Memories of Banff

Being back in my hometown for this length of time, has meant that for the first time in my adult life, I have the time to really enjoy it.


In 2017 we packed up our life, and quit the 9-5 to head out into the world.  We came with no expectations, we only wanted to experience life.  Since we have left, we have packed more fun and adventure into our lives than we ever could have imagined.  Being on the road now for over two years, has brought with it the freedom to explore what it is that we want to do to create an income for ourselves, the time to pay attention to the things that are truly important to us, and the adventure to truly make life fun and interesting once again.  We left seeking an exciting life, and we have not been disappointed!  Join us as we explore as much of this big old world that we can!


Being back in my hometown for this length of time, has meant that for the first time in my adult life, I have the time to really enjoy it.  Chris and I have spent much time exploring around Canmore and checking things out.  I have taken him on walks to my old bush party sights and places that I played as a child, and we have spent lots of time down by the Bow River, even on the cold days.  We have meandered through many of the towns trails, old and new, and I have been really impressed with how well they are kept up.  There is obviously a focus here on public recreation, and the town has done a great job of providing that for its citizens.

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This was a warmer day down by the Bow River in Canmore, back when we arrived at the end of August.

We have also been to Banff a handful of times, and I have taken great joy in regaling my tales of youth to Chris, as we navigate the new, to him, landscape.  Last weekend we headed out on a bit of an adventure to Banff.  Banff Gondola was offering a free ride for locals on its trip up to the top of Sulphur Mountain, in exchange for a donation to a charity.  So we figured that we would head in, and also planned a soak in the nearby Banff Hot Springs as well.

One thing lead to the next and before we knew it, we were checking out Bow Falls, running around lost in the Banff Springs Hotel (now officially known as Fairmont Banff Springs, but I don’t call it that), and hitting up even the Candy Shop downtown.  I also firmly insisted that while there, we absolutely MUST visit the Christmas Store, despite Chris’ obvious disapproval.  (Spoiler, he actually liked it……a little bit at least:))

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The majestic Banff Springs Hotel
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It truly feels like a castle inside as well!
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A Candy wonderland and a MUST stop on Banff Avenue!

It was a great day of playing tour guide (one of my favourite things to do as a local), while also telling him the stories that each place inspired.  I have many incredible stories and memories of Banff and despite the fact that Canmore kids were adamant that Canmore was BETTER than Banff (“Banff Sucks!” we would say), the town played a huge part in my childhood.


I was born in Banff, Alberta, Canada in 1976.  I know that I am from a select few that have had this good fortune, and in fact, I have recently learned that people born in Banff or Canmore are dubbed “Unicorns” by those who aren’t from here.  Without confirming the reason for this, I can only imagine that people think that nobody could possibly be so lucky as to have been born in such a spectacular place.  It’s as if we are all mythical creatures or something.

I lived there until I was three, then my family moved 20km down the road to the much quieter town of Canmore.  I spent the rest of my childhood living in Canmore, but of course, Banff was also such a huge part of this time in my life.

As a small kid my mom would drive me into the Sally Borden Pool for swimming lessons, because, at the time, Canmore only had one public pool that was at a motel on the highway, and it was outdoors.  I remember feeling so cool swimming in that big pool, and that big building and I loved swimming lessons there.

My Dad worked at the Banff Centre, which also housed the Sally Borden Building so I inevitably spent much time up there. I took for granted the adorable little trails that surround the property, and the quaint little stairways that go from building to building.  My Dad is one of the founders of the Banff Mountain Film Festival that is housed at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and I spent many years with my parents at the festival watching films and mingling with climbing greats.  I had no idea, at that time, just how lucky I was to not only be living where I was, but to just be part of such a monumental film event that has now spanned the globe numerous times.  We were very grateful when my Dad offered us his tickets for this years festival.  We felt so fortunate  to attend the event, and it brought back many great memories of my childhood.

Jill and Chris at BMFF

Of course, I also learned to ski at Mount Norquay, Banff’s local ski hill.  My Dad took me up there from the age of 3 on, and it didn’t take many years before I was beating him to the bottom.  Many times, a day of skiing would conclude with a stop at McDonalds, then the closest McDonalds we had to Canmore.  It was the cutest little McDonalds ever, built with all wood and stone, complete with a rustic little fireplace.  (Unfortunately it has now been modernized, and looks, at least through the windows, to be as stark and uninteresting as any other McDonalds!) My favourite dish?  6 McNuggets and fries of course! (My adult self is disgusted!)

Every New Years Eve for quite a few years, many Banff and Canmore locals would flock to Lake Minnewanka to have a raucous party in one of the picnic shelters on the lake.  Somebody would bring heavy duty tarps to block the windows so that the harshness of the winter temperatures would stay outside, while they got the fires roaring on the inside.  The parents would shovel off a section of the lake so that we kids could skate on it, and I remember more than one painful time that I would have to come back in to get my dad to rub life back into my feet, as they had become frozen ice blocks.  The adults would become increasingly drunk, New Years would come and go, and everyone would simply drive home.  Clearly, NOT something that could or would happen now-a-days!

For a time, no childhood birthday party would be complete without a trip to the water slides in Banff.  The Douglas Fir Resort, one of the hotels on the outskirts of the town, was our go to place for this.  I recall numerous visits to these waterslides as kids, and though small in stature, they thrilled us to bits.  It didn’t take much to excite us small town kids!

