Some people said that we were crazy when we told them about our plans to embark on a month-long tent camping trip in Canada. Especially our friends in Mexico, whom we waved goodbye to just before boarding a plane up north. They happened to be Canadians too, but had left their home country more than a decade ago to escape the cold. We had just been enjoying several weeks of warm Mexican weather together in their comfortable guesthouse. Why on earth would we want to exchange this for Canadian weather? In a tent for **** sake?
Our answer is simple: Because that is what we do. We’ve come to the conclusion that our travels are not about the destination a long time ago. We travel for the journey, for the experiences, and for the people we meet along the way. Most of our best stories did not happen at a certain place, but along the road to get there. To quote Shannon L. Alder: “Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone“. Camping with a tent in Canada sounded uncomfortable enough for us to get a good dose of life.
And then we lived in a tent
It wasn’t exactly our own idea though. Months earlier, we had been contacted by the Belgian company Canvascamp which sells, as the name suggests, tents made out of canvas. They wanted us to test out one of their tents. As soon as we had a look at their website, the smell of adventure started tickling our noses. We could see ourselves opening the doors of such a tent in the morning and being surrounded by astonishing nature. The kind of nature you find in… Canada.
We had been in Canada years ago and the wild nature had always been our strongest memory. If one of those tents was looking for a new home, it had to be there. But Canada is not exactly a very affordable country. Even when you live in a tent, you still need to pay for food, campsites, and transportation. The pieces of our financial puzzle magically fell into place when we asked Orbit Car Hire, our favourite car hire website, whether they would be interested in sponsoring a part of this trip. And guess what, they had just branched out to Canada.
A touch of Canadian weather
It was late in the afternoon when we touched ground at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. We picked up our rental car and drove straight to Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park. We waved at the other guests, all wandering around in their birthday suits, and memories of our last visit started to reappear. Which were quickly blown away by a cold wind once we opened our car doors. Was it because we had spent so much time in warm climates lately? Had we lost all resistance to colder weather? The only thing we could think at that moment was “Where are my jeans and jacket?”.
Bare Oaks is one of few naturist resorts in the world that maintains quite a strict nude obligatory policy. When the weather permits, of course, which it apparently did when we looked at the others. But not to us. The next day a cold morning sun woke us up and we figured that now clothes were definitely acceptable. We walked a trail towards the bistro, passing by the lake, right in time to see a couple about our age have their morning skinny dip. At that moment we realised that our comfort zone maybe wasn’t such a bad place after all.
The Sunward microclimate
The title of the first YouTube video in our Canada series, “We Tried Naturism in the World’s Coldest Country“, wasn’t a complete lie. Canada is actually the 3rd coldest country in the world, but since Antarctica and Russia were not particularly an option, Canada was the coldest country we could get to. Not that the Canadian climate had been part of this plan or something we had considered during the planning of this trip. Maybe for the better or we may have never left Mexico.
The first morning we woke up at Sunward Naturist Park was also the first one when we didn’t feel the urge to get immediately back into our sleeping bags. It wasn’t Mexican warm, not even Belgian warm, but we did not feel as if we were about to freeze to death. To this day, we’re still unsure whether we had finally started to adjust or if Sunward has its own microclimate. The most probable reason though was that we may just have been distracted from the cold.
The lake at Sunward had been popping up in our visions about this trip during the last months. To us, this is the true Canada. A huge lake in a huge forest with a small rustic naturist campsite on its shore. A place where wifi and electricity don’t exist and where running water had just been invented a handful of years before. We took a few steps back, looked at our tent next to the lake and realised that it was exactly as we had dreamt it. It could have been any temperature, we couldn’t care less.
We had to cheat
Paulo Coelho said that when you really want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. But he doesn’t mention what happens next. The way we see it, the universe said: “Okay kids, you got your picture-perfect tent spot in Canada, now I’m going to mess with you a little“. After a couple of sunny days in Sunward it just wouldn’t stop raining and the temperatures took a huge drop. Day and night.
We had borrowed very thick sleeping bags from a friend that kept us warm even when night temperatures started moving dangerously towards the freezing point, but this wasn’t fun anymore. As soon as the sun set, we had to go to bed and could only come out when it was almost noon. Tenting may have seemed the perfect way to experience Canada, but hiding in our sleeping bags was not exactly the experience we had in mind.
In Europe, we don’t really have motels, we only know them from the movies. In reality, they look exactly the same as on TV and after our first night in such a motel, we felt kinda relieved that we hadn’t been murdered. But more than that, we felt warm and awake again. A couple of days in a real bed in a heated room were enough to make us look forward to camping again.
Lakeside nude beaches
If you know a bit of geography, it probably comes as a surprise that Ontario has nude beaches. Yes, the province has a long coastline at the Hudson Bay, but that area is probably what puts Canada in the top three of the coldest countries in the world. What we tend to forget though are the big lakes.
Weeks earlier, we already had the chance to visit Hanlan’s Point, Toronto’s famous lakeside nude beach. Now we were on a ferry crossing Lake Huron, a lake twice the size of our home country Belgium, on our way to Lake Erie which is one of the smaller lakes but still borders with 4 states in the USA. These were our last days in our tent and we wanted to take it to Port Burwell. We had received an inside tip about a private nude beach right next to the provincial park and figured that this could be the perfect last stop.
It was actually hot when we were lying naked on the shore of the lake, but neither of us considered skinny dipping an option. Several hours before sunset we returned to our campsite to light one last campfire, the only thing that could extend bedtime until after 8 pm. We thought back about the past weeks. We had felt cold, very cold, but we had also felt alive. And that’s why we will happily do it all over again.
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