All the familiar feelings came back— sore hip bones from the backpack, the paranoia about every tiny sound while I wait to fall asleep, the orgasmic release of satisfying my curiosity, and the inevitable craving for something to eat other than the food I packed.
But there was this nagging feeling that I’d forgotten something, and that feeling wasn’t fully explained by the cans of tuna that I had no way to open or how (for the first time ever) I managed to pack efficiently enough that my pack felt light and I didn’t have a front pack or anything in my hands. I kept panicking about how little food I had left and getting frustrated with how shitty I’d suddenly become at setting up the familiar orange tent.
But then I remembered that I was alone and that I had enough food for just me and that obviously I couldn’t set up the tent as quickly with only two hands, instead of four. For the first time, I did whatever this strange combination of activities I enjoy should be called all on my own.
Although I’ve travelled alone before, it was never anything like this. It was all carefully planned: pre-booked hostels, to-see lists, and bus schedules printed off the internet before I left home. Those habits never changed until the weekend trip I made to Tofino back in the summer of 2014. That was my first time hitch hiking as my main form of transportation, first time squat camping, and my first experience travelling without any plans. That also happened to be the first time I travelled with Adrian, and we’d been exploring together ever since.
For those of you who don’t know, Adrian and I went separate ways upon leaving Rossland, several weeks ago now. I don’t really want to explain any of it, but you can’t just remove your partner in crime’s bio from your website and carry on telling stories with and “I” instead of a “we”like nothing happened, now can you? All I’m going to say is that Adrian is an amazing person who has taught me so much. He’s up there with my mom on the list of people who have been massively inspiring positive forces in my life. As much as I wish he could stay a part of it, this little trip that I just came back from taught me that I can carry on living the life we built together on my own. Adrian has sailing lessons to teach in Kelowna this summer and adventures overseas to chase come fall. And that’s the last you’ll probably read of his story here.
I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as nervous about hitch hiking as I did getting off the bus in Sooke, bound for Port Renfrew. I felt so awkward standing there with just my backpack and sign, and I stressed about being the only one to carry on the conversation with drivers.
I internally panicked my way through two short rides— one with a retired woman from Holland, and one with a young French man who seemed very depressed— as far as China Beach. Then, I ate some lunch, got picked up by a chatty fisherman, and hit my stride. I liked the guy quite a lot, and he dropped me off at the Port Renfrew general store, where I loitered outside, reading the community bulletin boards. I had a hunch that if I stayed there just a little while, something would happen, and it did.
A couple young guys working carpentry came in to grab some food on their lunch break and invited me to join them at the beach for a cold beer. They drove me right past the “No vehicles on the beach” sign, up over the dunes, picking their way between driftwood and boulders. They were great company, and when they had to go back to work, they tossed me a second beer and left me watching surfers and waves crashing on the opposite shore, basking in the uncanny April sun.
The reason for my choice of destination was some pictures I stumbled across of Botanical Beach— a bay in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, famous for its tide pools. Low tides when I was there were at about 5am and 5pm, which was less than ideal, but I made it work and hung out on the beach all day waiting for the treasures to be uncovered. I made myself food and read my book, but if I’m being honest, mostly I just talked to myself. Sometimes one just has to embrace loneliness and throw sanity to the wind, you know?
My phone was dead by the time the tide got low enough for the pools, so I didn’t get any pictures, but I saw everything on the sign except the red sea urchin. I especially liked the giant green sea anemones and the purple sea urchins. I also really liked getting hit by a giant wave while getting a little too curious and too close to the water’s edge. It must have been at least 25 degrees, so it felt fantastic.
After that, I caught a ride back to town with a young couple from Indiana who I met along the trail on the way back up to the parking lot. They took me to the public wharf, which was had a shocking abundance of amenities for a small town with no cellphone reception— fast wifi, power outlets with no purchase necessary, and friendly people for me to befriend in vacation rentals that were equipped with running water and can openers. Even better, just up the road, there was this sign:
I walked until I found the driveway and spent a comfy, carefree night there. Both nights were actually fantastic. Nobody and nothing bothered me. I only had my summer sleeping bag with me, but I didn’t wake up freezing even once.
The next morning, I turned around and headed back to Victoria as slowly as possible, stopping at several beaches and a coffee shop along the way. My only regret is that I didn’t go with the cute tree planter in the opposite direction that I was heading. That would have been a most excellent adventure, I think.
In conclusion, I’ve still got it! Even though I’m stuck in school all summer, I am going to have some good times and I will have them by myself if I need to.