I also remember trips to Banff to shop at The Hudson Bay Company (HBC), the only major department store that existed in the Bow Valley at the time.  Of course, these trips would be combined with a visit to the Candy Store and often an ice cream at Grizzly House, depending on the time of year.  When we had visitors come to town, we would take them down Banff Avenue and we always had to also make stops in the Christmas Store and The Body Shop.

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Inside the famed “The Spirit of Christmas” store.
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The perfect Canadian mascot!

My later memories start after I gained the freedom to drive a vehicle.  From the age of 16 on, trips to Banff were just part of my perspective.  If it wasn’t me driving there, it was one of my friends, and we would usually head in at least a couple times a week.  In one of my many acts of rebellion, however, I drove into Banff, driving my friends car, with only my learners license!  All I know is that there was a bunch of us girls, and we were bored,  and we REALLY wanted to go to Banff.  The next thing I knew, much to the humiliation and scared shitless-ness of my passengers, I was stalling the standard shift car repeatedly down the length of Banff Avenue.  I’m pretty sure Banff Avenue was the only thing we saw that day.  We were much too scared to actually get out of the car lest somebody actually figured out that we weren’t old enough to be driving by ourselves.  We somehow made it out in one piece, and not arrested, and arrived back in Canmore, vowing that we would never repeat that event again.  After all, the owner of the car was only a month or two from turning 16 and getting her own proper license!

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One of the views along the Bow River in Banff

 

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One of the many stunning views on Banff Avenue.

The freedom that comes with having a drivers license is palpable.  I remember driving with the window down on the highway, feeling the wind blow on my face and just feeling like I could do anything in the world now that I had my license. Quite often an afternoon of a few of us hanging out at Craigs drinking coffee, would end when one suggested that we should go to Banff, and off we went.  Many times we would head up to the Banff Springs Hotel and get lost in the expanse of corridors inside, and of course, we went bowling a time or two as well.  Canmore, of course, didn’t have a bowling alley.

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They call this “Christmas at the Castle” when the Banff Springs Hotel decorates for the holidays.

You might guess, by now, that Canmore also didn’t have a movie theatre (and still doesn’t!) . Tuesday was locals night at the Lux Cinema in Banff, so we would all pile into Banff to watch the latest and greatest release for only $5.  Usually there were 2 or 3 vehicles full of us, and of course we would run into other friends from school that had gone as well.  We would then roam the streets at night, just revelling in the glitz and glamour of Banff Avenue, sometimes stoping in at  Eddies Pool Hall where we would play pool and hang out, enjoying the care free life of a teenager.  On this current return trip home, Chris and I have made a few trips to the Lux, and it amazes me that it is exactly the same as I left it.

Summer time meant that we would drive in and check out Bow Falls, drive down to the Banff Springs Golf Course, explore around Tunnel Mountain, or drive up Mount Norquay to check out the view.  Of course many kids experienced floating, in some device or another, from Banff to Canmore along the surface of the Bow River.

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Looking down on Banff from Mount Norquay
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Bow Falls in the winter.  Located below the Banff Springs Hotel

The Banff Hot Springs was our big backyard hot tub that we frequented often.  We would go all times of the year to revel in the heat of the waters.  Winter was the most fun when it was minus 40C.  After braving the cold to get into the pool, we would set about creating whacky hairdos that would freeze solid in the frigid temperatures.  When Chris and I went there last weekend, I was thrilled that the price is still very reasonable at $8.30.  I assumed that like all other things in Banff, this price would have gone sky high, but it has remained an affordable treat for every sort of visitor to Banff.

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Banff Hot Springs is perched on the side of Sulphur Mountain offering splendid views of the mountains and valley below.

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Happy to be warm!

Our legal years (18+) (and maybe one or two before that;) ) would bring us into Banff to party in the clubs.  Canmore didn’t have venues that played wild and raucous club style music, so again, we would all pile into Banff to take part in this strange right of passage affair.  The Back Alley and Silver City (also dubbed Syphilis City for obvious reasons) were our favourites.  Many nights we would go to one or the other, or bounce around between the two trying to find the most fun possible.  We also sometimes found ourselves caught up in the wildness of Wild Bill’s Saloon!  As the name implies, it was always a good time!

Back in those days we were allowed to be carefree kids.  We didn’t have to worry about date rape drugs or any number of other things that teens have to deal with now-a-days.  I feel like we were part of the last generation that could go out and have a good time, completely worry free, and for that I am so thankful.  Most times we had a designated driver to take us home, but there was the odd night that a few of us would sleep in the car until early the next morning when one would drive, with one eye open, and we would slink back home smelling of booze and stale cigarette smoke.  (Yes, they still smoked inside back then!) Our parents were thrilled with us I’m sure!

 

In later years I had a job working at the Banff Springs Golf Course Pro Shop for one summer.  This again gave me a different perspective of Banff, and was my first introduction to truly working with tourists.  Only in recent years have I acknowledged that I actually grew up in one of the worlds TOP tourist destinations.  I mean I knew that lots of travellers came to Banff, when I was a kid the streets were lined with busloads of Japanese, all standing at attention, cameras poised and ready, but I definitely didn’t put it all together then.

I definitely didn’t understand the majestic beauty that existed all around me day and night.  I, for sure, didn’t understand what privilege I had as a child living in a place where I was free to ride my bike all over town, go hiking in the woods whenever I choose, and to just be wild and free.  And I don’t think I understood how nice it was to be part of a genuine small town community, to be surrounded by people who truly care for one another.

