Where the Grass is Greener

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

As someone who grew up where winter often stretched over 8 months, with big banks of dirty snow lining the roads until May, you might be able to guess where I dreamed of living.

Anywhere with palm trees. White sand, flip flops year-round. Somewhere in which the temperature never dips below 20 C, somewhere in which the family rule ‘you-don’t-have-to-go-to-school-if-it’s-minus-35 would never, ever apply. (Yeah, that happened. Often.)

And I definitely was not alone in that dream. Every year, thousands upon thousands of Canadians pack their bags for a quick one or two week burst of sunshine mid-winter. They flock to Mexico, Cuba, basically anywhere that snow doesn’t exist. They will then spend their time deepening the brown of their skin, strolling on beaches at sunset, and vowing to come back sooner and stay longer.

Roatan-Honduras-Sunset

I did that too; I made those same vows. And, lo and behold, I actually made the “stay longer” part happen. Six months on a tropical island taught me one very important lesson: I didn’t like it.

I’m not built for it. Sometimes, I was downright miserable.

I couldn’t handle that I would sweat just brushing my teeth. That my hair was a perpetually tangled mess in the humidity. That there were many terrifying bugs at my doorstep, surely just biding their time before coming in to kill me.

After years of dreaming, plotting, and scheming – my dream of living in a tropical location died on a sandy beach in Honduras.

And that will explain why, after three weeks in beautiful Malta, I was ready to leave. Paradise it is, for some. But not for me.

I contemplated all of this while racing through Slovenia towards its capital city, Ljbuljana, after our flight from Malta to Venice. Mountains rose high on either side, their jagged edges cutting through low clouds, offering as welcoming a sight as any I’ve ever seen. Green leafy goodness stretched out endlessly on our eastward trek. A brisk breeze poured through the open window.

Six months on a tropical island taught me one very important lesson: I didn’t like it.

Slovenian-Countryside

I smiled and felt comforted. This is it. This is where I am supposed to be.

I longed to be outside the confines of our transportation, to gulp in the fresh alpine fragrance. I looked over at Pete and saw him gazing out the window with a giant grin on his face. He leaned over and commented that the reason he loves the mountains so much is that he always wonders what is on the other side, he is drawn to their mystery. I never thought of it that way before, but now I will.

Mountain-Peaks-Slovenia

For most of our adult lives we lived in the shadow of the majestic Rocky Mountains, and now we’ve found that, after three years of traveling, we are drawn most to places that are like home. Of course we love to explore new terrain, and indulge in all the fresh experiences it brings, but the mountains are our comfort food. Tramping on natural paths around them and gazing up in their wonder is what nourishes our soul.

Funny how it took us this long to figure that out – that we first needed to test ourselves in all other environments to see what we liked best. And timely too, as we now approach Slovenia in consideration of making it our home. To feel it out, to imagine ourselves in the routine of living in one place, this place.

To see if crazy dreams can come true.

48 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own

  • August 1 2012

    After visiting Slovenia and falling so desperately in love with it – I can completely understand wanting to make it your home!! That little country has everything you could want and that perfect scenery tops the list!
    Chrystal McKay recently posted..Reading List: July 2012

    • August 2 2012

      There may be a really great opportunity for us to stay in Slovenia, but there are still a lot of factors at play! We shall see…

  • August 1 2012

    But that is the nice thing about travelling – it gives us a chance to experience things so we are never wondering about what it would be like on the other side. We pack our bags and go there, experience it and then make a decision based on experience. It’s a wonderful experience. :-)
    Colleen Setchell recently posted..Chicago Food Planet Food Tour – Perfect to experience the city

    • August 2 2012

      That is the truth Colleen, and we feel very fortunate to be able to travel this way, and really have the time to get to know a place. Two week vacations are just that, and hard to make decisions off of. :)

  • August 1 2012

    I feel the same way. I also grew up in the Rocky Mountains and now live near another mountain range, and wherever I go, I’m always drawn to a mountain landscape, want to get out hiking, etc. Nothing wrong with the beach, of course, but after a few days of sweat, sand, and usually a sunburn, I’m ready to head for the hills. These photos are beautiful. I’m trying to figure out how to turn my computer into a transportation portal, so I can start hiking.
    Margaret recently posted..Hiking haiku: Angel’s Rest, Oregon

    • August 2 2012

      It kind of baffles me that it took us three years to fully figure that out. I’m happy to leave the beaches for “vacation time”, but if I’m choosing where to live (someday!), then it must be with mountains! :)

  • August 1 2012

    That’s a great way to think about things–what’s on the other side. Glad you enjoyed Malta, but even more glad that you fell in love with Slovenia.

