Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Trek - Blog Announcement!

Our first posting on the hiker forum The Trek was released today! Check out their site for cool travel blogs, tales from the trail and equipment reviews!

Check it out

2 and 4 ....

As of today I have two months left until the conclusion of my work contract and that means it is only 4 months until I am in Cape Spear Newfoundland to begin my wondrous trek!  Our preparations continue daily, we continue to refine our schedule, develop our message and digital classroom material, approach sponsors, and of course constantly debate regarding the weight of our backpacks (yes they keep changing and yes they are getting lighter).

In the wake of so many wonderful media announcements and the forwarding of our undertaking online the number of people now following Come Walk With Us has exploded!  Which is very exciting to see! 

With so many new people following along we wanted to take the time to clarify what we are trying to do while we hike along Canada’s Great Trail for the next three years.

While we trek from coast to coast to coast we intend to connect families and youth to nature through birding, promote healthy active lifestyles, and inspire a passion to become lifelong explorers, outdoor enthusiasts, and stewards of the nation’s wild spaces which are areas of importance to migratory birds and scientific researchers.   A major goal of our walk is get youth active and involved in birding, citizen sciences programs and experiential education opportunities in their own communities. 

Over the course of the next three years we are inviting people across Canada to 'Come Walk With Us', either by joining us for a few kilometres on the trail, by following our progress online, or by asking us to give a presentation.  We intend to share a positive message aimed at encouraging and inspiring youth to focus their online and screen time toward becoming Citizen Scientists, to experience the benefits and rewards of spending time in nature, and to become lifelong explorers and protectors of important natural areas.  We intend to deliver unique, positive, accessible, opportunities aimed at connecting students and families to nature through birding, and we will do our best to lead by example and inspire through passion.
In sharing our posts, pictures, and experiences online we hope to develop a forum for hikers around the world to see the beauty of Canada from the trail.  Our Facebook page, Twitter postings, and Instagram updates are sites were new birders can come to share their findings, as well as a location where experienced birders can encourage others with their stories and offer positive advice to other emerging enthusiasts.  Across all of these platforms we encourage people to tell their favourite birding stories, tales from the trail, to post images for identification and share their enjoyment of Canada’s wild spaces.

We hope to provide and intend for this to be a forum for emerging birders, naturalists, and lovers of the outdoors to get together and enjoy the natural beauty of the world.  To this end, we are focused on promoting a positive, inclusive, and supportive environment which inspires youth to get outdoors and to enjoy nature, to remain curious and to explore the natural world!  And so, with all of that said, as always, we invite you to Come Walk With Us across Canada’s Great Trail from 2019-2021!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Crisis of Confidence

So I knew this moment would come at one point and I have felt it more and more in the past few weeks since the turn of the New Year.  I felt it as the Christmas tree was taken out of the house for the last time.  I felt it as the holiday decorations came down.  I’ve felt it as I’ve tried to get homes for my pets.  The feeling has become stronger in the past week as we renovate the house touching up its paint, cleaning its carpets, donating my world away, and putting what is left into storage. I felt it as I took down my bird feeders and packed up my trail bike.   I’ve felt it as I’ve made arrangements with the Realtor.   Part of me knows it’s just stuff, it’s just a bird feeder and this home is just a building I’ll have it all again someday. 

But yesterday, for whatever reason I was struck by a shear lack of confidence.  Thoughts wondering “what are you doing?  Your house, your car, your things, your pets, your career? All gone and for what?”  All good questions which friends, family and colleagues have asked over the months.  And for about two hours today I could not have told a single one why I am doing this.  I couldn’t even figure it out myself.  I fell into a state of complete panic and self doubt. 

In the end I did the only thing I could think to do to clear my mind.  Last night I went out for a walk. Of course today our region was in the midst of a huge snow storm and -30 weather, but sometimes when you need to get out you need to get out.  Given that I am in Norfolk county, I trekked along the nearby Norfolk Sunrise Trail – ironically part of the Trans Canada Trail system.  And it was here after a couple of hours or so of walking, once the sounds of the city passed into the background and I could take in a few minutes of peace in the woods that everything came back into focus.   Nature is after all the clarion bell of my life.

