For this creative writing piece, I will be sharing my experiences living in and travelling around Canada. Having lived in Canada for almost all my life (I immigrated here from the Philippines when I was three years old), I wanted to share my happiest memories of travelling with family and friends across different Canadian cities and provinces. This piece includes imagery of some of the coolest places I’ve visited across the country.
“It’s right there,” I whisper, pointing to the small finch taking flight into the evergreens.
My sisters and I have been watching birds in our backyard for thirty minutes now. It’s a humid summer day with no clouds in sight. I rest my back on the lawn chair and lift my face towards the sky, letting the sunshine warm my skin.
Today is Canada Day — the first day of July. I inhale the scent of the flowers growing in our garden while listening to the birds singing their songs. “I live for days like these,” I tell Maxine, my youngest sister. Warm, summer days doing nothing but relaxing in the sun . . . I immediately remember countless memories of days just like this. “This reminds me of all the times we would go camping,” I continue.
“I miss that,” replies Gabby, our middle sister, with a sigh.
It’s been years since the last time we went camping. We always used to go with our family friends — other titos, titas, and kids our age. These are people that I’ve known for as long as I can remember, our friendships becoming stronger ever since our families immigrated to Canada from the Philippines. Growing up, my sisters and I have always had a tight-knit, supportive group of family friends to rely on. Our group excursions would usually involve waking up right before sunrise to miss the traffic, driving in long convoys of over ten cars following each other, and stopping at numerous ONroute pit stops along the way as we travelled to different cities and provinces.
At this moment, my mind wanders to all those precious memories. I remember all the long nights laughing with the girls, giggling in our tents over an inside joke we would share. I remember all the Tim Hortons meetups before dawn, our group of over 40 people laughing and making jokes early in the morning. I remember the cold days as we skated across the Rideau Canal, and the feeling of the salty ocean breeze as we drove across the Maritimes.
On this Canada Day, I can’t help but think of how proud I am to be Canadian. I smile to myself as I recall all the wonderful places I’ve seen, all the amazing experiences I’ve lived, and all the unbreakable friendships I’ve made within this beautiful country.
Killarney Provincial Park
Killarney Provincial Park (Image Source: A Taste of Trace)
“Jump into the water!” my family and friends yelled out.
“I’m scared!” I responded. I knew the height wasn’t even that bad, but I couldn’t help but hesitate as I peered down from the rocks. The jump looked so much easier when I was watching everyone else do it!
I backed up a few steps, preparing myself to make the jump. “Watch out! I’m gonna go for it!” I told my friends while simultaneously running towards the edge of the rocks. Despite feeling scared, I made a leap with all the bravery I could muster and landed with a nose full of water.
I heard my friends laughing when I resurfaced. “What?” I asked.
“Even after you jumped off the rocks, your legs were still moving as if you were running,” my sister Maxine told me. “It looked funny.”
“Haha, so funny,” I said sarcastically, but I couldn’t help but laugh too, as I swam back to the rocks.
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“I wanna cry, this place is so pretty!” said my friend Niña. I smiled as I heard the sound of her iPhone’s camera shutter as she took photos of the view. Our kayak was floating in the middle of a lake surrounded by trees of all shapes and sizes.
My friend Niña (left) and I (right) on a kayak in Killarney
Before we continued paddling, I pulled out my phone and started blasting the song “Crush” by David Archuleta. On my hands, I felt blisters beginning to form due to all the friction from paddling across the water, and my non-existent bicep muscles were already starting to get sore.
“Niña, this is probably one of the prettiest places I’ve seen so far,” I told her. “I’m feeling so lucky to be here!” I added on, as I tipped my head up towards the sky and yelled out a random battle cry. I liked to do that a lot — yell out a random “Woohoo!!!” whenever I was happy or hyped up, and at that moment, I was so completely happy and at peace.
I looked around me, and I could see all the other titos, titas, and kids moving across the lake in their kayaks. Some of them were way ahead of us, already hidden across a corner of trees.
I pointed towards the distance and told Niña, “Let’s try to make it to that side of the lake super fast.”
She laughed and was totally down for the challenge. We picked up our paddles and continued our adventure.
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When we finished kayaking and swimming, it was nearing sunset and all of us returned to our camping sites. The moment my family and I pulled into our lot, we noticed that our tent’s zipper was opened. The feeling of suspicion crept up my spine as my mom exited the car and investigated. She quickly checked to see if anything was stolen in the tent, but she found nothing out of place except for a set of raccoon paw prints on the inflatable beds.
“I can’t believe a raccoon got into our tent!” my sister Gabby exclaimed.
“From now on, we’re going to leave the zipper at the top of the tent, not near the bottom anymore. That’s probably how it got in,” my mom said.
That night, we all ate dinner at one of our camping sites (there were around 30 of us who came on this trip together). Every now and then, I would look up at the trees and see several pairs of glowing raccoon eyes watching us as we ate our food. However, when I looked higher, beyond the trees, I could see the stars. In northern Ontario, away from all the city lights, the stars were brighter than I had ever seen them in my entire life. There were millions of them, sparkling brightly in the night sky.
