Vancouver, British Columbia
One year on since officially returning to Vancouver, it still feels like I just returned mere weeks ago. While I’ve fondly been looking back at the last two years on the road, I’m quite happy to stay put, and having experienced everything I hoped for and more out of my sabbatical, the transition back to a non-travel life hasn’t been hard at all. It’s nice to feel like a normal person again rather than the visitor in town, and I’m enjoying the simple things — seeing the same people regularly, being able to follow TV shows, cook, try out restaurants around town, check out live music, or even just do nothing at all. It’s even nice to hold a regular job again, though of course I lament the loss of free time and spontaneity. That’s probably the only “hard” part.
I can’t even figure out where I want to go next, or when. But you know… here’s not so bad at all.
The spaces between
With a whole four days remaining and over 1200 km (~750 miles) to cover, I took it very easy and meandered back towards Boston.
Then again, what’s another 1200 km?
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Cape Breton is the Cabot Trail. What I totally didn’t realise was that the Cabot Trail runs through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and that there was anything other than a scenic drive. I also had no idea that the whole scenic drive could be done in maybe three hours — but there’s plenty to keep you around for far longer, as I realised — and after Newfoundland, that’s a pretty short drive!
Great Northern Peninsula, Newfoundland and Labrador
Canada can easily be summed up as “vast”: giant spaces with people scattered across long distances. Having spent the majority of my life in Canada’s big cities, however, has masked this reality to me. On the other hand, renting a car and driving across Newfoundland has now redefined the meaning of what a “long drive” is: hundreds of kilometres where you’re lucky to even find a gas station or restaurant within an hour’s distance.
Fogo and Change Islands, Newfoundland and Labrador
After the cod moratorium decimated Newfoundland’s primary industry, people left. Many went off to the oil patch out west in Canada, while many stayed in Newfoundland but left behind the outports — isolated fishing communities — they grew up in.
In a time like this, it’s heartening to see some outport communities thriving in new ways. Fogo Island gets all the attention and most of the tourists, due to favourite daughter Zita Cobb (a multibillionaire tech executive) throwing in a ton of money into creating a luxury hotel (which I admittedly find ugly) and some other architecturally daring buildings scattered around remote locations on the already-remote island, inviting artists from around the world to take up residency — I managed to visit one by fortune, with German black-and-white-watercolour artist Silke Otto-Knapp opening the door allowing us a view into her beautiful, though somewhat impractical, studio where she was working on several new pieces. The island’s many towns have managed to stave off federally-imposed forced relocation, and have successfully attracted international attention and visitors that shore up plenty of jobs for locals.
On a completely different note, Fogo Island is also believed to be a corner of the Earth by the Flat Earth Society. Okay.
Still… it was the neighbouring island and its sole town of Change Islands that truly captured my heart in the mere two days (minus the daytrip to Fogo) I was there. Far more tranquil and quiet, I got completely lost upon arrival and managed to drive down every single road on the islands. Not that I minded at all! Around every corner or hillcrest was yet another breathtaking scene of coastline and houses and shacks hanging over the edges, and every person I passed by — kids, adults, seniors — gave a friendly wave. But between B&B owner and Ontario-transplant David and his partner, Massachusetts-transplant Carl and his son Adam, and their local friends Basil and Cherry, I received an overwhelmingly immediate warm welcome. Nothing like a lovely dinner, sunset boat ride around the islands, great conversation, a fine view, and some good reading material to while away the evenings!
Trinity and Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador
I woke up early two consecutive mornings to hike the Skerwink Trail, next to the hostel I was staying at in Trinity East. It’s relatively undemanding, just under two hours long, incredibly scenic…and also incredibly empty, at this time of year. I ran into one single person on the trail, looking absolutely tiny standing on the edge of a cliff. We later ran into each other and hiked the rest of the trail together, picking wild blueberries along the way. Shrouded in the morning mist that first morning, the jagged, rocky coastline, the lightly obscured view of the little town of Trinity, the quickly-hiding stouts (kind of like large weasels), and the complete quiet of an empty trail gave an aura of mystery. The next morning, in full-on sunshine (and again empty), the same scenery looked vast and majestic. Crazy what a little weather does for you.
Saint-Pierre, St Pierre and Miquelon
A mere 25 km from Newfoundland lies a geopolitical curiosity. Canada shares a border with the US, and a maritime border with Greenland, but did you know it also shares one with France?