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A recent photo taken by the Bow River in Canmore.

It wasn’t until I moved away from Canmore and the Banff area permanently in 2002, that I started to realize just how beautiful it all is, and age has brought an appreciation for the community and the group of people who collectively raised me.  Of course, we appreciated the outdoors when we were kids, back then we spent our lives outside.  We would go on hikes and marvel at the views, and we would climb the mountains just for something to do.  But it was all just normal to us, it was our everyday reality.  In retrospect, I can see that I took it for granted, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

But now, I truly do realize just how lucky I was to grow up in this majestic place.  It’s not the tropical paradise that one conjures up when the word paradise is mentioned, but it is certainly a paradise of its own accord.  The clean water and clean air is marvelled at by people from far reaches of the world, who also come to enjoy the plethora of spectacular mountains, lakes, trees and rivers.  The names Banff and Canmore have become synonymous with mountains and outdoor recreation, fit people and world class athletes.

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Beautiful fall days in Canmore.

People flock to this valley to get but a taste of what it would be like to live here.  Many struggle greatly to keep afloat financially, with the ridiculous rates of inflation and costs of housing and living.  But Banff and Canmore are also both places that know unimaginable amounts of wealth and overabundance.  Above it all, and despite what class of person you are, my hope is that people who live here truly appreciate the stunning beauty that surrounds them.

I am thankful that I have chosen a life that has allowed me to spend this amount of time back in my hometown.  This visit has, again, solidified my foundation, it has reminded me that I am one of the fortunate ones, and it has helped me to recall parts of me that were long lost.  I guess you could say that I am one lucky little unicorn indeed!

And, you know, maybe, at the age of 43,  it’s finally time to admit that Banff doesn’t suck so bad after all!


Click here if you would like to read my article entitled Notes on my Hometown – Canmore, Alberta, Canada.


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Canmore, Alberta Canada 

Travelling Plans: Our plan is to stay in this area until Christmas or New Years.  Details of our next destination are yet to be confirmed.

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

To email me directly, please do so anytime at jillamatt@me.com.

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

Friends and Family Heal the Soul

We have caught up with much of our families, seen a few friends, adjusted to the North American ways again, and are feeling better than ever about this life we have chosen.


In 2017 we packed up our life, and quit the 9-5 to head out into the world.  We came with no expectations, we only wanted to experience life.  Since we have left, we have packed more fun and adventure into our lives than we ever could have imagined.  Being on the road now for over a year, has brought with it the freedom to explore what it is that we want to do to create an income for ourselves, the time to pay attention to the things that are truly important to us, and the adventure to truly make life fun and interesting once again.  We left seeking an exciting life, and we have not been disappointed!  Join us as we explore as much of this big old world that we can!


SURPRISE!

Saturday, September 14th marked the completion of something that I have been working on for roughly 8 months now.  I held a successful SURPRISE 50th Wedding Anniversary party for my parents, in the mountain town that I grew up in, Canmore, Alberta, Canada.

When I first came up with this idea, I just felt that this was an important anniversary for them, and it deserved to be celebrated.  Because I knew that we had plans to be back in my hometown this summer,  I knew that I needed to make this happen.

My initial thoughts of a small and intimate celebration, amongst their usual friends in Canmore, somehow became something so large, that I was inviting friends and family members from across Canada.  At first I thought that I would just reach out to people,  just to let them know, at the very least, that they had this milestone anniversary coming.  I didn’t actually expect people to respond so positively, but over time, and as more and more people started saying yes, I could feel something really special building.

People were really excited about coming! I soon realized that, not only my parents, but, I was going to see so many faces that I hadn’t seen in YEARS (in some cases……17 years!!)  As more and more people got on board, I became not only excited about the surprise itself, I just became excited about the entire event and the simple thrill of getting people together.

Every existing and living person in my Dad’s family convened in one place for the first time in decades!  I don’t think we had ALL been in one place since I was 16!  There was always somebody away travelling, or simply just too busy to make a trip to see the rest for previous gatherings, but this time everybody made it!

So much happiness!

The amount of happiness and pure joy coming from the participants of this gathering was astounding and I realized that we ALL needed this party.  It was just SO GOOD to see everybody, for old and new friends to meet, for everyone to get together, to remember the good times, and to get caught up and reconnect.  It felt to me like a good ol’ fashioned happy gathering, of which I remember many from my childhood.  It felt to me like everybody just needed a reason to celebrate something, to revel in joy and happiness, to get away from all of the sad news for once.

This party turned out to be not only for my parents, but for all of us.  For those of us who need to remember how good it feels to be surrounded by people that are important to us.  For those of us who may always feel like we are just too busy to go to these sorts of gatherings.  For those of us who feel like it’s just been too long, and maybe we are almost too embarrassed to get in contact again.

I was able to do this because I had the time to do it!

When the excitement died down from the party, and after I had a couple of days to reflect on things, it dawned on me that the only reason that I was able to host this party, and pull it off so flawlessly, is because I had the time and energy to do it.  I wasn’t distracted by building a career, or by working to pay the large debt load that I was carrying back before I cut my ties to society in 2017.  I wasn’t distracted by trying to run businesses, deal with my household, or the fact that I was too far away to possibly be able to do something like this.  In the past, I only had time for short visits to Canmore, 5 days max normally.  My life was on the West Coast of Canada, a 14 hour (on a good day) drive to get home.  I had businesses, a garden, animals, and any other manner of reasons of why I was too busy to get away for longer.

