If you could choose to visit any country on the planet, where would you choose? Mexico? The Bahamas? Italy? China? Growing up, I always had friends and relatives that went to tropical places on family vacations. Some ventured every year to the Carolinas, others to Florida or even further to bask in anything but Ohio sunshine.
However, I don’t think I ever went to a convention beach until late high school. Why? Because my family didn’t do “the beach.” We did…Canada.
To this day, when friends or co-workers express interest in where I’ll be taking my summer vacation, I’m often left with someone who can’t quite pick their jaw up off the floor when I tell them I go to Ontario, Canada. I mean honestly, do you know anyone who goes to Canada every summer? Me either.
I have spent every single summer vacation of my entire life in the same town—Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada. Twenty-five summers plus an additional few trips to Niagara Falls and Pelee Island. But the cool thing is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I learned a lot about my family’s long practiced tradition on this last trip we made in July. A long line of family members had been vacationing in the same small town long before I was even born. Same town, same “resort”, same traditions. I put the word resort in quotation marks because while the place is called Inverlochy Resort, most wouldn’t consider it worthy of that name.
To me, a resort is all inclusive, luxurious, up-to-date. I looked up the definition just for kicks and the first definition that popped up was as follows: a place that is a popular destination for vacations or recreation, or which is frequented for a particular purpose. Guess they weren’t too far off when they named it a resort after all.
To my family, Inverlochy was a place to unplug—literally. The cabins were equipped with basic needs but no televisions, no phones, no Wi-Fi, nothing electronic except a few appliances and a free-standing heater that we would sit on the floor next to on cold nights. Please picture myself, my mom, and aunt, and potentially one or more other family members huddled around a heater the size of four cinder blocks stacked on top of each other–optional towel wrapped around ourselves to ensure ultimate warmth.
Not only was it the place that held meaning, it was the people. Since the resort houses multiple cabins on one stretch of land, we got the chance to interact with other vacationers every year. Whether we saw them for a week and said our goodbyes or saw them every year for ten years in a row, we had our share of lovable Canadians to tuck away in our memories. We had pen pals (gosh, dating myself a little bit with that one), Facebook friends, friends who would drive a few hours to see us when we were there, people who invited us into their homes, invited us out for dinner, took us water skiing—you name it.
Inverlochy was different. I never once felt ashamed to scream it from the rooftops that I visited Canada every summer–because that place has my heart. I remember as a little girl growing up and being so excited to spend my days in the lake, catching frogs, going fishing, hiking up the rocks, taking pictures of the pine trees and watching the sunsets from the dock. I dreamed of the day I would take my husband, my children, anyone who wanted to come to Inverlochy.
But pause. Anyone noticed I’ve been using the past tense? “Inverlochy was…” The reason we spent a lot of time reflecting on this place on our last visit to was because it was our last. About thirteen years ago, the resort changed hands. The husband and wife duo who purchased the property purchased with the intent to bulldoze all of the quaint cottages and replace them with modern condos that they would sell off—little did we know.
Five years ago, they broke the news to us—that 2012 would be be our last summer at Inverlochy. However, the couple was met with harsh disapproval from locals and the county association. They had a lot of hoops to jump through to make it all happen.
Fortunately for us, it took them five more years to get through all of those hoops. We spent every one of the last five summers up there like it was our last. And finally, this last time, it was. We left Inverlochy with a few stinging parting words from the owners, Our last day of operation will be in October and the bulldozers are coming on October 12th. Whew. What a punch to the gut.
Now no harsh feelings to the owners—they did also tell us not to be strangers and to come by whenever we pleased. We’re thinking they will remain with some property up there and partial owners in the whole operation.
I guess I just needed to vent, or better yet, give tribute to a place that helped shape me into the person I am today. I also want to encourage you to get out of your vacation comfort zone (Look at me, giving you advice to get out of your comfort zone when I’ve gone to the same place my whole life—haha). But seriously, I think Canada deserves a chance.
They have french fry trucks throughout the small cottage towns in Ontario. Everyone has dogs and they take them everywhere—no joke, it’s not uncommon to see dogs in Walmart. Contrary to popular belief, you can get a killer tan. Try spending a week in the Canadian summer sun and you won’t be disappointed. And I can’t neglect to mention that the wildlife and scenery top any description I could give. We’ve seen deer, porcupines, bears (I have a few good bear stories), turtles, fish, frogs…and two members of my family have seen moose!
My story does have a somewhat of a happy ending, too. While we said goodbye to Inverlochy this year, we will be saying hello to a new place next year. This year, we made it a point to hunt for the next resort where we would call home for our summer vacations. We are so attached to the area, nearby towns, water and fishing that we couldn’t bear to go far. About ten miles from Inverlochy sits Rockwood Resort. And we have officially booked two weeks there next summer!
Oh, Canada. You truly have my heart. I can’t thank you enough for the love, sunshine, french fries, peace & quiet, and the ability to love a vacation spot more than I ever thought humanly possible. To old memories, to new memories, and a wonderful place to be. To you, Canada!