The Hitchhiker's Guide to Canada: One Direction

Upon completing the 1st leg of his travels, Ben Collins reveals his plans for hitchhiking his way 5,000km across Canada

With my week long holiday in Montreal and Quebec now at an end I have this morning made my way back towards the capital where upon crossing the river back in to Ottawa I will pass through the first real milestone of my journey - the end of my first leg...

...Now whilst I am sure for most people these "legs" just sound like a needless formality, they actually go to serve two quite important purposes. Firstly they break this marathon journey up into what feels like much more manageable bitesize trips, thus ensuring I remain excited and not as I would otherwise be - utterly terrified. Arguably as important, my trip divided in to "legs" helps me quell what can at times be less than constructive OCD tendencies which for this trip at least seems to manifest itself in the shape of wanting to plan everything from this very minute right the way through to arriving back home - something I know is not only impossible but frankly insane - and so these predefined legs give me just one section of the trip to hone in on at any one time.

So with the 1st leg now consigned to the past what about the future?

Well it has always been obvious to me that my 2nd leg should take me out to Vancouver but until only a few weeks ago the means of travel to achieve this was still very much undecided. Flying was too costly and whilst both the train and coach were much cheaper neither filled me with any real sense of excitement.

Then, as fate would have it I ended up for a short while on the farm in Alexandria during which I spent a lot of time with my host Mitch discussing the possibility of hitchhiking; something that until this point had never crossed my mind. 

Alas though, farm life was not for me and whilst packing my bags after ten days felt at the time just a little like failure, looking back it was in fact a miracle in disguise as it provided me with the perfect opportunity to try out hitchhiking for myself whilst heading back to stay with the Flecther's in Winchester, just 80 kilometres west of Alexandria. You can read the post in full here, but to summarise I wrote that evening:
"My trip back to Winchester was not about how quickly I could make the journey, it was instead about breaking the novelty and apprehension of standing on the side of a highway, sticking out my thumb and putting my trust in to the the hands of a complete stranger. This I did today not once, not twice but three times and honest to God I loved every minute of it." 
And so in the weeks that have followed I have been asking myself whether I could in fact hitchhike the full distance out to Vancouver? And the honest answer is I really don't know... but I do want to find out.
Could I really hitchhike right the way across the World's second largest country?
Now whilst part of me feels somewhat intimidated by taking on an adventure of this scale there is a much greater part of me being overwhelmed with excitement and for me that really is what this trip is supposed to be all about - living life to the full and doing the sort of crazy things that sat back at home I'd not even think of  - let alone actually consider. 

Distancing myself from the fantasy of it all I have in all seriousness given this a lot of thought, including I should say the inherent risks that come with taking on this kind of adventure. My conclusion? Well after hours of searching for hitchhiking horror stories I have not heard enough to turn my back on the idea.

So in terms of practicalities what are we looking at?

Well skipping forward a little I have made contact with a young family out in Victoria on Vancouver Island who are going to host me for a week or so as part of a work exchange starting from the 23rd July - thus giving me a full 28 days to hitchhike the 5,000kms out west.
What better and more exciting way is there to see Canada? It's certainly going to beat the hell out of spending three days on a the train or a week on the bus
The biggest challenge it seems is going to be managing my accommodation as to make things just a little more interesting I have taken the decision to try and CouchSurf the entire trip. Obviously the nature of my intended travel does not lend itself particularly well to having a pre-arranged schedule but after spending a day or two looking at the map and developing a schedule I feel I have enough confidence it will work and an "emergency tent" for if and when it doesn't.

So with all this in mind I am left this morning on the approach to the river separating Quebec and Ontario feeling almost as excited as I was back in the airport leaving the UK.

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Making my way up on to the Alexandra bridge to reenter Ontario my imagination goes into overdrive filling my ears with music, lining the banks with cheering crowds and painting the sky with the biggest and brightest fireworks known to man. I feel at this moment right here and right now like nothing in the World could stop me and whilst passers by are oblivious to this bout of ecstasy I can do nothing but stand and smile. 

Fortunately for everyone though, two minutes later I am back on dry land. The fireworks have stopped, the crowds have dispersed and the music in my ears has been replaced by the sounds of the city. Yes, the 1st chapter of this journey has come to a close but with little time for reflection there really is only one direction now to take - and that my friends is West.

My planned route for hitchhiking Canada