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Found the time for a nice hike to Grassi Lakes with friends and family the day after the party. 

In my old life, I might have been too exhausted to organize something of this magnitude, I simply would not have had the time.  The pressures of life may have been too overwhelming to have even CONSIDERED attempting such a feat.

So many people congratulated me on my ability to put this party together, to seamlessly invite so many people, and take care of so many details.  I have now realized that I was able to organize this party as well as I did ONLY because I have radically changed my life.  BECAUSE I pulled myself away from the hamster wheel that I was on,  I am now able to focus on the things that make me happy, and bring joy and fulfillment to my life.  And of course, as it does, my joy and happiness, is now reverberating out to those that are around me, and they too can partake in those parts of my life that I am happy and passionate about.

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This is the view from my parents kitchen.  This was just as the snow started to fly.  

Family Time

After the party,  we drove home with Chris’ mom, staying both at her house and going to Saskatoon to visit Chris’ Grandma and Aunt, for about a week.  Along the way, we also saw another 2 sets of Aunt’s and Uncles of his, and it was so great to say hi and check in with them all again.  Chris’ mom lives outside of Daysland, a town in central Alberta with a population of 824 people.  It is just one of hundreds of small towns like it, that are scattered throughout the prairies of Canada.  There is usually one small main street with quaint shops lining its sides, plus just a handful of other streets surrounding it, where the main population lives.  Daysland is no different than the rest, as it also serves the farmers that live out in the countryside, away from town limits, and seemingly, the rest of society itself.

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Chris’ Aunt Denise has a pet steer named Simon!  He is a sweetie! 
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Typical flat landscape of Central Alberta and Saskatchewan.  Fields stretch on for miles in every direction! 

This is where Chris’ mom lives, about a 15 minute drive outside of town, amongst a small grouping of trees that block out the winds that sweep the perfectly flat prairies.  She spoiled us rotten with incredible produce from her garden, and her continuous baking and cooking.  We had some lovely moments on the back deck, just sitting together in the bright, warm, prairie sun.  The 9 or so kittens that she currently has, didn’t hurt our stay either, and neither did the fact that because it was way out in the prairies, it was vast and oh so quiet.

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The lovely view from Chris’ Moms back deck!  A truly quiet and tranquil spot.  

Finding old friends.

Chris and I found ourselves in Old’s, Alberta this past week where we were housesitting for a few days.  We were taking care of a dog for two high school friends of mine that, after 15+ years of not seeing each other, found a romantic connection, and are now getting married.

Although I had seen Jess a few times in recent years, usually only for quick interactions, I hadn’t seen Paul since shortly after high school.  We spent a whole day and night with them before they left on their trip, and in no time at all,  the three of us were sharing memories from those days gone by, unlocking times and events that had occurred, pulling them deep from our memories.  It was almost like a time machine, the more time we spent together, the more we remembered, and the more we connected with our shared histories.  Somehow we were all being re-introduced to each other, our discussions fell into easy rhythm, and we realized that although we hadn’t seen each other in years, we all still enjoyed each others company, and it was clear why we were all friends in high school to begin with.

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Good friends reunite!  (Photo courtesy of Jessica Lee)

We took care of their lovely dog Zita and their rabbit Bun Bun.  Jess had left us her vehicle, so we were able to get around more than we usually would be able to, so we took advantage of it and drove to other communities to visit my cousin in Sylvan Lake one day, and Chris’ sister in Rocky Mountain House, on another.  It was such a beautiful time of year to drive around as the leaves on the trees here have now mostly turned an incredible bright yellow, but you can also catch glimpses of bushes with bold oranges and drastic reds scattered amongst them.  As we drove through the landscape, the wash of colours passing our windows was sometimes breathtaking.  I had forgotten just how amazing that fall and its drastic seasonal shift is, and it’s been wonderful to again witness such a stunning time of year.

On what was supposed to be our second last night housesitting and taking care of the animals for Jess and Paul, disaster struck.  Every house sitters worst nightmare played out in front of us and their dog became suddenly very ill.  After seeming fine in the morning, going on a long walk and eating her regular meal, by 7:00 that night she was definitely not fine.  It started with throwing up blood, then diarrhea, and things went from bad to worse really quickly.

I won’t fill in all the details of the roughly 4 hours from then, only to say that sadly, just as the Emergency Veterinarian arrived, Zita took her last breath and her heart stopped.

Words can’t describe our feelings of such an event happening on our watch.  I didn’t truly believe that she was as sick as she was until the inevitable happened. I just kept thinking that the Vet was going to arrive, and everything would be sorted out.  I replay the day over and over in my head, wondering if she ate something she shouldn’t have on the walk, wondering if I let her stick her nose in a bush just a little too long for her to find poison, or something like that. But these are all questions that will never be answered, and I gently remind myself that she was also an old dog.  She likely died simply of old age, and we just happened to be the ones there to witness the passing.

I am sad for my friends who have lost their family member, without getting to say goodbye.   I can’t imagine how it feels to leave your house in one way, then returning to find it has changed beyond what you could have ever imagined.  The fact that they are dear friends to me, makes it much harder as well.  I feel their sadness, and wish that I could somehow rewind the clock, to pick a different ending for their holiday.

