Be grateful you’re not a chef-owner who’s worked tirelessly to recently open a restaurant.
Be grateful you’re not a server at that, or any other restaurant.
Be grateful you’re not a school kid hoping to improve your grades for college.
Be grateful you’re not a college kid, in debt, hoping to graduate into a hungry job market.
Be grateful you’re not a museum, aquarium, zoo, or tourist attraction.
Be grateful you’re not a tourist guide, tour operator, or concierge.
Be grateful you have nothing to do with the hotel industry.
Be grateful you’re not a band on tour.
Be grateful you’re not a concert promoter.
Be grateful you’re not involved with a folk, arts or music festival.
Be grateful you’re not a sports professional.
Be grateful you haven’t spent your whole career training for the 2020 Olympics
Be grateful you haven’t spent your whole career training for the 2020 anything.
Be grateful you don’t work in a hair or nail salon.
Be grateful you don’t have lots of children to school, entertain and feed.
Be grateful you’re not single and alone.
Be grateful you don’t own a martial arts studio.
Be grateful you don’t own a book shop, gift shop, or boutique.
Be grateful you don’t need to visit the Emergency Room.
Be grateful you're not a massage or physiotherapist.
Be grateful you’re not an artist who landed a big gallery break.
Be grateful you’re not a gallery.
Be grateful you don’t pay an exorbitant amount of commercial rent.
Be grateful you don’t have an unmanageable mortgage.
Be grateful you don’t live month to month, or week to week.
Be grateful you’re not supporting your family who live in another country.
Be grateful you’re not a refugee.
Be grateful you’re not completely invested in the stock market.
Be grateful you’re not caught up in a civil war, locust plague or ethnic violence.
Be grateful you’re not a filmmaker stalled in production.
Be grateful you’re not a retail store.
Be grateful you’re not an event or wedding planner.
Be grateful you’re not in recruitment.
Be grateful you’re not working in media.
Be grateful you don’t work in the casino industry.
Be grateful you don’t work in the cinema industry.
Be grateful you’re not in the fashion retail industry.
Be grateful you’re not in the convention industry.
Be grateful you don’t have to sell advertising.
Be grateful you don’t work in a crisis-hit senior’s home.
Be grateful you don’t work in a stadium or venue.
Be grateful you don’t work in the oil industry.
Be grateful you don’t work in the airline or airport industry.
Be grateful you’re not neurotic or obsessed with conspiracy theories.
Be grateful you don’t own a gun, or see any reason to do so.
Be grateful you don’t have to worry about starving.
Be grateful you don’t have to worry about being cold.
Be grateful you don’t believe everything you read.
Be grateful you are not a professional speaker, or own a speaking agency.
Be grateful you are not a travel writer.
Be grateful your wedding or family event wasn’t planned for spring or summer 2020.
Be grateful your graduation wasn’t scheduled in 2020.
Be grateful you’re not in theatre, dance, comedy, or public performance.
Be grateful you don’t work on a cruise ship.
Be grateful you’re not stuck on a cruise ship.
Be grateful your finances are not dependent on tourism or oil.
Be grateful you don’t work in catering.
Be grateful you are not in construction.
Be grateful you are not homeless.
Be grateful you do not live in a household with domestic abuse.
Be grateful you do not suffer from addiction.
Be grateful you are not a magician or a wrestler.
Be grateful you are not a professional busker.
Be grateful you haven’t had to lay anybody off.
Be grateful you haven’t had to shut anything down.
Be grateful you haven’t had to cancel the whole damn thing.
Be grateful you are not vulnerable.
Be grateful you have not lost a loved one to COVID-19.
Be grateful you are not a pessimist.
And while you’re at it, or even in it:
Be grateful you are physically and mentally healthy.
Be grateful you love someone, and someone loves you.
Be grateful you live in a country with a social net.
Be grateful there are people that care.
Be grateful that there are adults in the room (most of the time).
Be grateful for science.
Be grateful for entertainment.
Be grateful for innovation.
Be grateful that level-headed, rational and empathetic politicians exist.
Be grateful for the global logistical supply chain.
Be grateful for technology.
Be grateful for fresh drinking water on demand.
Be grateful for streaming.
Be grateful there is food on the shelves.
Be grateful for your neighbours and community.
Be grateful there is a number you can call.
Be grateful there is help.
Be grateful there is soap.
Be grateful for online banking.
Be grateful for online shopping.
Be grateful you still have a job.
Be grateful for respectful discussion, critical thinking, and debate.
Be grateful educators are figuring something out.
Be grateful for vaccinations.
Be grateful for the commitment and diligence of doctors and nurses.
Be grateful for people who show up for work when others don’t have to.
Be grateful for the weather.
Be grateful for the things you have seen and done.
Be grateful for fresh air.
Be grating for deliveries.
Be grateful for the tenacity of society.
Be grateful we will be better prepared for COVID-20.
Be grateful the environment has had a brief pause to breathe.
Be grateful tourism will resume locally and more sustainably.
Be grateful there are more people who love than people who hate.
Be grateful the virus does not discriminate the way people do.
Be grateful we are in this together.
Be grateful for optimism.
