Leaving the Shire


My first job after graduating university was as tour host for a bus tour company ferrying clients around Canada and the US, to all the favourite tourist destinations. It was a great job. For the most part, many of the clients were seniors that didn’t want the responsibility to book and arrange travel for themselves. The tour company did everything for them. My job was to take care of them and make sure they kept up to the schedule. I thought that I did a great job. I was having fun, showing of my skills as geology major and keeping up to the plan. I had survived some of the roughest ocean waters between Cape Cod and Hyannis and had taken more than one side trip to the emergency ward to find care for a client suffering from the apparent signs of a heart attack. I knew the company product, I had the program brochure memorized. I knew it was the  senior staff who got the best, and longest trips.

As September rolled around and many of the students returned to school, there was less staff to share the trips, but also less trips going out. Since I was staying on, this would be my chance to shine and get some of those long, exotic trips. My supervisor announced that my next trip would be 21 days to Newfoundland and Labrador. Yikes! Not what I had in mind. The Newfoundland  trip has two ferry trips. One 8 hours and the other 18 hours, overnight, no less. I was going to be the one in charge and frightened to death. The biggest boat I’d ever been on was the Toronto Island ferry with 200 passengers. If I didn’t take this assignment, I’d be home without pay for 3 weeks as all the other assignments were taken. ‘’Well okay”. I was resigned to do it, so let’s make the most of it. So, after a week on the road, I had had lots of advice on how to handle the crossing. “Stay up late, so you are really tired, and will sleep, if she starts to roll.” “Don’t eat a big greasy meal in the commissary, so you don’t puke.” Hmm, that’s all they serve! “Stay on deck for fresh air.” I tried it all. I spoke to a few crew members on deck that night and learned that this was a fairly rough crossing, but calmer seas were ahead. I was feeling fine. I spent several hours talking to other passengers. One young gentleman was making a backpack journey across Canada. We exchanged addresses and kept in touch for the next few years; he became a close friend and someone with whom I could share my love of music. It was close to 2 am that I decided to turn in and went to my cabin a few decks below. I was calm and tired and knew I should sleep.

Sleep came easy but not for long. I awoke about three hours later and there was a mossy green glow beckoning me to the porthole. Twilight at dawn had overtaken the sea and sky, and presented a ghostly landscape in hues of green fog as we cruised up Placentia Bay. I was visually stunned and knew that my camera had to capture this experience. The millennia old mountains with their smooth and rounded tops were lush with the trees found in the boreal forest. Would my Kodak film render these shades? I thought I was in a place that came from Tolkien story books. It was sight that left me feeling like the Hobbit Pippin finally out of the Shire. As the days progressed, it would  become clear that despite my youth, this journey of a lifetime would ensure my growth and maturity in spite of my mistakes.