Lighthouse Park, Vancouver BC
“Of course, a writer’s journal must not be judged by the standards of a diary. The notebooks of a writer have a very special function: in them he builds up, piece by piece, the identity of a writer to himself. Typically, writers’ notebooks are crammed with statements about the will: the will to write, the will to love, the will to renounce love, the will to go on living. The journal is where a writer is heroic to himself. In it he exists solely as a perceiving, suffering, struggling being.” – Susan Sontag
I shipped my first journal home after I finished it, too much to carry and too much angst to fit in a backpack in Asia. As I arrived in Vancouver in 2012 I was on my third book of scribbles and thoughts. It overflowed with train stubs and maps, and was tied together with a leather cover that was no longer bound to the pages themselves. I found this map folded there; a remnant from a time I was still a tourist on the coast, between stories I’ll never let anyone read, and where of course I am my own hero.
Whistler, BC, Canada
A Marmot is a particularly stunning rodent, a species of squirrel that has spurred a plethora of outdoor adventure branding from Marmot Clothing to Marmot Mountain in Alberta to the more obscure Whistler Mountain Resort named not for the wind that whistles between the high altitude peaks as some would suspect but for the high pitched, excited squeal of the Marmot.
The Himalayan Marmot claimed his fame in the ethnologies of history as a bit of a gold digger. Minaro tribes would frequent their burrows often and excavate the gold dust they would hoard inside. I don’t know for sure, but if the brains behind the resort town’s construction in Whistler all those years ago named the Mountain in a proverbial nod to the mammal’s tendencies to occupy a space where money would stick to walls as the tourists filed through, they were right on the money.
Whistler and the Marmot are truly beautiful cash hogs (groundhogs that is).
Seoul Airport, Korea
I thought Seoul’s airport was quiet compared to New York’s where I was twelve hours before. The plane flew a decrescendo over the ocean and in Korea a fancy little quartet played lulling waiting passengers to sleep on benches. There was no startling ominous messages over the loud speaker. No one here seems to be worried about leaving their baggage unattended, or warning each other into a constant fear of the person sitting next to them. I know the history, and I know why it is the way it is, but the stark contrast traveling from one side of the pacific to the other was all I could think about as I paced the long moving walkways killing what felt like all the time in the world.
Hong Kong (Google Map Two)
“If I squeeze your leg it means we are going to accelerate so hold on.” Al said.
I nodded and climbed on the back of the motorcycle, I’ve driven and road bikes before but nothing with this kind of engine, nothing with what I think is called serious torque.
“And don’t tell your Mom.”
I smiled through the visor, and my cheeks squished together inside the helmet.
I couldn’t count the number of situations in the last three months I had gotten myself in that I would never tell my parents about. I was rebelling in a sense, and this secret could easily be added to the vault with just a little more sweetness because it was shared with Al and Sharon, old friends of my Mom and her family.
Sharon grew up with a backyard attached to my grandparents in Toronto Ontario. The suburb seemed like a world away beneath the skyscrapers and surf spots Al pointed out on our ride. Together they had moved to Hong Kong with their son Eric about a year before for Al’s work and as Sharon said a bit of adventure. My Aunt told me after she had visited they were open to visitors, so look them up I did.
It was so nice to see the city from a second point of view and inspiring to see people similar my parents, doing something a little unconventional. It made me feel like leaving university to experience the world, backpack through Asia, become a photographer, all the decisions that my parents weren’t ready for me to make might not be so far off base. And don’t tell my Mom but that bike ride around Hong Kong kinda made me want to buy my own motorcycle.
The Great Glen Way (North Half), Scotland
There was no sunrise over the Loch Ness that morning only a heavy fog, and the cruel cloud cover was rubbing my already grey mood in. There had only been eighteen insignificant miles up and down highland hills when we started hiking, optimistic and well caffeinated the day before. It was the first day out of the gates of Inverness along the Great Glen Way fault line in Scotland and I’d been envisioning our first camp of the five day 120km trek, above the Loch that night. Waking up to the sight of Nessy in the morning sounded ideal; but I was obdurate that day pushing too fast and too far to the point of injury to get there.
My knee burned as soon as I laid down to bed that first night, and I was paying for that unrelenting optimism again that morning as I dragged myself out of the tent to grey skies and muted views.
I paid for it every day for the rest of the trip.
An “I told you so” was well deserved but Shannon my hiking partner and best friend was quiet. The “I told you so” was communicated only in the consequences.
Buying a knee brace at a pharmacy when we dropped down the crest of the hills into Invermoriston; I told you so.
Icing my knee in a gas station at the side of the road; I told you so.
In long stretches of silence when I wondered with every step, and crunch of gravel if I was doing permanent damage; I told you so.
