After a series of events challenged my perception of trust, I decided to put trust to the test. Hitch hike coast to coast and accommodate myself at strangers’ homes via the social network Couchsurfing.com, leaving my outcome totally at the mercy of my fellow Canadians.
It was early-October and the autumn rains had just begun when I departed my farm home on Salt Spring Island, BC. Not the ideal time to set off on a trip of indefinite length, but a factor that intensified my dependency on trust.
“Be safe.” I heard those two words repeatedly at the beginning of my trip. Turns out I didn’t even need to try. From a lone 20-year old girl to a lone 79-year-old man, 57 drivers young and old, male and female picked up this ragged road-tripped out guy and transported me safely across the country while 11 welcoming hosts opened their homes to me along the way.
A middle-aged woman in Alberta expressed her fear of hitch hikers, telling me she didn’t do this kind of thing, yet felt compelled to pick me up. On Halloween, a father drove me towards Ottawa with his three young girls sitting in the back, all of them excitedly reporting to me what they were dressing up as that night. An elderly Winnipeg woman returning from Vancouver told me an emotive story about having just reconnected with her drug-addicted son that she hadn’t seen for years. Now with his new child born, the reconnection was made. Amid honking horns, a travel-loving young Quebecker slowed traffic on a busy stretch of Montreal highway to pull over and pick me up. He drove me for two days, letting me stay at his Quebec home before dropping me at the New Brunswick border.
On two separate occasions, infantry soldiers from the Canadian Forces felt called to duty, pulling over to come to my aid. A truck driver broke the company rules to pick me up. I responded with gratitude, providing a listening ear that broke up the monotony of his long days spent in solitude.
Sure there had to be one exception to the rule. A 79-year old man masturbated and drove, harassing me to drop my pants. He bothered me for a while, but I told him I wasn’t interested and that was that. No big deal. I never expected the trip to be perfect, so I didn’t let this event affect my faith in the whole.
I went into the trip focusing on trust, but halfway through realized an equally powerful lesson. Despite being open-minded, I would hear this voice that came from deeply-conditioned preconceptions we Canadians tend to hold about each other. “Would I get rides in ‘redneck Alberta,’” I asked myself. Turned out that was the easiest province I hitched through. Three rides took me straight across the province, never leaving me waiting more than 20 minutes. “Would the language barrier cause problems for me in Quebec?” I thought to myself. Nope. Not at all.
These deeply conditioned beliefs quickly dropped, one by one, as I personally experienced the sameness in hospitality across the country. I rarely had to wait more than 15 or 20 minutes for a ride and on only a few occasions was the wait more like an hour or three. There was no single place I found hitching to be difficult outside of big cities and thinly populated areas—both of which present problems to hitch hikers anywhere.
I challenged the thousands who drove past me on the Trans-Canada to trust. Some rose to that challenge. Although that small number only represents a slice of Canadian society, it’s not about how many chose to trust, but the uniformity across the country that really struck me. I found Canada is filled with trustworthy individuals—with no notable regional differences—who go out of their way to help one another. A country where one can surrender to the universe with a faithful knowing that the universe will take care of his or her needs. It’s so simple to realize that beauty. All it takes is trust.