Coast to Coast: Homesick in the Maritimes

Alden Wallace Mackay // Contributor

Summer was coming to a close, and so was my road trip. I’d driven from Vancouver to Halifax—as far east as I could afford—and now I was sleeping on a couch at a friend’s duplex. Her name was Bridget, and once upon a time we used to live together in Vancouver. She was travelling as well, up from Australia, so she could relate to my travel bug. My crossroad blues.

     I told her, “I have a tendency to look back on the present moment, imagining what an older version of me might think about how I’m living now.”

      She said, “I do the opposite, constantly wondering if I’m letting down the kid version of me.”

      “Maybe the key is in taking the middle ground.”

Anyone who’s lived in Vancouver knows that the housing market is a nightmare. Growing up I used to hear fantastic rumours about people in other parts of the world working part-time jobs and still being able to rent apartments. As I drove across the country I kept wondering what it might be like to live somewhere else. I did have a home in Vancouver, somewhere I was undoubtedly welcome, but I was getting older and I knew I had to leave. I just didn’t know where I’d go or how. I’d driven through every province save the northern ones, through all the major cities and many small towns, but everywhere I went I was an outsider, welcomed only on the promise that I would soon be leaving.

     “I don’t ever want to stop travelling,” I said.

      Bridget laughed. “Me neither. But someday we all got to get our shit together.”

Sometimes when Bridget was working I just hung out at the duplex, reading or meditating in my notebook. I’d been grieving over the recent death of my grandfather so my thoughts at the time were very sober. I was wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life, and what the good was of everything I’d done so far. Self-doubt was valid back then, in fact it gave some sound advice. I had more blessings than I was aware of, yet I still couldn’t get out of this funk. I spent a lot of time just looking at the ground. It seems like the more time that passes, the harder it is to dream. Maybe part of getting older is just learning to let go.

About a week later I went to a mechanic to get an oil change. It came with a complimentary inspection, and when I came back to pick up the vehicle, the lady at the desk told me, “Literally everything is seized up. Driver’s side axle needs replacing. Control arm, too.”

I asked her how this could’ve happened.

“Potholes, generally. Potholes and time.” 

I thought back to all those countless backroad highways over the past few months, rocketing over potholes, everything in the car airborne, coffee spilled across the dash. “Yeah,” I said. “That makes sense.”

She gave me a receipt with the total and said I could come back in the morning. I still had aspirations of seeing Newfoundland and leisurely making my way back to the west coast, but after this bill all I had in my bank account was $300—probably only enough to hightail back to mom’s house if I lived off rice and beans.

And with that I decided tomorrow would be the day I’d leave. Back at the duplex I told Bridget the plan. We watched a movie and drank red wine and philosophized until we both started yawning. She had to work in the morning, so we said our goodbyes that night.

Standing at the crossroads of her bedroom I said, “How will I lock the door tomorrow when I leave?”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. We don’t do that here.”

I was going to miss the east coast, this alien land. I met many people across the country, the lovely and the horrid alike. I saw places more gorgeous than I could ever imagine, and Lord knows I had my fair share of stories to tell. My memory museum was going to need a new hard drive.

In the morning I picked up the car, hit the Trans-Canada and didn’t stop driving for five days until I made it back to my mom’s place, bearded and in dire need of a long hot shower. I looked like I’d never been to a city in my life. The front of the car was coated an inch-thick with bugs and dirt. At the top of the porch steps I knocked on the door and my mother answered it with open arms, just like she always had before.

“Have you lost weight?” she asked. “You look like you’ve lost weight. Are you eating?”

“Not even in the door five minutes…”

“I worry about you.”

“Can I put some laundry on?”

I didn’t find a new home that summer. Maybe all I had to show for this adventure were a few lines on my face and an empty bank account. Maybe such adventures are only selfish in nature. Foolish, even. Can I say I really learned anything at all? Was the Truth at home this whole time, right under my nose like I’d always been told it was? I don’t know. Meanwhile time goes on, and no one is waiting for me to make up my mind.

In the Quran it says life is like walking on a tightrope. Middleway Buddhists preach of a solace found in harmony, that when there are two roads in life, take the third. Lil Wayne raps, “Life ain’t nothing but a long extended road. Keep driving.” I don’t know where life will take me, but whatever I do I’m going to follow my logical heart and take the middle road any chance I get.

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