|It's a road trip few Canadians will ever attempt. But it's one Calgarian Matt Jackson hopes they will want to read about.
The 28-year-old freelance writer has spent the past four summers hitchhiking across Canada, meeting and staying with as many people as possible. By the time Mr. Jackson ends his journey in St. John's, Newfoundland this fall, he'll have logged 30,000 kilometres and snapped more than 25,000 photographs.
"It's a feel-good project, certainly. I want to share with people that you can still travel like this," he said Wednesday from a Halifax coffee shop.
As well, the young man who had never travelled Canada's North or east of Montreal wanted to celebrate the country. "Canada is much more exotic than what people think it is. They don't have to go to Europe in order to see history and culture," he said.
Mr. Jackson, who specializes in outdoor and wildlife writing, plans to chronicle his adventures in a book. He has already written updates for a number of magazines and hopes National Geographic will run an article - and possibly publish a book - about his journey. A National Geographic spokesperson could not be reached.
Mr. Jackson has attempted to sample local life as much as possible, riding on horseback with about 100 RCMP officers in Saskatchewan, participating in a huge Acadian festival in Caraquet, New Brunswick, and overnighting on a herring seiner off Yarmouth with fishermen Darren Surette and Amos d'Entrement.
He confronted would-be thieves in Dawson City, the Yukon, and got his belongings back. When he dined on musk oxen in the high Arctic it proved tasty. And other than horse and every kind of vehicle imaginable, rides came in the form airplanes and various types of boats.
Mr. Jackson even thinks he may have changed the minds of a "very, very hardcore separatist family" he stayed with in Quebec, after reassuring them English-speaking Canadians don't want Quebec to leave.
But there were bad moments, too. Mr. Jackson feared for his life after an encounter with a drunk driver on the Alaska Highway, and was stranded without a ride on a remote northern road for three days. Having miscalculated the incoming tide on the west coast of Vancouver Island, he and a fellow backpacker were almost washed out to sea.
In Alberta, a bison bull, apparently objecting to having its photo taken, charged at Mr. Jackson and veered away at the last moment. "It happened so fast, I didn't have time to think. I just stood there. By accident, I did the right thing," he said.
The project has cost Mr. Jackson about $35,000 - up to $3,500 a summer on film and processing alone. He hopes to recoup that money through the book he always intended to write.
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