The fog has settled in low to the ground and the humidity is high, true autumn is just around the corner and I’m ready for it. Our mail holds parcels of school books for the next homeschool year, we’re re-organizing rooms and talking about fall routines. I’m a reflective (overthinker, maybe) person by nature so I like to think over the past season and dwell on the highlights, remember the lowlights and think about how we will remember summer of 2016.
The biggest memory, the one that was possibly the climax of our year, is our Great Canadian Road trip when we traveled as a family of five for five weeks across this great country of ours and back again.
I don’t remember exactly when it started being fun and worth it. I do know that when we passed the border into Quebec, Jared and I gave each other a high five and the trip felt like it really started. We love to travel, we love to talk about travel and we love to think about all the wonderful places we haven’t been yet, all over the world.
We got the idea for this trip one winter’s night, our new baby boy was just weeks old and we were missing our family across the country. We looked at airline tickets and then quickly talked about other options. What if we drove? Would that be crazy? Yes, it would. Would it be worth it? Absolutely.
Our five weeks were filled with far too many adventures and experiences to summarize in one blog post. On any given day, I’ll tell you a different highlight, a different story that is my favourite.
But for now, here’s what I know about our trip- travel is always, always worth it. Spending time in close quarters, learning how to talk nicely when you’re exhausted or hungry or just can’t stand being in the van for one more minute. Seeing awe-inspiring scenery day after day with my nearest and dearest tops my list of why we travel.
We rehearsed Canada’s topography in little chants and I loved seeing our girls’ faces when we would reach a new landform. Trees, prairies, mountains…
The learning opportunities were out our windows, daily. I wrote about how we did road schooling, here. The giant goose in WaWa, Ontario that is an historic marker for the Trans Canada Highway. The monuments to historic moments in Canada’s history – the route Terry Fox ran to raise awareness for cancer, the train station where a little bear cub named Winnie was bought by a man named Harry and became one of the most beloved bears in history. Tunnels and bridges named after Shakespeare’s characters making me wonder about the man who named them. The difference between the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean, both so captivating and beautiful.
The time spent with friends and family was absolutely priceless, we stayed up late night after night, cramming as much conversation in before we hit the road again. Kissing babies that we’ve seen grow up over social media, making new memories with cousins and grandparents and great grandparents. Watching our girls run and play and experience places that we experienced as children ourselves. Kilmeny had her first sleepover with the daughter of my friend, whom I had my first sleepover with decades ago. My sister and I went shopping together and out for coffee, pretending that we didn’t live on the opposite sides of the country then each other and could share a little more then just a few days together. Seven of my eight siblings gathered at my parents’ farm, we stood around the kitchen talking and laughing over a movie, just like no time had passed. We visited Jared’s grandpa’s farm with seven of his fourteen siblings, great grand children playing with the same toys and exploring the same farmland that their parents had played with years ago. I was able to spend a morning with my adored Nana and see her love on my children with the same endearing love she gives to everyone she comes in contact with.
The days of travel sorted themselves into rituals and traditions – coffee as soon as possible and quiet play for the girls while Kieran took his first long nap of the day. Colouring and books and dolls and audio books occupied the girls for hours along with plenty of snacks. We stopped for bathroom breaks and stretches and then kept on going. We kept the iPad for the last couple hours of the day when we were all tired of traveling but still had miles to go before our home for that night. We learned to be flexible and hold plans loosely like when it poured rain when we planned to camp- we drove until midnight and then crashed in a hotel. Or when our air-conditioning unit combusted requiring a day in the shop and an unexpected rest day for us- pool time and pizza and hotel beds. Or when our weekend of camping in the mountains became an afternoon at Lake Louise due to the vehicle issues.
Was it worth it? Absolutely? Will we do it again? Maybe, in ten years. For now, we’re happy to be home and settling into our next season of adventures in Nova Scotia. It all seems like a bit of a blur, like maybe we rushed our first cross-country trip with the kiddos. But both girls can still recite all ten provinces and facts about them, sometimes geographically correct and sometimes a memory from that province. Like collecting eggs in Alberta with Nana or camping with Grandpa and Grandma or playing with friends at Montreal’s jazz festival.
We came across an inukshuk , months after we got home and my daughter and I recited all the different structures we had learned about on our trip and identified this particular one as a window, marking a good view. It’s these layers upon layers of learning and memory that make travel worth it, from learning about inukshuk in Manitoba to seeing one in the wild in our Nova Scotian home.
Thanks for reading and sharing this wonderful adventure with us! I’d love to hear about some of your favourite travel memories!