Bucket Listed, with Robin Esrock

In his inaugural Can Geo Travel column, the travel guru writes about how the unexpected — like pandemics or car accidents — can lead to exciting new opportunities

  • Jun 01, 2021
  • 485 words
  • 2 minutes
Robin Esrock. (Illustration: Robert Carter)
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Insert whatever adjective you want: COVID has been challenging, unprecedented, soul-destroying, stupid, tragic. There we are, thinking we have all the time in the world, and along comes a microscopic virus to remind us otherwise. A pathogen, an illness, an unfortunate life event. 

My career chasing bucket list experiences as a travel journalist also began with an unlucky accident. A distracted driver didn’t see a stop sign, drove through an intersection and destroyed my scooter — inconveniently with me still riding it. I was fortunate to hobble away with just a cracked kneecap and, later, a $20,000 insurance settlement.

Life changing money doesn’t need to have nearly as many zeroes as you think. Any painful, unexpected event can recalibrate your priorities, pandemics included. While my family suggested I put my settlement toward Vancouver’s real estate market — in retrospect sound financial advice — my brush with mortality inspired a bold dream to chase adventure.   

I cashed the cheque, quit my job, sold what I had and set off on a 12-month, 24-country round-the-world solo journey, promising myself I’d record as much as I could before returning to reality and finding a new job. That promise led to a blog, which led to a newspaper column, which led to magazine articles, which led to a 40-part travel TV series (Word Travels), several bestselling books and speaking events around the world.

Later it would lead me to every Canadian province and territory, multiple times, in a personal attempt to discover the most unique and exceptional experiences in the country. What I discovered is a nation far weirder and more wonderful than anyone gives it credit for, Canadians most of all.

Fifteen years ago, banged up and bruised from my scooter accident, I couldn’t possibly have imagined how the accident would take me to more than 110 countries on seven continents, and a dream career reporting on peak experiences. Dark places often obscure the light ahead. COVID-19 has been a very dark place, but let’s imagine what’s going to happen. Cultural, technological, financial, medical and environmental innovations have now accelerated everything. Think of us as bubbles in an unopened champagne bottle, somehow surviving a plunge over Niagara Falls. Every week the cork budges upward: falling case numbers, more vaccines, increased optimism.

The re-emergence of tourism promises to be more authentic, meaningful, immersive, local and hopefully responsible, too. That means more Canadians traveling within Canada as we re-establish our zest for connection, adventure, leisure and discovery.

Think of this column as a quirky guide to what the future of travel looks like. Every two weeks, please join me as I unpack new Canadian experiences, ideas, controversies, discoveries, personalities and whatever else makes like worth living.  

Renewed, invigorated, inspired and elated: there are some scintillating adjectives waiting for us just around the corner. Although we might want to take it easy when it comes to those intersections.

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