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Off Track Travel’s 2017: A Year of Change

Another year almost over! 2017 was the year we decided to make some big changes. Our original plan to do so progressed quite a bit differently than expected but I think it was for the better.

A year of change

At the end of our 2016 highlights roundup, I mentioned that “2017 may just be our best year of travel and adventure yet..” Even back then, we already had plans to leave Penticton, British Columbia (our home since mid-2015) to travel full time again.

But we didn’t know exactly when. Our first leaving date was February, then June….then eventually, autumn. With no more delays, we finally left Penticton in late November.

Our first adventure? A 6,600km cross Canada road trip to be back with our families for Christmas.

Despite not leaving as early as we originally intended, we did have an amazing year of travel and adventure regardless. And 2018 looks to be even better than this one! We realise we are very, very fortunate to be able to live and travel as we do so I am incredibly grateful that 2017 was so good to us.

Jr and Gemma

More backcountry adventures

Knowing that this year would be our last in BC for at least a little while, I wanted to make the most of it. With a bit of juggling here and there, we managed to fit in three overnight backcountry adventures over the summer (typically we’d usually only manage two). And it was quite a variety of adventures too.

First, a June paddling trip in Northern Desolation Sound on the Sunshine Coast with our brand new kayaks (still keeping the canoe, don’t worry). Great fishing, quiet island camping, easy paddling…perfect.

Desolation sound kayaking

Next up in August, a hiking AND paddling adventure in the quite wonderful Valhalla Provincial Park in the Slocan Valley. JR prefers paddling and I like to hike, so to be able to combine both in one trip was wonderful.

JR Hiking

The third and final backcountry trip was a cold September thru-hike of the Heather Trail in E.C. Manning Park. The latter had been on the list for the longest time and it really shouldn’t have been. Stunning views, interesting terrain, great reward to effort ratio…certainly one of the best backpacking experiences I’ve ever had.

Gemma on mountain

One of my favourite experiences outdoors this year was a completely spontaneous autumn day hike on the US side of the Cascade Mountains. Recommended by a friend,  the 12km Maple Pass loop trail was absolutely mind-boggling beautiful.

It must be one of the most satisfying day hikes out there. We also enjoyed local hiking, such as the Peach Cliff trail in Okanagan Falls, and plenty of spring climbing in the Skaha Bluffs.

Mountains with larch trees

International travel

2017 has been one of our busiest years for travel outside of Canada for a while. My brother was getting married in late February in Perth, Australia, so we took the opportunity and built a month’s worth of adventure around the invite.

A few days in Brisbane, a week in Far North Queensland (snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef! Spotting crocodiles in the Daintree! Exploring the World’s Oldest Rainforest!), two weeks in Western Australia and a couple of overnights in Singapore.

Beyond the grand Australia trip, we’ve also spent a bit of time in the USA. Of all years, we thought we’d be in the US less if anything, but it didn’t quite work out like that.

Opportunities with work brought us both to Salt Lake City, Utah, in July and JR to Madison, Wisconsin in August.

We popped over the border again in October for that most wonderful hike on the Maple Pass loop. Last but not least was a long November weekend in sunny St Peterburg, Florida.

Our last year in Penticton, BC

Penticton was good to us. Our leaving date changed so many times simply because life was too great, too easy. We had an incredible home overlooking Okanagan Lake (and just a four minute walk away from breweries, wineries and downtown), great friends, a decent work/life balance.

here is an incredible amount to do in Penticton and it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever lived.  I was working part-time in the outdoor store JR was managing, enabling me to work 2/3 days a work on my own business. Earlier this year, for example, I was able to completely re-design and update this site.

But despite everything, we still had itchy feet. So we made the commitment to one last Penticton summer and decided to be with our respective families for Christmas, ready to travel full time in the new year.

Even with these exciting plans in place, giving in our notice at work and for the apartment was still scary. Why were we leaving the best living situation we’d ever had?!

Because there is more out there in the world still to see and we want to experience it. In the long run, we know we’ll be happier. I’d rather eventually regret leaving Penticton than stay for years and years and then regret NOT leaving.

Penticton from KVR
Skaha bluffs climbing
Penticton sign

Driving across Canada

Our final adventure of the year was an epic winter road trip across Canada, all the way from Penticton, BC to Toronto, Ontario. To do such a trip in early December was probably a little….ambitious, but we survived freezing temperatures (down to -35c), heavy snow and the many, many kilometres on the road to make it to Toronto on time for my flight to the UK for Christmas.

It definitely helped that we were hosted by wonderful people along the way.

JR then had to drive another challenging 1,900km to New Brunswick for his own family Christmas. Quite a way to end the year, to say the least. I’d love to drive across Canada again…at any other time than the winter!

Savana van with 2 kayak and a canoe on top
Grain elevator Canada
Road in winter

Looking ahead

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to 2018. JR and I will be reuniting in the UK in mid-January for some hiking, castle exploring and plenty of pub visits. After returning to Canada in February, most of the spring will be spent converting our Savana van to live and travel in. 

Once ready, the only definite plan we have is to get on the road and explore Eastern Canada! After that, we’ll see what happens. My favourite way to live!

I hope you’ve had a great 2017 too (perhaps share your own adventures in the comments below) and that you will continue to follow our adventures into 2018! Thank you for your support in 2017, we really do appreciate it so much. 

Jr and Gemma

Read our other yearly round-ups:

2016: Our highlights

2015: A Year of Opportunity in Life and Travel

2014: A Year of Chasing Adventure in Canada

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Tim & Marcella

Sunday 7th of January 2018

Happy New Year guys! I love it how a new year brings reflection and anticipation. You guys seemed to be sure footed and excited about your travels to come and we are excited for you as well. We are looking forward to you sharing these travels with us. Peace!


Thursday 11th of January 2018

Thanks you guys! I love having these posts to look back on. I also enjoy writing them because it reminds me how much we've done every year ;)