Saturday, May 24, 2014

May there be spring!

On a recent helicopter flight for work, our pilot commented that the Peace is two weeks behind his hometown Vernon.  The rivers here are filled with silt and not yet at their high water level for the year, snow still lingers in the bush and makes roads inaccessible, vegetation here is in various stages of leafing out while Vernon has had leaf out, flowers and is snow free!

We northerners cherish our summers.

It's rare for gardeners to plant before June due to lingering frost risk yet we're out on riverboats enjoying the snowcapped peaks and high water that makes areas inaccessible in warmer months.  Music festivals run into the never-dark night.  Black out shades sell out from the local hardware store a month before summer solstice as we attempt to adequately rest before launching ourselves into another high activity day of weeding, hiking, fishing, BBQs.  Even with our long days, it seems there's never enough time to fit it all in.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Disconnected travelers

I didn't intent to take a break from blogging this past trip. It wasn't a conscious electronic departure. Ample internet access was available as cafes and on a tablet thing when my dear friend Jaana was around.

On my last two trips, I've been deeply annoyed at wifi's pervading presence in guesthouses, restaurants, dive shops, bars and even places of worship. In the latter, I can assure you users were not communicating with the divine.

Yeah, it's great we can stay connected with friends, family and colleagues while we're away from our for-now homes but I fear there's a disturbing trend of travelers that aren't engaging with the locals or their fellow travelers.

It used to be easy as a solo traveler to meet new people or invite yourself to share their table. Now, when an ENTIRE table has their faces lit up by computer, tablet or phone screens, I'd rather dine, drink, explore sites, sleep alone than feel like I'm intruding on their electronic time.

An uneasy feeling of loneliness and isolation sets in as travelmates ignore you in favour of sending gang emails, updating statuses, posting photos or applying for jobs back home when the very people they are electronically "connecting" with are sleeping!

Such is the blessing and curse of the internet's popularity and deemed necessity.

I acknowledge I could not travel without it but I long to travel alongside people and connect face-to-face. To hear their stories first hand, not a polished online version of it. To laugh at cultural missteps, share advice on that delicious restaurant, cool elephant rescue place, warn against a dodgy overnight train, not read Tripadvisor reviews.

Ironically/fittingly/fortunately email, facebook, couchsurfing facilitates meeting with locals, distant family, friends of friends and expats. An online community persists when it feels like there isn't one.

As surfer, host and traveler at large, I have contacted and been contacted by members of the traveling community. I have dispensed advice and sought it.

I connected a dear friend and classmate who would be living and working in eastern Africa for overlapping timeframes. My mother's cousin's best friend's son let us stay with him in New Zealand and I have since visited him and his new family in several Canadian cities. My cousin and I continue to celebrate her birthday outside this country.

Yes, the world is opening up, and there's no shortage of people who've been there to consult with, but I caution amongst these marvel of being connected, we're guilty of not connecting to those around us in real life.