It’s a rainy Saturday at home in Ottawa, Canada. I grabbed a circumpolar map and some stickers and have been reflecting on my journey around the pole, which began with a trip to Northern Quebec when I was 16 years old.
It was a summer road trip with my mum and her friends, and I had no idea that those first experiences would be so formative. I remember visiting the Hydro Quebec dams that flooded vast areas and changed rivers, wildlife and communities forever. I remember entering a teepee to peel potatoes and eat goose roasted over the open fire. In the communities we visited, some people welcomed us, and others chose to keep their distance.
I have continued on a path around the north, always as a visitor and always conscious of my role as an outsider. It’s a role I believe is important for reconciliation – to cultivate a curiousity about culture, while dismantling the desire to change it. Seeing new things and then wanting to “make them better” is one of colonialism’s dead giveaways.
People sometimes ask me how my visits benefit the communities I travel to. They don’t, really. Benefits flow the other way. I’m the one who is changed.
My theory of change? Be changed.