Travel is a Facet of Who I Am

 In Weekly Forum Discussion

When I was 28 I broke up with someone that I had been with for seven years.  It was a long, complicated relationship and, although necessary, it was very difficult to walk away.  I have no regrets now but I was lost at the time.  After being in a relationship through most of my twenties, I was so unsure of who I was after it ended.  I slept on the family couch for a few months and was nursed out of a sadness of sorts.  I had quit my job, broke up with my common-law significant other, and left everything for him except for what was in my wallet, passport, some clothes and some sentimental pieces from Africa.

The details are unimportant because this is not a sad story about a sad girl going through a sad time.  No, this is a story about Travel and why I have a soft spot for magnificent Tofino, British Columbia.  Since this trip, I’ve personified Travel for many reasons.  Travel has had a profound impact on who I am.  Travel has opened my eyes to the diversity and beauty in this world, as well as the dark realities that exist for many.  Travel has made me grateful, curious, blissful, sombre, but there are more concrete things that Travel personified has given me.  I’m not entirely crazy and I realize Travel is simply a daring and observant side of me when I’m on a journey, but I really feel like the thoughts that enter my head during an exciting trek aren’t mine … or at least, my own thoughts seem foreign to me.

There was a time when I was unsure of even the simplest things about myself: How do I really like my coffee?   Did I ever like the smell of that Opium perfume I was encouraged to wear? Was I ever really a fan of Maynard’s Swedish Berries candy?  Do I like the colour of my hair or should I dye it? At this point in my life, I wasn’t sure of what was solely mine and what belonged to a life that no longer existed or perhaps never really existed.

I remember feeling emotionally gutted.  I had gone through all the necessary emotions.  Everything was gone…emptiness. It was almost a relief but at some point, you’ve got to fill in that hollow spot in your heart and find what makes you feel whole and excited.  I hadn’t been on a trip in years and one night I received the call from British Columbia.  I had to attend a wedding and I decided that if I was going out that way, maybe I should take some time for myself that allowed my sorry ass to exist somewhere other than the family couch.

Having studied Clayquot Sound extensively in University, I knew that I couldn’t go to BC without visiting.  My journey onto the Island brought me to Tofino and this is where I spent time by myself.  This was the first time I was traveling alone for leisure.  On my way in, about two hours from Tofino, I realized I could still feel something after all … majestic Cathedral Grove made me feel humbled and I was cognizant of the fact that I hadn’t actually seen anything for so long.  Suddenly I was surrounded by so much beauty but most importantly, I was living in the moment and taking in where I was instead of focusing what had been or would be.  It was more than beauty, though.  I felt my feet were standing on sacred ground, yet I was being welcomed.  I belonged right where I was at that exact time.  I eventually headed off to make the trip to Tofino.

Having been a nervous wreck on the way to Cathedral Grove, I felt rather zen on my way out.  At the time, my only very limited knowledge of ‘Zen’ came from a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance so I was a real novice on how to be Zen.  I hadn’t booked anywhere to stay, hadn’t researched enough to know exactly where I was being dropped off.  Ultimately, I had no plans other than seeing Clayquot.  I had no idea of what I was getting myself into, except for the fact that I would be existing somewhere that wasn’t a couch.

It was really on this trip that Travel started to talk to me.  I hadn’t quite personified the guy yet but as time went by, I heard this voice in my head that was very specific to the trip.  I had been numb before listening to the new pal.  “Look over there! Those weirdos are going to be where the fun is!”  “Hey, aren’t you going to try the oyster burger?  Come on!  Where else are you going to have an oyster burger?”  “Trouble!  There’s weird and than there is scary.  Do not make eye contact.  I say, do not make eye contact.” “Mmmmm, that looks like one mean pastry that woman is devouring.  Take us to the bakery!”  I couldn’t possibly remember the exact words Travel and I exchanged and this is all meant to illustrate the types of things he said but I can tell you I felt alive and he was always there with me from the moment my feet landed in Tofino.

Tofino!  Oh Tofino, how I wish! I miss the Common Loaf Bake Shop, the one that filled the air with warm sweetness, even at a distance. I miss the small galleries and the cute stores.  I miss the restaurants by the water.  Are you still there, Schooner?  Sea Shanty? I miss the hikes and the trails.  I miss Long Beach, its sand dollars, driftwood and all the wildlife in the area.

I miss your people! … mostly small business owners, surfers and also fishermen that at times brave some brutal waters and work harder than they should for the money they make.  I miss them all.  I miss Sharon, who let me stay in her house for $30 a night.  I remember the locals that stopped me from drinking the $2 beer, letting me know that NO ONE in Tofino drinks it for a reason … a reason which apparently couldn’t be vocalized.  Wide eyes, raised brows, warning me to stay away.  I was very grateful as I observed that the locals were drinking out of bottles.  I miss the music and your attempts to dance, and how you all broke out in song at one of the most sorry excuses for a bar.  There was plenty of music, but most importantly was my discovery of Jack Johnson in Tofino.   I miss Joel and his lead hand, on their boat, Saucy, which took me out to the places in the ocean that the tourist boats don’t dare to roam.  I can still see them on their boat  … as I approach the harbour, they’re eating stew, each with their own fork in hand but from a single pot and offering some to me.  I remember the caves they took me to.  I miss the fishermen that had stories, some of which were too crazy to believe, but it didn’t matter if they were true or not, because I loved to pretend to believe them all.  Thank you for graciously entertaining a girl learning to suck in air again, without an inkling of being less than anything but perfect gentlemen.  I may not miss the surfer that called me his Ontario Girl, but I do think of him fondly.  All this and I haven’t even addressed the greatness of Clayquot Sound … and I really can’t address it.  I could write forever on this stunning temperate rainforest with several trees that are so unique and have lived for so long that they are more than deserving of legendary names.

I miss it and today I wish that I could go back to the Tofino I remember.  I don’t know what today’s Tofino is like.  I’m sure the population grew and tourism has expanded dramatically.  I’m sure that people have come and gone and nothing would feel exactly the same … not just because they’re not the same, but neither am I.

One thing that did remain with me is this love to travel alone.  This sort of personification of the voice in my head that impulsively speaks to me in a way it doesn’t at any other time in my life.  I know Travel is a facet of who I am but he really is one of my favourites.  He came along when I needed a good man in my life.  I’ve slept in my car listening to the ocean waves at night and I’ve struck up conversations with locals to find out their life stories – you’d be surprised how many are willing to talk or desperately even want to share.  Travel is never with me when I’m on a vacation with someone else, because Travel doesn’t take me on a vacation, Travel entices me into experiences!

I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be one of many journeys on my own … except Travel would be there every time.  Travel is an old friend now, though I can clearly remember Tofino as the place where that part of me was so distinct. “Wake up!  There’s too many things to experience and don’t you dare feel sorry for yourself.”

At a time, when I had no talisman to remind me of who I was, Travel taught me that getting lost often leads to finding one’s self.  To hell with needing an anchor … BE that anchor, but make sure you can be dropped into any water of your choosing.  When I left Tofino, there was absolute certainty that I was going to be just fine.  I discovered my pulse again.  I was aroused out of the grave to rejoin the living.  I didn’t know what was coming but I learned to enjoy the here and now – the present.  Travel was with me last year out in the east coast and through some of the States this year.  Travel was instrumental in forcing me to figure out what I want.  Coffee? Most days, a double double at Tims, or black with sugar at mom’s, but anything goes.  Opium? Absolutely hate it.  Don’t like Swedish Berries but I love Mike and Ike fruit flavours … especially the lime.

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