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From the forests, mountains, and lakes: Entry 1



Lisa bought a bus.


That’s all I needed to hear for my attention to be captured. My friend who first told me this elaborated, explaining the broad strokes of what he knew.


After traveling throughout South East Asia and working in hostels in Australia, Lisa was starting a tour company for young backpackers in Canada, hoping to lead camping excursions and outdoor adventures from coast-to-coast. She had been mapping out the hidden gems of the country, scoping the best of the forests, mountains and lakes that make up the vast landmass of the Great White North.


I ditched class a couple weeks after learning this to meet Lisa for a coffee. I told her then and there that, one way or another, I want in.


One of my favourite memories with Lisa—which she probably doesn’t remember—was at a party in our first year of university. Our Captain-Morgan-slugging energies quickly got along, especially after I introduced my favourite party trick: chasing with high fives.


“Let’s do something stupid,” she drunkenly slurred, before proceeding to open the fridge of whoever’s apartment we were in, grabbing an egg out of a carton, and smashing it onto the floor in one swift motion. Barely able to stand, I stared at the yellow yolk splattered on the tiles. This wasn’t a statement, and aside from the inconvenience for whoever needed to subsequently mop the floor, it wasn’t done out of any mean spirit. It was just Lisa being Lisa. She felt a yearning to do something, and did it.


We’ve both grown up a little since the degeneracy of our university days, but here was Lisa smashing an all new egg—this time the splattered yolk came in the form of a 17-seater shuttle bus, a vessel of exploration that would transport her and anyone willing to join to some of the best spots on the continent.


She called me a year after we met for coffee, in the summer of 2020, to ask if I’d be her co-guide for her first season of tours. I told her my dad was sick, that I couldn’t leave my family—especially amidst a pandemic that was largely still in its infancy. After we spoke, I hung up the phone, tense with regret and longing to hit the road, to see the mountains of the west coast, the star-lit sky of the prairies, the beaches of Tofino, the trails of northern Ontario, and all the sights that could cleanse the pain of impending grief.


It didn’t matter, anyway, because all her tours were cancelled that summer, courtesy of provincial shutdowns and border restrictions. The pandemic was enough to kill most travel entrepreneur’s spirits. Not Lisa’s. She soldiered on, determined to tackle the necessary logistics to get asses in seats the following summer.


After joining me on a canoe trip with some friends in Algonquin Park, as we lay on sleeping pads in a misty tent, Lisa pitched the co-guide gig for the following summer. My father had died months prior, and I knew, deep down, this would be good for me.


Shortly after, I called her to say I was in—with one condition. She wanted me for June but I couldn’t miss Father’s Day or the anniversary of my dad’s passing, so I suggested hiring another guide.


That’s how Connor joined the team—Lisa had asked him previously but he couldn’t commit the whole summer because of employment. (He’s one of those weirdos with a normal job.) They first met at a co-op internship, trapped in cubicles under the fluorescent lighting that plagues most desk jobs. Their adventurous personalities eventually led them to an expedition throughout New Zealand, a trip one might say planted the seeds that would grow into this wonderful expedition known as FML Adventures.


Connor’s wicked smart, funny, and has an endless repertoire of movie quotes he is known to rattle off for specific situations. (“Everything the light touches...is yours,” he’d say while admiring a beautiful view.) Like me, he also has extensive camping experience.


With his agreement, the FML dream team was assembled.


The bus got a makeover. Lisa hired a Toronto-based tattoo artist moved to Squamish, (@sleestak) to design the exterior with graphics—trees, mountains, peace signs, smiley faces, and big letters spelling out: “The World is Yours,” “Stay Wild,” and the three words that encapsulate our pursuit: “Forests, Mountains, Lakes.”


After a year of preparation, Lisa and Connor successfully took out the first ever official FML Adventures tour in June. Six backpackers came along, breathing in mountain air, exploring forests, laughing (and crying) through a heat wave, and discovering new horizons.


When I saw the dusty bus in Squamish, BC, I gave it a big, sloppy kiss.


Lisa, Connor, and I will be leading the next tour together—from Vancouver to Calgary. We’re currently on our way now to pick up the next group: six backpackers ready for adventure. After this tour, Lisa and I will be driving from Calgary back to Vancouver, and then from British Columbia to Ontario, picking up new groups, covering new grounds, and tackling new adventures.


We’re going to get dirty. We’re going to hug trees, eat well, and breathe in the serenity of our massive summer playground. We’re going to find stillness in moving forward—with bus wheels kicking up dust, backpacks piling in our hitched trailer, and mountains looming over us.


We’re going to stay wild.


Consider this your official invitation to stay tuned.


From the Forests, Mountains and Lakes,

-Mitch


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