Jump forward to October, 2009. A couple of years ago I spent 33 days travelling to Toronto, Ottawa-Gatineau and Montreal to carry out fieldwork with Portuguese-Canadian descendants. From Ottawa to Montreal there I was again for the second time on a train in Canada.
I thought back to that Vancouver to Prince George trip 18 years earlier and thought about how distance truly makes Canada different. Not only different in comparison to a country like Portugal, where bus and train and getting around is a lot easier, but also different within itself. I mean Ottawa to Montreal is a couple of hours on the train. Rail travel around Ontario and Quebec is a lot more common; locations a lot closer. And for this very reason there are a lot of Canadians that also don't 'get Canada', at least not the complete package. In Vancouver they say "there's no hope beyond Hope (the town)". That's because many have never gone beyond Hope (outside Vancouver's Lower Mainland). For these folks, Canada is truly not the vast country those in rural communities and far off towns know. But then again, maybe this is common to big city folk in general. Surely for us who live in the metropolis, we may ride a lot more trains and buses, but the truth is we ain't getting far. God only knows how many times I've ridden the Lisbon - Cascais train line, for example. Equally beautiful - as much as I try not to take it for granted - but the truth is there are times when it feels like we're approaching Prince George on that line as well.