I was born, raised and live in Southwestern Ontario. You would think, with that much time spent in one area (over 40 years but under 42 years), I would be able to explain everything about it, right?. And being Canadian, I could define the Canadian experience – right? I’ll tell you, one can certainly have a Canadian foundation but really not know, nor understand, anything about what it is to a be a Canadian. It wasn’t until I spent 4 months of my life living and travelling abroad, that I began to realize I needed to explore my roots and embrace my nationality.
During university, I spent 4 months living, studying and travelling abroad. I was based in London, England, but being in such close proximity to so many other countries, I used my weekends, school breaks and summer, to travel the UK and a bit of Europe. London didn’t feel much different from Toronto. Big buildings, lot’s of traffic and resources; very cosmopolitan. When I got to travel outside the city I was in awe. Vast green forests and hills. There were rocks and sheep and quaint little cobblestone roads. I went up the Eiffel Tower in Paris and couldn’t believe the beauty of all the twinkly lights and how far I could see. Waiting for the elevator to go down, my best friend and I overheard the woman behind us, ask her companion how high the Eiffel Tower was. It was certainly one of the highest structures she had ever been up. My friend and I winked at each other because we knew the CN Tower in Toronto, back home, was higher. Then it occurred to me. I hadn’t been up the CN Tower since I was 4. I barely remembered being terrified riding the elevator to the top with my grandfather. But that was it. All of the sudden, I felt like a part in a movie when everything sped up and the picture became blurred. The things I was admiring during this excursion, were things I didn’t even know if we had in Canada. I never paid attention. I took it for granted that things I saw everyday in my homeland were just always … there. But were they??????
When I got home, I put on my national glasses and suddenly I saw … vast green forests and hills, rocks and sheep (and cows), not cobblestone roads but dirt roads with farms and livestock. I took my (then) fiancee (and now both my sons) up to the top of the CN Tower and witnessed twinkley lights and saw for miles. It brought tears to my eyes. The things that I thought were beautiful in a foreign land, were the very things that I couldn’t see in my own backyard. It put things very dramatically into perspective. I am so very GRATEFUL for all that I live amongst in this place we call Canada.