Travel, like everything else, has changed a lot in 2020. In my case, I had a month-long trip to Europe planned for the summer. It was, of course, cancelled – or at least postponed until international travel is a thing again, whenever that might be. While that was a bummer, I am also incredibly fortunate to be living in Canada’s Atlantic Bubble, considered one of the safest places in the world right now, so I was able to at least plan an alternative.
Yep. It was time for a road trip.
I used to road trip all the time. It was partly a cost-saving measure. When I first moved provinces, I’d go back home once or twice a year to visit, and the gas needed to drive was way less than an airplane ticket. It was also nice to have a vehicle to get around my destination, especially when visiting people who lived outside of public transit routes.
But there was more to my choice than practicality. I simply love getting behind the wheel of the car, pointing it towards the horizon, and seeing what I can see. I used to jump in the car on a weekend morning with no destination in mind a lot. When travelling alone, I appreciate the solitude. I get to be alone with my thoughts and my music and, because I drive overnight, mostly alone with the road, as well. And when there’s someone with me, the conversations and car games are a great way to pass the miles.
Once I started travelling internationally, the number of road trips I took dropped off sharply. I still get behind the wheel for Canadian concerts and music festivals, but I pretty much never just jump in the car to explore my own province the way I used to. So when Ron and I set off to to Cape Breton to drive the Cabot Trail last week, there was a real Blast From The Past feel to it.
Except for the car. I’ve never road tripped before in such a nice – or zippy – car.
It wasn’t my first time on the Cabot Trail. But while the road is the same, my experience of it was different. All those years ago, in a bid to save money, I’d’ve slept in the car. That’s if I slept at all. When stopping means sleeping sitting up with one’s head propped against a car window as opposed to in a bed, one has a tendency to just continue on. So much of my time spent on the road was in the dark.
Which, what with not being able to see the scenery in the middle of the night, kind of defeats the purpose of visiting the Cabot Trail in the first place.
Speaking of scenery, somewhat counterintuitively, I’d never taken a single photo on the Cabot Trail before. I’m not entirely sure why not. I expect it’s because my last trip was still in the days of a point-and-shoot camera that used actual film, and I was neither skilled enough to take a decent photo, nor willing to spend the money to get a bunch of half-assed photos developed.
Yeah, I was a bit of an idiot.
Anyway, between better camera gear, years of practice, and an improved attitude – and it being daylight out, of course – for the first time, I partook in the touristy diversion of stopping at roadside lookoffs and snapping photos of the gorgeous fall colours.
This slower, more laid-back form of travel had yet another benefit, in that, for the first time ever on the Cabot Trail, I actually got out of the car. A large chunk of the drive winds through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which features a tonne of hiking trails, none of which I’d ever experienced before. We chose the Corney Brook Trail because the waterfall at the end would give us a subject we don’t often get the opportunity to photograph.
Unlike the photo thing, I know exactly why I’d never hiked anywhere along the Cabot Trail before. To put it simply, it just wasn’t my thing. It’s only in recent years that I’ve started to enjoy hiking, and even now, I want a well groomed trail and a companion who isn’t in a rush.
The Corney Brook Trail and Ron ticked those boxes perfectly.
Yes, in 2020, the way we travel has changed. Out of necessity, our focus is close to home, our aspirations smaller, and I’m not going to pretend I’m not disappointed by that. However, much as I might wish I’d been able to board a plane and take my grand European tour, being limited to an in-province road trip taught me a lot about myself and how much I’ve changed over the years. The go-go-go voyager of my youth is still there, for certain. But age has brought wisdom, and these days she’s willing to slow down and enjoy a broader range of experiences than ever before.