Nature reminds me who I am.  Nature reminds me what is important and what is not. Nature teaches me and reminds me of my boundaries – and then tells me to push myself further.  Nature and the sounds of the forest remind me why it is necessary to stand up for what I believe in and why it is necessary to get others to see and appreciate the beauty of the outdoors.  It is with sound of a bird’s song that I remember why I am about to hike across Canada.  It is while watching the flow of a clear clean stream over its river bed that I know where I want to be.  These are small town ideals I know.  They are sentimental and to some they sound silly.  But to anyone who has sat in a forest just listening, relaxed by a river just because, or who has climbed a hill simply to enjoy the view from the top they make sense.  Regardless, of how it might all sound to some, these are the things I hold close to me in moments of doubt. 

And, as always, it was while reflecting on what I hope to do, what I hope to achieve, the memories I know I will make, the wonderful experiences I will have, and the people I hope to inspire to get out doors that got me back on track. 

I know these doubts will creep back in from time to time. On days when I am sore, when I am cold, or wet, or lonely. We all have doubts, but regardless of all of my uncertainties, I do not doubt the message I hope others will hear. For all my fears, and this temporary crisis of confidence, I will still be on the trail in June and heading west. I hope you will all join me in one form or another as we rediscover this great nation together, explore the landscape, and enjoy the great outdoors on Canada’s Great Trail. As always I invite you to Come Walk With Us across Canada as we seek to inspire you to get back into nature through birding.


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Birding: The Benefits and Possibilities for Canadian Students

Birding isn’t just a hobby, or for Scientists or just for a career!  Taking up birding can be a huge benefit to students across the spectrum from Elementary and High School classrooms through to College and University!

For Elementary School students, birding gets them outdoors, and helps them develop a relationship with nature.  Bird watching keeps students outside and active, it promotes their curiosity; it develops their practical skills and fosters creativity and innovation. All of which have indirect benefits for a range of other academic subjects.  In addition, birding and Citizen Science projects such as Feederwatch, the Great Backyard Bird Count, and CBC4Kids serve to focus the online time of young students leading to a more balanced means of personal development between nature, online activities, textbook learning, and practical experiences.

For High School students Birding continues to be a means to stay active, to ensure a healthy lifestyle, and to develop practical skills.  Experiential learning in nature gives students and young adults the chance to be Citizen Scientists by spending just a few moments each day on their phones or laptops entering what they see in nature throughout their communities. Birding, Citizen Science initiatives, conservation projects and data entry also provide wonderful opportunities for students in many communities to fulfill their required volunteer hours or to get a summer job in the outdoors!  Put another way, involvement in Birding and Citizen Science projects offers students the chance to fill in the first lines of their resume with valuable experience while helping your community, scientists around the country, and protecting the environment!

For College and University students, an interest in nature, the outdoors, Ornithology and Conservation can lead you to a range of degrees and careers. As the eminent scientist EO Wilson points out – in the 21st century both the Scientific and Technological fields will continue to grow and produce a demand for those who are curious, who discoverer, who want to explorer, research the world, and be scientific scholars.  This means that anyone with an interest in Birding or experience in field research has a number of great opportunities open to them.  Certification and degrees in fields such as Tourism, Outdoor Education, Biology, Environmental Science, Natural Resource Management, Geology, and of course Ornithology (to list just a few) are available to those with a passion for the outdoors and nature.  In addition employment as a field researcher, a data analyst, a scientific researcher, or outdoor adventure guide are all opportunities in high demand. 

For Graduate Students in particular, institutions like Bird Studies Canada offer the possibility to access a vast amount of professionally collected data ready to be analyzed and published.  All of this means that an appreciation for nature through birding is perfect for students of all ages to develop themselves, build their resumes, or to foster future career choices. 

To learn more about the benefits of including Birding and Ornithology in your classrooms please feel free to contact us at Come Walk With Us or Bird Studies Canada Education programs. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Go Explore....

For me, one of the reasons past generations were and are so grounded is that their perspectives were shaped by real world experiences.  Male or female, young or old, conservative or liberal, east or west or north coast – it didn’t matter – they know what they know and believe what they believe because their ideals are hedged in experience.  They grew up on farms and fishing boats, worked hard in the cities, studied abroad, served with distinction, and filled their few idle hours with hard play, great friends and very often whether through interest or duty and service they saw the world.  They struggled, they got dirty, and they had less, but then again I suspect they experienced more.  When they were bored they couldn’t turn on a TV, flip through webpages or play video games, they went outside, they fulfilled their curiosity, and they explored the world around them.  It seems to me that there is a lot of wisdom in emulating their lives....

