I left Jasper early this morning. After almost a week of being with myself, taking myself for walks, dinner dates and enjoying my own company, clearing out my head, I had to say goodbye. Sitting in that tiny bus, gazing at the Christmas lights that were still on, leaving the town, I got the sudden urge to cry. It felt like I was leaving home.
Elisabeth Eaves wrote: The traveler always betrays the place. This is exactly how I felt this morning.
First time I visited Jasper, it was late August this year. It was a first destination of a road-trip around Alberta that my friend and I planned. We got there with absolutely no warm clothes, so we spent majority of the time walking around wearing two hoodies at a time, holding hands to stay warm. We did the majority of recommended touristy stuff in the area and then took off to Lake Louise.
Now that I look back, I have to say, even though Jasper’s gondola and hot springs were nice and enjoyable, my favorite moments in those few days were the drives we would take to those destinations. Every single time I’d sit in our rented car and put the seat belt on, suddenly I’d have nothing to say. I would sit there in complete silence staring at that miracle of nature. My mind was blown with see-through ponds, turquoise lakes, snow covered mountain tops (in August, yes ) and wildlife that would cross the roads minding it’s own business. Every moment was a Kodak moment, and without realizing, I fell in love with Rockies.
What you have to understand, all my life I’ve been a beach-type-a-girl. Coming from a warm country as Croatia, only thing I considered as a vacation was seaside. Sun, bikinis, swimming and cold, cold cocktails. I spent thirty (I still can’t believe that is my age) years whining about rain and snow and cursing at the weather as soon temperatures would go under 10 Celsius. I have never invested serious money into footwear and I have definitely never had an expensive, windproof jacket. I still remember guilty conscience I had after I paid 280 euros for a Wellensteyn jacket. It haunted me for days. No joke. So, yeah, I wasn’t really someone you’d consider to become a mountaineer.
In the past few months I’d go over photos of Jasper in my phone or computer and, even though they were beautiful, they were nowhere near how it all looked in my head. They were too small and so… Limiting. Not showing that whole Jasper is one big, God given work of art. An amazing 3D painting. Place like no other.
So when I finally quit from my last job, a week ago, I felt that my mind could unwind only there and nowhere else. It would give me the peace, quiet and stillness I needed at this point and I will see this magical place covered with snow, light up by Christmas lights. Christmas fairy tale in a small place was just what I needed.
I spent two afternoons walking around, admiring Christmas decorations, having good meals and reading. I was doing me time. Every single time I’d step outside, bundled up more than any average Croatian would ever be, my lungs would fill with fresh, cold air and my heart would jump for joy. So much beauty to handle! It was like every time I would blink, the most beautiful postcard would open in front of my eyes. I would just stop at the middle of Connaught Drive (main street) facing the clouds and mist covered mountains and just giggle. For no obvious reason.
To those who have traveled, this sensation will be very familiar. It is that wave of undefined feeling that hits you every single time you see something new and/or beautiful. Inexplicably, I completely forgot about all the beaches of the world. I was completely and utterly sold on Jasper.
This Friday I went snowboarding for the first time in my life. It was something I’ve been encouraging myself on for a while now. I felt like a complete outcast while I was entering the rental at Marmot Basin (ski hill just outside Jasper). I was on my own, had no clue what I was doing, what I need and my primer layer of clothes was so warm I felt like I was going to boil.
As soon as I met my instructor Adam, I told him: I hope you are a patient man, Adam.
So, obviously, right on the beginning I fell quite a few times, had a good laugh about it, arguing with Adam what is better for sore muscles-tequila or Advil. After that serious debate, we took a lift chair (God, I love lift chairs!) to the “real hill” and as I looked down I was at the same time terrified and amazed. Whoa. This guy gets to see this every day? Every single day? What an amazing life to live…
As we were slowly (and I mean slowly) progressing to the bottom of the hill, making bets on how many times I will fall ’til the bottom, white wonderland stared at me in it’s all glory, making me serious even when I had reasons to laugh at my clumsiness. I couldn’t care less about the cold.
How? How can this be so beautiful? Adam’s words rang in my head: I never plan to go back to England. Why would I?
And right then and there it hit me: I could live here. After all my journeys finish, after I get enough of living out of suitcase, after my thirst for new things is finally quenched, I see myself here. Not in Dubai, not in London, not in Rome and most definitely not in Zagreb. I see myself having a truck, listening country tunes while driving, wearing Under Armour with pride, like it is Michael Kors, climbing up the hills, hiking, taking amazing pictures. (Once I get a decent camera that is.) I very much see myself going down that snow covered hill on my board while feeling of freedom is pervading my whole body.
Fu*k bright city lights, fu*k traffic jams, fu*k perfect make-up every morning. This is how home should look like.
And just like that, a city girl became a mountaineer. Just like that cold wind in my face won a battle against catwalk down the streets of any bright city you could imagine.
Till next time,
Take care and don’t forget to smile!