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Rachel Bertsch

Family of three searching for our next favourite adventure. Tour Leader | Travel Writer | Mom #Yukon | #Canada | #vanlife [email protected]

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Van life or camp life? What seems more appealing to you? We are three months into van life, still road tripping across Western Canada. Before setting out, we had a long list of places to see. I honestly thought #vanlife was going to be beyond amazing and the perfect way for us to live. It has all the right elements, simple living and an ever changing view. Sure, we have seen an endless list of highlights but deciding where to go can get overwhelming, and driving seems like a chore half the time. We seem to be organizing endlessly and yet, our van is always looking like a yard sale of stuff whenever we pick a place to stay. A few summers back, we lived in our tent for a few months. Everything we needed was in a bicycle bag or on a kayak. Camp life got uncomfortable, sometimes we camped next to a gravel pit and a few times we hit bad weather. I'm sure during those times I would have struggled to not dwell on the negatives. But right now, I'm missing camp life a little bit. I'm missing the views from outside our mesh walls and the simplicity of owning almost next to nothing. Our destinations were always close, as we could only wanted peddle a little over 100km or wanted paddle a bit over 20km - so we were never looking far on the maps where to go. Yet, almost every day was spectacular. So moral of the story? Not much, just complaining for no good reason and wondering if anyone else here has an opinion on the matter. In the mean time, here are some happy camp life moments from a few weeks back in Slocan. at Valhalla Provincial Park

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The more we explore the more we realize it is the little moments that mean the most to us. A few little moments in Revelstoke last week. at Blanket Creek Provincial Park

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So much of our time these days gets caught up in being busy. Working, eating, driving, scheming and attempting adventures means the days just fly by and I am constantly feeling behind. Everytime we plot where to go next, we yearn and dream of destinations with a slower pace where we can just disconnect from the world but reconnect with each other. In my travels, I've ventured to a few islands that have claimed to be far flung, but Haida Gwaii was the first to claim they were the 'edge of the world'. Things moved at a slower pace here; exactly what we were searching for. We sailed from the 54th parallel across the archipelago with so much history it was tangible. A culture built on oral histories, I clung to the words of our local guide as I spied eagles, seals, and an abundance of green hues in every direction. While I toured sites of villages abandoned over a century ago due to the epidemic of smallpox decimating the population, I fell in love with the silence in this tragic beauty. The only things left in these once bustling villages were the decaying totem poles and deer foraging on the cedar saplings growing where the long houses once were. Only the sounds of birds in the forests and the waves crashing on the beach were audible as our footsteps were cushioned in the mossy floor. Throughout our journey I admired giant trees with tops I couldn't see and fondly noticed the appreciation for mother earth that each local proudly displayed. If this is living on the edge, count me in. at Haida Gwaii

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In all honesty, we were pretty nervous for our first paddle trip as a family. Beyond the fact the longest we three had been in our packraft together was under half an hour in total, we hadn't yet slept in a tent with Elena and being the backcountry for a few days meant we had to pack in way more than we usually would. For paddling logistics, one of us held on to the little one while the other paddled as hard as they could to make it to the next campsite. Our vessel was very slow moving even with all our paddling efforts as the raft felt like a tank with all we packed in. Thank goodness we picked a lake with campsites that were only a few km between another. This trip was different than most for us. Instead of being fully exhausted from a 30km day on the water, we were full of energy since the UV index was extreme and meant we were getting off the water well before noon and setting up shelter less than 2 hours after taking our last camp down. Camping with a kid found us in incredibly scenic spaces as these photos prove, but many moments are not so serene. The exploding diapers, the battle to stay cool, the constant eating of dirt and sticks. At the time we giggled at the challenges but now those worries are a distant memory and these beautiful scenes are all I remember. I will always be amazed about how much change has come to our lives since having a baby, but thankful that we are still able to enjoy the great outdoors. Stay adventurous little one. at Valhalla Provincial Park

