In 2005, a car ran me down in downtown Vancouver. It was easily the best thing that ever happened to me. Healed up, I took a modest $20,000 insurance settlement and set off around the world to tick off my personal Bucket List. The Taj Mahal, the Inca Trail, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, the Ganges – I packed in 24 countries in 12 months of travel. My blog became a column, my column became a TV show, and here I am, 109 countries later, someone who has seen and done more than anyone should ever be lucky enough to do.
Missing among my extraordinary adventures: Canada, my adopted home.
Here is a country so rich in bounty – people, places, accomplishments – yet consistently looking beyond its own borders for inspiration. It never occurred to me, when I created that first Bucket List, to include parts of the country in which I live. This website, and the accompanying book, will change that.
There’s a great responsibility when one crafts a national Bucket List. Experiences must be unique, stacking up against the world’s best. They should be accessible, and realistic. This is not a Bucket List for jamming with rock stars, catching Stanley Cup-winning pucks or being honoured with a street parade. Rather, it looks at hiking the rugged West Coast Trail, celebrating the world’s largest winter carnival, skating the Rideau Canal and drinking Yukon’s legendary cocktail with a human toe (seriously). Driving the Dempster Highway, skiing in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, watching world-class ballet in a park, sleeping in an ice hotel, celebrating ice-wine, poutine and even prairie oysters.
Beyond my curated list, it is the story of my personal experience investigating each item’s worthiness, with the challenges, characters and mishaps along the way.
I hope you will say: “I never knew Canada was so damn cool!” and also: “I want to do that!” The Great Canadian Bucket List will stir conversation, lead to debates around the dinner table. “Why on earth did he include a clothing-optional beach? How could he leave out ________?”
It wouldn’t work if I hadn’t visited all those countries – Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Ethiopia, Slovenia, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia (twice) – to see how Canada compares. Sure, you can jet boat in New Zealand, but not on the world’s largest ocean tides. You can dog sled in Alaska, but not with a 5-time Yukon Quest champ. California’s redwoods are big, but wait until you see the old growth forest of northern British Columbia. Rest assured, these experiences are unforgettable, and once-in-a-lifetime.
I expect this will appeal to students and active boomers, empty nesters and committed road trippers. Canadian, certainly, but also immigrants and foreigners fascinated with what Canada has to offer. I might be known from TV, but the Bucket List is for everyone – from adrenalin junkies to armchair travellers. Together with its hefty online and social media channels, The Great Canadian Bucket List is a living work that inspires you to discover the very best experiences Canada has to offer.
– Robin Esrock
Readers of the book will notice that each chapter points them to a unique website address for further information. Since guidebooks are out of date from the moment they’re printed, all the practical information, along with galleries, videos, maps, reading guides and more, sit on this companion website. If you own the book, register with the code found at the front (“How to Use this Book”) and it will unlock all the experiences on the Great Canadian Bucket List. For those that don’t own the book, you can still register and access most, but not all of the experiences (you can add the code later if you wish). If you don’t have the book and don’t want to register, you can still explore dozens of inspirational experiences from across Canada, including 20 exclusive web-only items. New experiences will continue to be added to canadianbucketlist.com.
The Great Canadian Bucket List explains why each of these items belong on the list, recounting Robin’s investigation with funny observations, fun facts, fascinating characters and inspirational photos. Order a copy online today from Chapters-Indigo, Amazon or McNally Robinson, or pick up a copy at your local bookstore. It’s a perfect gift, for Canadians or anyone who wants an entertaining journey into what makes Canada special.