How travelling on the road taught me the lost art of making friends
Before the pandemic, I’d say I was moderately well travelled. I’ve been to Europe a few times and am no stranger to sporadic jaunts across Turtle Island. That’s North America to y’all who aren’t Indigenous—or don’t know of this name. My favourite aspect when it comes to flying is turbulence, a real-life roller coaster. I love the swooping rush of takeoff and the airy drop I feel in my stomach as the plane begins to land. But my favourite way to travel has always been the ever-time-consuming road trip.
Road trips possess an element of spontaneity that you just cannot get in an overpriced airport café, so when I was asked to work merch for Deadwolff’s first leg of their North American tour I was too ecstatic. You’ll love Deadwolff if you’re into ‘80s heavy rock and roll, Canadian tuxedos, and domestic beer. The lead singer/bassist is also super hot (we’re engaged, I’m biased) with one of the best mullets you’ve ever seen. The tour took us across 25 cities, four provinces and eight U.S. states in 34 days. My debut novel, In the Hands of Men—a tender tale of feminine rage and desire—came out recently meaning I could add a touch of vigilante feminism to the heavy rock and roll tour. To my pleasant surprise, a lot of people at rock shows love gritty dystopian novels even more than band tees. Who woulda thunk?
There’s a wholesomeness of driving through tiny towns where donkeys roam free, stepping out of the truck to stretch your legs and looking up at snow-capped mountains while being warmed by hot summer sun
As a writer and General Hermit, there were many aspects of lockdown that I loved. I identify as a Passion Flakie—opinionated, intense and dare I say melodramatic, yet also flaky as hell. Not having to come up with excuses for why I “couldn’t go to that thing” or “meet up for drinks” for… years? Bliss. This is in no way to undermine the atrocities of Covid or to say that it’s something we shouldn’t still be cautious of. With discussion of the pandemic, I also know I’m not alone when I say that the ability to travel was the thing I missed the most. I love nothing more than the time-freezing sense of new experiences. The full-body joy of “I’ve never been here before!”
On the road, there’s a constant awe when watching landscapes change from cactus-dabbled deserts to rich green forests within the span of a few hours. There’s a wholesomeness of driving through tiny towns where donkeys roam free, stepping out of the truck to stretch your legs and looking up at snow-capped mountains while being warmed by hot summer sun, the childlike dreaminess of having absolutely no clue where you are when you wake up from a nap. I filled my phone with scenic pictures and videos ( I’m in desperate need to free up storage). Not a single one captures even 5% of the beauty I experienced in person.
There’s a sense of hope on road trips, seeing rolling hills and green grass and flowing rivers and feeling as if the world is not as doomed as we know it is. As a Haudenosaunee woman, there’s an appreciation I have for the ancestral lands that I’m travelling through as well as a gut-wrenching realization that looms in the back of my mind: “If this is so beautiful now, imagine what it once was.”
I knew I would love the long drives spent gazing out the window or immersed in a book. I was supposed to “pack light” and instead snuck in five novels: When We Lost Our Heads by Heather O’Neill, The Candy House by Jennifer Egan, The Story of Us by Catherine Hernandez, Making Love With The Land and Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead. What I didn’t expect was how much meeting new people night after night would rejuvenate me.
At home, I need three days of isolation to recover from one day of socializing. No joke. The knowledge that I’d be in close quarters with three other people for five weeks straight—and surrounded by strangers in bars for 25 of those nights—was daunting, to say the least. I didn’t know if life on the road would be for me. I didn’t know if the introvert traveller in me would desperately want to retreat into my shell and I’d be left battling exhaustion, irritability, and over-stimulation.
Being on the road taught me the lost art of making friends. The beauty of true blue instant connection that is at the core of all of our humanity.
But to my surprise, that didn’t happen at all. Instead, each night, a newly-made connection seemed to set my soul on fire. I began to look at each day as A New Opportunity To Make A Friend until I no longer recognized myself. At a hole-in-the-wall pizza and wine bar in Reno, the bartender put on Canadian icon Shania Twain’s Man! I Feel Like A Woman after asking where I was from. I sat there eating a slice and talked about Indigenous issues and pent-up anger. In Winnipeg, when talking to a man about missing and murdered Indigenous girls, women, and two-spirit peoples, we hugged after he shared that his mother had been murdered by Robert Pickton. In Austin, I met a person who not only shared my same name, Gin, but who was also a writer and a bisexual water sign who introduced themself the same way I do: “It’s Gin, like the drink”. In Edmonton, I made a new best friend and we’re currently listening to a shared sad boy mix on Spotify. I also gave him one of my two snake rings so we could match forever. In Thunder Bay, I developed such a crush on a woman that I mailed her a copy of my novel hoping that she'd love the themes of bi longing.
In the age of screens, likes, and live-shared stories, we can pretend that we’re connected to others more than ever. But in reality, we aren’t. And as adults, sometimes it’s tough to make new friends if we’re out of school, in a relationship, and at the same job. Even meeting new prospective romantic partners happens via apps. Being on the road taught me the lost art of making friends. The beauty of true blue instant connection that is at the core of all of our humanity. The second leg of the Heavy Rock n’ Roll Tour begins on September 6th where we’ll head east instead of west, travelling to 28 cities, throughout five provinces, and 17 U.S. states in 37 days. I can’t wait to make more pals and explore all that Turtle Island has to offer.
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Highlights from the West Coast:
TACO TRUCKS. Authentic, cheap, delicious. My personal favourite was Chiquis in L.A. I believe condiments are the spice of life and this truck had huge vats of self-serve condiments. 20/10.
WILDLIFE. I saw no less than FIVE moose while driving through Thunder Bay. I have never seen a moose in my life and I saw FIVE in the span of THREE HOURS. One of them was a baby!!! I also saw a badger!
TEGAN AND SARA. I was guest-listed for the hometown signing of their newly released graphic novel, Junior High. They have been my favourite artists since I was 10 years old.
GAS STATION SNACKS. Hands down Van Holten’s pickle-in-a-pouch, specifically hot mama or garlic joe flavours. I got one every single time I saw them. The bag is filled with pickle juice which I would drain in gas station parking lots as if I was one of the boys. “One sec, just gotta drain my pickle.” I searched and searched for them once we got back into Canada and couldn’t find them anywhere but once I got home, I realized they have them at one of the gas stations on the Rez here in Tyendinaga. I HAPPY DANCED.