We stayed up too late and drank too much because we knew it wouldn’t last and for three days we wanted all of life; all the west coast would give. Eight of us were told to be quiet, but there was too much to know to keep the decibel level digestible, there was too much wine in our blood. The day hikes turned into long table dinners which turned into late night beach Bon fires and though exhausted we pushed out eye lids open for longer then they are meant to be and for a few short days we were all in love.
St Andrews Scotland
We were speaking quietly of adventure as the sun and the Scots had dropped one after the other into a traveling slumber around us; Shannon and I were too excited to sleep. The hills turned from green to grey as the light faded and now only the street lights painted the views out the window of the double decker bus. We gathered our backpacks, slowly through the wave of fatigued passengers making their way home, and covering our heads afraid of the downpour we hailed a cab to take us down passed the hidden gardens, and the historic lore of St. Andrews to Krista’s flat.
Krista and I have known each other since we were young, maybe thirteen, maybe fourteen. As life taken everyone differently from our home town she headed to Scotland for university. It was her fourth year living in St. Andrews and I knew she loved it there as much as I would come to.
Shannon and I rang the buzzer and climbed the stairs into a party, everyone was buzzing, ten international students – a fabulous girl from New York, a shy first year from Hong Kong, Krista’s Scottish roommate who later told me he was building a real life invisibility cloak. (It is a real thing) The table took up the entire room, covered in cheap wine and a puff pastry dinner. I hugged Krista like you can only hug an old friend that you’ve travelled an ocean to see, changed from my wet clothes and settled in to what felt like a global welcome to my UK trip.
It rained here in fat droplets the size of bb gun pellets this morning, just slow enough so you could feel each and every one. I walked the narrow sidewalk wet to the bone, embracing the cloud’s target practice. Perfumed in damp heat, car exhaust, and tropical flora, I felt like I made it. Working as a photographer and traveling was always the dream. This is the reason I picked up a camera years ago.
The night before filled with fried fish, and good hospitality, I sat around the rehearsal dinner table next to Jason’s aunt. She lives in Nassau six months of year, trading the great Canadian winters for precautionary hurricane shutters and sun. I asked her questions about the expat life here and learn of sky high grocery prices and contrasting gambling laws for locals and tourists influenced by local Christian moral. She tells me about the political rally that happened here last week, it ended after a charismatic speech about the issues, in a dance down the street.
My first reaction was disbelief, how can a functioning democratic government hold big street rally dance, and then in my next thought I began to questioned all of my own preconceived ideas that politics can’t be fun. We take ourselves so damn seriously in Canada, politics here is an old boys club in monkey suits and scowls. Why shouldn’t politics be fun? I’m sure voter turn out is higher in the Bahamas, and the issues are more engaging.
I walked away from the table that night to take a photo of the group from the balcony, I was working and there are times in social settings like this being behind the camera gives you a little reprieve from a situation, you can be alone in a crowded room to think, as long as you are busy.
I’m thinking about traveling, and how more than a formal school, or required training forces you to question your own thought patterns. You don’t need to necessarily change your thinking depending on what you learn, but following your thoughts to their root can bring up good questions. Being away from norms you’ve grown accustomed to gives you permission to wander around new ideas outside what you’ve been told.
The whole effort of the great affair to travel is always worth it, meeting new people, great conversation, new ideas. That evening in the Bahamas after a day in strolling the streets, writing in the shade of palm trees, and then imagining dancing politicians was just perfect.
Joshua Tree National Park
The word hobo originated quite fittingly in California in the 1890s, a traveling worker, shortening the term homeward bound and changing its meaning. I needed a shower, I’d spent all my money and Majove Desert with its prickly cacti, and life sprouted in sand begged for a return visit with a tent or a camper van. A day trip was only a tease, and as the vistas we watched go from immense to invisible, my travels came to an end. I was homeward bound in the middle seat of a ride I’d hitched out of vegas. A work conference turned into traveling bizarre and there I was personifying definitions.
The ferries were delayed due to the characteristic winter weather that misted and blew the ocean between Victoria and Vancouver impassable. I sat in my car, parked, the wind shield wipers thrashing, the radio playing with a touch of static humming through the speakers; annoying, but tolerable enough to ignore. It was the first time since I moved to the island ferries were dictating a probable cancellation policy to my plans; I was surprisingly calm. Island time is a very real phenomena here, and since I left Toronto for the coast I’ve inadvertently adapted. I wasn’t going to make it to Seattle that morning, it would take an extra hour to arrive, but it isn’t the being late that is location specific. The difference on the island is how we respond being late, and the inevitability that we may be stuck floating just off the Canadian coast in the pacific.