    • August 2 2012

      Malta was a good place to be – but three weeks was definitely plenty. There is lots to love in Slovenia for us, and the mountains are such a big part of that!

  • August 1 2012

    Funny that you are writing about the places you’re drawn to the most are like home. More recently for me, I am finding that I also am enjoying the places we visit that are remote or in the countryside.

    I come from rural Pennsylvania and I couldn’t wait to move to a city. I did just that when I turned 18 and went off to college in Las Vegas.

    But now that I am older, I see the appeal of these more rural spots.
    Jennifer recently posted..Slovenian Canyoning Adventure

    • August 2 2012

      TOTALLY agree with that. I was the same way – grew up in the sticks, and couldn’t WAIT to get to the city. Now, it is rare for me to really like a city…I am so drawn to rural spots.

  • August 1 2012

    I with you on everything in this post! While I like beaches well enough, I’m not sure I could ever live in a tropical destination for very long. I don’t like sweating every single day and always having to worry about re-applying sunscreen. Mountains and greenery are much more up my alley!

    Slovenia is definitely a place I think I could love living, too. If the whole New Zealand thing doesn’t work out…
    Amanda recently posted..Traveling in Romania (and Why You Should Go Right Now)

    • August 2 2012

      NZ will work out for you…one way or another! :)

  • Yup, thats where I feel most comfortable too! I have never been to Slovenia but from the pictures I’ve seen, I know I’d be right at home.

    • August 2 2012

      You should really get there Debbie – if you love mountains and green rivers and beautiful canyons, then Slovenia is right up your alley!

  • jan
    August 1 2012

    How exciting, I did not know you were considering Slovenia as a new home base. I have been to Canada and the Rockies. So beautiful, I actually cried when we drove our R.V. back down from Jasper having explored the whole region, and I was so mad with my husband for refusing to turn around and drive back up again! We live in tropical North Queensland and although I love the mountains so much, I love being warm. There is a freedom and relaxation inherent in warmth that I feel comfortable with. I find cold weather exciting, stimulating and fun, but it is probably not for me full time. I look forward to hearing about Slovenia.

    • August 2 2012

      Lots of factors at play yet with regards to whether or not we will live in Slovenia – we shall see! I suppose the world needs all kinds, right? You take the warm tropics, and I’ll gladly bundle up and enjoy the cold! Then we can enjoy each other’s homes as an “escape”!

  • Ter
    August 1 2012

    “the mountains are our comfort food.” I love this phrase.

    I am discovering in this oddly humid summer for Lethbridge that I’m not cut out for humidity either. I sweat like a pig now, too! Yay sisters! :)

    • August 2 2012

      The correct phrase should really be: “The mountains (and macaroni with cheese) are our comfort food.” That’s for another post, I guess. :)

      xo

  • August 2 2012

    Always cursing the heat and humidity of Mumbai, I remember shivering and having cold burns all over my face when we visited the Himalayas… So yes, our bodies are tuned to the weather of the place where we have spent all our lives.
    Have a wonderful week ahead :)
    Arti recently posted..Happy Raksha Bandhan

    • August 2 2012

      One point I’ll make is that you can usually make yourself warmer (more clothes! A fire!) but it’s hard to make yourself cooler once you’ve stripped down to nothing! Thus, I’d rather face the cold! :)

  • August 2 2012

    Slovenia looks beautiful, I still haven’t been. I’m also drawn to places that remind me of home. I think that’s why I love Munich so much – about the same size as Calgary, close to the mountains, same seasons, but without the extreme temperatures and with more culture. I felt right at home here immediately, something I didn’t feel in Stuttgart, even though it’s just 250km away.

    • August 2 2012

      Ooh – getting so excited to visit Munich, just to see if I feel the same way you do!

  • August 2 2012

    I tend to agree with you. Im more attracted to summery beach destinations that remind me of home too. same same, but different.
    Ian [EagerExistence] recently posted..Bucket-List: Interview with Lauren from “The Mad To Live” blog

    • August 4 2012

      At least we all have our own “comfort” spots, otherwise every population would congregate in one place. :)

  • I discovered very much the same thing on our travels — while I thought I’d love tropical climates, I actually can’t handle them for more than a week or two. I hate muggy weather! So now we’re in Seattle, a city I NEVER thought we’d live in because of the rain, but it’s actually quite mild and lovely. :)
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..B&B Review: Butler Court in Kilkenny

    • August 4 2012

      Ah, we love Seattle. At least it’s not killer hot like the tropics (often, anyways). I could handle that. :)

  • August 2 2012

    I am one of those freakish people who likes warm weather well enough, but living somewhere with perpetual sunshine all year round and scorching hot temperatures is not my ideal. Having now spent 7 years living in Nashville, I admit that I no longer like how intense Canadian winters can get, but I was never able to adjust to the freakishly hot summers in Tennessee. It’s still really important to me to have seasons, I just like less extreme versions of them!

