Tuesday, 25 August 2015

8 Lessons from (Mid-)Life on the Road

As you can see, the blog has been quiet for a while. Part of the reason is that the Hubster and I were on a road trip. Nor was it the ‘fun, spontaneous adventure’ type of road trip. Ours was more a means to an end – to get us and our car to our new home.

The move was work-related, and eagerly anticipated - something we both wanted. But part of the price was driving literally across country on a schedule. Halifax, NS to Victoria, BC (6000 km/3750 mi) - coast to coast in the second-largest country on Earth.

8 Lessons from (Mid-)Life on the Road
Our old 'hood - Eastern Passage, NS

But… we’ve done this before.  Five years ago we did the journey in reverse when we moved to Nova Scotia. So, building on wisdom gained the first time around, here are 8 things I learned from our twelve-day journey.

1. Drive the least amount possible each day to still arrive on time.

This was the main ‘take away’ from our first cross-country odyssey. On that journey we spent a couple of days at several stops, to visit with family and friends. Making up time and mileage involved long driving days - twelve to fourteen hours - not good for body or soul. Nor is it safe. This time around, we planned an average of 500 km per day – five or six hours of driving time.

2. Take care of yourself on the road.

Because we knew we would be eating out every day, Hubby and I instituted a ‘no french-fry’ pact. (which lasted to day ten!). We packed a cooler full of healthy picnic lunches that kept us going for most of the journey. That was one key to not feeling like crap.

The other was daily stretches. I noticed on the first trip, that by the end, my joints and muscles had all stiffened up from inactivity and being in the same position all day. Stretching alleviated this, and quite possibly helped me sleep.

3. Sleeping in a hotel and eating out is not as much fun as you think!

With our house for sale, I was cleaning daily, in anticipation of potential viewings - not something I normally do! This led to fantasies - no chores to do or meals to cook; a nirvana that I knew was coming.

The first few days were great. We moved into a hotel the day our house was packed up and stayed there for two more, while it was loaded onto a truck and finally cleaned.

Once on the road, at a different hotel each night, it was not so much fun. Especially in the remote parts of the country where there are fewer options in accommodations and dining, but with a greater variety in the quality!

8 Lessons from (Mid-)Life on the Road
Hearst - wild and woolly N. Ontario - no chain hotels or restaurants here!

4. Bladder function becomes an obsession!

Each morning’s plan involved decisions on how long we could drive without needing ‘facilities’. I begin my day with a glass of water and my thyroid medication, followed by at least one, ideally two, cups of coffee. The Hubster needs two to three cups of java as a kick-start. All of which makes you need pee, and all of which, at mid-life, takes its own sweet time to percolate through. Until you get into a car and drive, that is!

5. Technology is not always your friend!

We used a GPS on both journeys across the country. In truth, most of the time, it isn’t necessary. Are you on the Trans-Canada Highway? Are you going in the right direction? Good! That’s all you need to know! A GPS is helpful only once off the highway and looking for hotels.

Unfortunately, according to ‘Susan’ (our lovely GPS persona), several of the hotel addresses we entered did not exist! Not a comforting feeling when you have no idea where you are, or where you’re going!

Moreover, she’s taken us down dead-ends and to no-left-turns. It is singularly unhelpful to hear “in 300 metres you have reached your destination.” when we can see where we need to be, but can’t actually get there!

To be fair, Susan ultimately got us most places with a minimum of problems, and having a GPS is a good idea. Once you have one though, know that at some point, you’ll likely regret relying on it completely!

6. The Trans-Canada Highway is really boring!

Canada is vast, as well as incredibly beautiful, with a million sights that take your breath away. None of which you’ll see from the Trans-Canada Highway however!

8 Lessons from (Mid-)Life on the Road
You might see a giant snowman in shades, though!

Through The Maritimes trees make up pretty much the entire view. This becomes less so as you cross into Quebec and southern Ontario. Once you turn north though, it’s back to the trees – trees and rocks if you go far enough - you know… for a change!

Several days of this induces claustrophobia, so it’s a relief to see prairie. No trees there, just big, BIG sky – awesome in it’s magnitude. And boring as bejesus after the first day!

The scenery from the Rockies all the way to the coast is stunning with mountains, rivers and lakes right beside the road. Unfortunately the highway is single lane and winding, with a horrendous amount of traffic (especially on summer long weekends!), leaving scant ability to take it all in.

7. You are on animal watch for 6000 kilometres.

Perhaps the TCH is so boring to keep your attention on the potential for animals on the road. And the danger is real – a moose encounter can be fatal; deer and elk will, at the very least, wreck your vehicle.

As navigator, part of my job was to be on constant moose/deer/elk alert. And for 6000 kilometres I saw nothing except a groundhog…which we hit! Ugh! (Sooooo sorry, little buddy!)

8. There is a sense of being untethered from real life.

The routine of the road is so different from how most of us normally live. It’s about settling into each hotel room quickly, then getting yourself (and your stuff) back into the car the next morning.

Between hotels, the car becomes your own little bubble. Even with TV and Internet access, I had the strange and uncomfortable feeling of being disconnected.

Perhaps it was being in a different place each day, the knowing-without-knowing what that day would bring, or maybe being, for all intents and purposes, homeless. Whatever the reason, our ‘real life’ didn’t seem real at all.

8 Lessons from (Mid-)Life on the Road
The new 'hood - Hatley Castle, Victoria - in our backyard!

I know there are many who have to take similar journeys, moving for work. Many make these trips with small children and pets. To those people I tip my hat. It seriously took all of our combined patience and energy to get two of us here in one piece!

And, as I said, although not a ‘road trip’ in the typical sense, it was an adventure. We may not have seen the ‘sights’ Canada has to offer, but we did experience a national treasure – friendly, welcoming people at every stop on the way!

Oh Canada! What a trip!


  1. This was fun reading! So glad you arrived safely.

    1. Thanks, Kathryn! We're happy to be here. Long road trips like that are definitely a younger person's gig!

  2. Now to me that sounds wonderful. I have driven 3/4 of the way cross country (USA) twice (to take my daughter to college) and I absolutely loved it. It might be harder now that I'm older (and those rest stops become more frequent).