( End of June, Early July 2017)
Soundtrack: Go the Distance- Michael Bolton
(yes, from Hercules)
“And a voice keeps saying, this is where I’m meant to be
I’ll be there someday, I can go the distance
I will find my way if I can be strong
I know every mile, will be worth my while
When I go the distance, I’ll be right where I belong”
By the time I leave Trois-Rivière, I am covered in Mosquito bites, but my mood and confidence are improving greately. I am grateful I met Lorna and ready for the next step on my own. I rent a car for a few days because the only way to go to my next stop is either driving or hitchhiking, and I am not ready for the later. I drive to Shawinigan, where there isn’t much to see but the weather is really nice. There is a walk along the river that is quite beautiful. I am on my own but I don’t feel lonely anymore. I enjoy the freedom of travelling solo and the perspective of being almost alone for tree days seems quite okay. Progress! That’s what I tell myself. I am hoping that as days go, I’ll start feeling more and more that this is the adventure of a lifetime rather than a sentence I imposed on myself. But I am okay with going through the process little by little. I don’t blame myself for not being ready to embrace it all from the start and for having doubts in the beginning. I imagine these are common feelings when you start something completely new.
After spending the day in Shawiningan, I head to the Parc de la Mauricie, where I am going to sleep in a teepee for two nights. When I arrive at the camp and discover my teepee, it is the first time since the beginning of the trip that I feel pure and simple excitement, free of all anxiety. The feeling does not last endlessly unfortunately; but I welcome it anyhow. I try to see this part of the trip as more of a retreat. Some alone time with myself to clear my thoughts. I leave the camp and go on a hike to close the day. Mosquitoes are especially ferocious in the park and they bite me even more that before. I catch dinner at the Auberge by the camp and go to bed early. I am quite tired and I have to wake up at 3 the next morning. It rains like crazy that night, and even though the teepee stays dry, it is really loud. I don’t get a lot of sleep and at 3 am, as planned, I wake up to go on a canoe excursion to see the moose. The guide drives me and the group to one of the lakes inside the park and when we arrive, the view is simply breathtaking. I have never seen anything so beautiful. The day is just rising and the sky is blue and pink. It is dead silent and no one is here except us. We climb on our canoes and head onto the lake. We paddle for a few hours and see the sun rising on the water. We only see one moose but the canoe trip alone was worth it. My head is filled with dreams after seeing something so beautiful. We share breakfast when we come back and I head back to sleep for a while. In the afternoon I drive to another lake and go for a swim. All the landscapes look a bit similar but I never get tired of it. It is so amazing and peaceful.
I stay in the park for two and a half days. I see beauty I have never even dreamed of. I hike and read and spent most of my time alone. But I am okay with it. I use this time to think and reflect and suddenly I have a revelation, a project I have been postponing for a long time but that now somehow seems to be reachable. I don’t want to say to much now because I am afraid I would spoil it. But at the very second I decide to go on with this project, I am instantly super excited about it. I have tons of ideas rushing through my head and I only want to get somewhere quiet to write them all down. I decide to leave the park to do so, but also because the mosquitoes are starting to be really annoying. I know I talk a lot about mosquitoes but just for you to understand my pain, I have, at the time I leave the park, 41 bites on my legs and butt only (YES! they even bit me on my butt!! These little bloodsuckers). They bit me through my clothes and despite the repellent. They bit me on my skull through my hair. It itches so much it almost hurts and I have big swollen bumps everywhere. I look like a mutant! It gets so frustrating that it could really almost ruin my time. But I don’t let it. Instead I leave the park and head to a little restaurant that was recommended to me. I have a very good lunch and the waitress guesses right away what my project is about. She says she loves the idea and thinks it is great that I am doing it. It motivates me even more. I check into a small hotel that night because there are no hostels around.
