Who I am is something I have struggled with for a very long time, most my life to be exact. What sets me apart from 7.4 billion people out there in this world. In this noisy place of constant distraction, I am struggling to figure it out. It took me a long time, before I started gluing back together the pieces of something known as my identity. Through expeditions and the Great Outdoors I taught myself a very important lesson, how to be an individual.
Life just as quickly as it comes, it leaves us behind. In a matter of seconds things change. For those who have lost someone close know this to be true, we can’t predict it or completely understand it. Why is it when things feel like they’re going so well, does life decide to get in the way? I was 5 years old when I’d get my first encounter with death. We all have memories that play on repeat, mine happens to be the memory of two officers knocking on my front door. A day that would forever change my family’s dynamics.
In a time of tragedy, came with it another valuable lesson. After my father’s passing it was less than a month until my family had all our personal belongings loaded into a van. We were en route to a new province, making our way to a new home, where we’d be attending a new school with a new set of friends; It was our attempt at a new life. This is a lot of change for a 5 year old, but strangely enough it was in this moment where I learnt to love and embrace change. It was here in the uncertainty that I would feel most at home.
By the end of high school, I would have changed schools three times. Seeking Drugs and Alcohol as a way to fill my void. Looking for attention in unhealthy ways, purposely sabotaging myself. Anxiety and Depression would have me fully in their grasp, suffocating me every chance they got. I don’t even want to think about the amount of time I spent as a prisoner to the four walls of my room. As I look back though, I wouldn’t change a thing. I needed this period to make me realise, this is not me, and definitely not how I want to spend the rest of my life.
A friend once told me, “We are like water, left unchanged for too long we become stagnant.”
So it was time for me to move. I needed a purpose. What was the one thing I loved? Always, I’d get these flash backs of me as a child, fishing in a boat with my dad. Since I was three, he would have me out in the wilds of Northern Manitoba and somehow I knew that this was the direction I needed to go. Back into the wild. Here I knew I could find myself.
Even after getting an education in the outdoors, and working for a number of years doing exciting seasonal jobs, something was still missing. I craved change. It was something that I felt was important to my development. Throwing myself into random situations that were uncomfortable and challenging felt natural. So, in 2014 when a friend from school asked if I wanted to cycle across Canada, it took less than a day and I had my plane ticket to Vancouver.
It was a three month trip from Vancouver to St. John’s Newfoundland, the first time I’d get to see my own country. Never before had I left my province or even rode a bike for more than 10 km. On top of everything else, I had under three thousand dollars to complete this trip. This trek opened my eyes to the world, showed me how kind people were, and given me purpose and self worth. It taught me how to ask for help and this was the first time I started to admit to others that I had severe depression and anxiety issues.
On the shores of Lake Superior, I broke down with the recognition that I’d be okay. Tears filled my eyes, my body shook uncontrollably, as I stared out into this beautiful lake that resembled more of an ocean. I’d just need to take life one day at a time, exactly how I had managed to make it from Vancouver to this point. The road became my home, I learnt to love it. Waking up each day, meeting new people, exploring new places. When I finally made it to St. John’s, it wasn’t the feeling of “I did it”. Instead it was, “what now?”
At 21 I finished my first long voyage and by 23 I’d completed another 10,000 km. Taking me across two continents, five countries, and 10 provinces. By 24 I’d start a digit journey to bring awareness to the healing benefits of the outdoors, sharing not only my own personal journey of growth, but others as well. I use expeditions as a way to generate funding for non-profits dealing with Mental Health and work my hardest to set an example about openly talking about this issue.
I do not determine myself by the things I have done. Instead, these are merely stepping stones in my own personal pursuit of happiness. Everyone’s life is a balance between positive and negative events. Nor do I discredit struggle and tragedy because these are the pivotal points that have transformed me into who I am.
Find out more about Amy and her journey!
Her next journey will raise funds for the CMHA – Niagara Branch. Here is the link to see how you can help: