I live in Toronto now, Canada’s largest city, but I didn’t grow up here.
I grew up in a small town with a population of 1,000. It had one stop light, at the town’s “busiest” intersection. I could walk from one end of town to the other in about 15 minutes. I walked up “the” hill to go to school, and back then, it seemed so big.
I moved from this town when I was 11, to a bigger town north of Toronto. It was bigger, but still had a small town feel, with farms, fields, and no high rise buildings. After high school, I moved to an even bigger city, but still smaller than Toronto. It had public transit, traffic, and two fair-sized malls.
By the time I had finished my 7 years of university, completed a 3-month trip in Europe, and planned to move “back home,” my family was dispersed throughout Toronto. And, since I was moving back in with my mom for a little while, the time had come to make the jump into Big City Living.
Toronto has its perks, for sure, but as a small town girl, I also notice the noise, and the busy-ness, and the way people don’t make eye contact or say hello on the street. But how could they? There are way too many people to greet. You’d be at it all day. And everyone is way too busy to be stopping for that sort of thing, anyway.
So, I get the city thing. But I also crave escapes.
I recently returned from a weekend camping trip at Pinery Provincial Park, and on the drive up, I was thinking, “Finally, an escape from the noise.” It was that, and more.
With all the lights in the city, I had forgotten what a night sky full of stars looked like. I had forgotten the magic (I mean…science) of the fleeting sight of fireflies. I had forgotten what “dark” really feels like, and how easily I fall asleep surrounded by that and silence.
And on the last night, as I mentally prepared myself for packing up in the morning, I thought, “I don’t know when I will see the stars again.”
And that brought me back to my small town childhood, and chasing grasshoppers and crickets in the Summer, and excitedly pointing out every firefly I spotted. It wasn’t better, but it was different. The little things and the childhood wonders can so easily be forgotten in the bustle of the Big City – any big city. But in the quiet moments we take for ourselves, we can remember and reflect.
When I close my eyes, I can see the starry night sky on the backs of my eyelids, and I think, “No wonder we built telescopes and rocket ships.” We had to see. We had to find out.
That sense of curiosity and wonder is what drives us forward, as a species and as individuals. And of course, as travelers.
It’s easy to get caught up in the problems and noise of daily life, but taking quiet moments for ourselves will remind us of all those things we love to chase – excitement, questions, answers…and fireflies.
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