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by Colleen Friesen
(For Travel Writers’ Tales)

It was a quest.

We would drive across Canada and find somewhere new to live.

We’d been across the country before but this time was different. We rented out our Vancouver apartment for a year, put our severely-edited remaining things into storage and stuffed the rest into the teeny drawers of our new turtle-shell; a 17 ½’ RPod trailer.

We left on April 30th, starting through Washington, Oregon, Montana, then up to Saskatchewan and back to BC. After a Mt. Robson hiking trip, we finally got serious about heading east.

#1-Hiking Mt. Robson - Colleen Friesen

We poked our way through little towns and big cities. Whether canoeing to Grey Owl’s cabin in Waskesiu, learning about the bisons at Elk Island National Park or hiking to Boom Lake in Banff…it was when we got active and engaged that a place came alive.

#2-Grey Owl's Cabin - Colleen Friesen

In any town that looked interesting, we asked the same question, “Do you like living here?” The answers varied. One woman in Stratford, Ontario was so passionate about her home that we almost moved there on the spot - easily imagining our new world filled with live theatre.

In Quebec we cycled the 200-kilometre P'tit Train du Nord, staying at wonderful inns and discovering jewels of villages. Val David and Saint Sauveur were our favourite towns. We imagined our new bi-lingual lives filled with flaky croissants and platters of poutine but we still had further to go...

And then we got to Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia is not Canada’s biggest province. And there is an awful lot of nothing for long stretches of highway; sections where traffic might consist of one other random vehicle. In fact, some little towns almost look abandoned in their quietude. There are coves and bays where traps and fishing lines seem staged for players who are hidden from view.

But you remember that little game you played as a child?

The one where you intertwine all but your index fingers and thumb… “This is the church, this is the steeple,” your index fingers creating the steeple, while the other fingers are interlaced and hidden below, “Open the doors and see all the people!” Remember how you opened up your thumb ‘doors' and there were all those wiggling fingers?

That’s what Nova Scotia is like.

There were discoveries down every road and behind almost every door. And there was music, oh my there was music, especially on Cape Breton Island where it is as woven into the landscape as the rock and the kelp.

#3-Cape Breton Shoreline - Colleen Friesen

In Antigonish, we found Peace by Chocolate, a tiny little chocolate shop run by newly-arrived Canadians. In Damascus, the Hadhad family ran a well-known chocolate factory in Damascus. Like so many others in Syria, their world was destroyed. Now, with the support of a welcoming town they are building new lives, one piece of delicious chocolate at a time.

Near Yarmouth, on the Acadian Shore we cycled against a stiff Atlantic wind in the Second Annual Gran Fondo Baie Sainte Marie. We found a tiny town on a dramatic coastline filled with tons of community spirit.

#4-Atlantic Laundry - Colleen Friesen

And then there was Lunenburg. Colourful and funky and with all the tourist pull you’d expect in a place that harbours the ship that is embedded on our Canadian dime. But it was in Lunenburg where I could imagine a life filled with books, art, films, culture and community. Everyone I asked was effusive about living there. We drove up and down the maple-lined streets, looking at the restored old homes, gobsmacked at the compared-to-Vancouver-ridiculously-low prices.

In October the weather started to shift. We started back West. When we saw the Rocky Mountains, we both grinned. The forests got thicker. We felt the pull of the familiar.

#5-Rocky Mountains - Colleen Friesen

So. After almost six months and 37,000 kilometres we ended up renting a little cottage on the Sunshine Coast. When we really distilled our requirements for that perfect place? We realized friends and family headed the list and most of them are here in the West.

We knew that no matter where we chose to live, it would be an adventure and eventually we'd make new friends. And we knew that in a new location, we'd discover new aspects of ourselves as we adapted to new surrounding, but we also knew that, “You can never make new old friends.”

I’m gazing out on the silver-greys of the Salish Sea as I write this.

The deep green of the forest surrounds me and I know that for right now... We’re home.


Tourism Boards are eager to help you plan your own Canadian quest.
Some sites to get you started:

1- Hiking Mt. Robson - Colleen Friesen
2- Grey Owl’s Cabin - Colleen Friesen
3- Cape Breton Shoreline - Colleen Friesen
4- Atlantic Laundry - Colleen Friesen
5- Rocky Mountains - Colleen Friesen

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