Its 6:30am I’m in Chilliwack on Friday morning and I’ve just finished my tea. Other than the early chill everything is pretty much ready, I’ll quickly do some final packing of some food, shower and head to the highway. Here’s what I know is happening. I’m heading east. And that’s about it. I have been contemplating this project for some time now. really for about a year. It was when I realized in the winter of 2013 that I had aligned myself to travel where and when I felt the need. I had just moved to Vancouver and was spending very little time at home. For a few reasons, I had not made many connections there and I really enjoyed spending time with others on Vancouver Island. I also realized I didn’t want to spend another winter in Vancouver without a break in some sunny spot. The question was how would I fund my adventures. In the past year I met many travelers doing just what I had been dreaming about. They set out with no particular destination and let the universe guide their way. I read about a large community of strangers traveling the world on little to no budget and of their journeys of self discovery and fellowship. I’ve watched YouTube videos of such trips where things would never go as planned, yet the resulting adventure was much more amazing than ever imagined. I saw first hand how these Trekkers found their way through the kindness of strangers and the hope of discovery. In an hour I will step out of the door and start my first trek to find out what the world has in store for me. I have no plan other than connect with as many people as possible and enjoy what is put before me. I may not find what I think I’m looking for but then, how would I know, I haven’t seen it yet. Yes I am a bit apprehensive and even a bit scared, but looking back on my life nothing great has ever happened to me that did not have the same starting point. I want to do this and even long to do this and now after a whole lot of soul searching I am on my way. This is a short trek only a few days as I have to be back on Monday. This will be a great icebreaker for me and will lead to longer ventures in the next month. Building up to a trek to coincide with a shoot in January in, well I’ll save that for a few days but here goes nothing.
The universe has spoken, I just got off the phone with a friend who after reading this blog, has asked me to take a vehicle to Peachland and drop it off when I’m ready to return home. I will be leaving in an hour and looking forward to stopping along the way at my leisure. Meeting with Amanda she needed some help and our paths connected. I will meet her tomorrow in Peachland to return her car and now I’m heading to Manning Park for some shots.
Well really this is day one of the official “plan” were I throw caution to the wind and recklessly plunge headlong into an amazing adventure where the universe speaks to me. Well it does speak to me all the time, but I don’t always like the answers. Imagine you are setting out on an epic journey that will take you far away from loved ones and familiar places. What if you get there and want to go home to see that someone you left behind. What if you miss someone so badly that your heart is tearing in two? What if you realize this is really hard to do? Well you have a couple choices freak out, cry, pack your bags up and grab the first train, plane or bus out. The alternative is to you try to figure out what’s going on. Why a few short hours ago you wanted to take on the world and now the world is far to large and love seems so far away.
For me, trekking helps find some of the answers I may need. Being alone is not a huge challenge when I start a trek. When I’m shooting, especially nature, being alone works well, I’m happy and focused. I stopped a few times and grabbed a few shots I had been hoping to capture. i was finished shooting the spot I was at and started to leave but I looked back at the scene and realized it was truly beautiful. Sometime we photographers don’t spend enough time just looking. People alway message me during great sunsets and say ,”Are you capturing this?” I usually reply yes I’m watching it right now and etching it into my brain. Some things are better that way. I stood there on the side of the road and just looked out into the amazing colours of the fall, feeling the calm and powerful energy on the front of my body. Grounded with the trees, the breeze and the stream moving right to left. Almost ignoring the cars flying by five feet behind me. I wondered if any of those people in the cars ever stopped and just looked. And if they did would they feel what I was feeling? The problem with being alone and energized is you may start thinking not about the here and now but about where you were or where you are going. About the people you care about and the people you want to be with. By the time I reached Princeton I was completely drained by emotional based. thinking and I needed to shake it. Trekking like photography can be very lonely and sometimes. When you choose to leave on short notice, you aren’t always prepared for all situations and when you are forced to deal with an issue it can set your balance askew for the rest of the day. I did get a few hours of sleep after limping in to Penticton at around 1am but I also had to face some challenges including loneliness, some fearful moments where safety became a concern and of course the big question, why are I doing this?
After a tea and some editing I headed to the beach at 6:42am to be in the right area when the sun rises.
