Stranded in Québec
Take a moment, what comes to mind when you think of Canada? I've always been huge basketball fan, so I think of the Toronto Raptors. Maybe you thought about skiing in Vancouver, mounties, or the seemingly perfect society of people that would greet you with open arms. Well, you wouldn't be wrong but Canada has so much more to offer than that. Luckily, because of my lack of planning and rookie travel capabilities I found myself stuck in Tadoussac, Quebec's hidden darling of a town. So how exactly did I end up here?
Back in the summer of 2016, I had developed a travel campaign called Explore the North. I had many visions for this trip but above all else, I wanted to build a van to traverse the country in, backpack, and photograph some of North America's most pristine locations. Additionally, I wanted to challenge Canada's national motto, mari usque ad mare. This saying loosely translates into, "from sea to sea", and this is exactly what my fellow comrades and I ended up accomplishing. As it turns out, to check off one of the seas from the list, we had to drive our big red Chevy van into Quebec and touch the Saint Lawerence River (or should I say jump into the Saint Lawerence River). Astonishingly, as we were a couple hundred miles away, I started to think about how I hadn't heard anything about Quebec my entire life. I grew up in one of the northernmost states, Wisconsin, and in our present climate, with the use of social media, I couldn't believe it was never mentioned. Fortunately for us, ignorance once again proved blissful and our lack of knowledge ended up making this stop much more special. Often, if you live in the moment and don't have any expectations, you open yourself up to experiencing the true joy of adventure.
Throughout most of the trip, while planning on-the-go, we we often rifled through google maps to find the most scenic and enchanting locations. Our primary goal of being on the eastern side of Canada was to reach the Atlantic Ocean, so we decided the best town to call it quits, before heading west, would be in Tadoussac. As it turns out, Tadoussac was a quaint little fishing town nestled along Saguenay Fjord National Park and was only two hours away from Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie National Park. On top of that, to get to the town you have to cross the St. Lawrence river that beautifully weaved through the towering Saguenay Fjords. Here we are a few weeks into the road trip of a lifetime, absolutely living the dream when our first tragedy struck. It was late, our photographer brains had been firing, and we had been driving all day, it was time to slump into our late night routine and find a place to crash. This is when we put our sharp minds together and decided it would be best to drive the van onto the nearby beach. I was an avid consumer of road trip content on Instagram and had seen hundreds of vans posted up on beaches before. I felt confident, so we did it (#vanlife bro)... Little did we know we weren't going to be getting rest anytime soon.
We got a few meters off the ramp that led down to the sand and immediately I knew something was wrong. BREAKS – shift into park – get out and check. Our wheels were now buried into what seemed like a foot of dirt, so what else could we do but frantically dig. After what seemed like an hour of stress induced pawing at the sand, we were somehow able to remove enough from the side of the wheels and get enough traction to reverse ourselves out. Enter double edged sword, we weren't stuck anymore but our power steering was out.
So here we are on the edge of a foreign country, in the middle of the night, broke down in a small town that doesn't speak English. This might be a traveler's nightmare to some, but I just remember smiling knowing this was our first hiccup on a journey that would carry us another 9,000 miles across the country. Although we ended up getting stranded for a couple days until our French speaking mechanic could figure out what was wrong, it ended up being a cherished couple of days. We got to experience the town in its entirety. We wandered up into some covert Atlantic North East hiking terrain, enjoyed sipping morning espresso while attempting to hold a conversation with people of another language, and ended up camping on the beach anyway (this time utilizing our tents). Sometimes you just have to take a moment and thank life for the moments that seem to have gone awry because I promise you with a little time or perspective, you'll see that it was exactly what was supposed to be.