On a warm summer Saturday, I found myself at Wellington Ontario’s Annual Dragon Boat Festival. I don’t live in Wellington, or even in Canada. And I’d never been in a dragon boat before this month. But here I was, competing with the Wellington Lion’s Club Dragon Boat team. I was suddenly a member of the Top Dawgs.
As a travel writer, I’ve dragged my wife and 5(!) children through Iceland, making sure we saw everything we possibly could. The book that came out of this 3 month trip, Iceland With Kids, is about to be released. But this summer, as a foil to that frenetically paced trip, we did a much more relaxed vacation to a quiet but lovely town on the north shore of Lake Ontario.
This deliberate and dramatic reduction in the pace of our travels led to my dragon boating adventure. And it led to the realization that some of our best memories of Iceland were when we scrapped the agenda and engaged with the local community; my kids look back fondly at their afternoon spent at Sheep Farming Camp with local Icelandic children.
It also leads me to wonder if there is a different style of travel most of us overlook. A style that allows time to engage in a community. Instead of a laundry list of top sites to check off of a list, why not read the local paper and find events to attend, and activities to attempt? If I hadn’t done exactly that, I still wouldn’t know what a dragon boat is.
We also wouldn’t have headed on a motorboat trip to the sand dunes with our new friend Tim. I met Tim during an evening dragon boat paddle; if you’re paddling team is less serious and more social, an hour paddling next to someone gives to time to talk. Tim moved from Manitoba and keeps bees.
These are some of my favorite memories from Wellington. And we didn’t have them on our list of “must-sees” or find them on Tripadvisor. We found them by slowing down.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk more about that middle picture, the one of several of us in the dragon boat. Here it is again:
Notice in the corner there’s a name: Juanita McMahon. I try my best to get permission to use photographs others have taken. I reached out to Juanita on September 6th, 2018 to ask for permission to use this picture in a magazine article.
I didn’t hear back. Four days later, on September 10th, I received an e-mail saying that Juanita had passed away. Her passing seemed unexpected, though I don’t know. I didn’t ask.
But somehow, my message about slowing down seems even more appropriate. Thanks for taking my favorite picture from that trip, Juanita.