The days started with an nice walk along the beach with some ducks, seagulls and a few joggers. The light in Penticton is so different that in the Vancouver area. It has this silver quality to it, I’m sure someone can explain that it has something to do with the water content in the clouds or the refraction angles from the sun. Regardless of why, I get very excited when I’m here shooting, especially in the morning and evening. I then needed to be in the downtown area for some business and was happy to find a farmers market that had many things that you would not expect to see. It seemed that the market had been juried very well and the quality of the produce, products and services was top notch or very unique. This is a must if you are ever in the area on a Saturday. At about noon I made contact with Amanda and we started working on a plan. I had really finished shooting and wanted to get on with my adventure, well actually I wanted to head home. The loneliness in the early morning the lack of sleep and the driving was shifting my desire to travel further east. Theres a quote
You go on adventure so you can find a place you belong
and I was not happy and not really looking forward to searching any further this weekend. One of the reasons I had for starting this project besides tarveling at a low cost, was to find my home. I have been in Vancouver for just over a year and although I love East Van and the Commercial Drive area with its amazing eclectic and funky restaurants, bars, stores and people. I want to find more places that give me that feeling. There is a overwhelming need for me to search for something right now. It may be a place or a person or a feeling but I have be struck by the trekking bug and feel this is the best way to move forward in my life. I arranged to drop of Amanda’s car and head to the highway to start back home, feeling that it would good to be in Chilliwack earlier as I had to take my father to a few appointments Monday and I was loosing my ambition, at least for this trip. When I arrived at Amanda’s, it turned out her help for unloading the truck had been delayed and she was there alone. I offered to help her and let her know that if I did, I would head out in the morning as it would be a bit late. When trekking, finding morning travelers are a better option for a few reasons. Safety is number one, most bad guys don’t do their thing in the morning. People are generally in a better mood and starting out their trip. That means most cars passing would be travelling further away from where they are in the morning. the other major factor is me, I am by no means small in stature,at night, to see someone with my girth on a dark stretch of road would not send thoughts of security. Amanda accepted my offer and countered with her couch, as soon as I unloaded it that was. It wasn’t long after we were moving, chatting and reconnecting. We have know each other for years and she and I manage to make some really nice images together. This however was the first time we had a chance just to hang out with no one else and just relearn who we had both become after a year of leaving the Fraser Valley. A couple hours later we were done and I must admit the physical energy felt good. I worked for years with a friend who owned a sound and lighting company and moving huge sound systems was kinda fun. This was nothing like that, but I felt good about helping her when she needed it and just to know that I had a home for a few hours that night. I’ve always liked hanging and shooting with Amanda, but there was always a timeline during those shoots and we always used every second to capture as much as we could. This was nice and later I would rest and she would head to her old place in Peachland to finish off her move with some friends.
Later that evening, the truck unloaded for the second time, the living room and kitchen unpacked and organized, I sat on the couch listening to Amanda’s friend Brittany playing guitar and singing with Amanda as she did a bit more organizing. Soon after friends started arriving and the socializing began. I would make eye contact with Amanda from across the room and she would just smile, so happy to finally have her own space after a year of staying with friends. Happy to be able to do the things she wanted without feeling resticted or regulated, happy to start the next chapter of her life. She finally came over after one of these eye meeting moments and told me something I already was feeling. It was really nice to be able to share that moment with her and to help get her to where she was that day, that moment, we both knew she was home. Surrounded by friends, singing, dancing, laughing, proudly showing here things that had been in limbo. She had her life right there and she was elated. I also realized if I had gone home as planned everything would have happened the same way, she would be there doing just that, but now I was there, someone from her old life, intertwined with her new life. If only for today, at least a witness for the start of it, and we both felt happy and grateful. The strange chain of events that unfolded allowing the Universe to place us there. I needed to see it and she need someone from her past to smile and know she was home.
The night did not end early. I met more of her friends, each of them gracious and welcoming. I found myself sitting with a photographer, who just returned from Africa after spending time documenting in some of the most dangerous areas, all to shed light of the state of the nation there. He told me of meeting with handlers who would take him in to thick jungles for days to sit and wait. Then be taken back to the same spots the were had already been days before to meet with the Generals of the amy so they could be interviewed. The following day he would be taken to the apposing army and conduct his interview with them. I sat in awe as he showed me prints and video footage he had taken of the troops and listened in horror as he told me how the armies would treat a handler if the reporter offended the Generals with the wrong questions of implied the armies were not working for the people. We sat and talked about each others work and found a common love worlds apart.
Later Lisa, another friend of Amanda would be dressed up and we would have an impromtu shoot that would last for some time. I would sleep at 9 am and head out the door back to Chilliwack around 12:30 after everyone had left for breakfast. I had just made some new friends and I was charged up and ready to embrace the trekking again. Lesson learned when things get dark, breathe and wait a few minute it shall pass and you will find what you need to move away from it. I was a little sad leaving my new friends, but that is the nature of trekking, it would not be long until I was learning something else from an unlikely source. I also knew that I had a few more reasons to return to Peachland and that I would again laugh, dance and play with these very special people.
