From a very young age, I dreamt of exploring the world. I had dreams of travelling to India, the desert, the Arctic; I had a long bucket list of places I just needed to see. While I grew up on a farm in Southeast Saskatchewan, everything seemed so far away and coming from a not well-off family, we rarely left the farm going on vacation somewhere in a nearby province ` once every few years. Most of these vacations were spent visiting family, not exploring. I knew from the age of 8 that I wanted to be an anthropologist, travel, speak many languages and live in foreign countries. I spent my childhood riding my horse, scavenging the fields for fossils, arrowheads or any other archaeological evidence I could find. I would fill my closet with rocks and study my findings often, interpreting what they might be..
When I finally turned 17 and graduated from high school, I booked my first flight out to Berlin. I remember this trip as one of the most exhilarating, travelling to another continent for the first time in my life. I returned to Berlin the following summer to work as a bicycle tour guide, getting to know the city and history of Berlin/Germany. Soon after I applied to study in Berlin and was accepted into the Bachelor of Arts program of Asian/African Studies at the Humboldt University of Berlin. I was so inspired to be studying in a foreign language, I quickly took it a step further and began studying Russian, Arabic and Northern Sotho in German. I remember sitting in class in the main lecture hall (est. 1809, the same University where Albert Einstein instructed!) at Unter den Linden, closing my eyes and thinking how amazing it was to be in that moment, learning about the world in a foreign language and I understood everything! I had a knack for learning foreign languages and always felt that I was exactly where I needed to be, doing exactly what I needed to do. Nonetheless, I always felt driven to achieve more, experience more, learn more, see more. Maps, languages and travelling fuelled my spirit.
At the age of 19 I decided to ride my bicycle across Poland, the following year across Germany, moving on to cycle the Great Glen Way across Scotland. I travelled to Israel, fell in love with the Middle East and decided I would move to Syria to study Arabic. I rode camels, bartered at foreign markets, tasted the local cuisines and always pushed the limits to boundaries that were set. I was free, determined and adventurous. I attended courses about Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Tibet, China, South Africa, Nepal, the Silk Road, the Dalai Lama, Nollywood, everything I could possibly take in. My professors as anthropologists or linguists became my greatest idols and I soaked in every word they spoke. After completing my studies at the Humboldt University, I was accepted into the Masters program of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Free University of Berlin where I continued to attend some of the most brilliant lectures I could ever imagine, really looking into cultural diversity on this planet: food sharing practices in Papua New Guinea, the destruction of Indigenous life ways in Borneo, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, cultural perspectives on climate change, space and place theory; understanding that direction, colours or even beauty is perceived in so many different ways in this world.
When I returned home on summer holidays to Canada as a broke student, I began finding ways to explore in a sustainable and economic way, mapping out rivers that I would canoe or hikes in nearby national parks. Like my desert dreams of ice cream, I felt a longing to explore Canada and learn more about cultural and environmental diversity in the place I was raised. As the land around the area I grew up in continued to develop drastically: cabins popping up at the wild lakes I once knew, wide highways growing on the narrow roads where the treetops once touched to accommodate for advanced, massive machinery, developed land as far as the eye could see,- I grew ever more driven to explore as much as possible before the amazing flora and fauna disappear and traditional Indigenous languages and cultures are modernized. (So awesome to see the shift towards Indigenous education!)
Have you ever taken notice of the bird populations in your area? Are they dwindling? When do they migrate? Do you realize how far they travel to reach specific destinations that are suited to their needs? Do you understand how significant the birds, bees, flowers and trees are to our survival? Have you ever sat with an Indigenous Elder and heard about their stories of this land, how it has changed and how their ancestors lived sustainably here for tens of thousands of years? Do you reflect on your country’s ecological footprint on a daily basis? An Indigenous Elder once told me that the bird populations used to be so great that they would black out the sun flying by.......
Knowing there are many perspectives of understanding and making sense of this world, I am keen to promote the passions and livelihoods of living from and with nature. I am proud to mention that the upcoming explorations and ways of life that I will continue to write about will remind us of the importance and beauty of the environment, biodiversity, cultural diversity, sustainable living and the gift of adventure.