the last words out of Mom’s mouth were “don’t go into Sydney until you are more used to driving around by yourself. She didn’t say not to go to St. Peter’s, which was almost 200 kilometers past Sydney. Technically, I didn’t disobey her.
I now have access to a car full time. I had bit of extra money saved away from the job I worked on last winter and I live in a rural area so I felt it best to have my own car in the driveway so I could come and go as I please. And all summer, I came and went…a lot. Within days of taking my new car home, I left on my first road trip of 2013. I drove to Moncton (stopping in various towns I had never been to before along the way) stayed with my great-aunt in Dieppe for a few days, and drove home., except I didn’t drive straight home. Straight home would have taken me along the Trans-Canada Highway – the way I had taken to get to Moncton. Instead, I took the long way home over the Confederation Bridge, across Prince Edward Island and across the Norththumberland Straight on a ferry that arrived in Pictou, Nova Scotia. That is how most of my road trips go. I always try to avoid backtracking and try to see as many new places as possible.
Since moving back home, I have found new beaches, new roads I have never driven on, new coffee shops, new walking trails, new parks I didn’t know existed...all within a few hundred kilometers of my home. I have also found some great places to just park the car and listen to the waves crashing onshore, watch a meteor shower or listen to my favorite radio show, CBC Radio 2 Drive. My adventures sometimes yield some surprises too. Like the time I saw five deer grazing in the field very early one morning on my way to Ingonish to visit my sister. Or the Bald Eagle’s nest I happened upon in a lonely graveyard not far from where I live. Or the incredible swimming hole I found about an hour away. I also took up a new hobby recently; Geocaching. This new hobby has taken me to a number of new places around my hometown and beyond and it’s fun!
Winter is settling in now and road trips are just not as fun when it’s cold and snowing. I now have to resort to other activities to keep me busy. For the past few weeks, I’ve been driving to town and parking my car in the coffee shop parking lot and listening to my favorite radio show and tinkering around with my new phone that I am still trying to figure out how to use. I’m sure that will get old after a while. Christmas will come, I will be busy celebrating with family and friends and by mid-January, my surroundings will be covered in a few feet of snow – and that means a whole new landscape in which to discover via another method of transportation; Snowshoes.
So the question is: Will you settle into the mediocrity of everyday life and spent your days dreaming of your next international vacation or will you get out there and take a vacation in your own back yard? You would be surprised by how enlightening it can be to just explore the places you spend the most time in!

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