For many of us, travel means visiting other countries but at some point I believe we all need to see what our own country has to offer. We get a unique perspective on life when we meet people whose way of life is different from our own and yet we seem to assume that our fellow Canadians (or Americans…) have a similar life experience simply because we live in the same country, yet nothing could be further from the truth.
My parents believed that it was important for our family to see the rest of Canada and so not once but twice, my dad took five weeks of his vacation time in one block, pulled us four kids out of school, and drove us across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax and back. The experience was the greatest Social Studies lesson we could ever have and one that I will remember forever.
Our first trip was in 1972, when I was 12 and my siblings were 11, 9, and 8. The four of us were packed into our black Chev (three in the back and one in front), along with my mom and dad, and our young Lab, Goldie, on the floor under my mom’s feet. We pulled a tent trailer and camped the entire way, with only a handful of stops at cheap motels when absolutely we had to. We stayed in Provincial or National Parks wherever possible and only stayed in private campgrounds when nothing else was available. We camped through the sun and rain, black flies and mosquitoes, capital cities and green forests – what an experience!
And as if that wasn’t enough, we did the same trip once again in 1975 when our ages ranged from 11 to 15. This time we had a little more seating room in our Volkswagen van and we got to alternate seats every 100 miles so every one had a turn in the coveted front seat (thanks Mom!). On that trip, we brought two orange pup tents as well as our tent trailer, and my siblings and I each had a job to do when we arrived at the site. We were able to have the entire site set up in 15 minutes if everyone did their job.
Travelling for over a month with four kids and a dog takes a special kind of crazy, and it’s hard to believe my parents made the decision to do this trip twice, but I can tell you that those two trips had a tremendous impact on all of us – not just the knowledge and experience gained from visiting nine Canadian provinces (we couldn’t make it to NFLD) and sleeping under canvas (ok nylon) in many of the most famous Canadian parks – but also in the experience gained in having only your siblings to hang out with for more than a month (and this was pre-techology). I’m not saying we always got along, but there is something special about spending so much time bonding with your family.
The 1975 trip was our last camping trip as a family, as my Dad was killed in an industrial accident at work the following December and so it was poignant to have had those memories to hang on to after he was gone.
I was never able to take my own children on a similar trip, so one of the first things I wanted to do when I retired, was to visit the Maritime Provinces in fall, when most of the tourists were gone, and the beautiful fall colours would be at their peak.
Erik had never toured Eastern Canada, with the exception of his arrival in Halifax in 1956, when he and his family emigrated from Denmark. Although they took a train from Halifax to Alberta, as a six year old he had little memory of the trip. So for Erik, this would be his first true visit to the Maritimes.
We talked about several different options for this trip. In my dream trip, we would drive from home in a camperized van and stay in the myriad of provincial and national parks that Canada has to offer. But alas, we have no such vehicle and once we factored rental, gas, and an extra 10 days or so that it takes to drive to Ontario and back, it just didn’t make financial sense.
We also considered flying east and then renting a camper for a month but again, the expense of rental, extra gas, and campsite costs, outweighed the costs of staying in inexpensive hotels and eating in restaurants.
Ultimately, we decided to fly to Halifax, rent a car, and drive around Nova Scotia, PEI, and New Brunwick over a three week period, dropping the car in Quebec City, and flying home from Ottawa. We had four weeks in total and would leave just after school started, travelling from September 8 – October 6.
For the purposes of this blog, I will call it our “Atlantic Canada” trip and write about each province we visited. However, I do recognize that the last two cities are actually in Quebec and Ontario, not Atlantic Canada. 🙂
Next up, Nova Scotia!