Balancing Travel & Writing (West Coast Girl, Pt 3)

The photo above was after a storm in Canmore, Alberta. It was one of those magical days. I was standing on the balcony of my staff accommodation talking to some of my coworkers when I took this picture.

I had a little bit of a Kanaskis hangover after arriving in Canmore, but I quickly settled into the new job and staff accommodation. For one thing, the rooms were much nicer and cozier with a full kitchen and TV room. There were also less employees at this hotel, so the team was more closely connected. While I hung out with both of my roommates sometimes, my main goal was to keep writing and blogging at the cafes in town. Sometimes people would ask where I was going and I’d tell them I was off to write. I wanted to maintain balance. I couldn’t get any writing done if I hung out with people every single night. I’d found my purpose and couldn’t let it slip away for the sake of pleasing people I wouldn’t know beyond the summer.

I did want to go dancing, though. Now that I was in a place that had some pubs and bars, I wanted to let loose for a night. The first night I went out with my work group, it wasn’t to dance but to play pool. One of the guys I worked with was a cute German guy, Daniel, and we seemed to hit it off as we had a few drinks before taking a cab into town. The tipsier I became, the more I hoped he would be my first kiss in Alberta. He was the first guy I genuinely had an interest in since I moved out of Ontario, so this was pretty significant for me. I’d been in three long term relationships plus a fourth that was around 6 momths in Ontario – I never experienced a summer fling before. I wanted that to happen with him. After a few rounds of pool, we all rushed across the street to a club – there was pounding dance music and people were dancing. I was so excited to go – until I felt a hand on my shoulder.

“Do you want to get out of here?” he asked.

I nodded and we sneaked out before we paid for our entry into the place. There would be other nights to dance.

“This is going to be an amazing summer now that you’re here!” he said happily.

I wasn’t looking for anything serious at that point being new to Alberta and not knowing how long I would stay in Canmore. After that night he seemed to assume I wanted something more serious so he distanced himself. He claimed to want to read my stories, but when the time came for us to talk, he’d only want to talk about silly things. He’d go back and forth between ignoring me and being friendly. I thought I’d gained a new friend, but he was quickly turning out to be a dud. I’d listen to broody music on my nature walks, annoyed with his mind games, but the roller coaster of emotions didn’t hinder my writing. I was there to have a good time in any way I chose – and a guy who was way younger than me wasn’t going to steal my joy. I ended up writing him off. Summer flings aren’t for me.

A few weeks later, we all went to a club in Banff and danced the night away – you might not think a resort town would have great nightclubs, but HooDoo was something else. Finally, I was going to have my amazing night out dancing. It had the house music I was craving and there was no drama – just fun and feeling the music. We were all on the same wavelength – even Daniel. Maybe because I don’t hold grudges, me and Daniel were able to keep a healthy distance while still being friendly to each other. Everyone wanted to know what was going on between us, but neither of us told them any details. At least he had some integrity.

With that aside, I went on some amazing nature walks both by myself and with other people. In Canmore, everywhere you look there are mountains, but certain trails give you more amazing views than others. Grassi Lakes was an amazing hike and the scenery was breathtaking. I did that hike with my roommates and it was amazing. We also drove out to do the Bow Falls walk. As one could imagine, spending time with new people, going on road trips, and being in nature did wonders for my story inspiration and personal growth. I was living the life I’d only dreamed about once. Even though my stories have never focused directly on my life, your experiences as a writer can influence your work. You don’t want to become so involved in your craft that you forget to live outside of it, too. The things you do outside of writing matter just as much as the writing itself, because you deserve to have fun and good connections.

As amazing as Canmore was, a friend of mine convinced me to join her up in Fort MacMurray. I put in my two weeks’ notice and was getting ready to take a new adventure. My second last day happened to be Canada Day – it was an amazing occasion. We picked up our favourite drinks in town then went to watch the fireworks. Sitting with everyone, I was really grateful to have met such a cool group of people. When the fireworks were over, we went back to the staff house and had a party. I remember talking about Bob Dylan and 60’s rock to a group of random guys who joined us and they were amazed I knew so much about music. Then Daniel suggested that we all go out since I’d be leaving in a couple of days – it would be my going away party. He seemed sad I was leaving. Later he messaged me saying he hoped that I wasn’t leaving because of him. I told him that wasn’t the reason – I just had other places I wanted to see.