I head back to Trois-Rivières the next morning and give the car back. I really enjoyed the freedom of having a car. I could store all my things easily and safely in the trunk, get to all the remote places without problem and it was really comfortable. It is not so easy to travel without a car through Quebec, public transports are scarce and expensive. But renting a car would be a big shift in my budget and I cannot really afford it. Plus, it is not what I had in mind for this trip in the beginning. I might rent a car again in the future for specific areas but I want to try to get around without it. I spend one more night in Trois-Rivières and visit the old prison. It is a really interesting visit. My head is still full with ideas for my project and I take a lot of time to focus on it.
I head to Quebec city next. I fall in love with the city instantly. It is so charming, with old looking houses, flowers on every window. It looks like a medieval movie set, like an old picturesque French village. I wander around the old town for the rest of the day, completely amazed and charmed by the atmosphere. There are musicians playing old songs on the piano or the violin in every corner of the street, restaurants everywhere with terrasses. I surprise myself wondering if Canadian people have an obsession with food as you can find so many places to eat everywhere. The hostel here is very big and I meet a lot of people. On Saturday evening I go on a pub crawl organized by the team with a bunch of people. It is a really fun night. I also rent a bike one day and bike 50 km to go from the city to the Ile d’Orléans. It makes me think of my time in Vancouver with Sara where we biked under the rain one day and came back completely soaked. Good times.
One day as I am eating on my own in a restaurant, a group of French people sitting next to me invite me to join them. They are all really friendly and fun and I spend a bit of time with them. Another night I go for dinner with two girls I met at the pub crawl. I realize how easy it is to meet people when you travel alone and that I am not so shy anymore, but also how valuable it is to be able to decide that some days you want to be on your own. One day as I am walking around in the city, I stumble upon an open church and decide to go in. Some kids choir is singing and I sit to watch them for a while. I get really moved when I hear them sing about moving past our differences to make a difference in the world, while holding their hands. And in that moment, for the first time, I finally grasp it: the beauty and magic of solo travelling. As I have been sitting in this church for about twenty minutes, mesmerized by the angel voices of these kids singing, without anyone to tell me they want to go, are bored or angry or want to do something else, I finally understand the value of being on my own. I realize that being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely and that I am interesting and stable enough to spend quality time with myself without needing anyone to distract me or keep me company. For the first time in my life, I can really take time to think and focus on personal projects. I have the luxury of focusing on myself and myself only and try to figure out what I want out of life. For the time being, I don’t have to compromise for anyone or put anyone else’s needs above mine. I don’t have to worry about making other people happy or try to make myself small to accommodate someone else. This journey is about me and me only. I can be selfish all I want without risking to hurt anyone. I was afraid this solo trip would be a cruel reminder that I have no one to travel with me, instead it is the realization that I don’t need anyone to be happy and when someday, hopefully, I find someone to travel through life with, I will be able to chose that person because I want to and not because I need to. And that will be a big shift in my life.
I look back at all the progress I have made since I arrived, how I used to do things because I felt I had to force myself and make the best of my time here and how uncomfortable I felt sitting alone in a restaurant. Now everything I do I do because I truly want to and it makes me happy. I feel confident and free. All the anxiety is gone and I am comfortable with my situation. Every morning when I wake up I want to discover everything, visit, walk, hike, bike. I don’t want to stop. There is so much I want to see and it seems there won’t ever be enough time. My mindset now is the complete opposite of what it was when I started. I couldn’t have imagined I would feel this way in such a short time. I feel as if I revealed my true self during this trip and I haven’t even reached half of it yet. I think about my friend Cornelius who pushed me to travel on my own. He kept telling me that I had to do it and that I would know why once I did it. I used to think he was wrong and didn’t know me enough when he said I had the right personality to do it. But I was wrong and he was right and I can never thank him enough for pushing me in the right direction.
I truly am where I belong
To be continued….
4:30 am on the lake
Sun rise over the lake
Sleeping in a teepee
Mauricie National Park