I fell in love on a rainy night in Fredericton. Backpacking New Brunswick in my late 20s, I sheltered in a rock-walled pub, complete with glowing fireplace, perfectly poured Guinness and twinkle-eyed locals playing lilting ballads on old fiddles.

The beer helped, but it was that wrapped-in-a-blanket feeling of being fully transported, yet completely at home, that had me grinning like a giddy lover all evening. At last orders, I wanted to stay; worried I’d never be this contented again.

I’ve had a long-term affair with travel ever since, craving those deep, heartwarming connections that make hopping on a plane an exercise in romantic possibility. Over the years, I’ve renewed my vows everywhere from London and Maui to Montreal.

I’m not alone in my ardour. Robin Esrock’s The Great Canadian Bucket List reads like a love letter to travel. To him, cherished trips, like first love, “stay with you forever, reigniting goosebumps.”

For Esrock, it was love at first sight with Yukon’s capital city, Whitehorse. “I was determined to dogsled in a true northern Canadian winter,” he says. Well-wrapped for the bone-chilling cold, he was soon in the hands of an expert guide and a gaggle of lively pups.

“As I glided over a frozen lake, the dogs working in unison to pull me through the exquisite landscape, I felt a tear freeze on my cheek,” recalls Esrock. “It was just so exhilarating and liberating for the soul.”

But you don’t have to be a travel writer to be lured by the siren song of life-affirming trips. Anyone can experience the blissful endorphin rush of exploring beyond home. 

Calgary restaurateur Vanessa Salopek was deeply smitten on her first visit to Ireland. “I’ve been around the world, but that trip made me fall in love with travel,” she says. “Flying into Dublin and renting a car, we were awestruck by the lush landscapes, ruined castles and small cottages—it was straight from a movie.”

There was some smooching involved—she kissed Ireland’s legendary Blarney Stone—but it was the regional food, pubs and scenery that really renewed her lust for life, especially in Killarney National Park. “It was like a fairytale forest. I kept saying it’s too good to be true,” says Salopek, adding she found the cheeriness of the Irish contagious.

Corinne McDermott, founder of family travel website HaveBabyWillTravel.com, agrees that locals play a big role in falling for a destination. 

“We had our 11-month-old daughter with us on our first Cuba trip,” she says. “We were wandering around Havana, soaking-up the sights and sounds, which included a noisy jackhammer. The fellow working it turned it off, came over and patted our daughter’s cheek. She rewarded him with a big smile—one as big as his.”

It was a special moment. “We didn’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak English, but the gesture helped us see how important family is there. And we suddenly realized we’d be much happier if we took more time to smile at babies.”

It’s the kind of connection anyone can make in the arms of a new destination. But, for Josh McJannett, co-founder of Ottawa’s Dominion City Brewing Co., visiting familiar places can also rekindle dormant desires.

“Flying to Calgary a few years ago reminded me why I love to travel,” he says. “We met passionate brewers and restaurateurs, and we ate and drank our way through the city. You always get an energy from being away, meeting new people and trying new things.”

It’s a feeling echoed in my memories of that long-ago Fredericton night. I can still see the locals smiling around the hearth-warmed bar. Between songs, we talked of the destinations  we’ve loved and the ones we ached to visit. As a floorboard-rattling rendition of “The Irish Rover” began, I knew I’d be on the road again soon, looking for love in all the right places.

This article appears in the August 2015 issue of WestJet Magazine.

TRAVELLER

NEWSLETTER



Email: