British Columbia

When I was about eighteen, I set off with my grandpa and fifty other retirees in a stinky tour bus all Canadian national parks. I’ve also written about the time I toured the US on a bus. Hadn’t I learned my lesson?! The result was a chaotic and unforgettable time. I signed up thinking it would be a budget Eat Pray Love adventure, the result was more… frustrating. 

It was two weeks of highly structured “tourism”. It was planned meals and not-so-great wi-fi in some not-so-great motels. It was also the first time I was categorized as the type of traveler I didn’t want to be – in a giant group, rabid and relentless about taking photos, eating out constantly, showing no respect for the preexisting community. Most of all, loud. I detest loud travelers and here I was, identified as one, as my group (led by a guy with a flag, so typical), clumsily bumbled through Canada.

All the retirees were from China and spoke different dialects of it, so it wasn’t like half the group understood the other half. It was all the ingredients you need for a fantastically frustrating trip. The I’ll find myself in the great outdoors! image died down quick. 

The started in Richmond, BC and went eastward to glacier national parks. Richmond, BC is where a large concentration of Chinese retirees live, so we all packed into a bus from there. Visiting that town is a out-of-body cultural experience in itself too, because it is a place in North America where all the street signs, gas stations and banks were in Chinese. Workers at all places spoke only Chinese and were frequented by what seemed like only Chinese people. I distinctly remember trying to buy something at their mall and tripping over my words as I wasn’t used to such an instant cultural shift. Not what I thought Canada would be like.

What I brought along with me on this cramped bus ride was a journal and washi tape (and clothes of course). What I produced was a giant novel packed with crazy thoughts.

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Ever heard of Duncan, Canada? Probably not…

Canada had cool totems and meaningful native art. We stopped at small towns along the way to check out totem poles.

Banff National Park was pretty sweet, too. Our tour bus got out of the bus and got onto a snowmobile that plowed onto some far-out seeming glacier, to a little snowy plateau for us to take pictures. Then we were quickly off to Kamloop, to see a ginseng farm and frozen grape winery…