A New Life begins in Canada
This story starts with a hospital bed. A cold and lonely night. A lost soul without direction. Asleep at the wheel, likely dreaming of a better life, one he could hardly have imagined. He screamed. Flailed. Desperately waved for help. The cars barely slowed as they rolled by. It was July 1st, 2006, the first day of the rest of my new life.
I grew up in a small town in Northern Canada, in the great expanse of sameness that is the Canadian prairies. Identical wheat towns stretch in every direction for over a thousand miles. The same signs, same brands, same food. Big trucks, oil money, and blue-collar hockey loving patriots. It’s like a frozen version of Texas.
Love first arrived in the form of an atlas. I compared the vibrant colors to the cold, grayish winter haze, the rich, festive cultures, to my seemingly commonplace surroundings. It wasn’t long before I memorized all the names within those glossy pages. I could almost hear the chime of the prayer bells echoing through the crisp Himalayan dawn. I counted the days until I was grown enough to join the open road, assuming that it would greet me as if I had always belonged.
I dreamed. I Wished. I waited.
My nineteenth birthday was spent in a Red Robins in a Vancouver, twentieth working on an oil rig close to my home town, twenty-first was similar to the last. Nothing changed, time just kept pressing forward. I was stuck in a cycle, rolling over and over, drowning in the wash, occasionally peering out through the glass door of the machine at the world beyond, as if it was another universe entirely. The same rhythms, the same habits, the same people, the same downward, uncontrollable spiral. Nothing new.
But then one day it happened.
The best day of my life was the day I woke up on that hospital bed. “You dozed off” she said, “You’re lucky to be alive!” The nurse stares at me with her comforting, sulky eyes. I remember wondering how many many hard nights they had seen. Deep lines of doubt and exhaustion have had their way with her young face. This was a new life, surely, and she was the first new person in it.
I bounced back fast. The wind pushed hard at my back. All those old attachments and excuses were gone. A tide began to rage inside of me. A vision started to form. I felt powerful. I felt exuberant. My mind became impregnated with the most powerful thing: a dream!
I dreamed of Africa. I dreamed of walking the dry savanna with all the strange and wonderful creatures. I dreamed of the Karakoram, the dark and brooding mountains where I was the strangest thing and the people invited me in for apricot cake and sweet chai tea. I dreamed of the towers of Ha Long Bay, hopelessly shrouded in mists. I dreamed of Istanbul where you can stand in Europe and stare across the Bosphorus towards Asia while pondering countless realities–Byzantium, Constantinople, the Ottomans.
Today I live in Catalunya. People wave blue, red and yellow flags with white stars as they cry for independence. We eat toast with oil and tomato in the morning. They say “merci” instead of “gracias”, and “parle” instead of “hablo”. The people love to walk, and the cities are made for walking. They are not “Spanish” they say, but “Catalan”. It makes me wonder, now, what am I?
I miss my home. The sound of country music coming from the kitchen radio, dinner will be ready soon. The dogs are on the back porch barking at butterflies. The summer sun goes down at eleven, and comes up again at four. I miss how it races across the prairies, with nothing in its way, save a few rickety wooden grain towers that are slowly turning pink. I miss the “big sky” as people like to say, and the blazing colors of autumn, dancing like wildfire in the wind. Most of all, I miss my mother, her incredible wisdom and guidance.
To me, these things are exotic now. I compare the old, faded family photographs, to my seemingly commonplace surroundings. A small desk where I do my writing, pushed against the brick wall, a doormat underneath that says “welcome” keeps my feet warmer than the bare hardwood. A coffee mug that I stole from a friends house in Berlin stains all my pages with rings darker than the ones under my eyes. The faces of my family comfort me, I imagine them saying “it’s OK, we understand”.
Travel did change my life. The road never greeted me as I thought it would, but slowly over time, I became one of its own, a person shaped by its reality. Never certain, always searching.
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