20 Mar The July Project–all who wonder are lost?
So, my friends, recently I blogged about treating Toronto like a far-away place and explore what that means–treat it like a completely new place, which it really is for me. I lived here in 2000 as a student but I went back to London to hang out with a boyfriend almost every weekend. I never explored Toronto. Then, a really magical thing happened: I recently found a kindred spirit who also wants to re-discover her backyard, but her backyard is in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
I’ve never met this woman face-to-face, only a few Skype conversations, but we’re both fellow travel writers and when she read my blog post, she was inspired. The prospect of working on a project (which I will eventually reveal later) with someone –who is so lovely– is really invigorating. That is the power of good people.
So, as we talked today, and brainstormed how this project would take shape, I began to think, and I have been thinking: what does it mean to connect to a place? And, what does it mean to see a place with new eyes? For the past 14 years I have taken off the minute school is over. I go away because I want to wake up and find that every day is new: what’s going to happen? What will I see and eat? It’s like being a kid all over again. But, one of the biggest reasons I travel: I crave meeting new people. So then, the question becomes: is exploring less about the place and more about the people?
This July Project reminds me of returning to Newfoundland a few summers ago. I was born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the place–other than the dreamy, talented and sassy Gordon Pinsent is also a GFalls native. So, I went home. For a month, I went to kitchen parties, biked through forests, and alongside lakes; I swam in the bitter cold Atlantic ocean and danced at Legion parties. I went to local theatre and heard heartbreaking stories of living on an isolated island with a rugged harsh landscape and all that it means to struggle in life and love. Hell, I even hung out with a fisherman.
But what connected me to the place more than anything else: Newfoundlanders. That’s not to say they’re a bunch of saints, and darlings–they’re a raw sarcastic bunch most of the time–but at the heart of it, Newfoundlanders, of which I am wholeheartedly one, crave love. They feed off the energy of other people and they love to give it to other people. Maybe it’s because life has been a struggle. Strife keeps one real, honest?
Travel relationships are funny–funny strange, in that they are so intense. You reveal so much in such a short amount of time. You’re spontaneous and intense because you think, ‘I’m not sure how long we have together.’ So, inevitably, you pour your soul out to travel friends. Connections at home take longer; people are less trusting. I would venture to say North Americans, and in my summation as an outspoken and overly friendly Newfoundlander, Torontonians are not inclined to trust easily. For instance, and this is only one of many similar examples, but I recently told a woman on the Subway that her perfume smelled nice. She looked at me like I was going to jump her. But then, slowly, her expression changed. She realized I didn’t want anything. That tiny exchange gave me a jolt; it made me smile. It also did the same for the beautiful-smelling woman.
I think in some respects, I want to make Toronto feel just as electric as any other place I’ve travelled. And, I’m going to treat people I meet with the same openness I treat travel friends. I’m going to force people to talk to me, gosh darn it! I’m also going to put away my phone, which I do when I travel. I don’t want the distraction. Be in the moment. Be awake to my surroundings. Take it all in.
And finally, there are a million things to do in Ontario that I haven’t tried. Millions. Who knew that racing through Kensington Market at 3am on your bike feels like you’re seven all over again?
But really, when one travels and escapes too often, aren’t we inevitably not letting anything grow? Every time you leave home, you’re pulling out roots, time and time again. And when you’ve done it as long as I have, and always travelling alone, it does get lonely. Now, if I can only keep myself from googling airline tickets long enough to see this little experiment through until the end.