In this life that we have chosen, we have learned that it’s not just physical possessions that we let go of, it’s also feelings and emotions that we attach to places, people and animals that we are introduced to along the way.  Through our housesitting, we have now become friends with quite a few different animals that we have cared for, and each time we leave them, we have to say goodbye and let them go.  Sometimes it’s easier than other times, but it is generally just sad.  We emotionally prepare ourselves for these events though, as we always know that we will be leaving at some point, and can ration our sadness out over time.  But with Zita, it didn’t work that way.  We’ve also had to let Zita go, of course, but with her it was oh so different.  Letting go of our emotions attached to this event will take longer than usual, but in time we will all heal from this tragedy.

Zita was such a kind and gentle soul, and such a good girl.  We are both very thankful to have had the chance to meet her and spend the precious time that we did have with her.  My thoughts go out to Paul and Jess as they navigate their new world without such an amazing dog in their lives.

Rest in Peace Zita.

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RIP Zita

Despite our sadness for what transpired recently, our first month back in Canada has been really wonderful.  We have caught up with much of our families, seen a few friends, adjusted to the North American ways again, and are feeling better than ever about this life we have chosen.  If nothing else, it has provided us with time.  Past visits were harried and exhausting affairs, trying to see all and do all in only a few days.  But now we feel like we really do have the energy to spend the time doing only what is important to us, like visiting friends and family, and that is the most freeing feeling in the world .


Where Are We Now?

We returned back to Canmore, Alberta, my hometown, just a couple days ago, and have started a new housesitting job.  We are taking care of an adorable little dog that looks to have part Weiner, Daschund and Doberman in him.  His name is Napolean, and the name just suits him great!  He loves to snuggle and, I have to say, is keeping me nice and toasty in the evenings when we are sitting on the couch.  The SNOW has started to fly here, and we find ourselves pretty much cold ALL THE TIME. 2 years in the tropics has softened us up much more than we could have imagined!

Originally we had thought that we would only stay here until the end of October, but Chris is starting a guest tattoo spot in a very busy tattoo shop in Banff on October 1st, so we have decided that it may make sense to stay for a while.  Which can only mean that it will get MUCH colder than this before we fly out of here again!

 

In the News!

Click this link to check out an article that was written about us in Canmore’s local paper!

New Milestone!

September 20th marked the 2 year anniversary of the day that we left the town where we were living on the West Coast of Canada.  (Read that post here.) While these last couple years have flown by in some respects, it has also felt like we have both lived a lifetime in them.  When we left Powell River, it was impossible to predict where we would go and how it would all play out.  And knowing what we know now, we could have never guessed any of it.  It has been a journey of literally just putting one foot in front of the other, and living each day as it comes.  We have done very little planning in advance, and we have really enjoyed watching the chips fall where ever they may.  I know it is cliché, but we feel that the universe is guiding us, and the more we can let go of what we think we should be doing next, and resist the urge to plan, the more things fall into place perfectly all around us.


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Canmore, Alberta Canada 

Travelling Plans: Our plan is to stay here until Christmas or New Years.  Details of our next destination are yet to be confirmed.

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

To see many travelling photos and to learn about where we are travelling, please follow our Facebook and Instagram accounts by clicking on the appropriate icon in the right hand column.

To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.

To see all of my blog post headings on one page, (including all of the ones about letting our stuff go) head over to my Blog Post Menu.

To contribute to our Patreon account, please click here.

To learn about housesitting, please click here.

To email me directly, please do so anytime at jillamatt@me.com.

If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)

 

 

Adios Guatemala, Hello Canada!

In 2017 we packed up our life, and quit the 9-5 to head out into the world.  We came with no expectations, we only wanted to experience life.  Since we have left, we have packed more fun and adventure into our lives than we ever could have imagined.  Being on the road now for over a year, has brought with it the freedom to explore what it is that we want to do to create an income for ourselves, the time to pay attention to the things that are truly important to us, and the adventure to truly make life fun and interesting once again.  We left seeking an exciting life, and we have not been disappointed!  Join us as we explore as much of this big old world that we can!


The time came to say farewell to our beloved Guatemala last week.  We originally arrived there in July 2018, on a whim (read that post here), and instantly fell in love with the country.  Since then, we had been in and out of the country, sometimes staying for our allotted visa time of 3 months, sometimes spending a couple weeks at a time.  But each and every time we have been there, we have found more and more reasons to love it.

On August 8th of this year, we touched down again in Guatemala and were instantly overcome with how much we missed and loved the country.

In an essence, we felt like we had returned home.

We had left some stuff there before we headed off to the Caribbean. Originally, we were going to meet my parents in the Virgin Islands for two weeks of fun to celebrate my Mom’s 70th birthday. We flew there on a one way ticket, intent on finding a new opportunity once we got there.

We had grand plans of finding work on a sail boat, or of getting a housesitting job somewhere in the Caribbean. It was the ultimate leap of faith. With no plans what so ever, we opened ourselves up to a wealth of possibilities. Little did we know what was waiting for us on the other side.

Three days into arriving to the Virgin Islands, a housesitting notification came up through our housesitting platform, to sit on an island just to the south east of us. (Read about that here.). It was a no brainer, so we applied, and it turned out to be a much bigger commitment than we had envisioned, but one that we eagerly accepted with vigour.  We ended up working at a Botanical Garden, and the experience is definitely one for the books, though I have yet to formulate the words that will fittingly describe it.