I took a second to breathe in the scent of the forest around me, mixed with the smell of the barbecue cooking from the grills. I heard laughter and songs being sung by my family and friends. Everywhere I looked, there was beauty, nature, and wildlife within arm’s reach.
Memories of camping and summer nights would often bring me back to these moments in Killarney.
My friends and I at Flowerpot Island in Tobermory
“Let’s go for a dip!” my friend Kim exclaimed.
In less than a minute, my friends and I were in the water. When we visited Tobermory, it was the beginning of August, so the pools of water were surprisingly warm — not as cold as ice like they were during the beginning of the summer.
“It’s like swimming in a Brita filter,” I heard a man say to his friends, as he hopped out of the water in the distance.
I chuckled to myself because it was true! The water at Tobermory was something else, so clear and blue. It was completely different from swimming in Lake Ontario in Toronto — this water up north was from Lake Huron, and it didn’t give me a rash after swimming in it.
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“The right side of the boat gets the most water,” I heard the captain say to all of us on board. When I heard this, I immediately ditched my spot in the middle of the boat and sat down on the right side. We were on a boat to take us back onto the mainland from Flowerpot Island. I stood beside the railing, looking out into the distance. Around me, I could see my family friends wearing flimsy plastic raincoats, so I decided to put one on too, just in case. I wasn’t ready for what was about to come though.
At first, when the boat started picking up speed, I didn’t feel a single drop of water. After a couple more seconds, the boat went head to head with multiple waves on the lake, causing buckets of water to land onto the sides of the boat. I was hit with a brutal splash of water on my face — it kind of hurt, but the ride was just so much fun, so I kept on standing near the railing.
As the ride continued, my smile grew wider and wider, and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. The captain was right — this side of the boat got so much water! By that point, I was already completely drenched with ice cold lake water, but I continued looking forward as more droplets hit my face. I put my arms up towards the sky and smiled. At some point, the flimsy rain jacket I wore was utterly useless against the waves, so I removed it and just enjoyed the rest of the boat ride.
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia (Image Source: Nova Scotia Canada)
The breeze was warm and always smelled like saltwater near the shores. The Maritime provinces in Canada were really interesting to visit — they told a story of their own. There were many small boutiques that sold bracelets and little souvenirs for tourists, especially on Prince Edward Island. In the eastern part of Canada, there were rolling hills of endless green grass, and the ocean was never too far away.
Shediac’s Giant Lobster, New Brunswick (Image Source: Atlas Obscura)
My family and our friends all went on a long road trip (over 14 cars were used) from Ontario to Nova Scotia. One of the first places we visited during our road trip was the Giant Lobster statue in New Brunswick. There were lots of people waiting to take their turn for photos with the lobster and the different flags ruffling in the wind.
Our next stop was Prince Edward Island, and in order to reach it, we had to drive across the Confederation Bridge which links PEI to New Brunswick. Spanning 12.9 kilometres in distance, it’s considered to be the longest bridge in the world.
On the next day of our road trip, we visited Nova Scotia. Despite the day being humid and sunny, there was a nice cool breeze at the lighthouse in Peggy’s Cove. There were many fishing areas and boat docks.
A frozen Rideau Canal in Ottawa (Image Source: Daily Hive)
“I don’t know how to tie these skates,” I said out loud in frustration. I was expecting one of my family friends to help me, but I looked around and they were all focused on tying their own skates or keeping their balance on the Rideau Canal.
A French couple nearby smiled at me and motioned for me to follow their lead as they showed me how they put their own skates on. With a grateful smile, I thanked them, and then followed the exact steps and techniques they used in order to put my own skates on.
In no time, I was hobbling forward on the ice, extremely imbalanced because it was my first time skating. I found a group of my friends and clung onto their arms to stay upright. All around me, there were people who glided easily on the ice, and there I was — a complete beginner.
I turned to my right, and I saw my aunt and uncle laughing as they helped my little sister back up from her fall. To my left, I saw all the other titas and titos slowly moving forward on their skates. I breathed in a breath of cold winter air, feeling it fill my lungs, before continuing to move forward on skates for the first time in my life. One step at a — SLAM. I screamed as I felt myself falling to the ground.
“Are you okay?” my friend Niña asked me with a laugh. She offered her hand and helped me back up.
“Yeah… I’m so bad at this,” I said.
“We all start somewhere,” she replied.
“True,” I responded. At some point in time, all these skating pros were new just like me. That thought alone gave me enough encouragement to start trying again, one small step at a time.
There are still so many places I want to see and so many things I want to experience in Canada. Hopefully, sometime soon, I can travel towards the West Coast and see the Rocky Mountains. But I feel fortunate to have had the chance to travel to so many different places over the past decade. Killarney, Tobermory, the Maritimes, and Ottawa are just some places in Canada that I’ve been able to visit. Every time I’m surrounded by nature, whether it’s during a camping trip or skating on a winter day, I’m always amazed by the beauty of this country that I call home. Every single day, I am proud to be Canadian and I’m grateful to have grown up here.