Lessons Learned on a Road Trip Across Canada

Travel is never how we imagine it


You may look through maps, calculate the distance between your travel stops, and try to plan how long it will take, but rest assured you will drive much further and longer than you ever expected.

Having music to listen to will be well worth it, but you may also find yourself listening to, and enjoying CBC Radio, even when other radio stations are available.

Alberta will have the cheapest gas that you will find on your trip, which is not that surprising. What is surprising is that the cheapest gas will be in Medicine Hat, and not in Calgary.

As you approach Chaplin, Saskatchewan calm down and do not panic. You are not seeing snow on the ground in May, at least not this time. You are seeing the salt flats.

This is not snow. It’s salt outside Chaplin, Saskatchewan. Photo my own.

You do have family and friends along this route. You will stay with them for a night, and visit over coffee or wine. Their hospitality and generosity will be greatly appreciated.

Small towns with luring attractions will be your kryptonite. They will have signs pointing you to old opera houses, and the world’s largest something or other. You will want to take many detours to see many different things, but there will not always be time. Remember you can never do it all.

The speed limit will change. You will not always be able to drive 110km/hour like you are used to. In Ontario there will be many times you will not go over 80km/hour. Take that time to enjoy the scenery around you.

A lot of the things people have told you about the places you will be visiting are not true. Some of them will be, but these facts will usually only be correct when the information is positive. Just ignore the negativity.

Winnipeg, Manitoba. You will wish you had more time here. Photo my own.

You will wish that you had booked some of your hotels ahead of time. It’s not fun to find a hotel after arriving at a city at 9pm, particularly when you have been driving for 8 hours.

Even though he died several years before you were born stopping at the Terry Fox Memorial outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario will be a powerful experience. When you leave, as you driving along the TransCanada, you’ll think about what it would have been like to run all the way from St. John’s, NL to this point.

Terry Fox Memorial outside of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Photo my own.

Driving across Ontario will take longer than expected. The roads are winding, and there are large hills to climb. You will be tired, but you will be greeted by some spectacular scenery, particularly as you go from Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie.

You may be tempted to cross the border at Sault Ste. Marie. You might have your passport and you might want to visit Michigan, but it will take too much time. You can visit Michigan at another time.

Taking the ferry across the Georgian Bay from Tobermory to South Baymouth will be well worth it. Walking around town for a couple hours while you wait for the ferry will seem like a break from all that driving.

View of the Georgian Bay from South Baymouth. Photo my own.

You will hit your end goal of Richmond Hill earlier in the day than you expected. You will not see the CN Tower as you approach Toronto, but you will drive on Yonge Street, and you’ll reward yourself with Thai food for finishing your trip.

No you did not drive all the way across Canada, but you did drive over 4400km by yourself across the second largest country in the world. You got to see many places you never had before, and you know that one day you will see the rest of this country that you love.


You may have thought this road trip would cure your wanderlust, but it’s only just begun.