Embrace

It’s a natural thing, surely. People find comfort in familiarity. It’s normal to miss your favourite things, if you can’t get your hands on them wherever you are. But isn’t that part of the point of travelling, of living abroad?

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

People hear about Banff around the world and, when young adventurers get an opportunity to travel or work in Canada, it is a popular destination for them to choose. Banff is full of people from across Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, the Philippines, and countless other countries.

They (and I) have come to Banff, to this part of Canada, to experience life in the mountains, to get amongst the culture, to live a certain kind of lifestyle. Yet so often I hear about what’s missing rather than what’s here.

The cheese sucks, groceries are expensive, the fries are different, TV is worse … Often the exact same complaints I heard from North Americans in Australia. Surely the fries can’t be worse in both countries at the same time. It’s just different. And that’s the point. You wouldn’t have wanted to come here if it was the same as wherever it was that you just left.

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I’m not, by any means, saying I’m immune to this trend. I have most certainly wanted for things, and verbalised this, on my travels. I’ve complained about  Australian TV commercials, about Costa Rican cheese. Yet I have noticed the tendency to do this, in myself at least, diminishes with a greater leap in cultural differences.

Barbecue

It can be easier to compare and then – often – to criticise, when two worlds are, in so many ways, similar. For Australians in Canada, or vice versa, things can look very much the same. We speak the same language, have similar socioeconomics, and are, in the grand scheme of things, young Commonwealth countries. Then, when the cheese and the fries are different, it seems to have some real significance.

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Travelling El Salvador, or Morocco, or Vietnam, one expects everything to be different and is, I believe, more willing to embrace that. You’re not expecting the comforts of home, so you’re not as bothered when they aren’t there. You respect that this is a completely different culture, and you are there to explore it.

Hammocks

That’s not to say I haven’t heard complaints about the food, the transit, the relaxed view of time, or that I haven’t struggled with these things myself at times, but it’s less of a narrative.

Chicken Bus

So here’s the challenge. Wherever you are from, and wherever you may be going, whether it’s a different province, state, country, or continent … embrace. Embrace the people, the culture, the food and the drinks, the language, the traditions, even the weather. You’ve gone exploring for a reason, to see things and do things that are different. So when you get to somewhere and it is different, be thrilled that you found what you were looking for.

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

Set Up

It feels like it’s been a whirlwind couple of months. After Brazil, I returned to Canada while Tim extended his holiday for a few more weeks to meet up with some friends in Europe who were trotting around with a tiny house towed behind a car.

It worked out quite well in my favour that flights from Rio to Canada were significantly cheaper to Toronto than to my hometown in Saskatchewan, so I could easily justify adding on a mini-holiday in Toronto to visit one of my best friends who I hadn’t seen in over two years.

I hadn’t been to Toronto since I was about 13 years old, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from the city – I’ll admit my expectations weren’t high. Though smoggy and a bit clogged up with traffic, Toronto had a much more interesting feel than I expected, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending a few days catching up with old friends (one who had made the trip to Vancouver to reconnect) and exploring interesting corners of the city, browsing in great markets, and fulfilling all of the cravings for food I’d been having that were either too expensive or simply non-existent in Latin America (think, mainly, Brie and sushi).

Coming in to Toronto and catching up with some of nearest and dearest was the best way to return. It helped me ease into the idea of being back in Canada, helped enormously by generous quantities of wine and girly movies. Too soon, it was time to end the reunion and continue on my journey “home.”

Home is home because I grew up there and my parents are there. But I won’t be moving back there and the ties that bind slowly fade, as more people adopt new lives and move away. One day, not right now, I’m sure I’ll have to figure out a new place to label home.

As I flew over the checkered fields of the Canadian prairies I realised, once again – as one often does after stints like these away – how beautiful home really is. Saskatchewan is known as Land of the Living Skies and for good reason. I’ve never seen a sunset, anywhere in the world, that rival those from home. The area is simply vast. The flat, and occasionally rolling, prairies stretch for hundreds of miles, and it is far off into the distance before land meets sky. My dad tells a joke about a prairie native complaining about the view in the Rockies – the mountains block the views. And it is true, in a sense, for those of us who are used to endless sky and being able to see distances too far to run. I believe this is why I am now drawn so much to the ocean – you get the same expansive view, the sense of endlessness, the feeling of freedom.

After a lovely month or so of catching up with friends and family, doing life admin tasks such as buying a car, getting a job, and such, TIm joined me in Canada and we quickly set off towards Banff where life in Canada was to truly begin.

As the Rocky Mountains rose up to us in the distance, I tried to envision how and explorer would feel, having reached this part of the country – having had smooth and flat travels for thousands of kilometres, and then seeing the mass of cold stone rising in the distance, thickly forested and seemingly impassable. It would not have been a good day.

We stayed in Canmore, which is about an hour west of Calgary and twenty or thirty minutes outside of Banff, for about a week. My mom has an incredibly generous friend who let us stay at the condo they own in Canmore while we sorted out where we were living. Banff, and Canmore, I had been told – repeatedly – were incredible tricky places to find somewhere to live. The vacancy rate is approximately 0%, and we certainly viewed a few duds before finding a great condo to move into, which we share with three girls from Australia.

Arriving in Banff after the summer season helped – it is such a transient town, and summer is much busier than winter. Many people were leaving as we arrived, at the beginning of “shoulder season,” which worked out rather luckily, rather than something we planned. I would certainly recommend this strategy for anyone planning on turning up in a tourist town any time soon.

And here we are, settling into Banff and enjoying all that mountain has to offer before our world becomes blanketed in snow. Busy, busy, will try to keep the words flowing!