This was my first big trip abroad and everything seemed to be going wrong. Exhausted after an eight hour flight (and a three hour wait at Heathrow earlier that day) by the time I arrived at Vancouver airport I was ready for the day to be over. But it wasn’t, and would not be over for a long time yet. Bad booking and travelling on an August bank holiday meant that my quick stop in Vancouver before taking my connecting flight turned into an endless waiting game as we snailed through the arrivals and customs section. After being parted briefly from my passport by an overzealous customs official there was nothing for it but to find a seat and wait.
Nineteen and travelling alone for the first time I started to despair as it became clear that my luggage would not be travelling with me (strangely taking a seat on the flight that followed mine) and that there was no knowing when I would be able to catch a connecting flight to Victoria, BC. But in amongst the fear and anxiety and confusion and excitement mingled inside my stomach, keeping sleep at bay.
Late August sun shone through the almost floor to ceiling windows that dominated the waiting lounge. I stared out into the grounds of the airport and I had the disconcerting experience of realizing that for the first time in my life, I was not surrounded by life. The concrete buildings and tower blocks that I was used to dominating the skyline had morphed into an expanse of orange dirt emptiness. A space so big it refused to fit inside my head and make sense.
This feeling was compounded when I finally was flying over to Victoria, on a much smaller and near empty plane that flew over a scene that could have been torn straight out of a travel guide and imprinted on the landscape. Below me was seemingly endless space filled with of blues and greens. Colours that were more familiar to me from Dulux wall colour charts than from nature. Being from a grassless concrete city I felt as though this country, the continuing expanse of space that still belonged to nature, might swallow me whole. How could I find my feet in a place like this?
In Victoria I found my way through the cities grid system and became familiar with the size of the city and the way nature was always close by. Four months later with three friends that I had met at University adventure beckoned. For the first time in my life I had fallen in with a group of friends like completing a jigsaw puzzle and with the desperation of restless youth we tried to extend our time together before home pulled us away.
With a somewhat naïve and misguided fervor we headed to the mainland and made our way north east in search of snow for Christmas. In the middle of an overnight coach journey we stopped at a service station. In the dark I turned to see wall of icy snow, taller than the coach, looking down on us as traffic thundered above and we cowered below.
Hours later the coach pushed the night time darkness away and we arrived at Lake Louise. St Piran’s flag greeted us, a timely reminder of home and the encroaching end of our journey. Christmas came and we went walking through the woods, watching as our breath crystallized and the tips of our hair froze. With the cold settled in our bones we headed to Lake Louise; a beautiful hotel overlooking a lake which freezes every year. Our footsteps connected our time together with a glacier that held its place against the process of progression and modernity. The lake was beautiful and wild, not held together by manmade laws.
It was stood here, on ice feet thick, tracing ski tracks that snaked through the white that I realized that I would not sink beneath the tide of wilderness. Holding hands with the people that I hoped to keep in my life like oxygen, our shared memories writing lines across my palms. As it passed midnight we waited at a deserted bus stop counting the Canadian stars that shone on us and our families at home. Standing in a circle underneath the lamp light battling to keep out the cold with hoods up and bodies interlinked; I knew for the first time with a clear sense of certainty, that I was not alone.
About the Author: Laura Marriott is an aspiring British travel writer and poet now living in Dublin who takes any opportunity to discover new places and rediscover new ones.
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