As your own years pass & you grow personally you may find that you have outgrown your hometown and want or need to move on. This was the situation I found myself in, having outgrown my early life in my hometown of Orillia, knowing that it was time to branch out and explore the big wide world. I was at an age where I needed to prove myself – as my own person.
Here are a few stories from my Canuck (an endearing term) teenage years, local travels & some overseas backpacking. It’s not too personal a tale, nothing juicy or revealing but a snapshot of the highlights of life as it was for me. Recalling the fun times and the new things discovered in developing this website is like living all over again or reminiscing.
It is only through travel, adventure, and meeting new people does one expand their horizons and a better understanding of life, in my humble view. Once struck by the travel bug, it is hard to resist and probably the reason I became a wanderer of sorts. I learned the joy of traveling from an early age and fondly recall many trips that widened my perspective and outlook on life, the world, and people. Here are a few stories about some of the adventures I was lucky enough to experience during my time in Canada:
Teenage trip – Across Canada and America – June to August 1968
This was a high school graduation escape for Jim and me, two teenagers who were getting out of small-town Orillia to check out the big wide world.
We convinced our parents of our responsible natures and wise approach to life; we convinced them that using the truck from our family business would be fine and the right thing to do as a graduation gift. The months of planning and working out routes and attractions to see kept us busy. We constructed a cabin for the back of the pick-up truck to provide us a place to sleep and we stocked up on camping equipment and supplies. This trip was going to have to be done as cheaply as possible so camping and cooking our way across Canada and back through the northern part of the USA was planned.
It was a summer trip in 1968 – I think – after leaving school and having finished year 12. My application for the RCMP had been lodged and was being processed so while waiting it seemed the best time to take on the world and discover Canada and the US on our own. The trip was planned to head west through southern Canada and return via the northern USA. The memory has gone a bit fuzzy but the trip was about 2 months long leaving in late June and returning in August, as I recall, and it was an adventure for us both. I struggled to find pictures of this adventure but did find some old slides that I have digitally uploaded – so they are not the best but the only ones I have. It was fun trying to piece this journey together again.
The road trip left Ontario, headed through Manitoba and into Saskatchewan. It was a long wilderness drive through the north of Ontario, stopping at the famous Canada goose monument, and then flat prairie greeted us. We hit Winnipeg and Regina the home of RCMP training that I would return to in February 69. We would stop and camp at national parks, private campgrounds, or on the roadside depending on where we ended up and how tired we were. We used a camp cooking stove for most of our meals – I think we shared the cooking duties.
Next, we entered Alberta and stopped in to visit my uncle in Didsbury on his cattle ranch. A visit to Dinosaur National Park and the Tar Sands was also an education. We headed up through Banff and Jasper National Parks, checking out the Banff Springs hotel, and the glacier national park, and soaking up the vistas of the mountains. We enjoyed some great camping in the beautiful mountain parks and then over the Rogers Pass in the Rockies and through to British Columbia. I think our cooking was pretty basic with beans, toast, eggs, and some meat from time to time. We had to be thrifty with the dollars as we had to pay for gas, food, some beer, and camping permits. We took a trip to Vancouver Island as I recall before heading south to the US.
Our return journey would be taken through the northern US states of Washington, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, Iowa, and Wisconsin, and back through Niagara Falls to Orillia.
We saw new sites, were impressed with the distance we traveled, and enjoyed great new experiences with people, wildlife, and vistas encountered.
RCMP & Career Break
There are separate pages covering my policing career at different postings throughout Canada. After my first 4 years of Policing, I decided on a long holiday that turned out to be a year-long break from the RCMP. I couldn’t get extended leave so I resigned to travel, low budget backpack-style, through Europe, North Africa, and England. After just over a year off I rejoined the RCMP and you can find out all about that by checking the menu and heading to the RCMP pages.
Hitch-hiking through Europe, North Africa, and Britain – 1973/74
It was a dream to belong to the RCMP and serve my country policing. The dream probably had left out the fact that my early years were spent on Indian reservations and in hotel bar rooms either arresting, fighting, or trying to break up fights much of the time. It seemed that for about 4 years that was what I was doing much of my duty time and I got sick of it. You just didn’t have much dealing with normal everyday people and all this eventually culminated in me wanting to take a long European holiday. The Force said no, you can only go on your normal leave and my travel plans were much longer.
So the decision was made – I resigned to get a long holiday – but will return to rejoin and serve. It was off to Europe from Toronto with only a backpack of clothes, a sleeping bag, and some essentials. My arrival destination was Madrid, Spain. I seem to have only a few photo’s that I can find from this journey of nearly 12 months – they were slides and I have done my best to capture them digitally to help tell this story. There were more but must have been lost or misplaced from all the moving around over the years. I am grateful for these few.
Having arrived in Madrid I remember getting a bus into the city and looking around on the side streets of the main square for a pension – a room and after being shown a few and sorting out the costs I found a place to rest my head. Here I was a world away from what I had been doing in a strange country and I didn’t speak the language this was going to be challenging. Traveling alone had its advantages and disadvantages but I was self-reliant and enjoyed doing things on my own – at times.
I got out every day and explored the city, the cathedrals, and the ancient architecture – it was all so different. After a while I decided to check out youth hostels as these provided an opportunity to meet other travelers and to get tips and tricks on where to go, things to look out for, and perhaps even a travel companion from time to time. This proved successful, it provided cheap accommodation and usually allowed for going out with a group to see things, to pubs and to eat.