We went to the usual pub to play pool and suddenly, Tim, Daniel’s friend, put his arm around me. Even though I’d had a few drinks, I was shocked. There was tension between us sometimes so his unusually friendly behaviour felt out of place, but I liked him as a friend so I put my arm around him as well as we watched the game of pool. At closing time, we walked beneath the shining stars back to the staff house. Being high on happiness and drunk on alcohol, I rushed across the empty street, flapping my arms like a child. Tim’s laugh filled the night air. We were happy and free. The night was ours.

At first we all sat together on the couches and talked, but slowly everyone cleared the room to go to bed, except for Tim and I. I leaned against him as we talked about life, religion, losing religion, and love. Suddenly, he turned to me.

“I love you so much, Sara. I really want you to travel with me, but I haven’t asked you yet because I’m not sure if there will be room in the car … you’re so cute and I just want to take you home and marry you. You wouldn’t have to work, you could just write. We’d live with my parents for a time. Would you like that? I’ll do what I can to make sure you can travel with me.”

I looked at him in awe. All that time, he was falling in love with me? It was the plot twist of the year – Daniel’s friend was the one who really liked me after all those months. Is that why there was so much tension between us sometimes? I was close to passing out, but I remember everything Tim said.

“That sounds perfect,” I said sleepily, snuggling against him.

We fell asleep on the couch together. He was such a gentleman the entire night. We awoke hungover and still fully clothed at 5 AM. The sky was already intensely bright. I laughed – only in Alberta would it be that bright at 5 AM. I rushed back upstairs to shower and get ready for my final day of work – it was rough, but I was happy that the previous evening was so much fun. As my hangover wore off, the conversation with Tim occupied my thoughts. I knew I wasn’t ready to move to another country with a guy – let alone one I barely new. My adventure had just started and as tempting as his offer was, it didn’t feel right.

“He should have appreciated you more while you were here,” said one of my friends when I told her. “Now that you’re leaving, he says all this.”

While that was true, sometimes people aren’t aware of their true feelings until they realize the one they love is about to go. I wasn’t the easiest person to connect with either. It takes time to get to know a creative introvert and unfortunately, a lot of people mistook my need for balance as being closed off. I couldn’t let myself fall in love with a guy when I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t spent enough time with him to know for sure.

I approached Tim after work and his blue eyes bore into mine. “Sara, we had quite the talk last night … do you have an answer for me? Will you stay a little longer?”

I swallowed hard. His interest and commitment were flattering, but I knew I’d regret it if I settled down too soon. I’d only just spread my wings. I couldn’t give up my dream of going to Vancouver.

“It was an amazing conversation, Tim. One I’ll never forget, but I told my friend I’d go to Fort McMurray and help her with a new business she’s started.”

He hanged his head and went to his room. I learned then that a guy who genuinely loves you won’t hesitate to let you know. Let me tell you: I embarrassed myself so many times right in front of him (When I was both drunk and sober). I’d stumble, fall, drop things, say quirky stuff, lose games because I wasn’t paying attention, etc. With Daniel, I tried to act cool and reserved, but with Tim I was just myself – and he loved me more for it. The only issue was that the time was wrong and well, I didn’t feel quite the same way.

I left for Fort McMurray early the next morning. I looked over my shoulder at the staff house. Everyone was asleep. I looked ahead to the path and walked to the bus station.


When we up in the club

All eyes on us

(This song captures this moment in time so well! It played as I walked into work the morning after my first pub night with the group. We all enjoyed Canmore to the best of our ability).


    • Thank you. 😊 I think if I met someone like him now I’d probably take the trip with him just to see if a spark happened. If not, no hard feelings and we had a good trip. I still have him on Facebook and he’s happily married now. Definitely a great guy for another lady!

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