Parts of Europe will be opening for tourism tomorrow, but it's still not clear exactly which countries will open to international tourists. It's possible that while we are in Brexit transition my British passport could still afford me "local" status in the EU, but that passport is also an albatross because the corona outbreak is relatively much worse there and some countries are locking the UK out harder than their Schengen neighbors. In addition, many airlines still haven't restarted their international flights anyway - especially not flights directly to/from China - so there are only a few places i could arrive, of which Germany seems the most viable.
All in all, it's not much fun to fantasize about my future European adventures when it's not even clear how that is going to work, logistically speaking, right now. So i have put that wiki tour on hold until we got some more information, and i have decided to focus on Canada.
When i was originally thinking about leaving China, i pretty much considered the UK and Canada as my options of last resort. They both seemed to have dealt with the virus fairly poorly. They are both very expensive places to live if you don't have a job. And - most importantly - they both have cold and miserable climates, which is not the kind of place i want to go on sabbatical.
Most of those things are still true today, but i realized that on coronavirus, i had been a little misinformed. You see, my good friend R lives in Windsor, which is a border town across the river from Detroit. They aren't especially hard hit by Canadian or American standards, but they still have more cases in their tiny ass town of a couple hundred thousand people than we had in the whole of Shenzhen city. R hasn't left her apartment since February. My friend M in Toronto got kicked out of her boyfriend's parents' house in the midst of the lockdown so had to move to her trailer way out in the sticks. No plumbing, no internet. A few other people in Toronto are posting about Black Lives Matter, but i'm not seeing any street level photos and it seems like the whole province has gone into hibernation. The numbers on the coronavirus graph do not look good for Ontario. The only thing they got going for them is that Québec is worse.
But i neglected to check on the numbers out west. I don't have any friends there, so why would i? Well, i tell you something, BC is on fucking point. On the BC coronavirus website (which btw is pretty much the best coronavirus website i have visited, period) they show their curves, and BC is tracking just a little above New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, South Korea and other countries that didn't make a dog's breakfast of their response. Better than China. Obviously miles better than the US and most of Europe. And much better than Ontario and Québec, which - let's be honest - is pretty much the only metric that counts to people who live in Canada's western provinces.
So, actually going to Vancouver right now seems like the smart move. The whole province is already in Phase 2 unlock. Phase 3 unlock (opening restaurants) is underway. They seem to have their shit under control. It is a picturesque place, and the weather isn't completely awful. They have mountains nearby, and beaches too. I could for sure sabbatical over there, if only it wasn't comparable to Hong Kong in its spectacular unaffordability.
That's when i started planning my trans-Canada road trip again. The ferry+bus+train trip i took from Detroit to San Francisco via Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada was one of the bestest best i have done, and i'd love to do a similar one across Canada.
I want to visit the great plains, the arid triangle that stretches north of Montana. I want to take in the sunniest parts of the country - Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and a corner of Saskatchewan i call "sonono" for its postcode. (I only know the postcode because i pondered buying a trailer out there.) I want to see the badlands. I want to visit the Osoyoos, a border region where there is sagebrush and tumbleweed and cactuses. I want to go right across the prairies and drink coffee at weird little gas stations in the wheat fields. I want to see the sun set behind a grain elevator. I am not super interested in what happens once you get into the soggy middle bit of Canada, but i suppose i might find something there that is exciting. Winnipeg. Sault Sainte Marie. Lots of lakes and mosquitos, fuck, i dunno. And, i guess there is the Rocky Mountains too, and that northern part of Canada where it's fucking cold and there are moose, there might be something worth seeing up there.
Absolutely none of the places i am interested in have public transport access. Every few years i check in on the local coach companies and one by one they are stopping their service. Shit is car country out there, for real. There is only one passenger train line across Canada and it goes the northern route, up through Saskatoon and Edmonton. I guess there is good reason why nobody lives in the plains - the soil sucks, there's no water, there's no oil, we killed all the buffalo, the wind is bitterly cold... Why would anyone run a bus out there? I'm glad i never bought that trailer in the end, because towns out there have been getting smaller and more isolated for years. I don't ever want to end up trapped in a place where you have to depend on private vehicles to get out.
But that basically crosses most of Canada off the list. So instead i started wiki researching places closer to civilization. Where in BC can you go where there is still a greyhound? Kelowna, Kamloops. Well, normally you could, but because of coronavirus Greyhound (the actual company) is shut down in Canada. And it makes me long for my favorite bus company who is toughing it through the corona, Minnesota's own Jefferson Lines. They still send me advertizing email and i don't mind it one bit. Anyway, Canada's greyhound situation is not good, but if it does come back then it seems they do go out to Creston, which is another border town at the foot of the Rockies. They got a ferry! I like ferries. They also have cherries. I like cherries and ferries.
One of my favorite lockdown watches was a very short series called Yukon Blues, which is about an Italian guy who takes a backpack and a couple of gopros and canoes the fuck up the Yukon. Man, all these "adventure travelers" who, like, taking a landrover through the Congo or the Darién Gap or whatever, the fuck. Solo canoe up the Yukon, that is some real hardcore adventure travel shit. The best thing about it is watching this guy bump into other crazy motherfuckers who are also canoeing up the Yukon. One place in the world you'd think you'd be the only one there, nah buddy. Apparently canoeing the Yukon is a thing.
It's too late for me to canoe the Yukon since presumably by the time i'd get there it'd be wintering up. And anyway land border to America is closed. And, let's be honest, i am far too urban to jump in a goddamn canoe in freezing-ass cold weather just to see some pretty landscapes that i could also see from the relative comfort of a rail carriage pootling up to Prince Rupert. But travel shows and wiki voyaging aren't about actually going to the place, they're about imagining what you would do if you did go.
So i've been imagining embracing the Canadianness of Canada, fuck the prairie, get a canoe. Eat salmon, not buffalo. See bears, not snakes. You know. There's a lot to see just in BC and if i get there to still catch the tail end of summer i might get to actually see some of it without freezing my ass off. Not gonna get my plastic stool restaurants or a street noodle for a couple of dollars, but quarantining 14 days in a Richmond airport hotel means surely there will be epic Chinese food on delivery to ease me into things.
I'm still not sure where i will end up a month from now, but i have come round to the idea of BC as an option beyond just a place to get a transitional job. It would be a long way from the kind of people-heavy experience i've had in China, or that i'd get if i headed to Europe, but perhaps it's worth avoiding all the travel ban stress, just retreating to my "home country" that honestly i've barely explored worth a damn.
I dunno. This is one of my favorite ways to spend a weekend. Thinking about all the places i'd go if i had more than a weekend. It's a fun escape.