Nothing Around Us, Except the Universe: A Banff Introduction

This essay is a piece about my road trip across Canada, to Banff National Park in Alberta, and back across the United States.  The trip was completed in ten days and I was accompanied by my little brother Christian and my good friend Michael.  The first three days were occupied by us three driving across Canada starting at Montreal.  We drove through the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta and we saw the superiority of Lake Superior, explored an abandoned church, and slept in the back of the van every night.  We then spent three days in Banff going for many hikes and meeting other cool visitors to the park.  Our last three days were spent driving back through the U.S. We entered at the border between Saskatchewan and North Dakota and since the time we entered the U.S., we had plenty unpleasant encounters with the authorities.  It was an unforgettable experienced needless to say.  The following passage is reflective insight of the personal impact the trip had on me.

What was Banff to me? Banff was oxygen in a land of little oxygen.  Banff was spiritual comfort in a place of little physical comfort.  Banff was fire in a terrain of ice.  It was recovery, rejuvenation and inspiration.  It seemed as if some unseen gate keeper had locked parts of myself away in a vault in Banff that I had to go find.  Locating those undiscovered parts of myself was a job that I did extremely well.  My pen was always gliding across my notepad and my mind was consumed with plenty of thoughts, whether those thoughts be joyful or solemn.  These new “findings” of myself were reflections about the school year or other life experiences.  During the school year, my mind was always racing and I had little time to slow down and grow in awareness of myself, of others and of the world.  The free time that we had and the places we saw enabled me to reflect in the way that I was able to.  The discovery of these new traits of myself was only made possible by the amazing comrades who traveled by my side.  Christian and Michael are great friends who listened to me when I had something important to express.  Those two were such blessings to me on that trip (and still are now) and I couldn’t imagine that journey without them.

Banff was a world like no other.  The power of the present nature was so overpowering that it made me want to bow on my knees and forsake standing on my feet.  The magnitude of the lakes and mountains was not the only reason to why Banff was so awe-inspiring.  There was a spirit that moved through the park.  There’s not a way to describe what that spirit looked like, but I do know how it felt.  The soft ground, cold glaciers and towering mountains all breathed as if God had given them life for the first time.  The land danced with a youthful spirit, even though it was millions of years old.

Being in a place as divine as Banff obviously caused me to feel liberated. I felt liberated from inhibition (not wanting to take risks), liberated from anxiety-inducing environments and liberated from the pillars of our society that cause me to feel imprisoned (expectations to be productive, certain ideologies, etc.).  I felt liberated because I wasn’t bound to anything.  I wasn’t bound to busyness, I wasn’t bound to being inside all day, I wasn’t bound to silly expectations on me that I bore during the school year.  I was able to simply be.  I was able to dance with the spirit of Banff, run around with my friends and celebrate and play.

There was a statement that I had thought of one night when we were driving through the rural, forested landscape of Ontario.  The stars were shining bright and the thought that came to my head was, “Nothing around us, except the universe.”  I think that statement is fitting for not just that drive that night.  That statement is applicable to our whole journey because of how Christian, Michael and I traveled.  We sought to roam with a humility and admiration of the universe.  When I say universe, I am not just referring to the beautiful land, but also the spiritual and emotional impact that that land had on us.  I was blessed to interact with all these different faces of the universe.  The universe welcomed me into a relationship with it.  This relationship is the liveliness I feel when I spend time in places of nature such as Banff or when I spend time with amazing people such as Christian and Michael.  This relationship is also the defeat I feel when I am weighed down by the routine.  It is the heaviness I feel when my capabilities are limited by certain ideologies.  This relationship has not been broken since then and there are reminders that I receive every so often that tell me that I have experienced a reality that exceeds the conventional narratives that society attempts to sell to me.  There are times when I feel imprisoned to the matrix of this world and then there are experiences that provide me with oxygen and freedom.  I am going to pursue those freeing experiences with all my efforts because I know that is what I need to do to live.

To read the next story about Banff: Detained

To view my photography about Banff: Photos: “Outrageous Fun” Road Trip

To view my video about Banff: Film: Outrageous Fun, A Banff Story

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