One year ago I began planning for my upcoming endeavour.  At the time I was working from contract to contract (with zero savings), I worried daily that my car would break down with no way to afford being able to repair it, and I had no notion has to how to change my life and move forwards to something else.  Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining and I love my job, but I began wondering if there wasn’t something more that I could do?  Was this the life I had hoped for, worked for and studied for?  And despite all that is very good in my life, I knew it wasn’t...

Twelve months ago the notion of hiking across Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic was just a whimsical idea that kept popping up in my head.  Few people have undertaken the challenge of Canada’s Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail) and since I began thinking about it some have completed it (Sarah Jackson, Dana Meise) while others are still out there inspiring us onwards (Dianne Whelan, Mel Vogel).  But in early 2018 my parents, friends and a few of my co-workers thought I was crazy to even consider such an undertaking.  For starters it would involve leaving my job, suspending my career, adopting out my pets, disposing of many of my possessions, donating my car, selling my house (to fund the expedition), and living in a backpack for three years.  As one person said, “who the heck does that?”

Then one day I began to talk with people, and everything changed.    The idea began to become more and more concrete.  I contacted some of those who were and are on the Great Trail and their support and advice spurred me further.   After that new conversations began, and soon I was chatting with people I never dreamt I would even meet. I was directed to exciting organizations for advice and put in touch with others across Canada with similar interests.  I have talked and emailed with people who volunteer running Important Birding Sites and regions of Scientific and Environmental Importance across the country.  I have had phone calls with intrepid Explorers (oh yes Explorers), accomplished photographers, and politicians.  I have talked with popular outdoors people and hikers who have wandered the world (whose stories I could listen to for hours!).  I began making new connections, finding new possibilities, and discovering that there is a world of support out there for people who are willing to take a risk and try something new!

In the past year I have had to learn to design websites, draft professional proposals, present to NGOS and businesses, I have designed logos, designed classroom curriculum, started a blog, opened Facebook, twitter, and Instagram accounts, conducted interviews on the CBC (very cool people who got me through a terrifying experience), applied for sponsorship, been accepted, been rejected, etc, etc, etc.  In fact, there have been so many new things tried that the list of exciting firsts this year goes on and on!  And while all of it has been challenging and rewarding and some of it has been negative, throughout everything both I and this project have moved forward!

From all of these possibilities I have learned and I have grown, my interests have been refined, and I have moved forward with a level of success that I had not thought possible - all because I tried something different and because of the great people available to all of us who can advise us and help us.  I never realized the wealth of knowledge, experience and advice which is out there just waiting to be asked and listened to! 

I am amazed at what I have learned, the experiences I have already had, and the people I have met and I realize that all of this wonderful change has happened before I have even headed out!  Simply put the daily course of my life is dramatically different, more exciting, and more directed than it was just a short time ago!

While much of what I am doing and hope to achieve is not meant to tell anyone to get out and trek across Canada – I do hope that I can inspire some to be curious, to get out and discover, to explore their own interests and passions, to go birding, get back into nature, and to learn from the experiences they can have in their own backyards, their neighbourhoods, their own country and around the world.

I guess what I am saying is.....take some time, get outdoors, ground yourself in nature and experiences. Satisfy your curiosities, take a risk, and try something new this year.  Believe it or not all of this will make you not only a better and more interesting person but also help you develop new skills and prepare you for college, or university, or work....or life.  You would be surprised at the number of people and organizations I have talked to that value practical skills, experiential knowledge, and being grounded as virtues which are in increasingly rare supply! 

....take a week off, or a month off, or a year off and find out about the world
....experience a different culture
....learn a new language new people
....make new friends
....learn a new instrument
....gain a new skill passionate and spontaneous on a farm or in a forest
....volunteer somewhere doing something you know nothing about
....listen to those with experience
....have new experiences
....see others from another perspective.... daring
....take a risk
....accept a challenge
....explore the unknown the unusual
....try what terrifies you others
....improve yourself
.... learn....
...and go Explore....

See you on the trail ....