The Trek Home
If you have ever been to Peachland you know its on the side of some hills and next to a lake. Amanda’s place was 2.7km up one of those hills and the highway was next to the lake. One foot in front of the other I started out telling myself at least it was down hill.very close to Amanda’s home there is a cemetery, as I passed by it I noticed a car on the side of the road near a gate. There was a woman by the gate and as I aproached she turned to me and said good morning and a way only a grandmother could. I didn’t stop walking but acknowledged her and smiled thinking yes it is. A few seconds later the car pulled up to my side and the window rolled down and her husband leaned over from the drivers side to ask me I would like a ride to the bottom of the hill. Oh how wonderful I thought I smiled and accepted putting my things in the back seat and climbing in. The husband said he saw my tripod on my backpack and new I was a photographer. He went on to explain their daughter was also a photog and we talked about the business and such as we defenced the hill. When we arrived at the bottom see sand we are heading into Summerland if you would like we can drop you there. We had a great chat about the time they lived in peach land and how they now come back to vista the cemetery and her uncle Tony. They read the signs now up for the local elections and commented on the politicions they had know in the past. I was just a short trip about 15-20 mins and the chat was small talk but the fact that I received this unsolisited gift from them, a retired couple, made me feel even more empowered I was in a good place.
The Girl from France
Years ago I worked for a popular causal dining restaurant, after opening the Chilliwack location I was asked to go to one of the busiest location in Vancouver. It was a great expedience and I truly enjoyed the fast pace and the people I worked with and the knowledge I gained in business, people selection and food. One night I was serving a mother and daughter and the mother was very intrigued by my journey to the city and my future plans. Her daughter would tell me later that she had said that I had “Nice windows”, referring to my eyes which were the windows to my soul. Kate the daughter would return the next day to give me a gift. I was quite taken by Kate and was happy she returned but I did not understand the gesture of the gift as we had only met for an hour the night before. She had brought with her two books that she felt I was in need of. I have never been a big reader, but gratiuosly thanked her and asked about the books and why she felt these were what I needed at that time in my life. Kate explained Jonathan Livingston Seagull, written by Richard Bach, is a fable in novella form about a seagull learning about life and flight, and a homily about self-perfection and The Celestine Prophecy is a 1993 novel by James Redfield that discusses various psychological and spiritual ideas that are rooted in many ancient Eastern Traditions and New Age spirituality, were important for me. She also said the latter was a book that was given to you when you were ready to read it. i would date Kate for a few months but I was on my way back to Chilliwack and we would soon drift apart. In the weeks that followed I would spend my time on the sky train reading and learnt of the connection of everyone and everything and how people would come into you life just as you needed them to. I would hang onto that book and the lessons and still carry them with me today. A few weeks ago I was returning to Vancouver by bus and a young lad sitting next to me, put his book down just long enough for me to recognize the cover. I new at that moment that I needed to do this project. had actually been looking for a copy in the days before to pass on to someone I felt was ready for. I had also downloaded the audio version months before to reacquaint myself with the teaching after my seperation. I looked at him and as someone once done with me on the sky train and said “Great book, hey!” he looked at me and beamed knowing I was there to send him a message and said “Yes it is, I love it, It’s amazing” Now you might not think that this a big deal even if you had read the book. It’s not well written but the underlying messages do help to understand the connections we have with each other and the universe. More importantly it opens an awareness to being open for everything and everyone. This is the perfect parable for the trekker.
About an hour later a min van pulled off the highway in Summerland and the door opened and I met Manon, a mid twenties student from Eastern France, who was working in Kelowna for the fall. She had been in Canada about a year and was studying in Montreal up until April. When her school year ended she and a friend went to Peru for a few months and travelled to many of the places mentioned in the book. I asked her if she had any chance to see first hand the monks and priests and spend any time with them. She came right back at me in her broken english explaining the spiritual teachings and presence was abundant and she learnt many things about peace, the universe and the connectionss with nature. We talked about her travel plans which saw her heading to France in November to spend Christmas with her family and then return to visit Mexico in January.
I mention earlier that this trip was a short test before I embarked on a larger trek. I have a friend who has a house under construction in Mexico and if things go well I will be there to help him to open up his home. Manon and I had a short visit but certainly found a connection and if the path is right we will reconnect in Mexico in a few months. Manon continued on to Oliver and left me on the side of the highway leading to Keremeos. It was not about 5pm and I was hoping to get to Princeton by night fall.
To be continued…