|What was going to be a summer of hitchhiking across Canada turned into four summers, instead, as Matt Jackson learned there is just too much of this country to be packed into a single season.
Jackson was driven by his wanderlust, you might say, driven by his need to see more and more of the country - coast to coast, north and south - but he was also intensely disciplined in his approach. For eight months of each year, he was either in school or working at two jobs, and for the summer months, he travelled by thumb through different parts of Canada.
By the time he felt he had covered most of the country, he had travelled nearly 30,000 kilometres of gravel and asphalt, shot more than 25,000 photographs and met hundreds of people from every corner of the country. Jackson is a skilled photographer, and his Canada Chronicles features 130 photos.
His time in Northwestern Ontario has resulted in chapters set in Kenora, Dryden, Thunder Bay and the Trans-Canada Highway heading east. Photos of his sojourn in the area are beautiful - truly an appreciation of this difficult landscape with its surprises at every turn.
In his travels, he met with generosity; like Blanche Dubois in Streetcar Named Desire, he depended on the kindness of strangers. He was welcomed by farmers and fishermen and cowboys, hippies and miners and transport drivers. Jackson worked on a game ranch in northern Saskatchewan, hitched a ride on a sailboat through part of the Great Lakes, and thumbed through Quebec wearing a red Canada T-shirt.
Unlike many travellers, Jackson wasn't trying just for an east-west transit of the country, but travelled into the far North, and recreated for himself the gold rush experience of walking over the Chilkoot Pass and paddling the Yukon River down to the Klondike gold fields at Dawson City.
Jackson has a colloquial style of writing, so that the reader often feels an on-the-road journal is very close to the final text; it moves smoothly and naturally from one place to the next, probably far more smoothly than the actual travelling ever went. He has a gift for describing the people he met on the road, so that with a few words and some well chosen examples of dialogue, the readers feel these people are no longer strangers.
He also shows great respect for the people he meets along the way, as he works to understand why people live where they do and what keeps them tied to their particular surroundings. (It's nice not to be condescended to.) Lots of people travel, but it takes a good storyteller, which Jackson is, to bring alive the experiences of the road, the people and the erratic movement of hitchhiking as a mode of travel.
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