Intro Picture

Intro Picture
Hi! My name is Anne. Welcome to my traveling blog! Read the latest stories below or check out the list of previous stories in the blog archive on the right!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Niagara Falls and beyond

So after my previous post I spent a second night at the house of the generous family that took me in.
I was taken along on a trip to visit some wineries in the area, which was really nice.
Some pictures:

Afterwards I was even taken all the way to the Niagara Falls, which was really awesome!
I booked a hotel there, and spent about two nights there, walking around taking pictures and making video's.

The falls are an amazing sight. One of them is a huge wall of water barreling down onto the rocks below, better known as the American Falls.
The other part of the Niagara are the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, and it looks like it's name would suggest: it makes a large U-shape.
The mist that floats upward from the Horseshoe Falls almost feels like rain the closer you get, if the wind blows your way. When standing at the bottom of it during the 'Journey behind the falls'  tour or even ' worse' , ride the Maiden of the Mist down below, you get absolutely soaking wet.
They give you a rain poncho, but it doesn't do much, I can assure you! Thankfully my camera is waterproof in it's case, and the sun was out and shining so within no time I was dry again!
With the sun shining and the weather being as warm as it was, you'd almost go in a second time just to cool down!

Here's a video of me on the Maid of the Mist, touring the Falls!

On my second day (and last night) I spent the evening walking around through the busiest street in the centre of the city. It was filled with neon lights and tourist traps, including various wax museums of various theme's (from movie monsters to famous criminals, and even a metal museum!), and it was pretty interesting to look around.
But what I was really waiting on was for the sun to go down, and the Falls to be lighted up in the darkness, and after a while they were.
When I passed the last street and found myself back at the Great Gorge, the Falls were showing all kinds of colours, from pink to blue, to yellow and green.
One would think of it as a travesty if it wasn't completely unnoticeable by day, and you wouldnt be able to see the falls at night anyway, so the end result was very pleasing to the eye.

The falls by night

The city of Niagara Falls by night

After I spent my last night at the hotel in Niagara Falls I shouldered my pack again, and walked past the Falls one last time on my way to Fort Erie, which is where I am now.
I got a ride out of the park at Niagara from an older retired gentleman who spent his life working in construction. I got out at a place that I believe was called Chippawa, which turned out to be a pretty bad spod to get any more rides.
By looking around all I saw were a lot of elderly people, who are generally very unlikely to pick you up (and naturally so, I would say). So I spent an hour or two standing by the side of the road, contemplating if I should walk or not.
Thankfully someone came to my rescue, and I had fixed myself another ride! In the car were sitting two men which I guess were somewhere in their thirties, one of them working on a transport ship carrying goods across the Great Lakes, the other said he worked as a nanny and so I suppose would rather not really tell me what it was he did. I had a bit of trouble understanding him, but had a nice chat with the other fellow. They were simply touring around, killing the time by reading from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, and had nothing very special or important to do.
So they ended up taking me to a few stores to get me some fuel for my cooking kit, and I bought some beer as well. Afterwards they took me to Windmill Point Park right outside of Fort Erie, to spend the night.
This is where I ran into trouble.

I had gotten a new prepaid creditcard right before leaving for Canada, and while it had worked at the hotel in Niagara Falls where it had been swiped, it refused my PIN code here.
I had spent the most of my spare money I had on me on the beers and fuel I bought, and now found myself without money, or at least without access to my money, untill I had managed to phone the helpdesk, whom could give me a new PIN code on my online account, but who were closed for the weekend.
That day was friday, so I had two days to spend which I could not pay for yet. Thankfully the boss of the campsite was very understanding and accomodating, and he allowed me to pay afterward.
So today, after working as a volunteer on a fishing event on the campsite yesterday, I find myself in the Fort Erie library and have now finally fixed my creditcard. (funny note: I had to get up at 4 o' clock in the night in order to phone the company my creditcard belongs to, in order to deal with the difference in time!)
While I was bummed out at first to be 'stuck', I had a very nice few days there and have thoroughly enjoyed my time thanks to the awesome staff on site.

 Epic Meal Time! (not so much)

That's more like it!

