A Trans-Canada Highway Road Trip from Toronto in the East to the Western Seaboard
The city of Vancouver has many hostels like this one
One of Vancouver's many cheap temporary accomodations
Look, mom, a Mediterranean-style beach in Vancouver!
Canada is the second biggest country in the world
In the heat of summer 2006, my family decided to travel Canada from end to end on the Trans-Canada Highway. The memories still bring tears to my eyes from time to time. It was one trip that changed my life forever.
I am not ashamed to cry, not anymore. Before this trip, I was too afraid to venture out into the world alone. My family (mom, dad, two brothers, a sister-in-law, and one niece) always cloistered me within the confines of the safe world I moved in. Even my brother Ateno, who recently passed away, used to follow me secretly whenever I roamed the shopping mall, afraid that I might get lost.
It was a two-week trip where I regained my freedom and my self-confidence at a big price. Sometimes, I look back to question whether it was worth all the sacrifice, but the answer is always the same.
The trip was my brother Angelo's dream project, to take a trip from Canada's East to the country's extreme West. Canada, of course, is a huge country. It is the second biggest country in the world, second only to Russia. My dad supported the idea, being naturally adventurous. My mom of course could only agree, knowing her place in the world as a wife who always stood behind her man.
Times were getting harder in Toronto, I remember my dad saying. He felt that it was about time to explore economic options in other provinces of Canada, like Alberta, which is getting richer by the day from its oil exploration projects. The province's city, Calgary was and still is Canada's Holy Grail, accepting hundreds of people looking for work on a daily basis. Of course, the whole family was so excited about the trip where my dad's Toyota Sienna van was called to task.
We all said our goodbyes to Canada's Niagara Falls, the most majestic destination in the province of Ontario, which was characteristically green yet relatively flat. We were all tired of having only The Falls to go to chill during the weekends. Soon, the Sienna van snaked its way through the scenic town of Sault Ste. Marie and out through the hills of Thunder Bay.
A few days later, we crossed the other prairie province of Saskatchewan. We knew we reached the province of Alberta when we began to see rolling brown hills littered by cows of the Black Angus variety, the one and only breed that The Keg Steakhouse and Restaurant relies on.
All this time my brothers had been taking turns with the long drive. There had also been countless refueling stops. We likewise endured numerous bookings at small hotels, which maxed out all our credit cards. Sometimes, we spent the night in a trailer park, or a camping station where we had to sleep in tents.
My parents' backs hurt a bit, but they were coy with the whole thing. After all, it was a collective decision. My cute niece Esther Mae, who just turned two years old then, had no idea what was happening, but how she loved the views! The two of us always got along very well despite the huge age gap, because as my mom always thought I had this childlike quality about me. I even christened myself Peter Pan at one time!
Then one morning it was time to take the climactic drive to the Rocky Mountains, just an hour and a half away from the city of Calgary. We had wanted to watch the spectacle of the Calgary Stampede, a yearly exhibition of the best in cowboy living, which the city was known for. However, there were far too many people!
On the other hand, a trip to the Banff National Park was relaxing and a sure balm for the soul. It was the family's first sighting of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, which left us breathless. My little niece asked why there were too many mountains.
Of course, I didn't know how to answer the question so I just kept quiet, taking in all the wonderful scenery. Then my niece started crying when it was time to leave the Lake Louise Resort. She wanted to stay longer but her parents wouldn't hear of it because it was getting dark and we didn't have a place yet in which to spend the night.
But who could blame Esther Mae for refusing to leave the place? If you've seen the stark beauty of Lake Louise you probably would want to stay there forever, stopping the time if you could. It looked simple enough. Two majestic mountains trying to contain the flowing emerald waters of the lake--a lake fed by melting glacier that adorned the crest of the two peaks like a pearl necklace.
I found Castle Mountain quite enchanting, a stiff granite peak with clouds atop it. It looked like a castle on the sky built by some evil witch, Harry Potter style. How can I can forget this mountain--it was my turning point.
Finally, it was time to drive to Vancouver, Canada's most westerly city, dubbed Canada's gateway to the Pacific. I was here before and getting lost in Stanley Park, I thought I'd wanted to live here permanently someday. Here countless mountains, waterways, and wild trees live in perfect harmony with the local populace. Some of Stanley Park's trees are over 1,000 to 3,000 years old--come to think of it, older than Jesus Christ himself!
I often thought that the water you see flowing down Niagara Falls could be the same water that Jesus once bathed with--after all water goes around the whole world in a never ending cycle. By the way, my family thought it was time to drive back to Alberta and stay for a while with our relatives in the city of Edmonton.
It was at this point when I broke the news that I had decided I wouldn't be joining them. Fighting back tears in my eyes, I managed to take the Greyhound bus back to Calgary. I had no idea I was going stay in Calgary for the next six months upon landing a technical support job with IBM Canada.
But I wasn't really meant to live in the city for long as I found myself one day bound for Alberta's capital city of Edmonton. Alas, it only took me two weeks to find Edmonton to be just another big city with all the same accommodations (sprawling houses, roads, skyscrapers and malls) just like Toronto the city where I spent ten years of my life.
I desired a small city in which to spend my newfound independence and somehow I found this quality in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. In Saskatoon, everyone knew each other, where I soon found a crew job at a Tim Hortons coffee shop.
Still the circumstances in my life would beckon me elsewhere and I would find myself back to Vancouver, after spending only half a year in a small city of my choice.
To this day, I still miss all the warm and kind people of Saskatoon, like Shirley, who gave me kitchen utensils and a worn out yet very special book called The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, a pastor turned best selling author. I would later find this book to be one of the 20th century's most influential Christian books. How can I forget another friend, a baker named Chris at Timmy's who helped me find an apartment to rent, but to no avail?
To date, I have been living in Vancouver for three years, the city where I always dreamed of living in the first place. It's amazing how we humans are so powerless against life's circumstances, yet we usually end up in the places our hearts desire the most. When I lived in Toronto, I heard way too many news stories of babies falling from balconies of high-rise apartment buildings--yet surviving, sometimes mysteriously getting caught on tree branches with their loin cloths.
That's why I have never stopped believing in a being greater than all of us combined who is orchestrating the circumstances in our lives with his unseen hand on a daily basis. Casting my eyes for the very first time on Castle Mountain, I thought he was this Dark Side I only knew so well in times of depression. Looking back, I now realize that he is the Force that George Lucas often alluded to in Star Wars.
It's funny how my life-changing journey began with a summer's long drive to travel Canada from end to end in a Toyota Sienna van. Then maybe you have a story or stories of your own?
The Great Trans-Canada Highway
The Trans-Canada Highway was completed in 1970 and continues to be the longest national highway in the world