Often people have no gratitude for the good things they’ve always had because they’ve never known life without them. I too have been guilty of this, but hopefully less so as time goes on. After quite a lot of travelling, especially since 2016, I’ve become a lot more grateful for growing up Canadian. Sure, it doesn’t have much in the way of recorded history or culture, but when you’re young and outside for every daylight hour, that doesn’t really matter. It’s only when you’re youthful energy begins to wane and your interests take you down different paths that a change of pace becomes necessary.
As I tick off the ever-increasing number of years I’ve lived, and the countries I’ve visited, I find my values are changing. Adjusting at any rate.
With time, the frantic pace at which everything I once did has slowed somewhat. I recall now, the ridiculous mindset of “hurry”, “hurry”, “hurry” that once drove me to finish mundane chores (like brushing my teeth) as fast as possible so I could rush to bed and hurriedly go to sleep. I was like Scrat (the spastic squirrel from the animated Ice Age movies) if he had smoked crack and guzzled bottomless coffees. I did neither of those things, often, but if Scrat did he might have matched my insane levels of anxiety from that time.
If I hadn’t managed to calm the hell down somewhat, it’s quite probable that my heart would have imploded long ago. Such levels of perpetual angst just aren’t sustainable.
Now, though, as life is no longer approached as something to hurry through, I often find myself calmly pondering and questioning what I’ve created, or inherited, as a personal value system.
Take travelling for instance, and the reasons I travel now as opposed to the reasons I did so in my youth.
When I was young I wanted to see everything, to go to any new land and explore whatever was there. I would learn the language enough to get by as I zipped about taking it all in. I didn’t give much thought to why I wanted to do so. I didn’t really care. Travelling for the sake of travelling was a sufficient reason for me. Now, not so much.
In retrospect, looking back on the places I chose to venture off to in my youth, I’m glad I ended up visiting countries that were so different than Canada. In every way.
I visited Central America on two separate occasions before I was twenty. The first time was with a girlfriend for roughly forty-five days, and the second time I went with a buddy and stayed for over three months.
On both adventures, sightseeing (geographical tourism as I now think of it) was probably the main reason for travelling. New lands with different flora and fauna, big sandy beaches with warm, blue water, and mysterious jungles full of strange, wonderful sounds and smells. Eating fresh mangoes, coconuts, and pineapples filled my limited brain and belly with all sorts of novel sensations.
And now, considering where I’m at in my personal evolution, if I’m ever to engage in pure geographical tourism, it has to be to a destination where the environment is completely different from anything I’ve ever seen before. Otherwise, I find myself underwhelmed and disappointed.
I have yet to see the Okovango Delta in Africa, the magic of the Galapagos Islands, or a world-class desert. I’d also like to go to Tahiti and Fiji. Maybe do a tour of Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. And although I’m somewhat familiar with the area, the islands of the Caribbean, as seen from a sailboat, are still a major draw. I aspire to see anything truly new to me, or even familiar things, but only those places that are so stunning they never get old. As illustrated directly below.
I grew up on the west coast of British Columbia, in Canada, and lived and played in all the best parts of both BC and Alberta, so, as far as rugged beauty goes, anything less than breathtaking is grossly underwhelming.
Most of my years have been spent back-country snowboarding in mountains that very few people get to see. And those that do pay top dollar for the privilege. I’ve swam in the freshest, greenest lakes and rivers, ridden dirt-bikes through awe-inspiring slices of paradise such as most people only dream of visiting, sailed the waters of southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, and motor-cruised different waters all up and down the coast, from Vancouver to Prince Rupert.
My back yard
I’ve seen Grizzly bears in the mist of a brand-new summer morning as they amble down the beach looking for breakfast, and had schools of dolphins playfully leaping over the bow of my little work skiff on multiple occasions as I headed off to work. I’ve watched humpback whales breaching in the distance, I’ve been within touching distance of pods of orcas as they cruise by on their summer migration. I’ve caught many a giant salmon and halibut, sky-dived in the sunny Fraser Valley, climbed the Rocky Mountains many times, and much, much, much more. I grew up outdoors, and I loved it.
In this way, I was filthy rich.
And now, with all that blatant bragging about how fortunate I am behind me, what I’ve come to realize is that my motivations for travelling now primarily hinge on culture. Potential countries must be rich in history, architecture, food, language, and tradition. But tradition only to some extent, some traditions are counter-evolutionary.
These motivations seem to be the sensible approach for me, as culture is something Canada is sorely lacking. Not a wonder really, the country’s about five seconds old and has been comprised of so many different groups of immigrants since its first day that it never got a chance to form a very strong sense of identity.
What I now desire is to enjoy the finer things in life. I’ve climbed many mountains and lived most of my life in paradise, so the thought of climbing a mountain in the Balkans really doesn’t inspire much awe in my mind. I don’t care enough to put out that much effort when, most likely, I’ll be rather unimpressed.
No, my aim while gallivanting through Europe is to soak in as much culture as possible. When I want to be wowed by nature I’ll go somewhere that has an almost guaranteed probability of blowing my mind. But for now, eating authentic Italian food in a two-thousand-year-old building before heading off to the symphony will have to do.