Knowing that we wanted to head back to Canada once our gig at the garden was over, meant that we first had to return to Guatemala to collect our belongings that we had left almost 7 months earlier.  On one hand, the lesson learned was to never leave our things behind, because collecting them means a lot of time and money spent getting to them, but on the other hand, we are so happy to have had the excuse to go back there again, and we really didn’t realize just how much we genuinely loved the country, until we made that return trip.

For us, it really is the complete package.  The scenery is to die for and there is an unbelievable amount of diversity in the landscape. From huge active billowing volcanoes, meandering rivers, spectacular lakes, mountains, valleys, waterfalls, mayan ruins, beachside towns to Caribbean ports……..the list goes on and on.  For such a small country, it is pretty astounding!

The food is also wonderful.  The Guatemalans have flavours all their own, not too spicy, but super flavourful!  We have never been disappointed by anything that we have tried.  The markets teem with produce that is both HUGE and delicious, and just being here, you can feel the connection that the people still have to the land.  They are excellent gardeners and farmers, planting crops on every square inch of arable space, from the flat to the vertical, if they can plant it, they will!   We have seen yards that are right next to the streets, with stalks of corn planted right to the sidewalk.  There are rarely manicured lawns, the spaces are much too valuable, and used for much better reasons than to just look good.  But in the end, they look amazing!  The greenery throughout the country is awe-inspiring, and no town or city is left without trees and parks and places for people to get away from it all.

The mayan culture is something to behold!  We are constantly in awe of the Mayan women in particular, who walk the streets in their traditional garb.  There is no specific fashion sense really, and nobody could really care less what another person is wearing.  There is just an overall sense that everyone is doing the best that they can, and that is just good enough.  There are still many active Mayan dialects, and we have been witness to them being spoken, realizing that what we are hearing was certainly NOT Spanish.

But at the end of it all, it is the people of Guatemala that make this country as special as it is.  For a country that is (what the ‘first world’ would call) poor, the people are just so happy and down to earth and you feel just amazing being amongst them.  Even the ones way back in the jungles, with hardly pennies, rather quetzales, to rub together, they are found laughing and joking, always smiling, non judging and mostly just curious.  They welcome you with huge smiles and eyes that sparkle.  They announce ‘buenas dias’ when they see you, and you can rarely pass even one on a sidewalk without at least a good day, or a ‘hola’ as you pass.  They sit on their stoops in the evening, saying hello to all who pass, local or foreigner, it does not matter to them.  We are all people, and we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  This is the Guatemalan way, and for this, we are so grateful.

But now, here we sit, almost one week back in Canada.  Coming back to my home town of Canmore, Alberta, Canada, to help my parents downsize so that they can sell their house, plus renew our driver’s licenses, has meant a significant upset in our nice and neat routine.  All of a sudden we are COLD!  What the hell?  Isn’t it supposed to be SUMMER up here!?  We have hardly bared our skin all week, and for that we definitely miss the tropics!

We are surrounded by ridiculous and excessive wealth everywhere we look.  A whole society of people that have everything they could ever want in the world.  People who can afford most luxuries, not many wanting for much.  With such excess, one would think that everyone would be happy, that life would be perfect, that they would be over the moon to say hello to everyone that they pass.  With such excess, I would expect more happiness and laughter from people on the streets.  I would expect smiling and happy people everywhere I turn.

But, unfortunately, this is not the case.  Since being back I have said hello to numerous people that I have walked by, and they don’t even so much look at me, let alone say hello back.  People walk the streets with serious looks on their faces, seemingly rushing from one place to the next, barely a moment to sit back and enjoy the moment. This is a very different reality to the one that we have experienced for the last couple years.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be back, but I have to say that the location of where I get to come back to, largely contributes to my happiness in doing so.  You see, I grew up in another sort of paradise.  Not really a tropical paradise, but a paradise none the less.

Massive Rocky Mountains jut up into the startling blue sky.  The air is cool and crisp, but oh so clean and fresh.  A beautiful turquoise river meanders down past my parents house, and we get the privilege of sitting next to it whenever we choose. I am always grateful that I had the chance to grow up in such a beautiful place.

We get to stay in a house that doesn’t need many things to be repaired, plumbing that is usually guaranteed to work, lights that work really well, and electricity that rarely get’s shut off, and only if there is a major reason for doing so.  We get to have long hot showers again, and sleep in a super comfy bed.  We are eating some awesome food, drinking tap water, and working out in a gym.  Life up here is different, for sure, but there are many pluses that we also appreciate as well.

We will be here for the next couple months, continuing to adjust to this very different world that we now find ourselves in.  It’s strange, yet familiar, and as usual, we will make the best of it and do what we can while we are here.  We will do some hiking and fun stuff in the area, of course,  helping my parents to downsize, and doing a few odd jobs that we promised some friends.  The time will go quickly, as it does, and soon we will be heading south again, back to the warmth of Central America.


Thanks for reading! Please know that above all else, I aim to inspire others to just get out and see the world. Traveling is such an enriching experience, and I can’t even comprehend how much it has shaped me as an individual. If you have ANY questions, or need travel advice of ANY kind, PLEASE don’t hesitate to email me at the address below! I will do my very best to help you in any way I can!

Xoxoxo Happy Travels!


Current Location: Canmore, Alberta Canada 

Travelling Plans: Our plan is to stay here for 2 months, then head south again.  Details of where and when are yet to be confirmed.

To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our possessions to travel the world, click here.

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Notes on my Hometown – Canmore, Alberta, Canada

In those days, Canmore was just a glimpse off of the Trans Canada Highway. Most people heading to Banff would simply blink, and completely miss us.


