Thursday, January 24, 2019
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
....meet new people
....make new friends
....learn a new instrument
....gain a new skill
....be passionate and spontaneous
....work 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....
....take a risk
....accept a challenge
....explore the unknown
....do the unusual
....try what terrifies you
...and go Explore....
See you on the trail ....