Overcoming the pandemic mindset - A Canadian trip in times of social isolation
The social distancing, stay-at-home, and lockdowns bring in boredom and anxiety among people. I am becoming skittish and drained of energy due to uncertainties induced by the pandemic. It is making a lot of us uneasy and complacent to some extent thus, occasionally tempting us to evade the safety precautions.
We are social animals: we need to move around, meet, mingle, and partake in activities that are conducive to our wellbeing. Social interactions make us learn and understand others and help us appreciate and respect each other.
These days, I leisurely spend time multitasking on a mishmash of things: productive to a certain extent, but mainly on dull and dismal stuff. The pandemic has forced me to cancel all our travel plans. But, it did not take our mind away from the beautiful places we visited before or planning to visit. We need a few motivating and reenergizing plans to take our minds off from the 24-hour depressing news cycle on Covid-19.
Travel is in my mind frequently. Followed by a lot of questions on when, where, how safe, overcoming restrictions, and ‘travel shaming’. Travel shaming is something new in this pandemic age, shaming and questioning the motives of those who travel even though they heed all the necessary safety requirements. The 9/11 events put the travel and tourism-world upside down and created a ‘new normal’ and dawned a new era on air travel. This pandemic is going to bring in another normal with more stringent conditions.
These days long travels are practically impossible, and even short ones come under scrutiny and with roadblocks. Pandemic-related precautions restrict establishments such as hotels, motels, restaurants, parks, and recreational facilities, and other attractions.
After researching the possibilities, we decided to take a short staycation, a jaunt through the countryside, a drive to the near north of our big city, Toronto, through idyllic villages and small towns to appreciate the local sceneries adhering to all prescribed safety precautions. We believe it would be good therapy for the pandemic induced anxieties and uncertainties.
Our summer is slowly fading into autumn. There is bright sunlight, but with less warmth. There is a crisp, cool breeze from the Arctic: a feeling of the fall season in the air. Trees and bushes are beginning to change color.
The province of Ontario is blessed with four Great Lakes, Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Over 80% of Ontarians get their drinking water from these lakes as they contain about 20% of the earth’s fresh water.
The landscape is littered with hundreds of lakes, small and large, rivers, and waterways. The land is mostly flat but adorned with hills and green meadows. Shrubs, bushes, and myriad varieties of plants and trees - tall pines, maples, oaks, birch, and vegetation typical to the four-season northern climate are abundant. The fresh, and crisp air is filled with the aroma of barbeques, and fresh pines as we drive through the countryside.
It is very refreshing to see quaint villages, small towns, and farmlands around Georgian Bay. Rolling green meadows, valleys, meandering streams, rivers, hills, cows, sheep, and horses on green pastures welcome us under the patchy, white, fluffy clouds adorning a clear blue sky.
Roads stretching beyond the horizon, miles and miles of fertile farmlands; harvest-ready fields of soybeans, pulses and cereals, canola, fodder, and corn, and fruit farms growing a variety of apples, Christmas trees, greenhouses, barns, and cattle farms along with windmills powering the green energy movement are everywhere. We drive past many roadside stalls selling fresh-picked farm produce. We see farms with lush leafy greens, legumes, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers corn, asparagus, eggplant, and culinary herbs.
Our trip took us through Caledon, Collingwood, Meaford, Owen Sound, Lion's Head, Sauble Beach, Tobermory, and Bruce Peninsula National Park. These are small, big villages and towns with a population anywhere from 50 to 50,000. There are villages with no traffic lights. We see churches, historic, modern, big, and small in many places.
Collingwood is the center of summer/winter recreational activities. It is a resort town attracting many thousands of visitors. The town on the shores of Georgian Bay offers breathtaking views, skiing, hiking, sailing, and windsurfing facilities.
Meaford is a small historic village located on the southern shores of Georgian Bay. Small Mom-and-pop stores, arts and crafts boutiques, restaurants, fast food places line up on the main thoroughfare. The wide-open countryside with many farms surrounds the picturesque town.
The town of Owen Sound is located at the mouths of the Pottawatomi and Sydenham Rivers on an inlet of Georgian Bay. It is the gateway to the Bruce Peninsula. There are many waterfalls, museums, conservation areas, and gardens for people to enjoy. There are many other attractions in the nearby vicinity of the town. Sauble Beach on Lake Huron is the second-longest freshwater beach in the world. It is a popular vacation spot during the summer months.
Lion's Head is a port village on the Georgian Bay located at the 45th parallel - halfway between the equator and the North Pole. White Bluff Provincial Nature Reserve and Bruce Peninsula National Park are a short drive away.
Tobermory is a small harbor village located at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula in the province of Ontario. Tobermory has Lake Huron on one side and Georgian Bay on the other. The Fathom Five National Marine Park, Flowerpot Island, 19th-century lighthouses, and many shipwreck sites are close by. A ferry MS Chi-Cheemaun connects Tobermory to Manitoulin Island. Manitoulin Island is the world's largest island in a freshwater lake
Bruce Peninsula National Park
The Bruce Peninsula National Park is a nature lover's paradise. The Park is a protected area of the UNESCO’s Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve. The flora, fauna, unusual landscape, and location make the Park somewhat unique. The Park’s biodiversity exemplifies the presence of streams, ponds, marshes, rivers, creeks, ditches, and wetlands that promote a diverse ecosystem. The wilderness is home to many unique species, Black Bear, Northern Flying Squirrel, etc. It is home to about 34 types of orchids, and a host of pine, white cedar, balsam fir, and white spruce.
Georgian Bay lies completely within the borders of Ontario, Canada. It lies east of the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island and covers about 15,00 square kilometers. There are many thousands of islands in Georgian Bay: collectively called the 30000 islands. There are Aboriginal settlements in the Georgian Bay area. In 2004, the Georgian Bay Biosphere received UNESCO Biosphere Reserve designation.
Georgian Bay connects to other Great Lakes, by man-made and natural canals that enable maritime traffic. One such connection, the Niagara River, connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and the iconic, world famous attraction, Niagara Falls, is on the Niagara River.
The St. Lawrence Seaway System waterway 3,700 km long that connects Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The Seaway includes 13 Canadian and 2 U.S. locks has been a major maritime commercial channel.
City folks flock to these areas to unwind, rest and relax during summer and to escape the hubbubs of the big city life. The transient population supports the economy of these resort towns. The population falls back to normal after everything shuts down after the summer. However, there are towns and villages cater to winter activities - skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, etc. – keep up their business.
Travel has its rewards: travel puts at ease the restless mind and body. Travel calms down pandemic induced anxieties. It recharges the mind and body.