06/25/2012 05:05 EDT | Updated 08/25/2012 05:12 EDT

I Was a City Slicker Humbled By The Rockies

My family and I are city slickers, that's a fact.

We love the life that living in the downtown core affords us. Walk for five minutes from our home and you've got a choice of five or more coffee shops, a few fruit markets, some funky restaurants and, well... you get the picture. It's a charmed life, if you can get past the cramped quarters and the very close proximity to one's neighbours. Such is part and parcel of life in the big city.

Smugly, I've lauded my downtown living situation on those who live somewhat further outside the city limits. Perhaps they're in the suburbs or better yet, the country. Yes, I have friends who live further afield and while I could appreciate their life outside the chaos of the downtown core, I couldn't say I completely understood it.

Some say that there's nothing like the great outdoors to get you back to your roots. Others say that "back to nature" is the way to go if you want to get a real perspective on life.

Hogwash, I thought... until now.

On a recent family vacation to Banff, Alberta, I was literally verklempt as we drove into the town. The Canadian Rockies, though I had seen them in many books, magazines and even television were more magnificent than any medium could ever accurately portray. In other words, the only true perspective on the grandeur of this region is through the lens of one's own eyes.

Driving along the 1 West, the highway that takes one from Calgary to Banff, the reality of what lay ahead slowly became crystal clear. The mountains that in the distance beckoned, at once implored both reverence and respect. In the face of such incredible beauty, there was silence, for what could one say? Sometimes, there are no words. My motor-mouth and city swagger was at once shot down by the scene before me. I had been humbled by the mountains.

But I wasn't the only one who was affected by the drastic change of scenery in the midst. My husband and children were equally affected.


"Mommy, this is beautiful!!"

"I love it here. I don't want to go home."

Out of the mouths of babes.

Moraine Lake's magnificent beauty left us further agape as we were stunned to see what looked like an incredible painting come to life. The turquoise blue of the water seemed almost unreal, and the serenity of the mountains and mist in all of its serenity left me speechless.

Further along the drive was Lake Louise, world-renowned for its unbelievable scenery. Words don't do justice to what lay before us. You have to see it to believe it.

The camera was out in full force, snapping shots of what seemed to be beauty in every scene. It was all a bit overwhelming. Upon return home, the photos, while compelling, don't even come close to the reality of what was seen. Some things are hard to capture in all their splendour.

The Athabasca Glacier's glistening ice and magnificent façade was like nothing we had ever seen before. The only ice one sees in the city is often black with soot from the multitude of car exhaust fumes that are expelled hourly. The massive Brewster Ice Explorer vehicles that took us out onto the surface of the glacier made even the most tricked-out, hipster-driven SUV look like a toy car, and a miniature one at that.

The abundance of wildlife in Banff can make one reconsider the intelligence of housing such beautiful animals in the concrete jungles called zoos. Guilt was part of this vacation as well. This city slicker will be thinking twice the next time the thought of seeing grizzly bears in anywhere other than their natural environment beckons. Sure -- they may be seemingly threatening creatures but that's only because we've encroached upon their homes. Their beautiful homes.

Is there hope for the hard-core city folk who scoff at the idea of giving up the amenities of the downtown lifestyle? Yes: just expose them to the beauty of the great outdoors and see whether they're able to resist. If anything, they'll at least give pause to the idea that the city isn't the only way to go.

The double macchiato latte from the neighbourhood coffee shop pales in comparison to the pure, untouched water from the Athabasca Glacier. The five-minute walk to the local fruit market pales in comparison to the fresh fish and wild game served at the famous Melissa's restaurantin the city of Banff.

After crashing down from my Rocky Mountain high, I've come to my senses and continue to long for the great outdoors once again. Perhaps the city living isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Beautiful Banff, Alberta