Commemoration to Canada: A Journey of a Lifetime

September, 2014

During the week following commencement at most East Coast high schools, new graduates continue in the tradition of heading to a popular beach to celebrate their recent graduation. However, my closest friend, Regan, and I did not want to embark on just any beach vacation; we wanted something more unique. We first started to play with the idea of going to Canada, and the more we joked about it, the more it became a consideration. After hours of planning and convincing our parents, we were more than ready to begin this adventure. Our senior week trip to the small town of Oshawa, Canada brought about a time of freedom, serendipitous moments, and memories of adolescence.

Regan and I were ecstatic, yet completely shocked that we had made a silly joke of ours come true. With a seven-hour drive ahead of us, we packed up the car—which was Regan’s father’s brand new Ford Fusion—and were on our way. Driving down one of many 180-mile stretches, we had the windows down, the sunroof open, and the music playing loud. I felt the summer sun warm on my face as the breeze whipped around my hair. I heard Regan singing and laughter between us both. It was the beginning of freedom. We had nowhere to be, no obligations, and no one to please. We had the opportunity to make our own choices without anyone telling us otherwise. This trip was a momentous occasion for us to experience adult responsibility, adventure, and decision-making.

A part of this freedom was enduring challenges, one of which was navigation. Once out of the United States, the car’s GPS did not recognize Canadian roads; therefore, we had no source of direction. Realizing we had to make our way to our bed and breakfast, we relied on the compass programmed into the car. I became slightly concerned with the fact that we had no definite source of direction, but I knew we would manage to find our way there. Using each other and our common sense, we successfully navigated our way to the destination. We knew we had the freedom to make decisions regarding the roads we took. This freedom accompanied responsibility, so it was important that we chose wisely. We felt freedom during our days in Canada. Every day we would decide where to go or what to do. There was no pressure to follow a schedule or to meet a deadline.

As freedom was a big part of our trip, the fact that unexpected events unfolded became the norm. For example, before the trip, I bought tickets for us to have dinner and see a show at a venue in Toronto, which was highly recommended by many locals. The day of the event, we drove about an hour west to Toronto. Our expectation of what was supposed to be an Italian-themed musical show was changed quite a bit by the end. Six ten-year-old girls accompanied this show from Japan; they were all affected by Down Syndrome to some degree. They were there as the opening act to play the bells. The actual show entitled “Sopranos and Meatballs” ended up being performed by adults with mental disabilities as well. We were both unsure about how to react as the show began; there were giant glowing puppets on stage singing Italian opera. The whole performance was bizarre and not what we expected. However, at the end when all of the performers came out on stage, Regan and I looked at each other and were crying. As much as this event appeared to be cheesy, we saw the look on these people’s faces that conveyed accomplishment and pride. Regan and I left knowing that the unexpected show turned out to be a great experience. It was surprising, but in the end, worthwhile.

Another surprising incident on our trip was when we were coming home from the show previously mentioned.  We were told that an easy way to get back to our bed and breakfast would be to take the highway that runs along Lake Ontario. We decided to take a drive and follow this road to see where it would take us. As we were driving back, I looked out of my window and saw amazing sights: people filling the sidewalks, cars racing by, and the skyline of Toronto disappearing in the rearview mirror. I reached my hand out of the car and as I made a wave-like motion, I could feel the cool Canadian air moving across my fingers. From the looks of it, I thought we were never going to arrive anywhere, but then, we both saw it—the beach. Regan and I had been searching endlessly for a beach in previous days. Everyone was pointing us in different directions and to places that were anything but a beach. We were both so excited that we had unexpectedly found one. Regan pulled the car into the parking lot, and we raced to the beach. The sand felt cold but refreshing on my feet, and the air tasted salty. There was a blanket of mist over the lake in the horizon. Regan and I were running around taking pictures and laughing because we were so happy we found that for which we were not intentionally looking. If we had not taken the long highway around the city, we never would have found the beach. We enjoyed it so much that we ended up going back the next day.

As good as surprises are in the moment, most do not last. Nevertheless, some do. This trip holds so many great memories and experiences that I will remember forever. Regan and I made a video of our adventure to share with our family and friends. It captured all of the laughter, excitement, and enjoyment that we came across while in Canada. We also made a scrapbook holding items from our trip including receipts from shopping venues, our parking ticket, and rocks from Lake Ontario. This serves as a reminder of the incredible journey for which my friend and I embarked. If I am ever having a bad day, I can simply pull out that scrapbook or watch our video, and a smile appears on my face. Looking at pictures makes me laugh and remember how we put so much effort and preparation to make that trip all it could be. It allows me to reminisce about a time when we were just two 18-year-old friends on a road trip of our lives. Now, whenever we ask our parents to do something we use the excuse, “You let us go to Canada, so…” Years from now, I can rely on pictures, videos, and my memories to recall a time of friendship, adolescence, and living.

There are many special aspects of my life that I cherish, but my trip to Canada with my friend holds a special place. This journey ended up being a milestone for Regan and I in that it exposed us to an abundance of new people and ventures, and it was not only an ending celebration of our high school years, but also a welcoming of the college years yet to come. We had high expectations for our excursion and it ended up surpassing them by a mile. Our trip not only had unanticipated occasions and was an opportunity for freedom, but it also became a reminder of an extraordinary time in my life. For that, I am incredibly fortunate and grateful.