I eventually decided it was time to move on and Portugal was the next call as I heard it was nice. A bus trip to Lisbon was organized and upon my arrival, I meet up with university students in the city square who wanted to practice English. I was in the city square having a drink and something to eat when I heard some people calling out to me and I was asked to join this group.
They invited me to holiday with them when they went on break in a month, so I decided to travel around Portugal while I waited for this opportunity. I made my way down the coast of Portugal hitchhiking and camping out until I reached the Sagres and the 15th-century fortress that was also a youth hostel in those days. I recall the efforts to get food and pointing to items on plates or going into kitchens and pointing to something to eat. The people were friendly and helpful.
I generally was lucky with rides and didn’t usually have to wait long to get a ride along the road to wherever the driver was going. There were some interesting people and generally glad to help – a few were seeking favors for rides which I kindly declined. I remember the small towns and villages with chickens in the streets. Camping off the road at night, hidden from the view of passers-by, for safety. It was a time of daring and challenge – it was a time when hitchhiking was still fashionable.
Having toured and gone camping with friends for about 2 months it was time to move on and make my way to Spain and Seville then onto Algeciras and the straits of Gibraltar for a ferry crossing to Tangier in Morocco in North Africa. This was a land that time had forgotten in my view. Having made the crossing and managed to get onto a bus bound for Casablanca and Marrakesh and places that you saw in the movies but didn’t think you would ever go to. I remember that there seemed to be lots of backpackers doing these trips mostly so they could smoke “pot” in Morocco – it was legal there apparently.
I did meet many foreigners who had been there for a long time and were totally strung out on drugs – they had lost themselves. There was some form of civil unrest as I recall because taking the bus everywhere you encountered Police roadblocks and bus searches. Often the bus would stop before these checkpoints and some passengers would get off and disappear into the woods to only reappear and get on the bus after the checkpoint. It was an uneasy time, but I was young and carefree. I remember getting very bad diarrhea and needing to eat yogurt and an omelet for some time. I was using youth hostels as they were safer and more secure. Wondering about the “suks” or markets and the narrow alleys of the old cities always made me feel on edge – I never really felt secure here but did stay for about a month.
I had met travelers and had friends to hang with as we explored and enjoyed our new-found delights involving snake charmer in the markets, hordes of people, and mosques with their minarets sounding off 5 times a day. The chanting and praying in the streets on mass was a unique environment for me and a far cry from the cold winters of Manitoba. Men would be urinating in street side troughs, kids were running wild through the streets and someone was always trying to sell you something.
I eventually had enough of the hippy life and wild abandonment of these days and decided it was time to head north to Europe and to the UK where I had a friend waiting. I recall an incident getting onto a bus at the market in Marrakesh. I had bought a ticket and when I went to get onto the bus the porters demanded extra money to put my backpack on the top of the bus. I refused as it was part of my bus fare and a violent argument ensued. I ended up having to break a Coke bottle and back onto the bus defending myself from being attacked by rather large Moroccans – they can be big. I was glad to leave and return by ferry to Europe wiser from the experience and glad that I had some policing background.
My pictures are scarce for my next leg of the journey (where have they gone?) through Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Having safely arrived back I headed to Malaga. In trying to work out where to go and how to get there I was introduced to a truck of young backpackers that were touring Europe and I was offered the opportunity to join them. This seemed an easier way to have a look at Europe with somewhat of a planned journey, tents to sleep in each night, and meals available so I hitched up. This way I had company and the security of a group and it felt like a luxury after my own time in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco.
The gypsy-like group of young backpackers meandered through the rest of Spain on the coast via Valencia and Barcelona. We crossed into France and north via Montpellier, Lyon, and into Paris. Afterward, the group went to England while some of us headed to Germany and the Netherlands. We took in Frankfurt and Amsterdam and many sights along the way. It was an exciting time to be seeing all these sights and the countryside of these regions.
We eventually made our way to Calais and crossed the English Channel and onto London. I said goodbye to traveling friends and made contact with an English girl I had met in Manitoba – she had invited me to come to stay with her family while in London.
I did take her up on the offer as it suited the financial arrangements. It allowed me to hang out not far from the city and an easy train ride to get to the city attractions. I did the usual sites around London and the countryside. I even got to witness the changing of the guard for the Queens birthday. It was a very impressive sight, with lots of pomp and ceremony.
I also did some work at a youth center in the town I was living in (the name escapes me). It was lots of fun working with the kids and the programs they had on offer. I then decided that a cycle trip around parts of England would be exciting and an adventure so I packed up, got the backpack and a bicycle, and headed off. I met a policeman from the Metropolitan Police when at the youth center and he invited me to his country property where his parents lived and he and his family often visited. A way to experience the life of country England and it was interesting and most formal as I remember. They were great people and looked after me very well – even loaned me a suit for the occasion.
Having toured the English countryside I did find the narrow lanes, villages, and pubs fascinating. I would stay at many of the pubs along the way as my journey meandered the countryside. I would cycle all day and arrive at a town or village and check into a pub. The locals would always arrive after work and good conversation and pub meals followed.
It was a fun and exciting way to explore, meet up with local people and experience their ways of life but after many months away & many miles travelled I decided it was time to return to Canada and resume my Policing career. I was missing the stability of a full-time job and my friends in Canada.