Stranded

I live in the middle of nowhere; where sunrises look like a boreal version of the Serengeti, and coyotes lull me to sleep with their songs. The aesthetic is exceptional. I have the pleasure of encountering beautiful creatures on a daily basis. The joy is never lost. My excitement never fades. I feel honoured with every sighting. I also feel STRANDED.

I grew up in a city suburb. I had the freedom of hopping on public transit to connect with any corner of the city. My teenage years were traced by transit routes. When being surrounded by people didn’t meet my need for independence, I tied on comfortable shoes and walked to my destinations. Nothing held me back. I wasn’t oppressed by weather, distance, or time. When public transit shut down for the night, taxis were on the ready, and in a pinch, a lift from a friend, or my ever-ready Daddy who knew the veins of the city better than he knew his own.

I’ve always been a walker. I’ve never allowed distance intimidate me. I’ve always lived in accessible, convenient areas. Living where I live now is the complete opposite of my comfort zone, and I feel STRANDED.

Looking out my backdoor, fields turn into forests, and the sky stretches on forever. I could walk for 10km in each direction, and the only signs of civilization that I will encounter are a (most likely haunted) run down bar that belongs somewhere in the Great Old West, and a tiny gift shoppe that triples as a prestigious convenience store, and a cafe that boasts menu items from 20 years ago.

On the surface, this area boasts a healthy lifestyle. There is a local ski hill, and a variety of walking trails. In reality, every attraction requires a car to attend. The lack of sidewalks combined with heavy truck traffic is prohibitive of walking anywhere. I am for all intents and purposes: Isolated. STRANDED.

This lifestyle is a lie. I spend more time shackled to my house than I’ve ever experienced in my life. Everything I do has to be planned well in advance. I am glued to The Weather Network: my guide in deciding if I’ll go to the grocery shop, or stay home for fear of treacherous road conditions.

When I do get out, I feel pressured to stock up on groceries because I don’t know when the weather will impede my next trip. Some items are challenging to find, so I over-purchase so that I don’t go without. Planning has to be put into everything from meal schedules, to ensuring that we have enough pet food before a snowstorm, or other inclement weather. All of this leads to impulse purchases, or overspending. All of this leads to food, and financial waste. It’s a vicious cycle.

The general lack of spontaneity is frustrating. Social existence is the most challenging. Everything potentially interesting is almost an hour away, if not further. Even a simple night off of cooking requires orchestration. I’m isolated, stranded!

This area might be ideal for people with young children; children who don’t have any idea of what’s in the real world. This area is ideal for people who have no desire for change. Maybe I’m lazy. I don’t enjoy gardening, I have no patience to just sit on the deck. I have absolutely no desire to walk around my neighbourhood and wave at my neighbours. I love walking, hiking, and being outside, but I’m a goal oriented person. I love walking with a destination, or hiking with a km goal. I love the spontaneity of waking up, and walking somewhere. I hate having to drive to a trail. This isn’t conducive to healthy living, or being environmentally conscious!

I watch the teenaged children in this area. They are BORED. They are dependent on their adults for everything. Transportation to friends’ houses, shopping trips, anything. Nothing in their lives can be spontaneous, or independent. Of course, living up here requires a car. In time teens learn how to drive and if they are fortunate enough, they gain independence by driving away. Nothing comes without issue though. The thought of teens driving these back country roads late at night, especially in inclement weather is terrifying! The fact that everything is a million miles away is frustrating. Drinking and driving, driving while overtired, or hungry are all fear factors living in the middle of nowhere.

There is a terrible elitist way of thinking in the middle of nowhere. Think about it: to live out here, everyone needs a car; not just any car, but a vehicle that can handle these treacherous winter roads. The cost of fuel is astronomical, and since everything is driving distance only, add fuel costs to the already ridiculous cost of living up here.

Food selection: wait, we have choices? While we do have a fair selection of grocery shops, each carry the exact same drudgery of selection: basics, and rotting. Forget about being creative out here. Produce is slim pickings, and even local food is expensive. Restaurants are numerous, but everything is chain linked to corporations. We are isolated. Stranded.

I’m sure I come off sounding like a spoiled entitled brat. Maybe I am, but honestly, I am exhausted living in the middle of nowhere. I’m tired of being chained to my vehicle and having to make my dining decisions based on whatever I can find on Sunday because running out to the grocery shop mid-week is often a grand event.

I’m tired of watching the local teens scavenge for invisible jobs. I’m tired of watching children arrested in their social, and environmental development. Living out here means not knowing how to cross a busy intersection. Living where the only Uber you can call is a cow in the pasture means never interacting with people. Living where you are chauffeured around by your adults all day means never having the freedom, or independence to take public transit, to learn how to get lost and found in the real world, to make decisions for your safety, and fun. Living out here stunts social development to the point where friendships become tethers to negative behaviours. Everyone is so isolated, there are no friends to choose from: you take what you can; you fly, or you fail. Too often people cling to what’s wrong for them just to have a lighthouse in this vast messy ocean.

Forget about having differences, or challenges in the middle of nowhere. With limited access to medical, psychological, or therapeutic care, people are pretty much on their own with their struggles. Once the local venues are exhausted for recreation, buckle down because there is literally NOTHING to do. There are no specialists. There are no options for various counsellors, or educational supports. There is a vast selection of recovery options, which is amazing for those who need them. There is however nothing in place to help prevent addictions, or the struggles that come with home insecurity, or any other life struggles.

Competing dance studios offer children opportunities, but when they are surrounded by the same limited people from school, there are no opportunities to broaden friendships, or experience new cultures, or develop life skills. We live in a world of “love it, or leave it,” because people either have to fit into what’s offered, or give up what they enjoy.

We are basically living on a deserted island in the middle of a busy city. We are isolated. Stranded. Monotony is the new busy. Boredom is the new fun. Covid restrictions were easily met out here because there was literally nothing that we lost by having to stay in. With nowhere to go, and nothing to do before we were locked down, covid simply meant not putting olympian efforts into planning social activities. Covid isolation only gave what we already experienced a fancy name; purpose so to speak.

Living in the middle of nowhere and being tethered to a car isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a life sentence.

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