But tomorrow it will be time to leave and continue my journey, which I have decided will take me along the Lake Erie shore, so I can set up camp at night and have a nice swim after a hot sweaty day.
Afterwards I am most likely to go up North along the Lake Huron coast, and I might try to do some island hopping across what I believe are called the Manitoulin Islands.
I don't know how long it will take me to get there, but I'll find out! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The arrival

Well, I've finally started my journey!
After an 8-hour flight I arrived at the Pearson International Airport in Toronto, fixed up my visa and proceeded outside, stepping into Canada for the first time ever. Quite overwhelming!
I started looking for the shuttle bus toward the hotel I had booked for the night, but save for one other person nobody else was waiting for that particular bus, and it took forever to show up.
I got to talking with the woman who was waiting for the same bus, and a slightly angry call to the hotel later, the bus finally showed up about an hour late. At this point, we had discussed what I was up to, and a proposition was made: she could take me along to her house, as she wasn't actually staying at the hotel.
That way I was out of Toronto right off the bat, which it seems pretty much impossible to hitchhike out of, and about halfway to Niagara Falls. So I took her up on her offer, and I have spent the night at her and her husband's house.

We've spent the entire day driving through town getting me stuff I needed, all on her own initiative, which was really awesome and helpful.
She turned out to own a gunstore with her husband, and one thing leaded toward the next. So in the afternoon, I found myself at the local gunrange in Watersford firing a .22 pistol and a .357 revolver under her guidance!
It was a really great experience, and I did pretty well too actually! Here are some of the pictures she took of me.

After that we went to a coastal town in the vicinity where I met her daughter and we had a bite to eat.
I'm going to spend another night here before moving on tomorrow toward the Niagara Falls, after we visit a winery in the morning. I'm looking forward to it, and I hope my luck will keep up!
I don't expect I will be able to make another post on here before I have left here, so I just want to say I'm really grateful for the awesome hospitality that has been provided to me. It really has been an amazing experience so far.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Only Kindness Matters

Well, it's been another few days so I figured it was about time to follow up on my promise of showing another hitchhiking film, alas the only other one I know.
This one is about hitchhiking in America, and it's called 'Only Kindness Matters'. Enjoy!

Link to the actual page:

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A date and a documentary

So, time for an update as I've finally settled upon my date of departure!
I will be leaving for Canada on the 21st of this month, and I'm set to arrive in Toronto at about 17:00!
There is no way back now, and I'm feeling very excited. But along with excitement some doubts pop up too, doubts which I had when I went to Sweden as well.
Mainly it's the thought of leaving home and stepping into insecurity that make up these doubts, and at the same time they are the things that excite me the most too!  But, when I was on the road in Sweden, I lost those doubts and my mind focussed on the tasks at hand: making it to the next village, finding a new source of water, finding a place to spend the night. My mind was too busy to feel particularly bored or lonely, as the drivers giving me rides made sure I had enough social contact too.
Even so, these doubts spring back up, but I will ignore them all the same. I'm pretty confident in the fact I will have an awesome experience no matter what! :)

There's not much to report other than that though, so in order to make this post a little more enticing I wanted to share with you a documentary which I found on, the best place to find information and talk about your traveling dreams.

From the Vimeo page:
"This Time is a film by Dara Moroney. It features Erin McWilliams. It was shot on the road in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Åland, and Sápmi. Many thanks to all of the people who made this film possible, and to Datadrip for the musical theme."
May I present to you: This Time.

Link to the actual page:

In the next few days I will share with you another such film I've found a while ago, this time about hitchhiking in the U.S!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Inspirations Part 1 - Christopher McCandless

 "Two years he walks the earth. No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road. Escaped from Atlanta. Thou shalt not return, 'cause "the West is the best." And now after two rambling years comes the final and greatest adventure. The climactic battle to kill the false being within and victoriously conclude the spiritual pilgrimage. Ten days and nights of freight trains and hitchhiking bring him to the Great White North. No longer to be poisoned by civilization he flees, and walks alone upon the land to become lost in the wild."

