Reflections on 2017: Road Trips and Real Life

Can you believe 2017 is nearly at its end? This year has flown by. And every time I say that I’m reminded of my father telling me when I was 16, ‘the older you get, the faster time flies.’ And boy was he right! It’s just another reminder that life is short, and to make the most out of every moment.

I’ve been thinking about my reflections on 2017 these past few months. Why? Simply put, I’ve been struggling with some health issues. And when faced with our mortality and the fact that we are NOT indestructible, it always leads to reflection.

You may have seen my recent Instagram post where I came clean about my absence from social media and blogging. And the truth is, it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to share. I like to keep my blog posts and social media positive and happy. There’s enough negativity floating around the web, and I don’t want to add to it. I want to inspire people, not bring them down. But I had to share it because it was real. Real life.

Sometimes your health or life events (good and bad) happen, causing you to put travel, hiking, and exploring on hold. And that’s okay. It’s hard. But, it’s not forever. Sometimes you just have to put your health, mind, and body first. And come back stronger than ever. That’s what I’m hoping for in 2018. No need to worry about me, I’ll be fine. As I keep saying, it could be worse.

Has your health ever put the brakes on your travels?

Lake Superior Provincial Park

Reflections on 2017 – Travels

This year hasn’t been all clinics and pain. I covered a great deal of Ontario this year. I travelled from east to west, and way up north to way down south. This year to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday I wanted to explore as much as I could of Ontario. I wanted to show people just how diverse this amazing country is by showcasing Ontario’s vast natural beauty and great cities.

I started out this spring with a trip to Gananoque and The Thousand Islands in Ontario’s east. It was my first visit to the region and I was not disappointed. But the biggest thing that stood out to me, beyond the wealth of natural beauty, was the people. The people who live and work in Gananoque were lovely, generous, and beyond welcoming.

Bruce Peninsula's High Dump

After my Gananoque trip, I checked off a first for me. I went on my first solo road trip. Just me, my car, and the open road ahead. I chose to explore more of one of my favourite places in Ontario, the Bruce Peninsula. With its towering cliffs to stand atop and take in the views over Georgian Bay’s brilliant blue waters and dozens of unique hiking trails, the Bruce Peninsula is full of natural wonders and endless opportunities for adventure.

But my biggest adventure of the year came at the end of June. I set out with my adventurous aunt on a #Canada150 road trip that took us from southern Ontario up to Thunder Bay. This Northwestern Ontario road trip was full of epic hiking trails, incredible waterfalls, rich historic sites, and great cities! I finally laid eyes on some of Ontario’s natural wonders that would surprise even those who live here. From a canyon dubbed the Grand Canyon of the North and a cliff top view that would make you think you’re really in Norway’s fjords, I have never been so proud to call Ontario home.

Me in canoe at Forest Motel

And my last big road trip of the year was back in September where I headed south. This road trip was full of firsts. My first time in Stratford, where I also attended my first Stratford Festival, and it was my first fully sponsored trip. Exploring Stratford’s outdoors was a big surprise. From its gardens to the Avon River, and staying at my new favourite place – the Forest Motel, Stratford is so much more than the Festival. From there a friend and I headed down to Canada’s most southern mainland in Point Pelee National Park. So many think of Canada as the great white north. But Point Pelee’s most southern tip is on par with sun-loving destinations like California and even Barcelona!

Pelee Island Book House

Another surprise on that southern Ontario road trip was a free trip to the Pelee Island Book House and a stay for their memoir writing retreat. Oddly enough, my friend and I entered, and BOTH won! What are the chances, right?! As the owner of Pelee Island Book House said, it was kismet! Not only was it my first visit to Pelee Island – which is an absolute gem of a place, full of quirky locals, endangered wildlife, and a calming peace that is hard to find, it was my first writing retreat. I learned so much, not only from our talented and warm instructor but also from the other widely talented writers there.

Cathy and I in Graffiti Alley

© Frank Parrott from RoarLoud

And amongst all the big road trips, I was able to visit a dozen charming small towns and visit my beloved Toronto almost a half a dozen times. Every visit to Toronto I dig deeper. And it never ceases to surprise me. In the spring Lindsay from I’ve Been Bit and I chased cherry blossoms across the city. I also got to meet some amazing travel bloggers too! In the summer, I was honoured to play tour guide to Ashley from A Southern Gypsy, and Cathy and Frank from RoadLoud. And just recently I headed down to the city a few days before Christmas to enjoy the Christmas markets.

