Originally Published March 19, 2019
Returning to Canada after a lengthy absence, Jennifer Morton discovers the joys of ‘coming home’.
When I left Canada on a 12-month working holiday to Australia in 2001, I had no idea that I would end up calling Down Under home. But, like a travel cliché, I met a cute boy and never used my return flight. Since then, I’ve only been “home” four times: 2003, 2009, 2012 and most recently from October until December 2018.
When I married a New Zealander, I never really thought about how far it is between Canada and the South Pacific. The time, distance and expense of travelling halfway around the world mean that it’s not possible to visit friends and family very often. And that can be emotionally trying.
I’ve missed weddings, funerals, births, graduations, and myriads of parties, events, and excursions with my Canadian friends and family over the past 18 years. And the older I get, the more homesickness sets in, which is why when I do go home, I make the most of it with extended stays. On the most recent trip, with my 12-year-old son, we stayed for two-and-a-half months. We got to enjoy a “real” Halloween, Remembrance Day, and the coveted White Christmas, which was a dream come true and a first for my son (and my first since 2000).
After a 14-hour direct flight from Sydney to Vancouver with Air Canada, we made a beeline for Tim Horton’s. Coffee for me, hot chocolate for the boy, then straight on the road to my BFF’s place in Squamish.
Living apart from my dear friend, Gillian is probably the hardest thing for me these days. As we both approach 50, we realise how essential and precious friendship is and how having that support is vital for everyday wellness. The good news is that we always pick up right where we’ve left off; I guess that’s natural when you’ve known someone since high school.
Most of my family still lives in the Maritimes, so Tai and I flew there, via Arizona where we visited American cousins. A week-long stay in Saint John with my sister and her partner was like being celebrities in a small town. We spent the week being pampered, playing tourist and eating foods we don’t get in Australia: Captain Crunch cereal, Vachon Cakes, Humpty Dumpty Cheesies, and for me, Moosehead beer.
Halifax will always have a piece of my heart. It’s where I was born and spent most of my youth. November isn’t the most fabulous time for tourism in Halifax, but we were able to enjoy some of the city’s big drawcards: Historic Properties, Public Gardens, Spring Garden Road, and Keith’s Brewery. Of course, catching up with long-time friends and family is always the best reason to go home. Tai met several relatives for the first time, which was a treat for them all. When we said farewell to Nova Scotia, we headed to Banff for some mountain magic.
Returning to Banff was like returning home for me. The mountain town is my favourite place in the whole world, and its beauty cannot be compared. When I was 19, I received a job offer at a hotel and flew myself across Canada for the position. I’ll never forget arriving to see snow-covered everything; it was a genuine Winter Wonderland. That trip lasted four amazing months (I got homesick), but a couple of years later, I went back and stayed for almost four years! My friends have moved on, but the town is still pretty much the same.
Tai enrolled in a snowboard lesson at Sunshine Village, and he reckons, after all his Canadian experiences, this was his favourite day out. It wasn’t his first time seeing snow, but it was his first time on a snowboard. I think we may have to book more snow-based holidays now.
Back in British Columbia, we explored Vancouver and Victoria; both former “homes” for me. My sister and niece live in Victoria, so we actually visited the city twice during our Canadian vacay. Bagels, tea, double-decker tour buses, seals and float planes all made it into our itinerary. In Vancouver, we ate our way around Granville Island, shopped on Robson Street, devoured the best cinnamon buns in Kitsilano and Tai went to FlyOver Canada, a (sort of) virtual reality film that lets you experience flight without leaving the ground.
The last two weeks were spent in Squamish with Gillian and her family. Sharing a traditional Canadian Christmas with my New Zealand-born son and my BFF’s family meant the world to me. Fireplaces, stockings, gifts, snow, tubing, mountains, shortbread, turkey, stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce and fine wine made the experience even better. Two days later, we boarded Air Canada’s direct flight back to Sydney. Two days after that, we were lazing at Bondi Beach in 30-degree sunshine.
A holiday in Canada will always be returning to my roots: snow, lobster, ocean, mountains, fresh air, family, friends, tartan, pancakes, and maple leaves. Now to start saving for my next trip home.