Serendipity, n. [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee]: an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
Since Sarah dropped out of the Grand Canadian Hitchhike three weeks before my departure from London, I had pretty much come to terms that I’d be hitchhiking across Canada entirely by myself. The sheer thought of the distance between Vancouver and Halifax was sufficient to unnerve me – yet fathoming the lonely conquest rendered me petrified even a month before the journey was due to begin.
Then, the destiny of the Grand Canadian Hitchhike was altered on that one fateful evening, and the subsequent morning when serendipity submitted its greatest surprise to date.
Two or three o’clock in the morning – regardless of the hour, it was the early mornings when I staggered into the hostel, utterly exhausted, and deemed myself in no physical shape to hitchhike the following day.
A faux-humorous comment on Wednesday night sparked my string of misfortune within a tragedy already set in motion.
“Look at that car over there,” I proclaimed.
“What car?” Jeannie, Lorna and Mark replied.
“You know, the only one that’s sitting in the middle of the street, overturned and about to burst into flames?”
Evidence of the now-infamous Vancouver Riot, ignited by the Vancouver Canucks’ loss in the final Stanley Cup game, further scorched our eyes as wafts of tear gas swelled and drifted; Granville Street – where our hostel was located – was under a stern lockdown; crowds of which we were in the amidst dispersed and scrambled for cover as straying plastic bullets were launched from police gun barrels.
We sought sanctuary in a Tim Horton’s two blocks away – until the meandering tear gas entered the Canadian chain cafe and we fled the site of suffocation.
At some stage I was separated from the group. Alone, aimless and holding a hockey stick doubling as trouble-magnet, I scurried into the Best Western on Drake Street where I was granted permission to linger until Granville reopened, reclining on the couch and watching my vision blur.
Hours later, I awoke from a fleeting slumber and staggered back to the hostel, physically and mentally drained.
Coffee and companionship – those were the cravings as I regained consciousness.
And please, no hitchhiking today.
Wandering downstairs I convinced a group of people whom I’ve hung out with at the hostel to go caffeinate in a nearby coffee shop.
Among them was an Australian whom I’d briefly met – his name is Michael Schroeder.
As we got chatting he explained his intention of renting a car and travelling around British Columbia before returning to Vancouver, crossing the strait to Vancouver Island and potentially heading up to Yukon. I in turn uttered my scheme of hitchhiking across Canada. Turns out Michael has done some hitchhiking before and expressed his wish to thumb around Canada.
The opportune moment.
“Would you like to hitchhike together? At least from here to Banff?”
He accepted my offer.
Together, Michael and I shared nine rides and covered 972km during our stint of hitchhiking. Five days prior to our eventual parting of ways in Calgary, we were complete strangers to each other.
In the Chinese language’s equivalent, the concept of serendipity is that of an accidental event of exceptional luck preceded by foul streaks of misfortune. My encounter with Michael certainly followed that pattern – and surely, if I hadn’t been stranded in the Vancouver Riot and had to delay my departure date as a result, I wouldn’t have recruited Michael as a fellow Grand Canadian Hitchhiker. The journey between Vancouver and Calgary, the companionship, the hilarity and sentiments that ensued: I wouldn’t have enjoyed such should the miseries of Wednesday night had never taken place.
Here is my ode of praise to serendipity, from your faithful disciple. And also to Michael, my serendipitous partner-in-crime and friend who equipped me with the confidence upon which I’d relied on for the trials that were yet to come.
Next: Dressing The Hitchhiker