The sheer solitude of the Arctic is stunning - getting up before everyone else to be greeted by this scene makes me feel blessed. I remember that morning so clearly because I just gave myself time to ‘pause’ for a moment to take it all in.
I’m going to guess that, at some point during at least one of your travel experiences, you’ve had some kind of epiphany - big or small. Something has happened to you, to someone you’re travelling with, or to those around you and the result is a whole new perspective on life. These blogs are about Travel Journals - and they are a wonderful place to write about what’s happened to you out ‘on the road’, so to speak.
Let me tell you what happened to me when I came face to face with a traditional world that is disappearing before our eyes so quickly.
In 2014, I was part of a crew of paddlers who went on a month-long, 1500 km canoe expedition down the MacKenzie River in the Canadian Arctic. Twelve of us paddled in three 26 foot voyageur canoes from Fort Providence, at the west end of Great Slave Lake, to Inuvik in the MacKenzie River delta. The entire trip tested all of us in so many ways and, while it isn’t really a ‘technical’ paddle, the long days and almost constant daylight were only a couple of the challenges.
One of the things we noticed early was the large number of bank-failures along the river. Several of the First Nation people we spoke to along the way felt this was a result of global warming.
On that trip I gained a new appreciation for human endurance, for patience, and for the innovative capacity of the human character.
Let’s me tell you about something important that I witnessed at a grocery store in Fort Simpson, where we’d stopped for a day’s rest and to clean up a little.
As I was shopping for some of the basics that we’d need for the next 300-400km leg of our journey, I saw a small frail-looking elderly First Nation man wandering up and down the aisles looking at the shelves. He stopped a woman in front of me and spoke to her in his native language.
She replied to him quietly, but only with a very few words, and she was clearly hesitant as she spoke. As the three of us continued slowly down the aisle, one of the store employees came along. The woman spoke up.
‘This fellow wants to know how much money is in his account, and he doesn’t know how to find out. He only speaks Dogrib. My Grandma lives with us and speaks it too, but I only know a few words so I can’t help him out at the machine.’
The employee smiled and replied, ‘Oh, that’s alright, Tom comes in all the time and I can talk to him and help him out.’ The woman thanked the fellow and, as we continued on our separate shopping, we saw the Northern Store employee gently take the old man along to the ATM to do his banking and then the rest of his shopping.
I’m not sure what happened to me but, in an instant, it dawned on me that I was seeing the passing of a generation. Even more sadly, I was perhaps witnessing the passing of a whole language and culture. The old fellow was clearly the last of probably very few native speakers…..and I just watched and listened to a small but important chapter in that disappearance.
I was sad. Right there in the store, I felt a sadness that still wells up in me as I write this blog.
One of the pages from the Travel Journal I kept on that MacKenzie River canoe trip.
Now, I’m not alone in seeing things like this….in witnessing a changing world….in happening across a moment of personal revelation…..in having my world stopped by a fate that just simply and quietly laid itself before me.
I’m betting your travels have dealt you one or more of these type of events that give you an important pause in your life.
Endurance was a key part of what we discovered about ourselves on those long paddle days that averaged 75km per day.
I was sure to capture that poignant event in my Travel Journal - and when my grandchildren read about that little vignette decades from now, they will know me a little better I hope. Perhaps they’ll know the world a little better too.
Whew…..this was a tough blog to write, but I hope it inspires you to take a Travel Journal with you as you do that next cycling tour or that winter vacation in Belise or perhaps that 2-week road trip you always said you’d do. You’ll never regret having kept that Travel Journal!
Not every piece of travel that you do may touch you the way this event did me but, with all the other things in my Travel Journal from that trip, it is a journal that I treasure.
Always take time to simply ‘notice’ the world around you, and you will the richer for it.
Finally, remember that keeping a Travel Journal isn’t supposed to be a job….so relax and I think you’ll quickly find that you get better and better with every single Travel Journal you keep.
To help with the challenge of ‘what to include’ in your Travel Journal, I’ve attached a link to a PDF that I’ve put together to help you build that framework and get you going. Years from now, you’ll never regret having kept a Travel Journal, and your descriptions will be so much richer if you pay attention to your 5th (and 6th) senses.
Email me to let me know how I can help you get going on setting up your very own Travel Journal. Tell me what your biggest barriers are, and I’ll help you overcome them.
Go ahead and click this link to download your framework on Travel Journal ‘content’!
Brought to you by www.newtraveljournal.com
(The Dogrib people are also referred as Tlicho and part of the wider group of First Nation Dene peoples.)