After Electric Forest, we could not wait to get back to Canada. After hitting duty free, of course, we crossed the border with ease and headed straight for the only place we knew in Sarnia, Ontario; Tim Horton’s.
When we got to Tim Horton’s, I ordered a turkey bacon club and had it alongside a sigh of relief. As I ate it, my hands shook and my body shuttered. I know it was partially because I was still hungover from all the partying, but also because I had an adrenaline rush from making it home – I was sooo happy and so grateful to be back in the true north. There were times throughout our USA trip that I never thought I’d make it home – sometimes it felt like we were set to live the rest of our days in the sweltering heat of America. It’s just like how at times I never thought we’d ever get to taste cold water again. Nothing feels quite as safe as home does, just like nothing quenches the thirst quite like a glass of cold water does.
Welp, it turned out we were still far away from home – we had just passed the two month mark of being jobless and we were still homeless, other than having the van as our sanctuary and habitat.
The first thing we had to do before trying to find a home was check out Niagara Falls because, well, it’s Niagara Falls and I’d never seen it. Jess had never seen it. Why not see it? Actually, before Niagara we got Pho for only the second time in two months (since Americans don’t know what that is) and then slept at a Husky truckstop. It was the safest gas station I’ve ever slept at, and I’ve slept at a lot of gas stations. I went inside to double check we could spend the night in the parking lot and the two older gentlemen assured me it was fine, that we’d be safe, and they even welcomed me home. This is when it hit me I was back in Canada.
The town of Niagara Falls was a tourist hell. It was littered with escape rooms, casinos, Madame Tueassaeuads or however the heck you spell it, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, bars galore, and the potential for the place to be covered in strip clubs. It had that typical tourist town feel, kind of like Banff, or Vegas. It was great, but I just can’t really see myself spending more than a couple hours there. The little boat in the picture above is entirely covered with people; sardined in there like you wouldn’t believe. When we finished water gazing, we literally got back to our van four minutes after our parking expired and they had us ticketed. Be aware of the parking enforcement in Niagara Falls!
From Niagara, we headed to Toronto, Canada’s largest city. Amanda Rajan from Calgary had moved there shortly before we left home in May. She mentioned that she would be back in Calgary for Stampede when we finished our trip and she let us stay in her apartment, for free!
We spent a few nights there and we didn’t go do anything until the last day. We were so thrilled to have our own personal space for an extended period where we didn’t have to move the next day – gratitude for life’s simple pleasures becomes more prevalent once you travel. Something we noticed after out trip was that towards the end, we weren’t even interested in traveling anymore. All we wanted was a more predictable life; some routine. Personally, all I wanted was a couch and some wifi and some beers and some weed and a few books and Jess and that was the next step in my life; that was our next big adventure. Now, we ride bicycles and every day feels like we’re kids again.
Before we left, we were torn between living in Ottawa and Halifax, simply based off drunken word of mouth occurrences and Google searches. Ottawa was first chronologically, and if it sucked, Halifax was only a couple days’ drive away.
We got to Ottawa, checked-in to our hotel, and went and saw this:
That was enough to sell us into living life in the nation’s capital. We viewed the townhouse on July 9th and we signed a 1-year lease on July 10th – a one-bedroom in Sandy Hill, Ottawa. We looked at four places in two days and, although I told Jess we had to weigh our options, the crappy unrenovated place and the two crackhead apartments in Vanier led us into choosing the best common denominator.
Our place has more room than we need, the price we wanted, and a location that was better than we could have asked for. I don’t even drive anymore. I ride a bicycle to work every day. I ride a teal bicycle with fifteen gears but only five of them work. The brakes are shaped into little pieces of crap, but it somehow gets me by. When I drive the van to play flag football once a week, it feels weird, even though I just drove 70% of a 18,000km road trip across USA in two months. It still feels funny getting behind the wheel only once a week for 15 minutes in total, compared to driving an average of four hours a day, every damn day.
I told myself that when I got home again, I would start doing the things I always loved growing up. The reason I traveled to New Zealand in the first place was to get out of the habit of having a cyclical life, like accounting, round and round every week, every month, for years. When we were in the US, times were tough and life was unsettled. It made me think of simple times, when the only thing that mattered was having fun. Literally, when you were a kid you’d talk about how much “fun” something was. You measured everything in fun. That was your regular perception of how your day was – how much fun did I have today? That’s what I pondered from Calgary to Ottawa.
After signing our lease, I bought a bowling ball from Value Village and I signed up for a flag football league. We bought bicycles and we printed the application to foster kittens. We ordered weed by the ounce and bought wine by the box.
I am living my best kid life.
The only time I’ve been to Eastern Canada in my whole lifespan was when I went to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario for the YBC (youth bowling) Nationals when I was 13 or 14 or something. I placed third best in Canada, next to the kid from B.C. and of course, the kid from Quebec was first – I always heard the French were competitive.
Now, I bowl in Ontario and lose to my girlfriend who is from New Zealand, where they only have like two ten-pin bowling alleys in the whole country. In all fairness, I get way more buzzed before we go bowling than she does. Just saying…
I started playing flag football again, and holy shit it is so much fun. I placed myself in division C of A-B-C when I signed up because I
thought knew I was shit. Now that I’m getting the hang of it, I realize I was better at sports when I was young, and that I definitely chose the correct division as a adult full grown boy.
Now that we are settled in Ottawa, this is our home, and we are happy once again. Simplicity takes away stress and an easy life is just what we need. Although, once upon a time we did have had a life with zero stress and at that point, we realized a completely stress-free life is a very uninteresting way to live. One needs some anxiousness to make things interesting and to keep dreams at the forefront of the mind. At this point in our lives, we feel balance.
Contrary to popular belief, Ottawa has a lot shit to do and see all the time. There’s a festival every weekend, random bagpipes playing throughout downtown, and fireworks when you’d least expect it. Surprisingly enough, we’ve even made a few friends.
It’s nice being in a place where everyone holds the door open for you and if someone gets in your way they say sorry even if it’s your fault, not theirs. Canadian standoffs are my favourite arguments, and Canadian tuxedos are my favourite outfit. Thank you, Canada, for welcoming us back into your loving arms, even though we were oh so anxious to leave.
I sang out loud while I wrote this blog. I only sing when my mind is in a happy place. I’m a terrible singer, but it means life is amazing.
And now, when the day is done and the sun starts to fall, I get to come home to join this beauty in our special place.
Life is so sweet. Sweet like baklava.