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We are now three months into the road trip, four months into Kieran's parental leave. Lately, I've been getting questions on how it is going. Truthfully, the last five weeks we have been #vanlife cheats. Three of those weeks were spent in hotels as I picked up two tours to lead, a week of that we crashed with friends or family and only a week of the last five have we been truly adventuring on the road. Somewhere in there Elena mastered crawling and now she's standing up any chance she has. She took her first dip in a glacier fed lake and is eating anything we give her and all the rocks she can find. She is developing crazy fast and as we prepare for a few weeks of travel starting tomorrow I'm once again wondering how it will all unfold. The road trip idea started as a selfish way for me to go back to work and not feel so guilty about it. By having my family tag along it would feel easier to transition back and also provide us the much needed funds to not break our bank. The option of parental leave is sweet but it is a huge pay cut that not everyone can afford. After weeks of being confined to my house healing from child birth we dreamed up a lot of ideas on how we could return to a life of epic sunsets in awesome places with a backdrop of all the sports we could fit in the day. This would happen in between me leading tours in some gorgeous parts of Western Canada. We have managed a good few dozen kms of biking, a few little hikes, and so far a four day paddle trip. It has not been quite as ambitious as we planned. What we failed to understand was that for all our planning of what we wanted to do was that most of our days would be spent doing not much of anything, just having fun with our daughter. And that in itself would be enough. Judging by her smile and cheery disposition, we are thinking she's loving this odd little lifestyle we've given her. at Canada

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Photos for me have always been my protest against forgetting. Some days I'm a bit concerned that time is going too quickly and we haven't been doing enough. But it doesn't matter in the long run what we do, it never does. Being together is enough. A small set of snapshots to help me not forget that. at Alberta

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Beverage breaks with the best of views. It doesn't happen often, but when the baby is napping we get to enjoy some adult time. Cold drinks, epic views and sleeping babies make for two happy campers. Picked up this roto molded cooler from @WoodsCanada at @CanadianTire and it's been fueling our evening hangouts for a few weeks now. Let the good times roll. 59.4978° N, 133.7240° W #ad #WoodsExplorer #WoodsHiddenGems at Atlin, British Columbia

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I can't count the number of times I have driven through the Rockies. Even now after years of seeing the same places while I lead tours, I still enjoy all the sights. You know the places, they end up in everyone's feed eventually. As peaceful and serene as they look, they are absurdly crowded at certain times. After being spoiled with solitude in the backcountry, the crowds that linger in every picturesque lake or valley can be overwhelming. So whenever I go to the Rockies on my own, I always seek something different. It's why we cycled the Rockies a few years ago, allowing us to slowly travel and appreciate different scenes that we would normally speed by in a vehicle. We found sections of the parks to be alone in, and reminded ourselves how vast and great these places are. This year we decided to explore a bit of Kannanaskis. Our plans were for grand backpacking trips, but the snowstorms of May and infants don't go together, at least not for us yet. We ended up finding the perfect balance for our first family trip in those iconic mountains. A place that truly felt away from it all. A little cabin with views that looked out onto willow covered valleys and jagged snow covered peaks. A cozy patio to watch the million stars shine brightly after we stayed up far too late giggling like kids. I don't really mention lodges on this feed often despite the fact I usually spend a good chunk of the year on the road sleeping in various accommodations, but this one was special. Not sponsored, but a quick thanks @mountengadine for making us feel like family and giving us the best home away from home we've found in the Rockies. at Mount Engadine Lodge

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Always make time for a little nature therapy. Truthfully, we set the packraft up with hope the three of us would go for an evening paddle but it didn't work out quite as planned. Sitting on the beach taking turns paddling in glassy conditions like this wasn't the worst alternative. at Jasper, Alberta

