Oh, Canada: A Traveler’s Confession to the True North, Strong and Free

Dear Canada,

Today marks the ninth-month anniversary of our breakup.  When I left in March, I packed up my stuff, moved out, and told you I wasn’t coming back.  But, I have a confession to make:

Sometimes, I miss you.

I know that this seems like a lot, coming from the girl who always jets off for European summers and doesn’t look back.  But South America isn’t Europe.  This time it’s different.  This time, I’ve learned something.

Sometimes, travel teaches you not only to appreciate other cultures, but also to value what you’ve left behind.

I’m not ready to come back to you, not just yet.  But I can’t hide the fact that there are some things about you that are just irreplaceable. Let me give you some examples…

1. You are green, green, green: One of the first things I notice when traveling outside of North America is the lack of green space.  Boulevards, parks, huge trees — we take these things for granted in Canada, and it’s amazing how much they contribute to the atmosphere of a place.  One of the main reasons I prefer Medellin (Colombia) over Lima (Peru), for example, is because Lima is largely dry and dusty, whereas Medellin has its fair share of greenery.  In Edmonton, the snow may cover the grass for much of the year, but, in the summer, there is no shortage of spots to spread out a picnic blanket.

View of Edmonton, my hometown

2. You don’t try to kill your own people:  Peruvian crosswalks have painted messages to remind people that four out of five traffic-related deaths involve pedestrians.  Considering that South Americans REFUSE to let pedestrians cross the street (even when they have a “walk” signal), this doesn’t surprise me.  Maybe, if people didn’t drive like maniacs, they would keep their fellow countrymen alive.   On top of that, my hearing will be very grateful when I go back to a country where drivers don’t feel the need to blast their horns every half-block.

3. You have drinkable, free water:  It becomes tedious as a backpacker, carting around 2.5 L water bottles in order to keep hydrated, but it’s necessary in hostels where filtered water isn’t provided.  Thank you, Canada, for allowing me to turn on my tap and pour myself a glass of nice, cold water.

 4. Canadians are okay with saying “no”:  Time and time again, I’ve been confused by a series of Latino excuses and lies.  It’s not that these people are malicious, they just hate to say “no” to you.  I’ve been stood up making plans, only to be fed obscure excuses.  Why can’t someone tell me, straight up, that they’re unable or don’t want to meet up with me?  It’s a cultural thing, and it’s all about saving face.  Moreover, if a Latino doesn’t know the answer to a question, more often than not, they won’t admit it.  They will make something up, or try to act more informed or educated than they are.  It’s okay to admit that you don’t know everything. 

I may be freezing, but the view behind me makes it worth it!

5.  Your landscape is stunning:  When we arrived in Patagonia, Lauren and I were supposed to be blown away by the nature.  Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful, but we quickly realized that we had been spoiled by living where we do.  We get to spend weekends in the Rocky Mountains, and vacation on Vancouver Island.  Canada, you are one pretty place. 

I may be chilly, but I have one beautiful view behind me! Lake Louise, Alberta

6. With you, I can go for a run without being harassed every 30 seconds:  I think I’ve reached my limit of Latino “piropos.”  How many times can you hear “Hola, mamacita” or “Ay, que rica” in one day before you want to just glare at every man that passes you on the street?  Attention can be flattering, but sometimes it’s nice to feel anonymous.   

7: Your people get things get done, when I need them done:  People generally show up on time.  9:00 PM means, 9:00 PM, and I would never expect to be kept waiting for an hour or more.  If I order a transcript from my university, it gets processed and sent the next day, not a month later. 

8. Your level of smoking and air pollution is minimal:  Ahh… fresh air!  Be it in a bar, or outside, I can breathe easy in Canada.  The number of Canada smokers may still be statistically relevant, but I rarely come into heavy contact with smoke in my routine back home.  Here, I can’t go to a club without coming home smelling like a cigarette, and I can’t walk the city streets of Lima without feeling my lungs fill with pollution.  It’s so strong that I actually feel warmer standing near the major roads, because my legs get blanketed in black exhaust. 

The Edmonton River Valley

9. You don’t have bakeries on every street corner to fatten me up:  Okay, this could be a pro/con, depending how you look at it.  The baked goods are spectacular in South America, but they are taking their toll on my body.  (You’ve noticed in the  photos, I know).  So, I’ll be relieved when I get away from the tempting window displays of pastries and ice cream on every block and can get back in shape. 

10. You’re a nation of treehuggers:  The only South American country I’ve visited that shows any sort of real dedication to recycling is Colombia, and even there I saw most of the recycling bins overflowing with trash.  It will be great to throw away paper or a plastic bottle and not feel like I’ve just contributed to the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. 

And finally, you have the definition of a “white Christmas:”

The decorations are up in Peru, the carols are blaring, but there’s something so magical about a white Christmas that things just don’t seem quite right here.  Every year, on the first weekend of December, my family puts up our Christmas tree while listening to Bing Crosby croon classics such as “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”  Well, I won’t be home this year, but on December 25, a part of me will be dreaming about the snow that dusts the city streets back home.


So, there you have it, Canada.  The real truth.  I miss you.  Not all of you — I don’t miss the cold, the expensive prices, or the icy sidewalks — but you do have a certain charm.  That said, I will enjoy every moment of my last 38 days in South America, but I’ll also have a few butterflies in my stomach when I arrive back in your arms.


La Viajera