I have to say that I would be remiss, if as an aspiring Travel Writer, I didn’t write about my number one favourite place, and a tourist destination in it’s own right.  My life has been shaped by growing up in Canmore, and I feel incredibly grateful to have done so.  I’ve been thinking about writing about it for a while, but to put my thoughts about it into something that didn’t sound angry and jaded at it’s rapid development, was proving difficult.  I love my hometown, but at times, don’t like what it has become.  However, with my most recent visit back home, I found a renewed sense of appreciation for the parts that I realized I have not lost.  


I grew up in Canmore. One would think that growing up in a place would make me an expert on it. Like I should know all the ins and outs of the town; the good places to eat, the perfect store to shop in, or the best bar. But I don’t. Not even close.

So much has changed in the small Rocky Mountain town that I once knew. Being away now for 20 years, I feel so at home, yet like such a stranger, when I visit. Massive developments are ongoing, stores open and close, restaurants come and go, a few box stores have moved in, and there are traffic jams at rush hour! (When the heck did we get a rush hour??) I can still attest to knowing where many great trails are, or where the swimming holes are, most of those haven’t changed too much. Of course, there are the familiar stores that were there when I was a child, and a few restaurants that have stood the test of time. The Legion is still going strong, and the Canmore Golf Club is a constant mainstay, but really, the town as I knew it, generally doesn’t exist anymore.

One thing that does still exist, and will never change, however, is the stunning beauty that surrounds it. Those mountains, those impossibly perfect massive rocks that seem to just rise up from the ground, will stand on guard in that town long after we have all gone. The stories they could tell would be many, some would be of hardship, but most of them are of prosperity.

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Fall colours meet winter snow as the seasons change in October.  This is looking up at Ha Ling Peak, the prominent peak on the right hand side.

Canmore, Gaelic for “Big Head” (of which you will now see one as you enter the Main Street!), was named in 1884 and by 1887, had started it’s first coal mine. For almost 100 years, it maintained coal mining as it’s number one industry, and at that time was only a seemingly minute spec on a map, if it even made it on the map at all! When I moved there, in 1979 (having been born in Banff) at the age of three, the mines were just closing. The town was undergoing a massive shift. The roughly 2000 people that lived there wondered what would happen to their sleepy little mountain mining town, without the mines that built it? Surely Canmore wouldn’t have the same fate as Anthracite, another coal mining community near Banff, left abandoned when the mines closed in 1904?

In the early 1980’s, however,  after a couple tenuous years, and an uncertain economic future for Canmore, Calgary was named host to the 1988 Olympics, and Canmore would host the Nordic Events. This brought extremely good news to the community, and work was started right away to capitalize on this potential fortune.

Being located only a 50 minute drive West from Calgary, and right off the Trans Canada Highway, means that Canmore is easily accessible. This also meant, back in the day, that it’s accessibility provided an ideal situation, for fast and explosive growth. Shortly after the world wide promotion, brought on by the Olympics, Canmore’s population began to escalate, new developments started to spring up, and things really started to get going.

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I remember when there was no development across the highway, or up the mountains below Ha Ling Peak and the Three Sisters. (I remember when Ha Ling Peak, wasn’t named that!) I remember when we got our first traffic light! I remember when I walked down Main Street, and knew everybody I passed. And of course, I remember when the first new developments were put in. At the time it was exciting! It’s always exciting to see a place grow and prosper, but never in anyone’s wildest imagination did we think it would become what it is today.

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Policeman’s Creek runs through town.
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Policeman’s Creek, just behind the Drake Hotel

As a kid, when I used to travel abroad with my family, people would ask us where we were from. We would always say near Banff, or close to Calgary. No one had ever heard of Canmore, and if they did know Canmore, we were shocked! But, over time, more and more people HAD heard of it, and along side this, Canmore’s population, and reputation, continued to grow.

Fast forward 30 years (yikes!), and Canmore is now just another household name. Of course, thankfully, it still isn’t as famous as nearby Banff, or Lake Louise, but it rightly stands on it’s own two feet as a destination of it’s own. It is home to many 5 star restaurants, has an incredible nightlife, boasts boutique shops galore, and has outstanding tourist infrastructure. Not to mention it contains a plethora of world class training facilities for Climbers, Cross Country Skiers, Mountain Bikers, and many other recreational enthusiasts.

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As most kids in small towns do, we had a rivalry with neighbouring Banff. We always felt that we were better than Banff. Banff was too busy, and overrun with tourists, we would say. We went there, for sure! Banff had an awesome nightlife and ‘clubs’, it had the only movie theatre in the Bow Valley (still does) and it had a bowling alley! We would go there just to walk around the Banff Springs Hotel, or go up to the hot springs. We used it for what we needed, but Canmore was always better, we had decided. It was quieter, it was more peaceful, Banff kids were snobs, we were nicer…….so we thought.

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The Three Sister keep a watchful eye over the town.  This is the view from the engine bridge that was used back in the mining days.  Now it is part of a beautiful trail network that criss crosses the Bow River.

In those days, Canmore WAS just a glimpse off of the Trans Canada Highway. Most people heading to Banff would simply blink, and completely miss us. And I have to say, that until you actually drive off of the highway, and tuck yourself right into Canmore’s downtown core, you really don’t see just how beautiful it is.

