We are in a place that could only be described as unimaginable, but at the same time it’s exactly as we pictured it. The weather is perfect, the mountains are snow-capped, and throughout the Skyline car, we can hear the jam session below us. “There’s something happening here,” sings someone whom I’ve never met, slightly off key. The words of Buffalo Springfield resonate with each person who is sharing our special month-long moment. In fact I don’t think he could sing any phrase more representative of our situation. Our vocal cords died somewhere around the third verse of Piano Man, but our feet are still tapping. The music makes us feel closer. At the front of the car, someone shouts out a request for a country song I’ve never heard before. Much to half the car’s annoyance (many of us aren’t country fans), our entertainer obliges. We don’t know the words or the beat, but we still do our best to add some sort of noise to the mix, so to not miss out on the magic. My friends and I laugh at our poor performances, but the whole car finishes every time with a strong willed (but weak voiced) “hurrah”.
I have ridden many trains this month, and it still amazes me that all of these people sitting next to me are now my best friends despite only knowing them for a day. I’ve signed their flags and talked to them about life, love, and everything in between. Everyone here on the #ViaCanada150 journey already has so much in common despite being so vastly different. We’ve shared stories that should have taken years of trust to speak of, but we know that each other’s words are safe within the bonds of a friendship struck up in a train car somewhere outside of Edmonton. We all recognize that the life-changing moments we’ve shared together have made us one big crazy family. This adventure has changed us, and we are nowhere near done with that process.
I left my friends and family in Ottawa early in July, to do something I never thought I would have the guts to do. The past few years have been a period of growth, where I’ve slowly come out of my shell into the real world. This trip has accelerated the process ten-fold, and I feel like an entirely new person. I feel older, but full of youth. I feel experienced, but I know that there is still so much more out in this world for me to do.
I never thought I would start my travels in my own country, because I always assumed everywhere would be too much like the place I grew up. That statement could not be further from the truth. No place I visited was like Ottawa and no two cities were the same. At the same time though, no matter where I went every place shared the same Canadian spirit I experienced on the train car. I met family in Alberta that took me in and showed me their lives. I made friends waiting in line in Toronto whom I will talk to for years to come. I climbed mountains taller than anything I’ve ever seen before. I am a different person now. I may seem like the same boy from the suburbs, but I’ve done things no one would understand the significance of unless they’ve done them for themselves.
The train keeps rolling and our feet will keep on tapping as the mountains slowly turn into the prairies then the sea. And when the train finally pulls into the station, we will each go our own way to different cities, families, languages, and cultures. I used to dread coming home from an adventure because it made me feel like I was missing out on the world outside of the bubble of school and work. Now, I’m excited to return to my friends and share my stories with them. I’m proud to have seen my own country, and there’s no doubt in my mind after this month that is the greatest country the world has to offer. This July was the best month of my life. I’m glad I got to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in this wonderful way. I have a newfound appreciation for the place I call home.