So today I wanted to take some time to talk about one of the persons that greatly inspire me, and it is only fair to start with the biggest inspiration of them all.
His story might be mentioned so much it might be called a cliché, his story is truely remarkable to me and it deserves to be mentioned more often: the story of Christopher McCandless, also known as Alexander Supertramp.
Many of you might already be familiar with his story, as it has been made into a book and also made it's way onto tv screens under the title 'Into the Wild'.
For those who have never heard of him, I'll give a pretty basic overview.

Christopher McCandless was a young man in his early twenties who, after graduating from Emory University, broke off all contact with friends and family to set off on what can be called an epic journey across the U.S, along the Mexico coastline, and eventually ending up in Alaska where he met a tragic end.
Being heavily influenced by the works of Jack London, Leo Tolstoj and Henry David Thoreau, he dreamt of a spartan-like existence, living with the minimum requirements needed to stay alive, doing away with greed and all things superficial.
To find the purest way of living was his goal. He set a moral standard for himself and continually measured himself and everybody around him to these standards. He raised the bar incredibly high.
People often spoke of his remarkable work-ethic and remarkable moral principles in which he stood unwaivering.
Where others of his age spent their entire weekend out partying, Chris would often be found in the bad parts of town buying food for the homeless and trying to give them advice to better their life.

Disgusted at modern society's focus on materialism, he gave all of his savings (consisting of around 24,000 dollars) to Oxfam International and set out on the road.
He broke off contact with his family because he found out his father had actually been married with another woman when he got Chris's mom pregnant, effectively making him a bastard son.
He found out and never told them, and they never told him. Thus every day at home felt like living in a lie, and he wanted to get away with it. During his travels they never heard from him.

The next two years he spent tramping around the West of the U.S, eventually getting a kayak and paddling down the Colorado river, eventually crossing over into Mexico and following the Gulf back into the US.
Along the way he picked up several jobs to buy gear and food but preferred to spend his days poor because those days were more adventurous to him.
And along the way he also met and befriended various people ranging from hippies to a boss while working at a grain elevator in South Dakota, and an elderly man who ended up wanting to adopt him, and even went so far as to pick up the same wandering lifestyle as his much younger friend.
Such was the power of his convictions.

Eventually though McCandless became obsessed with the idea of living in the wilds of 'the last frontier', Alaska, a journey which unfortunately would be his last.
Taking with him (according to him) the bare minimum, which many native Alaskans disputed and thought to be grossly lacking, he made his way into the frozen North.
He carried with him a .22 rifle, some basic necessities and a 10-pound bag of rice and was determined to make do with just that.
And he fared admirably for some time, too. Eventually though, having accomplished his goals, he wanted to leave.
However, on the way to the now famous bus 142, he had passed the Teklanika river. Small and undeep at winter, he had passed it with little trouble.
When he tried to leave somewhere around August though the river had swelled tremendously and had become unpassable. Chris was effectively stuck.
Food became scarce and he started to starve. It is said that he had food poisoning by either mistakingly eating a bad plant (confusing the wild potato root with a poisonous sister variant), or eating bad parts of an edible plant which had become poisonous during that period of time (which I personally find to be more likely).

Many native Alaskans have had a very angry and bad response towards Christopher McCandless.
To them, he was just another kid with his head up high in the clouds looking for a higher meaning in the wild, not realising the danger of the place they had come to.
He supposedly made a lot of bad mistakes, including mistaking a moose with a different animal and this instance as well as the fact that Chris was not carrying a map, and because of this he was branded as being completely unprepared idiot with a lack of respect for the wild.
I dispute that.

I dispute that because he has managed to survive for months, even though he just carried a relatively small sack of rice with him.
He managed to live off of the land for quite a while like that. He did something similar while kayaking along the Gulf of California, where he also lived off what he could find with some supplemental rice. You don't survive that long without a certain amount of knowledge.
Has he made mistakes? He certainly did. Not taking into account the swelling of the Teklanika was one of them.
Other mistakes can be heavily disputed. One of them I recently heavily debated the other day was his lack of a map.

Most people will logically regard a map as an essential piece of equipment.
Without one, the chances of getting lost and starving increase dramatically, and if McCandless had taken a map along he might very well be alive today. It so happens that not too far off from bus 142 there was an old cable-car bridge which he might have used to get to the other side of the Teklanika.
As such, it can be seen as a critical mistake not to take along a map. But it so happens that McCandless did not simply forget to take along a map. He didn't want a map.

