After exploring over ten countries in the past 2 ½ years, I’ve come to look at my home country, Canada, with additional dimensionality. It’s difficult not to wonder how foreigners perceive Canada when they choose to explore the diverse expanse that is this incredible nation. Most of where I’ve travelled recently has been relatively small in landmass. I once took for granted that Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam put together aren’t even the size of Ontario. To explore Canada would be a daunting task for any traveller, an endeavour one could spend months on.
I’ve lived in numerous segments of Canada. I was born out West and lived there for the first 7 or so years of my life. Moving away felt like the hardest thing at the time. Everyone I loved and everything I knew was there. I don’t think it took me too long to get over it, though. It was upsetting at the time, but I grew into Winnipeg quickly. It became an irreplaceable part of my life and one that still greatly influences so much of who I am today, over a decade after leaving it behind.
Winnipeg is in the middle of Canada. There’s even a sign a few dozen kilometres east of the city that marks that particular longitudinal point. We used to drive by it, going in and out of the city on my family’s numerous camping trips throughout many humid Winnipeg summers. In fact, our camping routes stretched out in all directions, to the middle of Manitoba, across the plains of Saskatchewan, and deep into the rolling hills that are characteristic of the Canadian Shield. Looking back, it isn’t much of a surprise that I got a taste for travel, even if, at the time, I was a kid who couldn’t ignore the discomforts and just take in how incredible my surroundings were. A seed was planted and I hadn’t known it.
Now I live in Toronto, the largest city in Canada and an epicentre for multiculturalism. I meet people every single day who hail from countries all over the world, many of which I’ve been privileged enough to visit. I notice a sense of appreciation when I’m having a discussion with someone and I’m able to relate with them on their home nation, or even the particular locale from which they grew up. Sometimes, I find that I’ve been to places in their homeland that they’ve only dreamed of visiting. Other times, they have a thing or two to teach me, whether intentionally or not, about my homeland of Canada.
These engagements have become home. These interactions, whether I’m having them here in Toronto, Canada where I live, or on the other side of the world in places that I continually yearn for, have become a home for me. The cheesy line that we all know proclaims that “Home is where the heart is”. For me, home is where the heart strengthens, and where the mind grows. That’s here in Canada where I get to meet local Canadians as well as people from all over the world, that’s with my incredible family who live spread out across this great nation, that’s in Peru where I hiked through a massive canyon surrounded by everything natural and epically proportioned, that’s in the jungles of Borneo where I gazed into the eyes of a wild orang-utan and realized she was as human as I am, that will be in cobbled streets of Amsterdam where I’ll be in a few months’ time.
Even when I’m home, I’m travelling, and when I’m travelling, I am at home. That is who I am and that is what I want to bring to you.