18 cities. 30 days. My second national speaking tour has wrapped, and in the process, my first book - The Great Canadian Bucket List - has become the #1 selling travel guidebook, reference book and trivia book on Amazon.ca. What a remarkable journey! Of course, it always has been.
We drove 5834km in our two vehicles, a beautiful new Ford Escape, and a powerful cherry-red Ford Explorer. Driving was always my happy place: baby sleeping in the back, satellite radio playing 80′s alternative tunes, seat customized for comfort, and a seemingly endless road through rainforest, mountains, prairie and boreal forest. In the month, we visited 19 towns and cities, giving my Bucket List presentation in 17 of them. That’s 19 hotels – with an unimpressed 6-month-year old baby, and therefore, in total, about 18 hours of sleep for the month! 15,000 books have been shipped, and incredibly, the orders are such that less than a month since launch, we are into our second printing. We packed the house in Winnipeg and Vancouver. In Sault Ste Marie, I sat like a lonely busker facing a quiet mall promenade, even as my book sat on a table with the likes of John Grisham, Malcolm Gladwell and Ian Rankin. “I don’t know where you get your energy from,” says my exhausted mother. The stories, of course. On the looks on the faces of those I tell them to.
Packed house at McNally-Robinson, Winnipeg
I also listened to new stories from Canadians bursting with pride, and picked up a few tips for new Bucket List experiences I hope to investigate. We were blown away by the accommodation and hospitality at the Fairmont Hotels in Vancouver, Banff, Lake Louise, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa. We also appreciated the Hampton Court Inn in Sudbury, especially after spending less memorable nights in cheap motels in Regina and Wawa. No offence to the chain restaurants, but I need soul in my food. Our highlights were the Indian meal we had in Dryden (as memorable as the lovely characters who cooked it) Lady on the Lake in Brandon, an Afghani buffet in Regina, a home cooked Brazilian feast in Ottawa. Multicultural Canada, rich on the flavours.
Our daughter kept us up all night, every night. Clearly, travelling with children is going to be fraught with challenges. After their initial shock at the pace, my parents slotted into the travel groove. My mother is the best roadie any one could ask for, tearing down the PA and packing everything up while I signed books and listened to your stories. My father showed me where I got my love for driving, and the ants in my pants. Challenges there were many: Forded, a new verb, to describe what happens when a major public official’s drug scandal derails your media plans (and causes terrible confusion for your national sponsor). Robin Esrock driving a Ford is not Rob Ford! Toronto’s stubborn mayor smoked crack, but nothing could stop my crack team sharing the inspiration from one city to the next.
I'm elated to have driven safely from Vancouver to Ottawa (and onto Victoria too), a Bucket List experience in itself, and to have brought these wonderful stories to the attention of Canadian media, bookstores, and readers. A bucket list experience is only as special as the people you share it with. Thank you for letting me share it with you!
Raquel learns to live out of a suitcase
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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.