It had been yet another incredible year for us, though very different from the preceding one. Once again we’ve just celebrated the new year somewhere new – it proves we really can’t predict where we will be from one year to the next!
This time we’ve found ourselves in the small resort town of Penticton, BC, on the shores of the beautiful Okanagan Lake. It may almost be as snowy as Fort St John was in early 2015, but life is quite different for us here. A lot has happened over the last year to say the least!
Escape from North BC
We started the year in the northern BC, where Jean Robert was working in the oil/gas industry surrounding Fort St John. An outpost of development in the ‘almost’ sub-arctic, life in Fort St John was very different to anything I had experienced before.
Te highlight of our time in the north was a trip through the Rockies in -40c. Oh, and I wrote a book! As luck would have it, I unexpectedly received and accepted a job offer in Penticton, starting June 1st.
Heading to the sun
Out of Fort St John and back ‘down south,’ we celebrated our good fortune with friends in Vancouver. A conversation with one about their wedding in Cuba inspired us to take a sneaky look for package deals to go ourselves.
Two days later we arrived in Varadero, Cuba for a week. It was the first time we’d ever done any kind of organised holiday before, but it was a great, if completely different, experience.
On our return from Cuba, we had a long drive ahead of us. At the very start of the year, we had booked flights to Europe to attend our friends’ wedding in Italy.
Problem was, we had assumed we would still be in Fort St John at the end of April and therefore the flights were leaving from Edmonton, over 1000km from where we now were. Time for a road trip!
The view from our *free* campsite near Golden, BC!
A land of ice and fire
The flights to Europe also offered another opportunity for adventure. Flying with IcelandAir, we were entitled to a free stopover. We gladly took this up and spent a magical 48 hours visiting geological wonders and eating fresh, local food.
By far though, the best experience was snorkelling between continental plates in Silfra. Back on the plane and still excited from our discoveries in Iceland (we WILL be back!), we couldn’t have guessed that our European trip was about to turn sour.
Less than 24 hours after arriving in Italy, we had all of our belongings stolen from our rental car. Without a doubt, I can stay it was the most devastating experience either of us has had during our combined 20+ years of travel.
Left in only the clothes we were wearing (plus, luckily, passports and credit cards), we did the only thing we could; shrug it off, move on and have the best time possible during our remaining time in Europe.
And that we did with the highlight being celebrating our friend’s commitment to each other at our rented villa (or rather, castle!) in Umbria. We ate, drank and explored Italy to the fullest, before leaving to spend two weeks in the UK with family.
Here too, we enjoyed new places (castles, castles and more castles) and plenty of food and drink. Ah, England, how I had missed you!
A new start
Returning to Canada wasn’t the end of this year’s adventures. Penticton, a place we had only previously driven through, was our new home. The Okanagan has long been a dream living destination for us, with its hot summers, fairly mild winters, beautiful surrounding landscapes and rich food/drink culture.
The opportunity to be able to move here with a job already lined up was incredibly fortunate.
Summer in paradise
It may only be seven months on, but I feel like we have lived life here to the fullest already. Summer was full of lake swimming, channel floating, winery visiting, canoe paddling and hiking.
We managed to fit in three multi-day camping trips, one to Okanagan Mountain Park, one to the extraordinary Cathedral Provincial Park and the other to Gladstone Provincial Park. Winter has brought its own benefits, with the local ski resorts currently experiencing the best conditions in years, perhaps even a decade.
Weather and adventures aside, we’ve also been visited by three sets of family in the short time we’ve been here. Maybe it has something to do with the incredible location and situation we’ve found ourselves in? Either way, life is good and 2016 is looking even better so far!
Even more so since I had laser eye surgery in September, which means I can do all my favourite things without even a thought of contacts, glasses, solution and spare glasses!
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada