Leave the military–check. Say goodbye to friends and coworkers–check. All I had left to do was get in the car and drive away from my family. I knew that this would be the hardest part of the process.
In all fairness, for the most part, we all managed to keep it together. Mark left early to beat the Easter traffic and our goodbye was made quick in hopes that it might be less painful. I can assure you, it was not. We know we’ll see each other in a few months when I come home for vacation in the summer, but it feels so far away. So many more months apart when it has already been two long years. He got into the car and drove away and for a few moments, I sat on the steps leading up to my parents home and didn’t cry, but just felt this heaviness, which is the only way I can think to express the feeling. It was more burden. More distance. More time.
A few hours later, I loaded up my car and turned to face my family, who are quite possibly the most wonderful people on the planet. Mom teared up and so did I. Dad was very matter-a-fact about the whole thing, reminding me which routes to take and telling me not to stop in Detroit because he worried about my safety. My sister cried too (I’m seen here, hugging her goodbye), but in all fairness to her, I should mention that big crocodile tears seem to run in the Thompson family. After a few more tearful hugs, I got into my car and drove away. Once I was about a kilometre away, I stopped crying almost immediately, took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was enroute to my dream. I wasn’t leaving a life behind, I was taking it with me as I started a new one.
I now write this email from a hotel room in Moose Jaw, SK. I’ve already travelled some 3000 KMs and slowly made my way across the country that not so many years ago, I vowed to protect. Now, I’m finally seeing it as more like a tourist than its protector. I marvelled at the Great Lakes that I’ve seen many times in my life and I was stunned by the sheer beauty of endless plains stretched out before my little Volkswagen Golf. Tomorrow, I look forward to the mountains of Calgary and the next day, the slow meandering through the Rockies and into the city of Vancouver that I’ve come to love as my own.
Yes, it has been quite the journey so far. Sort of poetic actually. And now, in the silence of this quiet city, it is time to turn off the lights. Because tomorrow, another endless bound of highway awaits.
But I’m sitting here at this small desk, acknowledging that I’ve never loved Canada more than I do at this moment because I am now able to see all that is has to offer since I’ve nearly travelled from one end to the other and met all of the people who occupy the towns and cities. We are a great country made up of more than just roads and dirt. There is a pride here, understated and quiet, that reminds me I am home.