After my second year in college, at the ripe old age of nineteen, I was invited to travel with three friends to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. At the time, I was a novice traveler, to say the least, having barely taken any vacation trips beyond Mystic Seaport or Boston. That and those being my early days in librarianship, I was unaware that there were planning books to help someone on their voyage. Apparently my young friends didn’t know that either. As a result, we made a number of errors in our “non-planning” that caused us many unpleasant nights, irritating days, and a desire to get home sooner than originally designed.
Our first mistake was deciding that we should camp out the whole time to save money, and then (second mistake) concluding we would leave in May after final exams when the days were finally warm after the usual chilly Connecticut spring.
Once we arrived at our destination, we discovered that our cloth sleeping bags and lack of camping experience combined with the very cold nights in Canada created unexpected challenges. Most often, we found ourselves having to stay in open lean-tos that clearly camp officials in Canada created for naive college students like ourselves coming “up north” unprepared!
Our final mistake was having only a vague sense of what we wanted to see and do. We knew we wanted to go to the Bay of Fundy and drive the Cabot Trail, but that was it. The Bay of Fundy was absolutely spectacular! We experienced an awe-inspiring day and it was clearly the best day of our trip.
The oceanside roads also exceeded my expectations. When traveling along the mountainous byways of the Cabot Trail perched over the vast Atlantic Ocean, I often felt as if I was at the end of the earth. I recall many fascinating conversations about the “big questions” along with quiet moments of contemplation. There was a freedom and whimsy to our non-plan, including many interesting encounters with people that we might have missed with better planning, but we also lost many opportunities to see and experience so much more of Atlantic Canada.
Thankfully, I am much better at traveling these days. I always consult a number of books and websites before we travel. If I had consulted OWL’s collection before embarking on that first trip, it would have been a greatly enhanced experience. If you are planning to go to Canada, check these out:
Explore Canada: The Adventurer’s Guide is an outstanding overview for those who seek, well, adventure when traveling. From paddling rivers to hiking mountains, this guide takes you across Canada and provides information on where to go and even how to get more information. A small map helps you understand where the area is in relation to the country and the pictures make you want to visit each destination listed.
National Geographic’s Guide to Family Adventure Vacations includes a section on Canada. This guide is handy because, contrary to the picture on the cover, the focus really is on educational adventures. You will find the book packed with suggestions for historical centers, science musuems, cultural institutions, and wildlife excursions.
Fodor’s Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada covers all the lands we drove in our beat-up station wagon (that, by the way, did break down… another story for another blog). If we had brought this handy guide, we could have used its advice on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do. Maps, cost information, itinerary suggestions, and quick tips on how to get oriented round out each section.
For those traveling to other areas of Canada, OWL’s collection also includes Fodor’s Vancouver & British Columbia, Fodor’s Montreal & Quebec City, and Fodor’s Toronto. Each Fodor guide provides the same great analysis as noted above.
DK’s Eyewitness Travel: Vancouver and Victoria is a compact guide that easily fits into a large jacket pocket or purse. Take it along with you to find the best restaurants, hotels, parks, walks, and more. Another nice feature of this guide is its “Streetsmart” section that discusses security and health, things to avoid, shopping tips, how to get around, budget tips, and more.
One dream I have is to one day travel Canada by train. Whether you are dreaming or planning, Canada by Train along with the Great Canadian Trail Ride on DVD will give you all the information you need to know. Canada By Train provides historical background, health tips, how to plan, and what to expect when traveling by train. Join travel expert Doug Jones as you travel by rail from Toronto to Vancouver in The Great Canadian Trail Ride.
Unforgettable Canada: 100 Destinations by George Fischer and Noel Hudson is an outstanding visual introduction to travel planning. When you are thinking about traveling to a new place, you want to see pictures! Many guides are scant on photographs and that is where this book saves the day. It is full of dramatic pictures and you will be ready to pack your bags after browsing its pages.
Finally, a nice guide for beginning road travelers is Fodor’s How to Take a Road Trip. It provides all of the essentials that your father should have told you. Now, you can read it in this book and improve the comfort and enjoyment of your road travel.
Ann Marie is the Library Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library and suggests that watching Canadian Bacon with John Candy and Alan Alda, just for fun, would be a great way to round out your Canadian travel plans.