The excitement became most intense two days before I was to jump on the highway to head north in my jaunt toward my Canadian cottage.
I had been making slow but measured progress up the middle of the United States, stopping to see friends and research a book I’m planning to write. My latest stop was Detroit, where I was trolling through historic archives on the labor movement.
Each day after leaving my temporary campground home, I’d join the morning commute to downtown Detroit on my way to the Wayne State University library. Midway I’d pass a sign that proclaimed “Bridge to Canada” and each day my pulse would quicken.
However, it was only two days before I was to leave the United States and proceed into neighboring Canada that I really allowed myself to speculate on the impending border crossing. The upcoming event was so wildly exciting that I could barely concentrate on my archival hunt.
Although I’ve always loved traveling to Canada, this trip was somehow different. Sure, my recent retirement would allow me to stay the entire six months in country, but it was more than that.
Alone in my trailer at night as the campground settled around me, with only Cat and the radio for company, I had time to reflect. And as I listened to the latest turmoil emminating from Washington, the reason crystallized.
My excitement came from the fact that I was running away. And the thought of escape had me giddy.
Many of us, I’m fairly certain, ran away from home as a child. For most, it was a brief experience, concluding with a realization that running away wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.
I was about 8 when I ran away. I stuffed some clothes and food into a small suitcase and trudged off into the woods behind my home. I’m sure the escape was occasioned by a disagreement with my parents, but the precise reasons are long forgotten.
I stopped not far from my house and sat under a large tree contemplating what to do. My initial excitement soon diminished as my 8-year-old self considered the situation.
The sun dappled the ground with shadows from the tree’s leaves. Sheep grazed nearby, their lambs playfully leaping through the tall grass.
Everything seemed perfect and beautiful.
But then, rifling through my suitcase, I realized I’d brought a single sandwich and no water. What would I eat after this first lunch? A glance around the woods and fields that surrounded me showed no signs of houses or civilization. Where would I go?
This was going to be more difficult than I’d realized.
Escape was … complicated.
My escape to Canada at 65 is somewhat like that initial experience.
Like then, I realize that I’m running away because my time at home has become increasingly unbearable. Unsettling news of partisan anger within my government and an increasingly difficult-to-withstand division between citizens is making the United States I love impossible to live within.
Even the institution of journalism – to which I’ve devoted my life – was becoming fraught with difficulty. Like a public cleaved by partisan differences, the mainstream media also seemed to be taking sides. And, everywhere, it was under attack from sources ranging from Russian trolls to a U.S. president.
It was time to run away from home.
So when I finally crossed over into Canada and the border agent handed me back my passport with a cheery “Welcome to Canada,” I felt relieved.
As opposed to my earlier running-away experience, this one seemed to be working. I would not be trudging back home, a half-eaten sandwich in my grasp.
A glance around me at the Canadian scenery seemed to confirm that.
The pot-holed and much-patched highways of Michigan had given way to impeccably maintained roads. The grime of America’s industrial Midwest had transformed into pastoral and well-kept farms.
Enormous windmills dotted the landscape, seeming to confirm Canadians’ push to escape the need for fossil fuel. Billboard-sized solar panels were erected behind many farmhouses, further supporting my belief that people here agreed with my perspective that we needed to take action to avert climate change.
But then I made the mistake of turning on my car radio. Even though I assiduously twisted the dial until I found a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation station, the news it presented was mostly of a Washington lost to divisiveness.
And when I pulled into Canadian campground, the first question asked was “What’s happening in your country?” It was usually the opening salvo of an ensuing discussion of the turmoil within the United States.
So, although I’ve now arrived in Canada, my excitement has dimmed somewhat. I’m realizing that running away from home might not be what I’d anticipated.
In fact, escape is going to be much more difficult than I’d realized.