If you live in the United States, Canada isn’t necessarily the first place that springs to mind for an epic travel getaway.
Last year, I wanted to take a summer trip, but I didn’t want to fly to Europe after jetting to Scotland, France, and Ireland in the span of eight months.
Now, if you’ve checked my “destinations” menu, then you know Europe is my baby. I’m obsessed with the continent’s diversity, history, and beauty. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of exploring it.
But summer airfare from the USA – Europe? HA, not exactly the most cost effective purchase, especially if you’re a broke teacher like me.
Meanwhile summer tickets to Canada were significantly cheaper so I eventually settled on a 15 Day Tour of the Canadian Rockies with G Adventures. I heard the Rockies were beautiful and unforgettable, and figured camping would provide a different experience than European hostels.
Unsurprisingly, this trip taught me quite a few meaningful lessons about myself. Some silly, some profound.
Without further ado, here are 4 lessons Western Canada taught me.
1. It’s Okay to Get Dirty
I’m a neat freak. I don’t mean that I constantly scrub the bathrooms and vacuum five times a week. I’m actually lazy about household chores.
But I’m paranoid about germs making me sick. I especially have hang-ups regarding food poisoning, which is sadly the reason why I haven’t traveled to the developing world yet, though I’m determined to conquer that stupid fear because, duh, food poisoning happens at home too.
Camping forced me to not worry about dirt and bacteria so much. At home, I’m fanatical about checking expiration dates, but I stopped myself from giving into this bad habit in Canada. Mostly because I didn’t want my group to think I was a total weirdo.
In the end, I scarfed down yogurt and cheeses without a clue about arbitrary dates. I also relaxed about excessively washing my hands, because I knew it was a losing battle. Have you ever heard of a “dirt-free campsite?” I certainly haven’t.
All the food was awesome and I didn’t get sick once! Take that, overactive brain!
2. I’m Not an Awesome Hiker
Okay, I’m not in outstanding physical shape, and I have no problems admitting it here.
My weight has always been a massive struggle for me. I won’t bore you with a lifelong tale of self-esteem issues, because no one sane would read that 100 page pity party.
However, despite my flaws and struggles, I’m in better shape than I was in university, and I can walk all day without getting winded. I even love jogging! We all start somewhere, yeah?
Prior to booking, I double-checked the “physical demands level” on this trip, because I knew G Adventures catered to adventurous travelers who enjoy a bit of physical activity. The rating was a 3 out of 5 with the tagline: “Trips may include activities like hiking, biking, rafting or kayaking. No sweat, right?”
Ha! I could handle it!
And it’s true that I didn’t have issues with 99.9% of the trip. The one exception? The Agnes Tea House Hike.
Oh my GOD, hiking to the tea house made me want to die a little inside. I partly blame being out of shape, but I also blame myself for walking at a brisk pace to keep up with my group mates. Lesson? GO AT YOUR OWN PACE. BEING LAST ISN’T A DEATH SENTENCE.
All in all, I don’t like hiking. I’m hoping to gain more strength, improve my overall health, and maybe enjoy the wilderness one day. Considering I’m going to Zakopane and Lake Bled on my Central Europe trip, maybe I’ll give hiking another chance and decide I can tolerate it.
I LOVED whitewater rafting, though!
3. I Value Independence
If you follow this blog, then you know I’m NOT anti-group tour like many of my fellow travelers.
While I prefer to travel independently and craft my own itinerary, group tours do offer a network of fellow wayfarers to bond with right away. Sure, you run the risk of a bad group, but you also run the risk of staying in an anti-social, crappy hostel filled with school children. A big reason why Scotland changed my life was because of the fantastic people on my Haggis tour. They made the trip for me.
I was drawn to G Adventures because of the small group sizes. With 10-14 people in a group, you definitely know each and every person, and there’s more potential to form a camaraderie.
Well. I liked my group. But after 15 days, I itched to go off on my own adventures.
This trip had a loud and clear message for me: do group tours, but stick to tours under 10 days and make sure you’re independent for some portion of the trip.
4. Trying New Things Builds Character
My aunts and grandparents nearly died from shock when my dad first told them that I would be camping in Canada for two whole weeks.
I’m NOT a camper girl. Not, not, not.
Growing up, I was a princess. I liked Coach bags, fine lunches at classy restaurants, and beach vacations. The thought of camping used to make me wanna jump into a fiery pit a la Mount Doom. Dirt. Flies. Smelly public bathrooms. Nope, no can do.
Or so I thought.
I ultimately decided to take this trip, because I wanted to experience something brand new and unexpected.
While I may not camp for two weeks ever again, I found it peaceful to sleep underneath the stars and hear the birds sing in the morning. My tent was comfortable yet made me appreciate my bed. All the camp sites were well-maintained, safe, and well-cared for. Plus camping proved that I’m not as delicate as I think I am.
I have no regrets. None.
I would absolutely recommend this trip for anyone who loves the wilderness and camping. You would have an outstanding time.
Share some of the lessons, good or bad, that you’ve learned on your travels.