Staycation nation

After a childhood of holidays close to home, Chris Hunt dreamed of seeing the world, only to come full circle


Chris Hunt emerges from the fog at the top of Mount Tremblant. Photo Credit Angela Jacques

I didn’t travel much as a boy. Vacations were usually stay-at-home affairs as my family was on a limited budget. The furthest I travelled was rural Ontario where my family of seven kept a small trailer big enough to comfortably house a slim family of four. 

Within walking distance to the east of the trailer was a small creek that was home to some very enthusiastic leeches. A hop, skip and a jump to the west was the local dump, which was as pleasantly fragrant as one would expect during the sweltering days of summer.

I loved every moment we spent there, but that trailer was the extent of my childhood vacation adventures. 

I had friends who took exotic vacations to places like Europe or Disneyland. Or Carp.

I was envious of my globetrotting friends, but as I grew older, I learned to appreciate the inherent beauty of Ottawa and the surrounding regions. I’ve worked hard over the years and can now afford to travel (on a budget of course) but I purposefully stay close to home, simply because home has so much to offer—so much so that I have trouble picking my favourite staycation spot.

When our son Riley was a toddler, we’d take him to Mooney’s Bay for a day of frolicking in the sand and sun. When the heat from the sun proved overwhelming, we’d walk to Vincent Massey Park and picnic near the Rideau River.

When he grew old enough to endure longer car rides, we started taking him to Parc Omega. Seeing him recoil in fear as hungry deer shoved their heads through our car window to rip a stubby carrot from his even stubbier fingers is one of the highlights from my early years of fatherhood. 

As Riley has grown even older, we’ve taken to enjoying seasonal vacations. 

Our favourite place to go in the summer is Mont Tremblant.  It’s close enough for a day trip, though we always stay for a few days. We rent a suite and bring our own food to save money.

I also hike the mountain. The first was a spur-of-the-moment decision on my birthday, to prove that age still hadn’t caught up to me. I was wearing sandals.

It took me two hours and I crawled the last few hundred feet, but I made it. Climbing Mont Tremblant became an annual birthday tradition. Once I hiked up during a massive thunderstorm first thing in the morning. My family took the gondola up about an hour after I started the hike to meet me as I reached the summit.

The wind was so strong it made the gondola swing from side to side, like a pendulum in a clock. My partner Angela got off just in time to see me doing the last leg of the climb and she snapped a picture of me emerging from a thick, wet fog.

It’s weird how life changes as one ages. As a boy, all I wanted to do was travel the world. Now all I want to do stay close to home.