Amy Tunstall
24
Niagara Falls, ON

My name is Amy Tunstall and I am 24 years old from Niagara Falls. I am the founder of Aim Outside; a blogging website that raises money for Mental Health through expedition. To pay the bills though I spend my summers in Northern Alberta Firefighting for the province.  In 2014, I made a big decision to change my life, which consisted of a three month cycling expedition to see my country first hand.

I had felt stuck for quite some time, falling into the grasps of routine and structure. Day-by-day I'd wake up dreaming of the world, yet at twenty I hadn't even left my own province. It was in the summer of 2014 when a friend from school came to me with an idea; to venture across our own country by bicycle. Within a week my plane ticket was purchased and the following spring we would head out west. It was an experience that would forever change my life.

Before I saw the world, I knew I had to see my own country. Never before had I seen the towering Rockies, or the Pacific Ocean for that matter. Seeing my country on two wheels allowed for endless opportunity. It gave me the option to experience the smaller towns and villages, often times bi-passed in a vehicle. From the time you leave BC, you would have experienced a number of different eco-regions including coastal, where the Cedars grow tall and the slugs are almost as big as a banana but quickly this changes. Endless mountains create weather patterns of their own, you climb a pass in lush green forest and experience desert on the other side. West Coast is our outdoor Mecca; people who enjoy that active lifestyle tend to migrate out this way.

Once you leave the Rockies, life changes. Other than the few major economic hubs such as Calgary, Regina, and Winnipeg things are few and far between, but still small towns exists throughout. The prairies may not be Canada's main draw for attraction but this region is what runs our country; where the majority of our exports and resources are farmed. People here have an incredibly strong sense of community, they look out for each other and are some of the hardest working people I've ever meet. Here in our great plains of Canada, I would find a piece of myself. Originally, my Grandpa was from Regina, Saskatchewan. Although, he lived in Ontario most of his life.  In his mid-twenties he helped build a portion of our Trans-Canada trail, and now a memorial remains in his honour, nearly 2,000 km away from where my family lived. The further east I headed, the more I learnt about myself and my roots.

Although I consider Ontario home, It wasn't where I was born. The last time I had seen Manitoba I was five years old, but still I could remember as a kid staying up late watching the Aurora Borealis dance across the sky. Nearly 5 hours from Hudson's Bay, there exists a town of nearly 40,000 people. Thompson, Manitoba is a mining community in the far North which sits close to a large nickel deposit. Ontario was our biggest province, nearly one third of the entire trip was spent riding through its enormity, we followed highway 17 until reaching the Quebec border. There was a familiarity of coming back here, it felt safe, all my family lived in this province and for a number of years I explored it as much as I could.

Canada transformed into a miniature Europe, a place where hello turned to "Bonjour". A place that took pride in its heritage and history, every house sported a Quebec flag. The food was remarkable; bakeries, espressos, fresh cheeses, and plenty of wines. The Quebecois culture was unlike anywhere else in our country. Heading into smaller towns it was apparent that English was not prominent but this gave me opportunity to practice a new language.

In three months, I had experienced Canada from west to east and everything in between. Living on the open road had given me a chance to see diversity firsthand, how it does not just vary coast to coast, diversity could be found in a 10 km radius. Truthfully, no amount of writing or photos can even being to give justice to its beauty. Canada was unique in experience and culture, never have I been so proud to call this country my own.