VANCOUVER – A travel fund of only $150 may not sound like enough to spend much more than a day out of town, but two students from the University of British Columbia managed to cross the country for a total of $9.99 thanks to the generosity of strangers.
Philippe Roberge, 22, and Ori Nevares, 23, hitchhiked from Whitehorse to St. John’s over the summer in an effort to see the country and mark Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Roberge said they initially wanted to go to every national park in Canada but the gas cost alone would have been about $3,000.
Instead, keeping with the theme of the sesquicentennial, Roberge said they set a budget of $150 each for their 42 days on the road this summer. They spent the $9.99 for groceries in Yukon near the start of their trip.
The coast-to-coast journey exposed them to grizzlies, moose, bison and the diversity of Canada’s landscape while meeting plenty of Canadians in the 58 rides they were given.
“Some of the major things we learned is how nice Canadians were and how generous they were. We never felt unsafe. We were always welcomed into people’s cars and homes and fed, which was really amazing to see,” Nevares said.
Roberge, who was born in Montreal, said with the exception of a handful of trips in Canada, he had seen very little of the country while Nevares, who was born in Vancouver, said he had previously only gone as far east as Saskatchewan.
“We really didn’t know very much about our country and we haven’t experienced a lot of it so we wanted to actually learn and educate ourselves about Canada,” Nevares said.
The trip not only exposed them to the changing landscape through each province but also the diverse cultures and cuisine.
They ate fresh sheep meat from a farm in Alberta, ribs in Manitoba, homemade poutine in Montreal, lobster in Maritimes and cod tongue in St. John’s.
Although the trip wasn’t without a few bumps.
The hitchhikers said they began questioning their decisions after narrowly missing a tornado in Saskatechwan and finding themselves back under the same storm system in Manitoba.
“There was crazy lightning, multiple strikes every second. I’d never seen lightning like that before. And then according to the weather (reports), there was ping-pong sized hail supposed to come in and also another tornado warning,” Nevares said.
A driver in a passing car took them to a Tim Horton’s where, once the storm had passed in the middle of the night, they pitched their tents in the parking lot. The next day, they made their way to Winnipeg.
They said they learned many lessons along the way and asked all their hosts and drivers for parting advice.
Roberge said a man from Moncton told them, “You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Often times the thing is waiting right there for you but you’re just too scared to ask so you never get it.”
They’ve set up a Facebook page and website photos, video and a blog of their experiences from the road and they said they plan to put together a documentary with their footage as well as a coffee-table book.
—With files from Gemma Karstens-Smith.