Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"When you're safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you're having an adventure, you wish you were safe at home." (Thornton Wilder)

Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, which is my favourite family holiday. I enjoy it even more than Christmas; instead of being distracted by consumer-driven expectations like gift exchanges, wasting electricity by covering our yards with more lights than we need, over-decorating the tree with tacky yet “sentimental” crafts that we made in elementary school, and listening to the same carols over and over and over (Celine Dion Christmas in my house!), Thanksgiving is a holiday which allows us to fully appreciate time with the people we love.

My Mom always cooks an incredible feast: turkey, gravy (that I have never burned, regardless of what anyone tells you), stuffing, mashed potatoes, carrots, peas, cranberry sauce, pie (hopefully ones made by Brian!), squash, turnips, and of course, lots of wine. She is also an amazing host and invites as many people as she can possibly squeeze into our “little” cottage. It is funny that I was in England for Thanksgiving this year, as last year, two of my friends from England celebrated Thanksgiving with us at the cottage!

Another component of Thanksgiving that I love is the quirky family traditions. For example, my family also goes on an annual “Busman Walk”, while the turkey is cooking in the oven. A big group of my relatives partakes in this potentially dangerous event, where we walk on the dirt road behind the Norway Bay Golf Course towards the Bristol Mines (while trying to avoid being hunting targets), with the final destination being the property of a man who lives in his bus. We do not attempt to make contact with the man, but rather observe the bus’ status as compared to previous years. A weird tradition, I know, but it adds a bit of excitement to the holiday, and the crisp fall air always seems to stimulate our appetites. The weekend also involves the much dreaded routine of putting our bodies at risk of hypothermia to remove docks and boat hoists, which should have been taken out on Labor Day (when no one had the heart to accept that summer was over). Oddly, in recent years my daily exercise (run or bike ride) has conflicted with this wonderful chore (which is usually completed by my Dad and uncles)…don’t know how that happened…

Since Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in England, I was feeling a bit homesick last weekend. I tried to remedy the problem by cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for some of the Canadians I have met in London. It ended up being a great meal of roast chicken (it is too hard to find a turkey here!), stuffing, potatoes, asparagus, carrots, rice, and amazing desserts. As wonderful as it was to celebrate a Canadian holiday abroad, I missed my family and friends a lot and wished that I was at the cottage with them (or maybe it was just the lack of turkey…).

I suppose the yearning for the comforts of home led me to question why I left in the first place. Why did I choose to leave behind everything that I know and love to come to a big city where I often feel like just another Oyster Card swiping in at Goodge Street and out at whatever station I end up at (usually Waterloo where I take the train to my next destination)? Truthfully, I have difficulty identifying exactly why I feel such a strong pull to travel and explore the world. I wish that I could just stay at home and be able to spend holidays with the people I love. Perhaps I am attracted to the mystery of the unknown, a thirst for knowledge and experience that can’t fully be satisfied by the comforts of home. Reading about places and seeing them in movies just isn’t as exciting (or scary) as actually being there (and London is probably one of the cities that is documented most in fiction…it IS an amazing place).

When you are travelling, each day brings the possibility of adventure. I suppose such escapades can occur at home as well, as life itself is a great journey- it is impossible to predict exactly how the day’s events might unfold and how you will react to them- but people tend to limit exploration at home. While there, we don’t often seek opportunities to step outside our comfort zones. I know I don’t. It is so easy to live within the boundaries of the comfortable monotony of your daily routine. I guess I left home to seek new experiences, meet new people, and learn as much as I possibly can about life and the world.

Here is an example of a recent spontaneous adventure: I had the day off and went to Charing Cross train station with my bike, with absolutely no destination. I got on the next available train, bought a map at the gas station when I got there, and explored. It was amazing because by pure accident, I ended up stumbling upon Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. As I was cycling through the countryside from Tonbridge to Edenbridge, I had been thinking about how much the landscape reminded me of the farmlands in the Pontiac (where my cottage is). All of a sudden, I saw a sign that indicated that there was a castle 1 mile to the left, and I was quickly reminded that I was in England and not Quebec.

Perhaps this lust I have for excitement and adventure will prove to be a big waste of time (and money…yikes, I try not to think about my dwindling bank account), as it is not really that “productive” to be constantly bouncing around from one place to the next with no real direction or purpose. However, I have learned a lot about the history and culture of a new city and country, and have met some incredible people. I have been lucky to have met a great group of Canadian teachers and have joined the most welcoming and fun rugby team (the Harlequins)! Deciding to come out of retirement and play rugby has been an invaluable part of my experience so far. The girls are wonderful and have introduced me to many aspects of British culture that I would not have been exposed to otherwise, such as teaching me slang, bringing me to some good pubs, going to a professional rugby match, and introducing me to their friends and family. Without these social connections, it would be so easy to feel lost in such a big city.

Most importantly, by being away from home, I have gained much insight into myself and what I value…like being able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family at the cottage! I guess I did, in fact, participate in the most important element of Thanksgiving this year- taking the time to appreciate the people I love, but unfortunately, it was not in the way I would have liked. Hopefully, I’ll be able to join them on the Busman walk next year!


Meg V said...

Awww - nice post Shan.

We all love you and miss you - especially your fam, I am sure.

At the same time you question why you travel, I question why I am (usually) content to stay put in my boring, run of the mill life and sometimes wish I had the time or the guts to adventure!

The grass is always greener on the other side ;)

Enjoy your time in the UK!

Love you!

Anonymous said...

Very well said Shannon.
Seize every opportunity to travel, you learn so much more than in books, and you learn so much about yourself.