I’ve only been to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia – just three of the ten provinces of Canada – but I can attest to the fact that this country has one of the liveliest and walkable trails in the world. Japan, China, and Korea still top the list, but I can’t complain because my six months here in Canada is nothing short of filled with outdoor activities. There are hiking trails and parks everywhere.
Lucky and I woke up to a petulant rain one Saturday morning. Although hiking is best done on a sunny day, the call of the wild was much stronger than the urge to stay in bed and waste lungfuls of fresh air. It’s winter in Vancouver until March, so most mountain trails are closed because of the snow. I was disappointed that I couldn’t hike the Grouse Grind, but I couldn’t be fully discouraged. Beautiful British Columbia has alternative hiking trails for unstoppable souls like me.
North Vancouver sounded like a fine idea, so we headed to Lynn Valley to trek Lynn Canyon. I read a suspension bridge sits in the middle of the trail.
The rain had already calmed down by the time we reached the beginning of the trail, but the canopy of redwoods, cedars, and other towering trees collected so much water from the rain. We needed umbrellas to shield us from wetness.
Unlike all the other Canadian trails I visited, this one was particularly quiet. Because of the wet weather, hikers were carrying umbrellas. The trails were also relatively more slippery, so concentrating on one’s step was necessary. Chatting was few and far between, and we didn’t see anyone wearing earphones. The rain turned out to be a beautiful reminder that walking should done mindfully (at least, most of the time).
I used to wear earphones when going for a walk or a hike. Having been told to be productive and not to “waste” time, I mindlessly jumped on the bandwagon of listening to podcasts while walking. Exercising while learning new things made sense to me so, why not? Walking became a mere fitness activity – removed from the essential act of mindful travel.
But, somehow, it had to change. As a traveler, I encounter so many new things on a daily basis. If I’d insist on being productive all the time, I’d be insulating myself from the world I’m walking in. Wearing earphones would just be another form of busyness. Besides, what’s the point in traveling to a different country only to listen to the same playlist I can listen to regardless of geographical location?
Unlike many of the travelers I know and have met on the road, I stay in a place far longer than many would require themselves. Just as Janina San Miguel in Bb. Pilipinas said, “No, I don’t feel any pressure…right now.” I don’t want to pass by a place and brag about the number of cities and countries I’ve been to. We can’t reduce travel to mere numbers – of flights, train rides, and places. Travel is about learning, living in the moment, and expanding our sense of self. Exploring Canada’s numerous hiking trails ensures my penchant for slow travel is satisfied.
Life is both simple and complicated. A totally quiet life could be an unlived life, whereas a totally busy life could be mere decorations on what’s really important. As humans, we complicate simple things and overly simplify what is complex. But in a world where everyone wants to have a say about everything, sometimes all you need is the sound of rushing water to block out the noise.
When we reached the suspension bridge, there was a long line of people waiting to cross and take photos in the middle of it. The turnaround time was apparently longer than we anticipated. It turned out there was prenuptial photography taking place. I understood that the view was majestic, but it was quite disappointing that such photo shoot had to take so long. If it weren’t a bridge and many people could cross anytime, it wouldn’t be much of a problem.
Though I’m not immune to the impulse of taking photos of things that I find beautiful, I minimize the time I spend clicking my camera and focus on the main reason why I visit a spot in the first place. Lynn Canyon is replete with trees adorned with lichens and moss. The flowing river weaves a symphony together with bird songs. The smell of pine trees tells you you are indeed in North America. I didn’t want to miss these.
Last weekend, I trekked a canyon hoping to cross a suspension bridge and witness the majesty of two waterfalls in North Vancouver. While hiking, a thought occurred to me. “Home is where the heart is” is an overused cliche to mean that physical places are removed from the concept of home. If home doesn’t reflect geography, culture, and physical location, why is it natural for people to seek places where they can bloom? Don’t we all yearn to be somewhere, including our present location? Perhaps, home is not just a feeling but is something more tangible, more physical, more human – like a city of trains, mountains, and temples, or a sunny coastal town that gives birth to naturally cheerful people.
The trek wasn’t torturous at all. When we reached the end of the trail, we were struck by craving for freshly-brewed coffee, doughnuts with maple syrup, and a relaxed conversation about why life is so beautiful. In a matter of two hours spent outdoors, we were reminded that beauty was abundant…if we would only open our eyes.
My travel is a protest against the commodification of the experience of travel. No matter how much we think of travel as a lofty ideal, if we walk wide awake and quietly, we are already traveling. There’s little need for special gears, complicated gadgets, energy bars, and guide books. All you need is you.
How to get here: From Granville or Burrard Stations of downtown Vancouver, take bus 210 and get off at the NB Underwood Ave FS Evelyn St stop. Travel time is approximately 50 minutes. At a leisurely pace, the trek can take around an hour to reach the bridge.