07/01/2012 12:09 EDT | Updated 08/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Why I Love Canada: Even City Girls Feel at Home in a Canoe


I discovered my patriotism not in fireworks or beaver tails, but in a paddle. Not paddles in general (though on a whole they're pretty swell), just my paddle. I'm a born and raised city girl, and until a certain point my outdoorsy limit was "rescuing" frogs in Hastings, Ontario. Though after the frogs had said their thank-yous I retreated to a proper house home.

When I was 11 I had the foolish idea to follow a girl to Algonquin. Alright the girl was my best friend at the time and it wasn't like we were running off to live with the wolves -- it was to go to an all-girls camp, Camp Tanamakoon. I realized my mistake the second I arrived. Trees and bugs and loons and no electricity and outhouses and a bell waking us up at an ungodly hour; I was in way over my head. My next move was to send a panicked letter to my little brother demanding he hatch a scheme to break me out, he didn't take it seriously, but my parents sure did.

It wasn't until I was (forced) to go to canoeing one morning when I was found hiding in my cabin, freezing from the (forced) swimming lesson prior-to, that I had a realization that would send me back to that camp year after year. My problem with the real thick of nature is that I don't belong. I belong in the city: sidewalks to keep my shoes clean, garbage receptacles every few steps, women spraying me with concoctions on Bloor Street -- the city needs me. Algonquin Park does not need me, in fact I feel like it'd rather I not be over; the park's all like "RSVP -- not!"

I reached for my brand new, bought-for-camp paddle for the first time and went down to the canoeing dock where I gave a brief (and sassy) "I can't canoe, so figure it out" statement. The counselors turned to answer me and the conversation shifted the moment they saw my paddle. Did I not mention my mother painted the Louis Vuitton monogram print onto both sides of the blade? She did it so I could kind of bring a piece of what the city meant to me, with me.

After being taught how to use a paddle they found someone to stern (steer the boat) so we could take a canoe out. Luckily the experienced paddler behind me was either just quiet, shy, or seriously annoyed she had to take a kid out, but it was exactly what I needed. Out in the water with trees all around me, watching my paddle slice in and out of the water, I got why people do this. I didn't feel like the woods didn't want me there, they were accepting me with open branches, customized paddle and all.

In this country we embrace differences, hold unity in high regard, and offer different opportunities for all. I love Canada because those ideals extend beyond the big picture. Those ideals stand true even between a girl, her paddle, and the Great White North.