“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
These are the words Connor read on the second day of his first FML West Coast Tour. It was written on a little basket, on a table in a small cafe in Banff.
The quote stuck with him as he moved along the mountainous paradise of the West Coast—from Calgary to Vancouver and again the other way. It lingered in his mind as he drove through impossibly beautiful views, and in the quiet moments of the morning when he unzipped his tent and boiled water on a portable stove, preparing to caffeinate his sleeping friends.
Throughout his travels, he considered the quote’s implications. He thought about going fast and going far.
Often, Connor likes to go fast. He takes pride in self-sufficiency—in the reliable certainty of solitude and independence. He recognizes the benefits of going alone. Speed, he knows, is often a necessity—a state of prime performance and efficiency. Being alone also allows the mental space for introspection and contemplation; it provides levity and focus in a world of perpetual distraction and social pressure. But after jumping off a bridge, cannoning through rapids on a raft, and laughing under the stars of an abandoned scout camp, Connor thought about where “going together” could really take you.
Connor and Lisa had packed up Brent in Barrie, Ontario more than two months ago. After driving to BC, they led the first official tour, finding deep satisfaction in the friendships that were forged among a group of backpackers that started as strangers. There was a moment early on where they stood back as their new gang ambled ahead through the streets of Banff. They watched as the gang of strangers organically split into groups of two, talking and laughing like they’ve been friends for years. It was a revealing moment of connection, built on the foundation in which the two friends had laid. “Hey, look at us,” Connor had said, glowing with pride.
As he drove Brent towards the Calgary airport to drop off his last tour group of the summer, with the mountains fading away in the bus’s mirrors and a group of sleepy backpackers resting their eyes on the seats behind him, he knew that “going far” is not a matter of distance, but a perimeter of connection. He knew that “going together” is what made all of his adventures so rewarding.
“Who you’re with breathes life into the whole operation,” Connor told me, as I sat on the floor next to the driver’s seat, looking out the dusty door windows, the flat fields of Calgary flashing by along the highway as he gripped the wheel. “Living in a pandemic world, alone, I didn’t realize the toll it was taking on me. Not having a group around me to lift me up when I needed to be lifted up, and, let’s be honest, to bring me down when I get too high on myself…It was hard.”
Beyond the mesmerizing scenery and the adrenaline-pumping excursions, Connor knew it was the company of good people that made all his adventures so worthwhile. The depth of human connection is what “going far” was really about.
But it was not only the people he travelled with that made going far possible. There were the people he was thankful that allowed such travel in the first place—the employers, the parents, the loved ones who supported the journey from the start. The ones who believed in the benefits of adventure and exploration. Without them, we wouldn't be on the road.
Eventually, our white dusty bus pulled over in front of the Air Canada terminal drop-off at the Calgary airport. For everyone but Lisa and I, this would be the end of the summer journey aboard Brent. Now it was time to leave their mark on the bus’s walls.
We handed around a black sharpie and everyone signed their names, each under a quote that referenced a memorable moment. (I signed my name under “Danger! Bear Trap!” — referring to the time I walked towards a large, clearly labeled metal bear trap, thinking, amidst my hungover exhaustion, it was a water pump.)
Eventually the names were written, joining the mosaic of other names written prior. In years to come, Lisa hopes to cover every inch of Brent’s interior with new names.
These walls are evidence of “going far.”
Backpacks were thrown off the trailer and there was a big group hug before we waved goodbye to the majority of the group. A few of us would be staying at a hotel nearby for another night, catching flights home the following day.
One of those travellers was Connor. On his last night we ate a ridiculously large platter of sushi and watched a basketball game in the hotel room. Then, the following afternoon, Lisa and I hugged Connor goodbye before the same terminal drop-off.
“Any last words?” Lisa called, aiming a cellphone camera.
Connor couldn’t think of something original on the spot, so he repeated some of the phrases written on Brent’s exterior. “The world is yours... Stay wild.”
Then he was off, alone but not in a hurry.
Wherever life took him next, Connor was ready to keep going far.
From the Forests, Mountains, and Lakes,