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I had my own “Bucket List“ when I retired five years ago and backpacking across Canada was on it. To save money, I bravely booked nine nights in hostels and approximately four nights traveling by bus. The hostels were great! Planning four nights sleeping on a bus was a wee bit optimistic. Here is my story…

It started in St. Cloud, Minnesota, with a rickety old bus and a driver with a sense of humor (came in handy when door almost flew off while going 75 mph). I almost lost my lone pair of reading glasses in Fargo, North Dakota - when a young student from China, going to college in Winnipeg, helped me find them.

I reached Winnipeg - and set out on foot, in the dark, to find my hostel, which was supposedly within walking distance of the station. I had my backpack on wheels in one hand and my pepper spray clutched in the other, when I finally found it! Really tired now, I checked in, grabbed my key card and opened the door to my four bed dorm room and who do you think greeted me??? The Chinese student from the bus that helped me find my glasses! We were roomies - and we spent all the next day together seeing Winnipeg via the free shuttle buses! This was the first of many friendships I made along the way - and it filled me with surprise and joy! I learned that the love of adventure and travel has no boundaries between the young and the old…

I did okay traveling by night and even got some sleep - but couldn‘t figure out why I was dizzy every time I got off at a rest stop. I voiced my concern to a nice young girl sitting behind me and she just laughed. “It‘s the altitude“ she said, as we kept going up and up and up! We talked all the way into Banff. Turns out she worked for a rival hostel and tried to talk me into staying up on the mountain with her.

There aren’t enough adjectives to describe Banff, the majesty of the mountains, Lake Lorraine, Lake Loise, the Yo Ho Valley - and all of the wonderful people I met in the two days I stayed there. I will never forget a 65 year old woman from Switzerland named Beatrice, who traveled alone like me, with a backpack and another small suitcase - and had been doing it for three months - all over the world! When I wasn't hiking the mountains, or taking tours,I spent my time listening to Beatrice tell stories of all of her adventures. When I asked if she had any regrets, she just looked at me and smiled and said “only that it ends soon - and there are still so many more places to see”…

Chapter Two to follow...

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