First World Problems: Travel Complaints

Travelling, whether to an exotic once-in-a-lifetime destination, or simply as part of a routine commute, often exposes us to uncertainty, adventure, and terrible, disgusting bathrooms.

Luckily for me, (and most certainly for you, the reader) my post today contains no sordid tales of toilet trauma. Rather, it takes a look at the ubiquitous “travel horror story” (providing easy party anecdotes since, um, Noah?).

And then we totally got stuck on top of a mountain! Did I mention the rotting corpses?!

Photo:Wikimedia Commons

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Part Two of my Pacific Coast bike adventure…now available!

A story of one man’s quest to bike across a country, reaffirm his faith in humanity, and cure his father’s mental illness. All with an incredibly sore bum. You can now check out the story of my (mostly) solo bike ride from San Francisco to the Mexican border (featuring my dad!) over at Lesley Carter’s blog.

Zen and the art of fairy hunting

Mysteries, legends, myths, and even the odd unabashedly made-up story are all important tools in an outdoor educator’s repertoire. I have long known the value of a good, ridiculous, story to maintain the attention of young people, to kill time, or to simply have some fun.

I swear I was making that stuff up about the monsters. Go to bed.

Indeed, last night while staying at an outdoor centre in Strathyre, and facing the prospect of two electronics-deprived teenagers with not even a pack of cards in sight, Stevie (the Mobex staff member) and I successfully fended off boredom for upwards of three hours using a variety of tried-and-true tricks and games that all involve attention to detail, careful storytelling, and a generous portion of flat-out deception.

I bet you guys didn’t know that Stevie and I have actually known each other since we were little kids,” I begin as I settle into the classic opening line of the game Black Magic. “In fact, we know each other sooo well that we can actually read each other’s minds…do you want to see?” And thus begin the lies.

Thou shalt not bear false witness… unless tricking a child.

Photo:Wikimedia Commons

But mystery and deception have a greater purpose than entertainment, I believe. One of the main reasons for our trip to Strathyre was to film a short movie that the kids, um, planned, about fairies.  Our set could not have been picked better by a Hollywood director, the famous land of the fairies featured in Robert Kirk’s The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies on Doon Hill in Aberfoyle.

Creepiness: This way.

Before heading up, Stevie gave us the whole story about the fairies that live on the hill, including fun biographical details such as: how they like to murder people, and the purpose of the big tree on the top (to store souls). We were also warned that if we tripped on the way up, the fairies didn’t want us there, and if we tripped on the way down, the fairies didn’t want us to leave. With my senses (and imagination) fully engaged, I followed Stevie and the boys up the slippery path to the top of the hill. Not 100 metres from the start of the trail, I stepped on a slick stump and properly wiped out. This was no innocuous stumble over a fairy, this was the fairies constructing ramparts and trenches to keep me out.

Apparently I didn’t meet the dress code.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Not only did my trek up to the fairy hideout start out ominously, I was also tasked enthusiastically by the kids with the role of, and I quote “The guy who gets killed first.” As such, I had to steal something from the multitudes of offerings to the fairies and loudly proclaim my disbelief in their existence.

If the fairies don’t get me, the weirdos who put this stuff here surely will.

But as I walked back down the hill, clutching my ill-gotten prize and furtively glancing about in the bushes, I noticed that in addition to a) the afternoon flying by and b) being entertained for the better part of two hours, I was also paying much greater attention to my surroundings. Because of my heightened awareness, I found myself noticing small things and really seeing the beauty that was around me. So perhaps a bit of fantasy, mystery, and deception is all that’s needed to stay in the moment. Fairies or not, the real mystery is more to do with our own ability to notice the beauty in the mundane.

Not that fairies aren’t real, of course 😉

What helps you to stay in the moment? Where do you see beauty in the mundane?

“Will there be beer?” The meaning of wilderness in a crowded world

Photo: Dave Craig

A common question I’m asked is “why did you leave Canada for Scotland to study outdoor education?” Fair enough. Canada certainly has a well-deserved reputation for natural beauty and wild spaces. Not to mention it’s big.

Oh hi there, United Kingdom, I didn’t notice you there. Yeah that’s cool, you can just chill in Hudson’s Bay.       

This question, though, exposes some interesting assumptions we tend to make regarding the outdoors and wilderness. Before coming to Scotland, I didn’t realise how important my own concept of ‘wilderness’ was to my enjoyment of the outdoors. I very much took for granted the fact that there were relatively wild spaces nearby (even in Southern Ontario) and that to the north, there was essentially very little else but wilderness. Continue reading

Biking the Pacific Coast, now on Bucket List Publications!

Bucket List Publications, a new online adventure travel magazine, has featured my story about my recent bike trip from Vancouver to Mexico, check it out here.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, wahoo!

Compasses and Crampons: What Not to Wear in the Lake District.

What’s the best way to spend a weekend after a long, tiring week? For Mitch and I, the answer this Saturday was getting up at 5:50am to catch a train to the Lake District for a little hillwalking.

FUN!

After a McDonald’s Breakfast of Champions, and an unexpected 2km slog uphill to our hostel, we were soon happily ascending the path to Red Tarn, a stunning lake situated at the base of Helvellyn, England’s third highest peak. After seeing the silhouettes of climbers along the Striding Edge leading to the top of the 950 metre mountain, we decided that a little bit of scrambling was definitely in order.   Continue reading