As my time in the Yukon, and my second 5500km cross-country road trip, have come to a close, I am left with reflections of the past three months. These are some of the things that I’ll miss about the Yukon, aspects of home that I’ve missed dearly, and one of the lessons that I’ll be taking with me from this experience.
The biggest thing that I’ll miss, aside from my lovely new friends and colleagues, is the vast untouched wilderness that is the Yukon. I’ve spent my free time walking, hiking, and canoeing across these beautiful lands, basking in the glory of the natural landscapes. I’ve climbed mountains and swam in glacial lakes and spent time reading, writing, and being, in nature. I completed my must-do list of Yukon hikes, with the ever-shining midnight sun powering me through my adventures. I’ll miss being able to enjoy the full-sun by the lake at 8:00 or 9:00pm, embracing the warm company and frigid water temperatures. I’ll miss being able to start a hike after work in the middle of the week and finish it with enough time, and light, left to enjoy the rest of my evening. I’ll miss the accessibility of nature here, in living amongst the mountains. I’ll miss their wisdom.
What I’ve missed most about being home this summer, naturally, is being with the people that I love. My partner, my friends, my family, my cat, I have so missed being able to share space and joy and laughter with them, in person. I am grateful to be spending these last few weeks of summer with them, making up for time spent apart, before heading back to McGill and coursework and case summaries for the fall semester. It’s always bittersweet to leave a place you’ve grown to love, and it is always so nice to be home. I’ll carry these conflicting, and compatible, feelings with me as I continue to reflect upon and appreciate these past three months.
One of the biggest things I’ve taken away from this experience has been the reminder of how significantly issues of access impact peoples’ day to day lives in smaller communities. Being in Montreal, and having spent the previous four years in Ottawa, I’d gotten used to the ease of access of services and necessities that are taken for granted in larger cities. Outside of city centres, in rural communities, empty grocery store shelves are not an uncommon sight. In the Yukon, 17% of residents don’t have access to a family doctor, compared to 14% of people on a national scale. Without a walk-in clinic in the Whitehorse area as well, people without family care physicians have to resort to the emergency department at the hospital for care. People in rural communities, and particularly those in the territories, still do not have equitable access to services, necessities, and health care.
So I am left with a mix of emotions related to my experience: melancholy for the loss of pristine nature and new friends, appreciation for all that I’ve been able to experience, joy and gratitude as I return home to those I care for, and concern that such a beautiful place filled with wonderful people have limited access to the material needs they rightly and unquestioningly deserve.