As a kid, I didn’t travel much. Or at least, not far. You might think of Nova Scotia as a small province, but after loading eight people into a 1985 Grand Marquis and driving several hours to the province’s southern tip, you might change your mind (bonus detail: we never had air conditioning in any of my childhood cars). Looking back, I can understand why my parents averaged about one big road trip per year. Driving was the only option though, as flying was unaffordable for our large family. My first time on an airplane, I was in my twenties. I remember being shocked at how casual people were as the attendants reviewed life-saving safety information.
Yet, I never felt the need to “get away.” I felt the need to escape boredom sometimes, but that always meant exploring the hundred acres of rural land my parents owned. Or playing road hockey with my siblings in the yard (note, playing goalie during road hockey on a gravel driveway is an adventure, and not recommended by optometrists). Reading was another “get away” activity. I read everything I could get my hands on. I read just about every Hardy Boys book there was, then I went on to read Nancy Drew. I read most of my mother’s Agatha Christie mystery novels (I doubt twelve-year-old boys were her target audience). Sport and reading are still big parts of my life (though most of my reading now involves kids’ picture books).
Don’t get me wrong. If someone offered me a tropical vacation as as a child, I would have taken it. Travel is a great way to explore the world and our perspective of it; travel is a great educator. I just never felt like I was missing out. I never felt the need to get away. I had my family and my hobbies. I had time and space to explore. As I grew older, I fully appreciated the piece of paradise we grew up in. But even as a kid, I understood that our country house, at the end of a half-mile driveway, at the end of a rural road, at the end of another rural road, was pretty special. I understood, at least to some extent, why Mum and Dad avoided driving into town, having to leave their hidden heaven to do earthly chores like grocery shop.
The more I travel, the more I learn just how awesome my childhood home was. I love the many trips I have taken with my wife and now with our kids. We have been all over Canada, to Mexico, to Hawaii, and to Costa Rica. Still, that half-mile driveway into my parents’ home is one of my favourite drives in the world. I love the rare time that I meet someone else driving on that road, and we have a silent conversation to decide who needs to back up to the nearest safe pullover.
Now Fernie is my home. My wife and I have lived here for ten years. We have owned our first house, we have gotten married, we have had two kids, and we are expecting another one. The way I feel about my childhood home is the way I feel about the community of Fernie. I know this is something special. The times we do drive out of Fernie, I always notice how many cars are driving in its direction. I consider myself blessed to live in a place that people look forward to spending their vacations. This month, I am travelling to celebrate my fortieth birthday by watching the Blue Jays play in Seattle (an awesome gift!). And I already know I will get a homey feeling when I return to Fernie after the trip, driving back through the familiar streets to our house.
And when I get back to our house, I will think of my parents, of their satisfied sighs as they put the car in park, after a trip to the grocery store. I will think of their words. Ahh… home, nothing like it.