Finding freedom on the open road
“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.”
― C. JoyBell C.
I had felt stuck for quite some time, falling into the grasps of routine and structure. Day by day I’d wake up dreaming of the world, yet at twenty I hadn’t even left my own province. Before I ventured anywhere else in the world, I knew I had to see the country which I called home. From coast to coast and everything in between.
Stuck between jobs, I needed a mental break through, direction, something… anything. With less then three thousand dollars stached away in my bank account. I decided to take the risk, But this meant traveling in a way I knew nothing about.
The time had come.
My palms sweated, and nerves rose as I looked at flights. Excitement surged through my body, it was now or never, with no responsibilities or obligations to school or work. It was finally time to break free, and allow for those crazy daydreams to start taking on the shape of my reality. As I filled out my credit card information I started to break down, and fear completely had me in its grips.
Mind frantically going over the worst of each situation. Playing back and forth different Scenarios that only existed in my head. But finally I was able to breath again, and in one swift movement of my mouse, I had booked my flight into Vancouver, BC.
It was like Christmas morning when the day finally came, I had barely slept all night as my mind raced anxiously. Wide-eyed I stared into the dark unable to take my eyes off the clock which illuminated a bright red. In silence I sat motionless watching as the hours ticked away. Emotions both good and bad consumed me, and before I knew it, I made my way through the Toronto Airport juggling both a backpack and bike.
Some where deep down I knew getting on that plane would for ever change my life. And I wasn’t wrong.
The Great Escape
I stared out the window of the airplane. Unable to take my eyes off the vast landscapes which covered Canada. At some point I’d be cycling this entire route. It was much easier in a jumbo jet. I couldn’t help but feel intimidated, Especially when the Rockies came into view. A place where an endless sea of peaks meet with the horizon. It was here I’d meet some of my technical and challenging days (Or so I thought).
From the time you leave Vancouver’s coast, there are less then two hundred kilometers before reaching the largest mountain pass of the entire trip. This was my goliath. A day I figured that would break me. I feared the mountains, and the monstrous peaks that towered way above me.
It was a grueling climb that took over 7 hours. Road grades never dipped lower then 8 percent, but it was the first time I could look back and see how far I had actually come. The road twisted through the valley, carved into the rock. As I got higher into the altitudes the air became much thinner. I hadn’t seen snow in over a month but here on this pass, waste deep, surrounding me.
A sign situated at the top of the pass didn’t come soon enough, my body ached, and I craved enough food for over twenty people. This was the turning point of the entire trip. The point where I knew I was going to make it, And that fear of failure didn’t own me anymore.
Eat, Sleep, Ride, Repeat.
Eventually, I started settling into a routine. Noticing both body and mind grow stronger as the miles passed me by. It wasn’t until dusk where that dreadful feeling of solitude started to take over me once again. It was here in my little green tent that I felt most alone. But, The more time I spent here, the more I started to appreciate this time to myself.
Most nights I waited until dusk approached. Scouting out foliage just big enough to hide my tent from people and traffic that passed by. In the mornings I struggled to crawl out of the sleeping bag that cocooned me, this was always the worst part of the day. Breakfast usually consisted of a few bites of protein bar dipped into peanut butter. I’d pack my bags and leave without a trace.
Then I’d ride. Ride until I couldn’t anymore for that day. Forcing myself to a point of both mental and physical exhaustion. A point where I was proud of the work I put in. Things varied from day to day but one thing always remained the same. That I was moving. And in a forward momentum.
Traveling by bike was away for me to slow down. How many places had I missed in my life rushing from point A to B. Before my eyes I saw as Canada transforming right in front of me. Cycling up dry desert to find pine rich forests laying on top. The prairies glistened in gold and twice a day the sky would explode in array of pinks, purples and reds. I’d listened to the loons as their calls echoed on the lake. Some days, wildlife would meet me by the side of the road. Moose and black bear would stare at me with curiosity as I pedaled on by.
All my life I had grown up in the city. A place where parents told there kids not to talk to strangers. Where adults would walk by without making eye contact, and neighbours barely knew each other. But here on the open road it was much different. I had allowed myself to be open to experience. People from all over welcome me with open arms, strangers allowed me a place to shower, or rest my head. No matter where in the Canada I was, No matter what language we spoke. I could always find someone wanting to connect.
Long may your big jib draw.
After three month exploring Canada I had finally reached the Atlantic Coast. It felt strange knowing that this part of my life was now over. I knew my body would appreciate some time off the bike. Although, I felt sad to leave this life of simplicity behind. But, this was only the beginning. I had seen my country and now I was ready to see the world.