You see, McCandless was one of those rare individuals with a deep wish to discover.
 To tread the beaten path was not what he truely wanted. He was an adventurer in a world that is no longer in need of adventurers.
There is nothing left to discover. The entire world has been mapped. What is a true adventurer to do in a world where everything has already been discovered and mapped?
Christopher McCandless's solution was to get rid of the map. Even though he would not find never-before-seen lands, in his own mind he discovered these 'new' places.
With a map you cannot truely discover, because you can see what is up ahead.
But it is people like McCandless that have shaped the world as we know it. People who left the safety of home to go out and find and discover new places.
To me, the only real difference between Christopher Columbus and Christopher McCandless is that Columbus made it out alive and McCandless did not. But in essence they are the same being.
Columbus too was ridiculed and frowned upon and questioned by everybody, but despite all the logical objections to such an endeavour it was Columbus who discovered a new continent.
Only after you set out and accomplish something truely amazing will you garner any kind of respect.
Untill that time people simply look at you like a crazy man.
To many Columbus was that crazy man, until he returned home having found 'the new world'.
Unfortunately McCandless might always be seen as that crazy man, but to me he is a hero.

Adventure per definition comes with risk. If you know beforehand how a situation will turn out, it's not an adventure anymore.
Today we have the luxury of relative safety that is brought to us by specialist equipment, maps and other such tools to help us. But the true spirit of adventure has always been one of uncertainty, something I'm afraid is something that people have forgotten.
I know this because in my line of work as an outdoor sports instructor I've met countless people who truely thought they were having an adventure by coming out to Belgium and taking part in a few guided activities.
But the simple fact that these activities are guided prevents them from being a true adventure.
Adventurous maybe, but not an adventure.

As such, is it a mistake to not bring a map along? Yes and no. I can see why people think of that as the biggest mistakes he made, but at the same time I can see why McCandless did not want one too.
For the dream he set out to accomplish, it was not a bad choice: it was a necessary choice.
One that led to his death, yes, but necessary nonetheless.
If you set out for an adventure and you want to live by certain principles, you can't half-ass them.
The same thing was true for his financial situation. Christopher got rid of all of his savings and eventually burned what little money he had left at the Detrital Wash because he wanted to prove to himself that he did not need money to be happy.
How can one truely expect to prove that with a few thousand dollars left as a back-up?
If you want to truely discover on your own, if you want that kind of an adventure, how can you keep a map as a back-up, just in case? It defies the point you are setting out to make.

It is really easy to poke holes in a dream like this one.
There are a thousand things you can say and hold against the story of Christopher McCandless, and while I'm sure there are many people who think of him as idiotic, to a select few his story truely speaks. The discussion raged on fiercely when the news first hit between those who thought Chris to be foolish and those who admired him.
But in the end, what is perhaps most inspirational and important to those people is that Christopher McCandless had a dream and he had principles, and he had the guts to go through with them.
His is a story of freedom, of morality and of pureness: a search for a higher truth, to get something more out of life than the average.
To do so, he gave it all and he paid the highest price. And though he might have had certain regrets, he did not regret the life he led.
I've always said myself that I'd rather die young having followed my dreams than live a long life of security, having tried nothing.
Before he died, Chris shot a last photograph. While clearly emaciated he holds up a sign saying: "I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless all!" 

It is as Thoreau said in Walden:
"No man has ever followed his genius 'til it misled him. Though the results were bodily weakness yet perhaps no one can say that the consequences were to be regretted.
For these were a life in conformity to higher principles. If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal, that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little stardust caught a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched."

Writing this blog is a little bit frustrating because I never truely seem to find the words to perfectly describe what it is I think and feel. Because of that, I tend to heavily rely on quotes as other people sometimes have said it better than I possibly could myself. Unfortunately I don't think I'm that good at expressing myself though I hope that some day I will find the right words. I hope I will soon find the time to properly contemplate them.
But as such, I want to close off with a quote of Christopher McCandless that perfectly describes how I feel and have been feeling for the last few years and it is this which I wish to achieve:

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
― Chris McCandless

It is because he did this, that Christopher McCandless will forever be a hero to me.
May he rest in peace.