Reflections on 2017 – Hikes

While I didn’t get to hike as much as I’d like in 2017, I certainly had some epic ones. I did a lot of hiking on my solo road trip up the Bruce Peninsula. I hiked in Bruce Peninsula National Park, along Burnt Point Loop Trail. I also did a lot of hiking on my Northwestern Ontario road trip, from hiking Killarney Provincial Park to Lake Superior Provincial Park. And of course my most challenging and memorable hike yet – hiking the Top of the Giant trail in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario. But boy, was it ever worth it for that view!

Top of the Giant in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Me at the Top of the Giant

I did some hiking on Pelee Island, in Gananoque, a couple in Muskoka, as well as ones closer to home. All of them gave something, whether it was an epic view from the top, a cliff-top view of a still lake, or even a plethora of different mushrooms. Nature definitely gives more than you ever can get elsewhere. I also, finally, make it to the Scarborough Bluffs. I was so surprised by just how long it stretches and how fragile they are.

A few fun stats:

+ 5000 km traveled (in ONE Province!)
+25 parks, conservation areas, and nature reserves visited
= Endless memorable moments

Sand in My Bra

Best Reads of 2017

In the past few years I put out entire posts dedicated to my favourite books and blog posts that I read that year. Like my Best Reads of 2014 and Best Reads of 2015. But this year I didn’t read as much as I’d like, or maybe just not enough travel related ones. But there were a few I’d like to share. And they seem right on par with my reflections on 2017, finding strength in all aspects of life.

Books

I enjoyed Sand in My Bra – a hilarious read about women and their misadventures on the road. I also liked Nicole Trilivas’ Girls Who Travel, though it was not entirely what I expected. (Sorry, I’m not a love story kinda gal.) I also finally read The Turk Who Loved Apples by Matt Gross. It was a different take on a travel memoir, but still a good one to pick up.

Blogs

There were countless great ones this year. But a couple really stood out for their encouraging words and push to motivate. Like A Woman A Foot’s Hike Proud. Be Proud. You ARE Enough. A post about unreal motivational messages to women and how they lend to women lying to cover up their failures. But are they failures? No! Her message is powerful. Be kind to yourself, be true to yourself, and know you are enough.

The other one that I instantly fell in love with was Brown Gal Trekker’s Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks. This poem is brilliant. As a single woman who loves hiking and travelling, I can wholeheartedly relate! A girl who treks is not perfect and doesn’t care. She’s not interested in being wined and dined, she wants to chase sunsets and climb mountains. I the message behind this poem. Read it and I’m sure you’ll be inspired to be the girl who treks, or you just might want to date her! 😉

*****

I want to say thank you to all my readers, here and across social media, who have stayed with me for the past 5 years, or joined this year! I’m forever grateful for your support and wish you the best now and in the New Year. Here’s to a 2018 full of adventures, sunsets, and more memorable moments.

What was your most memorable moment or reflections on 2017?

Reflections on 2017: From Road Trips to Real Life

Stephanie

I'm a Canadian gal with a passion for wildlife, the great outdoors and travel and hope to inspire others to feel the same way! Travelling mostly solo I love to explore Ontario Gems in my own backyard as well as exotic cities around the world.

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4 Responses

  1. It’s quite an impressive year! I love that you had a goal in mind and set your mind to it. I also think that being honest may feel vulnerable, but it’s part of connecting with your readers.

    Thank you for the reading recommendations, those are always appreciated! Hope you’re feeling better or on the way there. Here’s to 2018 being better than ever!

    • Stephanie says:

      Thanks so much! I’m hoping on the way to healing and keeping optimistic. It really was a great year and I’ve learned a lot, including being real with myself and my readers.

      I hope you enjoy the reading recommendations. And I wish you a great 2018!

  2. RoarLoud says:

    It was great to meet you and explore Toronto with you! Hoping to visit again! Wishing you a year full of travel adventures in 2018!

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