J.K. Riki

Lessons from a Canadian Journey

I recently returned from a trek around the eastern half of Canada. Eight family members from China have spent two months touring the United States, and we joined them for the final stretch which involved crossing the border into the Great White North. While staying in little motels and eating a tremendous amount of rice (prepared daily in a portable rice cooker whenever an outlet was nearby) I came across a variety of discoveries and thought I’d share a few.

1) Being Open Makes Things Go Smoother

We saw a lot of things during the 12 days in Canada. A LOT of things. More scenic views, waterfalls, forts, and churches than I would ever have visited if I had been in charge of the itinerary. My style of travel is much more low key. Their style of travel is dawn to dusk filled with exploration.

Several times we’d reach the later part of the day and I’d be ready to find a hotel for the night. When I was presented with the idea of stopping at yet another sight to see, I generally had two reactions: Some days I would groan and complain and whine and beg to call it a day. Other times I would take a breath and say “Okay, where do I turn?” The second reaction produced much better results.

Sometimes we’re not quite conscious of our immediate reactions. If we’re tired or stressed, we can snap at people without even realizing it, only to (hopefully) regret it later when we (hopefully) realize what we’ve done. I discovered a sense of being open to things on this trip that I hope I carry with me going forward. It makes life more pleasant for everyone. And hey, eventually we always got to a hotel in the end!

2) Sleep is Important

I drove for a large part of the 12 days. Trying to keep a huge 12-passenger van at a constant speed in kilometers-per-hour when you’re not used to kilometers and the roads you’re driving sweep along mountainsides is… an experience. During that experience the other passengers who did not have to concentrate on the road took naps. It was actually amazing how quickly snoring would drift from behind me, just seconds after the van doors had slammed shut.

When the majority of your party naps all day and you don’t, it can lead to late nights you’re ill prepared for and they think nothing of.

You never quite realize how much sleep can affect your daily life and mood until you’re deprived of it. Unfortunately sometimes I think we deprive ourselves of sleep for stupid reasons, like TV or worrying about what the next day will bring. We can tend to undervalue sleep, but it’s necessary to keep our bodies running at peak performance. I came to really appreciate sleep after almost two weeks without much of it.

3) It Can Be Easier to Be Creative Outside Your Routine

Routine can be such a fierce enemy of creativity. Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone can instantly spark ideas that you never might have had otherwise. You have to be open to it, though. It can be easy to just coast even when your environment is vastly different.

I brought back quite a few souvenirs from the trip to Canada, and they were all in the form of interesting ideas jotted down in notebooks and on my phone. Some I’m eagerly anticipating trying out, and others I’ll leave for some other time or give away. Overall, though, the change of scenery was a great spark to help stretch my mind towards concepts I wouldn’t have thought up otherwise.

4) There’s No Place Like Home

I enjoyed the adventure very much, even if I can hardly remember half of the crazy number of things we did and saw. Exciting exploration aside, when I got home and tossed myself down on the couch I was grinning from ear to ear. To lay sprawled out in the quiet solitude of my own familiar space was wonderful. It made me once again appreciate what I already have. It’s nice to travel and see new things, but there truly is no place like home.

Quebec Spire

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