Travel bucket lists suddenly belong to another era, like a monocle, or camera film, or more recently, over-tourism. After a decade of rampant tourism growth - buoyed by cheap flights, sophisticated marketing, digital, broadcast and print storytelling – it has all come to a crashing halt. Nobody is going anywhere. It’s over folks, and life can not and will not return to normal. We are slowly being conditioned into sterile states of isolation, detachment, and alienation. I took my kids for a walk in the forest – a legal activity at time of writing – and we watched a middle-aged lady jump into the trees to avoid crossing our path. My 6-year-old thought it was funny, but it broke my heart. For all the positive, heartwarming stories shared on social media, there remains deep Orwellian undertones beneath the phrase “social distancing” and the spectre of constant dread. Next week, our neighbours are sticking birthday wishes on their doors for my daughter. I’m going to walk her around the ghost town of our once thriving townhouse complex, and we'll wave to the faces behind windows. It’s doubtful her cancelled birthday party would have proved nearly as memorable.
As with many of you, I’ve been asking a lot of questions about the cost of social distancing. There’s so much we don’t know about this pandemic, but a global narrative has emerged of the vital importance to “flatten the curve.” World-renowned scientists, economists and journalists risk their careers arguing otherwise, while an over-abundance of caution feels prudent. Politicians are crushed between too many rocks and more hard places; damned if they shut down their countries, damned if they don’t. A choice between economy and lives? A disputed testing methodology? Political opportunism? The last stand of democracy? So many questions, few answers, horrific fear-mongering, and of course ravenous media feeding our addiction for information relentlessly splattered across our bruised news feeds. Did a viral cat spook our cultural elephant and make Dumbo jump off a cliff? Did the planet figure out a way to make our political leaders act in a manner that will prove decisive when it comes to the real existential human threat of climate change? Do I believe the frustrated Stanford epidemiologist who says we’re doing too much, or the professor from Wuhan who says we’re doing too little? How did Italy and New York not turn out like Germany and Washington State? What crimes and disasters are flying under the radar while we obsess over mortality reports and daily infection numbers? Meanwhile, there's Zoom drinks, Zoom dinners, Zoom classes, Zoom romances. Zoom is no substitute for human connection, and humans are social creatures above all else. Millions out of work, billions in emergency war-time aid, fights over toilet paper, and we haven’t even got to the social unrest yet, when the economic and social consequences really come home to roost. It’s hard to think about anything else, which is why this opening is about six times longer than I wanted it to be. Because I need to make one important point above all else: amidst all this thinking, we need to start dreaming.
Bucket Lists are very special kinds of Dreams. We stop thinking about money, time and logistics, choosing instead to project ourselves into an unspecified future to fulfill a personal longing. When people tell me what’s on their bucket list, I often ask why. What do you expect will happen when you finally stand at the foot of the Great Pyramids, jump out of a plane, or sail in the Galapagos? Take it from me, reality is often too vivid – hot, bumpy, weird and overwhelming – to fully appreciate the moment until much later. It’s the dream that counts, much like a lottery ticket. One day…one day…one day, and now more than ever, we need as many “one days” as we can muster. We need to identify, capture, and hold onto those dreams, for it is dreams that will shine a light into the dark days to come.
Covid-19, and the measures that have been put in place to combat its spread, have ruptured society as we know it. The notion of one people living in a global village, one that is already under threat from rising nationalism and a refugee crisis, is in tatters. Our bonds have been sliced apart, our walls raised, our webs untangled. Success against the spread has been attributed to the kind of surveillance, control and social conditioning we'd read about in a dystopian nightmare. What incentives do governments have to return such tools to the box? Wait…I’m thinking too much again. Weight is creeping up on my shoulders. So, I close my eyes and dream again…of wild horses on the dunes of Sable Island; of sharing a purple fuzz sunset with my Dad in Algonquin Park; of floating with salmon as they swim upstream in Vancouver Island. I dream of the mighty Rockies and golden prairies, of the Maritimes and Magdalen Island winds. I close my eyes again, and I dream of Canada.
Travel in the future might involve medical tests and health passports, banned countries and demographic restrictions. We will miss the freedoms we once knew. Now we are confined to our homes, and soon, we we will be confined to our cities, provinces, and country. If your dreams must be restricted to one nation, there are far worse places than the world’s second largest country, jammed with abundant resources, unique experiences, inspiring people and extraordinary space. To be in Canada is a stroke of undeniable good fortune, a winning geographic lottery ticket. When we’re finally released, I hope we remember that people need hugs and handshakes. That it’s perfectly safe to share a beer, campsite chow, a hostel dorm or dining table. That large crowds at events and festivals are not dangerous, and that kisses were romantic long before they became viral weapons. I hope we remember that we share a desire for adventure, experience, community, romance, history, culture and natural beauty. I hope we remember the dream that was once The Great Canadian Bucket List.
I’m relieved, reassured, and deeply grateful to live in this country. Canada’s admired social, medical and economic net is being reinforced, emboldened, and strung up across all 10 provinces and 3 territories. No further evidence is needed to see that we live in a special country going through remarkable times. My heart breaks for all the people I’ve met around the world who will not be nearly so lucky.
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.