Growing up, I was super fortunate that my parents prioritized travel.
Whenever they went on trips, whether it was back home to Scotland or hitting up the beaches of Cuba, they always trucked my sister and I along for the ride, wanting to expose us to the things they never experienced growing up. Those lessons built up a keen interest in exploring different parts of the world, different cultures and different traditions. I even ended up working in the travel industry, further fueling my wanderlust and grasping the opportunity to explore incredible countries around the world from Cambodia to Greece to Italy and Costa Rica.
But it wasn’t until I moved back to Toronto from the UK a couple of years ago that I took the time to explore my own country. Prior to that, I had only been to Vancouver once for a conference and Montreal for music festivals. DAT’S. IT. Even though I’ve always been a very proud Canadian, I never had the desire to explore my own backyard when instead I could go to culture-rich destinations like France or Thailand or Hungary. Canada seemed too familiar, too safe and not different enough.
Well, let me just be the first to say that I was wrong. Oh, so very wrong.
After a press trip to Alberta upon my return from the UK, I fell in love with the gorgeous landscapes of Banff (Swiss Alps, who?) and cowboy culture of Calgary, and have since spent the past two years discovering Canada whenever I can – with each new visit, I’m taken aback by the diversity of our country, with its regional characteristics, traditions and foods. Quebec City is overflowing with farm-to-table cuisine and a proud French culture. Prince Edward Island is the smallest province in the country, but also boasts the biggest heart and strong Celtic roots, heard in the nightly ceilidhs and islander accents. New Brunswick is a haven for natural beauty, fresh seafood and charming East Coast hospitality. And of course, there’s my home – Ontario, a multi-cultural mosaic of cultures from around the world that bring new traditions and values that evolve the Canadian identity.
I’ve learned that even though we’re the same in so many ways, we’re different from coast-to-coast, and it’s those differences that actually make us whole.
And now, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday since Confederation, Hudson’s Bay is helping to bring all of those differences together – literally. As a means to physically connect our provinces and territories, they’ve launchd The Grand Portage campaign to fund the completion of The Great Trail, a network of trails and pathways running from coast to coast to coast. There are currently 2,200 km of trail left to connect, and once they’re joined together, it will make up almost 24,000 km, the longest recreational trail in the world.
As my love for Canada has grown stronger than ever, I’m happy to support this campaign and encourage you, my dear readers, to do the same. It’s a great initiative and an awesome way to give back to a country that has given us SO much. So, what can you do to support?
To help join the trails, you can donate directly via the Grand Portage page or purchase a limited edition keychain or mini paddle from the Grand Portage collection featuring Hudson’s Bay iconic stripes, which will donate $2.50 and $10 respectively from each sale. The rest of the 58-piece collection will give 10% of proceeds with each purchase, including this sweet crew-neck sweatshirt that kept me warm on chilly nights at the cottage over the long weekend.
The Great Trail crosses streams and rivers and spans cities and wilderness, but it does more than just connect our landscape – it connects our people, our cultures, our Canada.