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What a difference a few days can make. Before hitting Golden, I wasn't too over the moon about the road trip. It had snowed half our journey down south, meaning most hikes we wanted to do weren't accessible since we didn't bring winter hiking gear like spikes or snowshoes. Evenings were spent in the van, keeping warm and reading while Elena played with her toys rather than watching the sunset. The daytime winds weren't exactly Elena's jam so we honestly didn't lounge outside too much. After way too many lazy days, and probably a bit too much isolation after seeking remote camp spots, I started doubting our plans as it wasn't nearly the adventurous start I was hoping for. When we reached Golden, the sun finally came out, leaves were on the trees and people seemed friendly again. My parents joined us and for the first time that month it felt like an actual vacation. The road trip wasn't looking bad any more. Now today, two weeks have past since we actually have slept in the van and I'm again questioning what to change about our trip. I'm craving a purpose and a challenge, not just a home on wheels that can take me to the pretty sights. Purpose and challenges look different to everyone. For me, I have been planning to try our first (small) cycle tour with Elena over the next week. And thinking of overnight backpacking trips we can manage. I'm not really sure how easy or hard it will be, all I know is that seeing the sights is nice, but doing something memorable is better. Wish us luck. at Golden, British Columbia

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Searching for gold. It wasn't long ago that these waters were greeting thousands of stampeders who'd ascended the Chilkoot Trail to make their way into the gold rush by following the emerald green waters of the Yukon River. Some might think they were a bit crazy to do so, but the spell of the Yukon has created and seen many unique ideas in how to strike it rich. The latest odd ball idea I've heard? @VisitDawsonCity wants to create a brand new Gold Rush by raising money that will be converted into Klondike gold and placed in Bonanza Creek for you to pan it back out. Those interested in partaking can have their name go down in history and purchase packages that include a husky rush for 2 or a 2-night stay in Dawson City. We will be searching for that gold for sure, link in my bio if you want to strike it rich with me during Gold Rush 2. @TravelYukon #GoldRush2  #ad #exploreyukon at Yukon

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Seven years ago I walked into a hostel in China and saw Kieran hovering over his laptop waiting for me to show up. On the outside he looked calm, but his eyes stole quick glances in many directions and I have always wondered if he was as nervous to meet up as I was. We knew each other but hadn't seen each other in months and yet, we had spontaneously decided to meet up for two weeks of travel. Obviously, those two weeks went well. Now, seven years later, it is me sitting in a hotel, lounged away from my laptop, appearing to any outsider every bit calm but stealing glances across the room waiting for my group as I prepare to lead my first tour since having Elena. Canada has excellent parental leave options, up to 18 months off, and in the depths of boredom and uncomfortableness that came with the last months of my pregnancy, we decided that Kieran would take the entire time off and I would return to the career I love for few short stints throughout the summer. Until now, all my work has been online allowing me to work from home or van. In the beginning, finding time to do tasks that took little effort before became difficult and I would find myself working in the middle of the night when the baby slept. But I eventually found a rhythm, or at least always managed to get the work done even if I looked a complete mess while doing so. Sitting in the lobby as I prepare to meet my travel group, I am filled with wonder if my decision to go back was selfish. It is probably a thought most new moms have while debating about going back to work. I am fortunate to not have to worry about leaving Elena with Kieran while I work as she adores him. But I wonder how the tiny human that has been my everything for nearly seven months can be removed enough from my brain for me to function like a normal tour leader for the next few days. Instead of enjoying the sights, am I just going to be searching for her face everywhere I go? Will the minutes and hours away feel like eternity or will the days pass like a breeze? Any new ish moms having the debate of returning to work or moms who have come before me have stories to lend in how to cope? at Alberta

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I grew up in a desert area of Canada, which truthfully makes any lush vegetation like this fill me with wonder. Which is why if you are following my stories, you'll notice that I have been chasing waterfalls almost everywhere I go. Doesn't matter how old I get, I'll always hop the rocks to get a closer view and almost always, I will get so close that the spray surrounds me. Anyone else do the same? Thanks to @WoodsCanada and @SportChek for ensuring I stay dry on my endless search for the best waterfall. 48.4800° N, 123.5478° W #WoodsExplorer #WoodsHiddenGems #ad at Goldstream Provincial Park

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Quite delayed and behind on sharing photos. Over 50 days into our year long holiday together and the days sometimes blend together. Our daughter adjusted to vanlife better than we expected. She's crawling now, so the next few days we are going to figure out what we need to keep out of reach. Parenting involves sometimes looking at beautiful sights and showing how awesome this world can be to your little person. And then it also involves how to make sure they don't actually eat the pages out of your books you've left beside the bed. at Vancouver Island

