When I was invited to visit Swan Valley, a region about five hours northwest of Winnipeg, I had no idea what to expect. I had vaguely heard of the town of Swan River, but beyond that I couldn’t tell you a thing.
But after spending a few days exploring Swan Valley, I can tell you this: it’s one of my favourite places in Manitoba, hands down.
Perfect for a socially-distanced trip, one that includes a lot of natural beauty, I’m so excited to share some of what I got up to while I was in Swan Valley. Nestled between the Porcupine Mountains and Duck Mountains, the valley is perfect for hiking, fishing, camping, and swimming in summer, while ideal for downhill skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing in winter. It’s a bit of a nature enthusiast’s dream playground, really, and I could have happily spent another week or two exploring all that there was to do outdoors in Swan Valley.
Even without the chaos of 2020, this year was always going to be about sticking close to home for me. After five weeks in Europe last year, I realized those kinds of trips no longer really appealed; with my home, my dog, my family, and my friends all in Winnipeg, Canada, I knew I wanted to focus more on shorter, more local trips.
Not only that, I was starting to feel as though I had severely neglected my own home province for far too long. I left Manitoba at 18 and, despite travelling to over 100 countries, I had never really explored the prairie province where I grew up.
First up? Manitoba’s second largest city, Brandon.
On April 12th, 2010, I sat on my bed in my sunny flat in downtown Osaka, Japan, and I wrote this post. It’s only a few lines long, the photos are edited…
The last time I saw you, you were driving away from me, the taillights glowing in the dawn. The sun was just barely above the horizon; there was a still and quiet in that tiny prairie town, the trees bowing slightly in the wind. I stood at the window to watch you drive away, and I blew you a kiss.
We met in the heat of summer in the heart of the country. I instantly liked your glasses, your goofy laugh, the way we were both too nervous to eat any of the food we’d ordered. I talked too much – I always do when I’m nervous, especially on first dates – and an hour in I stopped myself, apologised for waffling.
“Don’t apologise,” you leaned in close. “I’m utterly enthralled by you, if I’m honest.”
I hadn’t had a first date that good in a long, long while. We both didn’t want the night to end; you came back to my house, where we drank beer on the porch and listened to records, the twinkly lights I’d hung up in the backyard illuminating all that was good. Our first kiss happened when we were listening to Sam Cooke, my favourite singer of all time, and life – for that one tiny moment – seemed perfect and real.
After fifteen years of writing online, I have definitely committed some of the biggest mistakes in travel blogging. Here’s what I did wrong, and what I’ve learned along the way.
This is how your heart breaks: slowly and deliberately, and then all at once. A story about falling in and out of love.