I feel like I should talk a bit about WHY I am doing this trip, and what I expect to accomplish during my more than eight months on the road.
The why is somewhat easy to answer. I love to travel, and I love road-tripping. My JOB is to travel. And despite spending almost all my time on the road, I generally spend my weekends hiking in the bush, or road-tripping around the countryside looking for abandoned buildings, pretty views, and birds. I appreciate down time as well, but I am definitely not a homebody.
My marriage disintegrated just over 4 years ago, and through varied set of circumstances (the most significant being COVID) my last proper vacation was prior to that. I have been basically homeless, spending most of my time living in a truck, on a friends couch, or in my mom’s basement. I have been working my ASS off the last several years, and I am exhausted. I got it into my head to go on an epic road trip, and once I get something in my head, well…I am going to see it through. Since I currently have no home, it seems like the ideal time to take on a once-in-a-lifetime trip like this.
My expectations for this trip, or what I want to accomplish and get out of the trip can be placed into 3 broad categories:
- See our beautiful country at my own pace
- Go on a birding biggish year
- Meet some awesome people and take their pictures
Let’s talk a bit about each of those goals…
See Our Beautiful Country
Canada is a big country, and it is absolutely stuffed with beautiful scenery. In my years of long-haul trucking I have been fortunate enough to get paid to see a good chunk of it. But to be sure it is work. I was not at leisure to stop and explore when I visited places that screamed to be explored. All too often the scenery had to be enjoyed fleetingly through my windshield, as though I was seeing it on TV.
When I first began to talk to people about quitting my job and travelling many advised me to go sit on a beach in Belize, or something similar to that. During my time at Manning Park I met some wonderful people from Chile and Argentina, who tried to convince me to spend some time backpacking around South America. And believe me, I gave it serious consideration.
At the end of the day, I felt it was necessary to go discover my own country first. And with a country as big as Canada that is no simple task. I will be driving relatively short distances between overnight locations. I will be staying multiple days at certain locations. This will give me the time to really stop and smell the roses. To take the time to really see everything there is to see, and to try to get a good sense of the local flavour. Indeed, I hope it will give me time to connect with some locals, and hear their stories. To gather some history. To soak it all up.
And yes, I expect I will see some pretty sights, and make some pretty pictures along the way.
You may have heard of a birding ‘Big Year’, perhaps from the Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson movie of the same name. If not, well, a big year is basically when a particularly crazy birder decides to devote an entire calendar year to identifying as many bird species as possible in a set geographic area. Big years were initially popularized in the American Birding Association ‘ABA area’ which for years was composed of the continental United States and Canada. The powers that be have recently added Hawaii to the ABA area, which instantly added many, many more countable species. Prior to the inclusion of Hawaii the big year record was 749 species. The new Hawaii-inclusive record is 840 species, set by Australian John Weigel in 2019. Wikipedia has a decent page on big years and their associated records if you are really interested.
Needless to say, a big year is an incredible commitment in both time and money. It may require flying across the continent many times in order to be in certain locations at certain opportune times, and to chase down rarities, a practice in the birding world known as ‘twitching’.
So what then is a ‘biggish year’? Well, I’m not devoting my entire year to chasing birds. Just a good part of it. I will not be travelling off my set itinerary terribly far to chase rarities. Rather, I am just going to follow my predetermined itinerary, and see as many birds as I can. I have made it a goal for myself to submit at least one eBird checklist per day (ie: go birding in at least one location per day), though I expect many days I will submit several checklists.
I have set a goal for myself of 350 species, and honestly, I think I will likely fail to meet this target. As I will be contained wholly within Canada, and the southern portion of Canada at that, I think a more likely final number is around the 300 mark. I have set my goal significantly higher than that simply to keep me motivated, and keep me pushing.
No matter what the final tally is, I expect I will gain a fairly respectable number of lifer birds, simply because of the time I will be putting in combined with new geographic area that I have not birded in before. There are many, many species whose range is limited to geographic areas I have not been to before, or perhaps have been to before I started counting birds.
Meet People and Shoot Them 😉
As well as scenics and cityscapes, (and my fledgling wildlife shooting) I used to shoot a lot of so-called ‘strobist’ photography. The term ‘strobist’ may mean different things to different people, but to me it means shooting portraits of people using off-camera flash. I sold my equipment off some years back when I got in a hole, but I have purchased myself a pretty decent 2-light kit, and I will be bringing it along for the ride.
The idea is that as I roam across the country and meet interesting people, I will set up and shoot some quick and dirty environmental portraits. If I am unable to find any willing models, well, I guess I will shoot a great many well-lit selfies… 😀