However, what really did make Canmore so charming back in those days, WAS the fact that it was the quieter, and equally as picturesque, little sister to Banff. And in a way, despite the massive amount of development (Canmore now has at least double Banff’s population), and it’s international acclaim, I believe that this is still the case.

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Happy to be home and in my element!

When my parents bought their house in Canmore, it was one of only a few houses that were built, on their gravel street. Across the way was a field with trees and horses, and capping either end of the road was ponds, forests and the Bow River. We literally were living in the middle of the wilderness. Over the course of my childhood, we would move once more, to a house on the same street, 5 houses down. In the meantime, the street became paved, and houses filled in the remainder of the block.

The summers of my childhood consisted of long, lazy days, running amuck in the forests, swimming in the nearby rivers and ponds, and just doing pretty much whatever I felt like, within reason…..of course!  My friends and I would head out on our bikes in the morning, inevitably ending up at someone’s house for lunch, and would play until it seemed like time for dinner. Heading back to our neighbourhoods, we would start to hear the Moms call us in to our houses, one by one. Eating as fast as we could, we had the luxury of extended daylight, to go back out after dinner if we pleased. We had the paths and forests mapped out. We knew trails and secret spots that we were sure that no adults knew about. We felt like we were Kings and Queens of the world back in those days.

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Unfortunately, being away for as long as I have been, and seeing new developments happen each time I come home for a visit, I have become jaded with the hustle and bustle of the town. In past visits home to see my parents, I’ve felt that it’s but a skeleton of the town I once knew, and that just as soon as I would arrive, I couldn’t wait to get out of it again. But on a recent visit back home, I suddenly started to look at things in a different way. My partner was with me, and not only did I want to reminisce, I wanted to show him the cool, and what were once “secret” spots in Canmore, not just the well trodden parts he had seen on previous visits.

    (Click on individual images for descriptions.)

This time my visit was different. I re-kindled my curiosity, and set out to re-visit those favourite haunts from days gone by, and in those moments, as I reminisced about the stories that accompanied those special spots, I realized that so much of Canmore has changed, but also so much of it is still the same. At the end of a full day of exploring, and at the age of 40, I finally thanked my parents for having raised me in such a wonderful place!

(Click on individual images for descriptions.)

Now exceeding 16 000 permanent residents (and many more non-permanent), there is no doubt that things are different in Canmore. There are major development concerns, wildlife corridors are being choked off, and municipal park land is being turned into housing, to name a few. But, I am so thankful for my childhood, and I couldn’t be more proud to be from such a great place. I will always cherish my time growing up there, and no matter what they continue to do to develop it and change it, they certainly can’t take that away from me.

To those of you that haven’t been yet, you really have no idea what you are missing. Do yourself a favour, don’t just drive by. Take one of those exits off of the Trans Canada Highway, eat at an award winning restaurant, visit the incredibly charming downtown area, walk the trails, gaze at the mountains, and thank Mother Nature for her truly astounding bounty. Because as I much as I want my small town to stay the same, I can’t think of any good reason that it shouldn’t also be shared with the rest of the world.

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Forever emblazoned on my forearm, no matter where I am in the world, the Three Sisters will always be with me!

Thanks for reading!  Recently, in the first nine months of 2017, my partner and I sold all of our posessions to seek out a permanent life of travel.  We are currently house sitting in Costa Rica, and will be here until December 30th, 2017.  If you enjoyed my writing, please sign up with your email address on the right hand column, and follow along on our journey!

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Wandering at home….

You know that old saying “there’s no place like home”?  Well, I can surely attest to the fact that there really is no place like home for me. I happen to live in such a spectacular corner of the world, that quite often after I get back from my journeys, I sometimes wonder why the need to leave at all?

However, travel does something to me that is really impossible to explain. Putting my feet down on another countries soil, can sometimes feel like entering another planet. The feeling of not knowing what is around every corner, is thrilling and exciting to me. 

This past trip, it was pointed out to me by a friend back home, that travelling is the ultimate way to be constantly in the present. And it’s true!  I have thought about this statement a lot (thanks Susan B), since hearing it.  Maybe that is why I love travelling so much. Because I am constantly alert, and aware of my surroundings at all times. Of course, it’s great to find those spots where you can just relax and unwind, but I find as I explore unfamiliar territory, my senses just want more. I yearn to look around the next corner, see what’s just over that hill, taste the sizzling food on the street corners, smell the culinary delights wafting from homes and restaurants, hear the strange calls of foreign birds, and touch and feel plants, fabrics, or whatever there is around me. 

It is in these moments, where we feel the most alive!  Where life takes a detour from the mundane day to day routine, and allows you to experience the world like we are meant to.  Fully aware, fully present, fully engaged. 

Now that I’m back home, I’m getting back to the business of being a tourist at home. I started a blog about this a few years ago, and although there aren’t that many posts, I will be sure to keep my writing rolling, and update it as much as possible. 

Somewhere New-a tourist at home

If you read my first post, you will understand my intentions behind starting this process and blog. I realized that we spend so much time going to such great distances to see new things, when what is right around us can be interesting as well. 

And, as stated above, I really do love where I live! I appreciate the spectacularness of the beauty and nature that surrounds me. There is so much to see nearby, that it would take me a lifetime to just explore that!

Don’t get me wrong, however, there are more travel plans on the horizon. It’s that sight, smell, taste, touch, hear thing that will get me back out into the world. But, for now, right now, I will take in whatever I can that is right near my front door. 

Follow me as I wander at home……….

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