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These are hardly perfect photos. The light was bad, my camera settings off, and when I looked way later after taking them, it just didn't have the quality I was hoping for. But this feed has never been a collection of perfect photos. It's been a timeline of the good times of my life for the past few years. When we moved into the van last month, we packed more sports equipment than clothes. We hoped that we would be able to do adventurous things and make solid memories beyond just seeing the sights. When we got to Tumbler Ridge last week, it was because I was itching to see the waterfalls of the area and get out hiking. After our first 2km hike took us 2 hours since we were waist deep in snow only to arrive at a half frozen waterfall, I felt slightly frustrated that we would end up not doing the cool things I hoped to but would have to readjust to a level we would find boring. The 45km overnight backpacking trip we cut, but I desperately wanted to see Kinuseo Falls in Monkman Park. We almost didn't drive the 60km dirt road to Monkman, fearing it too would be frozen and not worth it after hearing the road had snow cover, deep ruts and pot holes for days. We went. Because, we had driven over 1500km specifically in that direction to see those falls. And when we arrived, they were glorious. We hiked 2km downstream in perfect light during the morning and decided we needed to get a closer look. So, by afternoon (...because everything takes longer with a 6 month old...) we were back downriver and paddling upstream to get close enough to feel the spray. We were stoked to have Elena in the boat with a smile on her face, happy to be exploring and fascinated with the world around her. It might not have photographed well but it was a load of fun. And for us, a preview of the adventures we hope will come. at Monkman Provincial Park

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When we moved to Whitehorse, it seemed like I had an unlimited list of things I adored more about this place over the rest of the places I have called home. The spell of the Yukon had me admiring the wilderness at my doorstep, the sense of communities in each town, and the adventurous spirit of those we met. Add in crazy beautiful landscapes and it was no wonder we called this place home. But when I go down south, particularly to Vancouver Island and into the coastal rainforest, I can't help but miss these ancient giants of firs and cedars. 800 years in age, you can only imagine the lives that had lived in their shadows. So we just spend our days soaking in their beauty and hope that the next generation to come will appreciate and have these legends around to enjoy. at Vancouver Island

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Few things rival a good sunset in my opinion. When we found our perch for the evening, we sat and listened as the waves rolled in and breathed in the salty air turning crisp as the evening faded to night. This moment will be a fond memory and a great way to wrap up our month long BC trip, which truthfully I still have too many photos to post so you will be seeing more. When we knew we had a month before starting the road trip and living full time in our van, for months we couldn't decide where to go. So we decided to have the closest thing to a staycation as we could and I'm so glad we decided take it slower to visit our families while enjoying the places we grew up. Things are about to get real for us now. We are flying back to the Yukon and reuniting with our van tomorrow and camping out in the negative temps. Our van doesn't have insulation and we have been in the land of cherry blossoms for a month. Most of the weather predictions for my destinations of choice the next two weeks are still calling for snow and overnight temps are below zero still. I'm going to hang on to these memories of warm evening light on my face for a few days to come. 10pm sunsets and my beloved Yukon, I know you'll be beautiful but please don't let us freeze. at Tofino, B.C.

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When I walk these wooden trestles, I like to think of my grandparents. Both my mom and my dad's families arrived in Canada in the 50s and 60s to build themselves a better life while designing transportation projects for B.C. The Kinsol trestle we visited this week was completed in 1920 for access to forestry projects, so before their time, but my dad's dad arrived from Denmark to design similar bridges for the forestry run railroads in the northern parts of Vancouver Island. Part of it is sad, as those railroads were built to transport the beautiful old growth trees I would have loved to still be there. But part of it is beautiful, as the engineers who designed and local farmers who built these bridges have left an elegant mark of civilization and history behind. This particular trestle, the Kinsol, is one of the largest freestanding wooden trestles in the world, standing at 44 m (144 ft) high and 188 m (617 ft) long. And if the photos don't show it, it is a magnificent sight. Looking forward to later in the summer when I will be searching for and discovering projects and corners of the island my family has ties to, especially since I never got to meet the grandparent behind it. At least after seeing his work environment, I can see why they decided Canada was home. at Vancouver Island

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