That’s what we did every summer when I was growing up.
My birthday is at the end of July and I don’t remember many birthdays at home. Our temporary home was a used tent trailer.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents were giving my brothers and me a priceless treasure. We traveled from coast to coast. And as I look back on it now, I understand where my love of this great country – Canada – comes from. It comes from those summers of traveling with my family.
Every year, Dad would plot our trips. He usually started a month in advance. I remember him at the kitchen table with maps in front of him, and that camping reference book – I think it was from CAA. It listed campgrounds, how many sites they had, how much they charged, whether or not they had flush toilets and showers, etc.
Back in those days we couldn’t go online to check it out or to register. We didn’t call ahead. We just showed up, expecting a good spot. And we usually got it. I remember only one time when we arrived to a completely full campground, and we set up in a gravel pit instead. I also remember many times that Dad would leave our cash payment (anywhere from $6 – $12 over the years) in an unlocked wooden box when we left. I doubt if you could do that nowadays. (Mom tells me that our first year of camping we bought a National Park sticker for $7 and the total camping fee we had all summer was $20.)
Mom didn’t relish getting ready for camping. When we got older, my brothers and I had to pack our own clothing, and entertainment for car travel, but she had her same lists from year to year … everybody’s clothing, toiletries, kitchen gadgets, linens, bedding, pots and pans, games, first aid, food. And she spent about a week shopping, gathering, and packing. But she did enjoy the camping once all of that was taken care of.
I am so grateful they took the time for this because as I look back now, I understand. I understand it was a great undertaking, but also a great privilege to experience my country. I understand now that not everybody has this chance. When you’re a kid you just assume everybody does what you do. But I’ve learned that not everyone grew up with the amazing opportunity I had to absorb my own vast country. Thanks, Mom & Dad.
What wonderful memories we made:
Panning for gold in Barkerville, BC
Riding a dinosaur in Drumheller, AB
Visiting the RCMP training grounds in Regina, SK
Touring the International Peace Gardens in Boissevain, MB
Feeling the spray of Niagara Falls, ON
Roaming the halls of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, ON
Exploring Old Quebec City and the Plains of Abraham, QC
Watching the Reversing Falls Rapids in Saint John, NB
Climbing Citadel Hill in Halifax, NS
Marching at the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, NS
Pretending at Green Gables, PEI
These were fun tourist attractions full of history and fascination. But more than that, I learned to appreciate the geography of this wonder-inspiring country.
I’ve clambered over the smooth stoned Pacific coast and listened to waves lapping the shore. I’ve wandered the red sand beaches of Prince Edward Island and breathed in healing salty air. I’ve played in cool lakes that were so clear I could see the bottom through four feet of water. I’ve run screaming through long grassy fields, scaring up grasshoppers, squinted across sun-skimmed ice fields, and splashed in hot springs surrounded by mountains whose crowns disappeared into clouds.
All before I grew up and left home.
What a gift!
And what a treasure, this country.
Oh Canada! I am so blessed to call it my home and native land.