Early on a May morning, a young Nova Scotia woman straps on a small backpack and leaves the Halifax Common to start her journey along the coastal roads of Nova Scotia. Planning to cover almost a marathon a day, she will walk the perimeter of the entire province in just under three months to raise awareness for the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Brigadoon Children’s Camp Society. She billets with locals each night and meets countless Nova Scotians who come out to walk with her, support her project, and tell their stories.
I do likes me a bit of travel writing—whatever subgenre that may be—travel lit, travelogue, travel memoir. Naturally I consider much of it the same thing. The classification that is, not the stories, writing, or individuals involved. So when I had an opportunity to read Emily Taylor Smith’s Around the Province in 88 Days, I pounced. We were in the earliest days of lockdown, still uncertain what this pandemic, social and physical distancing truly entailed. But stockpiling reading material, and travel writing in particular, seemed prudent, in this case offering a Pacific coaster the opportunity to further explore a scenic stretch of Atlantic Canada.
It feels like Christmas Eve. I’m packed. I try to think of things I might be missing. I take my time, turn on CBC radio, and make myself a huge plate of pasta with lots of chunky sauce, and even throw in a package of spinach. Sitting on the living room rug, watching my backpack like a television set, I’m so excited that I hum and tap my feet a little with each giant mouthful. I go to bed early, knowing that when I get up at six a.m. the next morning, my backpack will be ready and waiting for me, and all I will have to do is pick it up, step out the door, and start walking Nova Scotia.
And like that (finger snap) I feel our author’s—our explorer’s—excitement. Which I want to be part of. To experience. (Apart from spinach in the pasta.) Of course, most of us know that anticipatory sensation that precedes travel in whatever form it takes—a book, movie, physical departure, or simply something imagined. Escape. Adventure. The unknown! That delicious blend of anxiety and childlike wonder—character traits of Dora we inherently possess and long to hold on to through adulthood. Yet how often can we actually tackle that endeavour—taking, in this case, three months “off” to pursue a dream? I applaud our author for the courage, commitment and conviction required to make her aspiration a reality.
Beginning in Halifax, a pair of crows appeared each day. I thought of them as “my” crows – and here they were again. I knew it was foolish, but it felt like the same two crows had been visiting me every day since I started, showing up as a pair to check on me at various points throughout the day. I decided I would let them represent loved ones who had passed away who might be there to remind me I was not alone.
Relatable sentiments shared with sincerity. Throughout this pleasantly paced journey we’re introduced not only to our author but people she meets, shares with, listens to and befriends. This is the kind of adventure I feel we all want and need. Connections and connectivity. Set to the cadence of a long, determined walk. At times a stroll, others a demanding hike, persevering through injury, exhaustion, and occasionally questioning one’s ability to carry on.
As Smith’s story progresses, however, I’d enjoy a deeper sense of engagement. Greater personal discovery, or more revealing connections with “characters” along the way. At times I feel we’re simply sharing an ever-lengthening list of brief encounters. With an alluring trek such as this, I long for more. In other words, what did that mean to you? What was your takeaway from that experience or interaction? Perhaps this speaks to an author still seeking those answers. To which I’d say, “Say that.” If you’re uncertain of what that meant to you, then as a reader I’d like to know uncertainty is what you feel. Because we all, at times, don’t know what any of it means. This is an exceptional journey communicated admirably. I look forward to reading more from this adventurer-explorer-author, and with it, further insight and introspection.
About the Author: Emily Taylor Smith has walked the perimeters of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, the coastlines of New Brunswick and the Gaspé Peninsula. Born in Salisbury, New Brunswick, she moved to Nova Scotia to study theatre at Acadia University, and perform with the Atlantic Theatre Festival. She is the founder of Local Tasting Tours, a culinary waking tour of Halifax. She currently lives in Dartmouth with her husband, their poodle Woody and Wilson the cat.
- Title: Around the Province in 88 Days: One Woman, Two Pairs of Sneakers, and 3000 Kilometres of Nova Scotia Coastline
- Author: Emily Taylor Smith
- Publisher: Pottersfield Press, 2019
- ISBN: 9781988286686
- Pages: 367 pp
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I also read this during the early days of lockdown. It’s interesting to read your perspective as a west coaster – I loved reading it because so many of the places were recognizable to me and I wanted to be there. But I also wondered how much enjoyment a non-local would get out of it. And i think you touch on that briefly when you say you wished you had a “deeper sense of engagement”.
Great review of a book that I found kind of hard to review!
Hi Naomi – thanks – I definitely enjoyed discovering and enjoying places (vicariously) that were new to me!