    (Also, I keep hearing wonderful things about Slovenia… guess we need to add that to our Eastern European itinerary!)

    • August 4 2012

      Yes, I’m not sure if I would be so thrilled with an intense Canadian winter either, but if I had to choose between that and extreme heat, I’ll sit by a fireplace all bundled in blankets with a warm cup of cocoa anytime. It’s easier to keep warm than get cool!

      Slovenia is easily one of our favorite countries in all of Europe! Hope you make it there!

  • August 2 2012

    Haha, I wonder if this means that I will be at home in Bombay! The weather in Toronto this summer is about the same — extremely hot and humid :)

    It’s so interesting what we learn while we travel. I sometimes think it’s really all about learning more about ourselves — as well as our place in the world.
    Mariellen Ward recently posted..Is tiger tourism helping or hindering?

    • August 4 2012

      You are absolutely right – I’d say as much as we love to learn about other places and cultures while we travel, we’ve uncovered more things about ourselves in the process then we ever imagined.

  • August 2 2012

    Mountains are very important to me. But I didn’t grow up with mountains–rather in middle America. Now that I’m in Arizona, mountains mean to me reaching- striving- greater possibilities.
    Vera Marie Badertscher recently posted..Thriller’s Hero Wants Peaceful Life in Barcelona

    • August 4 2012

      Love that they have such a deep meaning for you. :)

  • August 3 2012

    I grew up in a desertic area (Texas) but I’ve lived near the Rockies(Denver) for the last 7 years and there’s something about the mountains that just makes you love being here. Probably because there’s so much to do all year around.

    Those pictures above are almost surreal, great landscapes!

    • August 4 2012

      Thanks Joe! That is what we most love about the mountains – there is SO much to do, always.

  • Ali
    August 3 2012

    I keep hearing such great things about Slovenia and it looks gorgeous! Hopefully it’s slightly less cold in the winter though? Maybe 5 months instead of 8? If/when you get semi-settled there, I’m sure I’ll start scheming to come visit :-)
    Ali recently posted..What Kind of Traveler Are You?

  • August 4 2012

    This search for comfort is pretty universal. I don’t think we all search for places like our home, but I do think we search for places that typify the parts of home that we enjoyed.

    I gravitate to university towns in the mountains. The thing is that is my college time, not entirely my growing up home (I still haven’t really grown up.) My childhood home is hot and sweaty and I didn’t like it, although it too is a university town.

    My new home is in the mountains and a university town and yet not so hot in the summer and close to cool stuff in Europe.
    Andrew recently posted..Little India, Singapore

    • August 4 2012

      That’s a good clarification Andy – I’m pretty sure we’ll never live in the same city that we left, but there are parts about it that we are drawn to. It just took us awhile to figure it out. :) Sounds like you guys have found your perfect situation!

  • August 4 2012

    My parents have spent a lot of time in Slovenia and loved it. When I’ve got my van converted, it’s definetly on my to-do list, possibly for a road trip in Spring next year :)

    And heat – yeah, I hear you. I’m half Seychellois, so could live out in the tropics if I wanted. But that never ending heat, whilst nice for a while, does become oddly monotonous after a while. I love it, but I love seasons too :D
    Laurence recently posted..The terrible importance of Finding Your Voice

    • August 5 2012

      We were surprised throughout our month in Slovenia that there are no tourists there. It was surprisingly tame for July, and all that much more awesome. Get there before it changes!

      I wish I had a little more tolerance for heat. Just not built that way.

  • August 5 2012

    I am all for making crazy dreams happen! Crazy dreams are often the best ones. Do it – make Slovenia your new home.
    So glad to hear how much you guys love it – I’m planning a trip there next year and those mountains look gorgeous. Looking forward to seeing more pics from your visit there.
    Cherina recently posted..Travel and Adventure: How to be a More Adventurous Traveller

    • August 6 2012

      Hmmm…perhaps we will have a spare bed for you by then! :)

  • August 8 2012

    I am the reverse! I grew up in Florida and tried so hard to learn to love the winters of NYC, where the bulk of magazine publishing is. After five years, I left practically overnight one December first, because I just couldn’t face winter again. Beautiful writing. :)

    • August 8 2012

      Thank goodness we are all different, or else the entire population would either run to the mountains or to Florida. This way we can balance each other out! Thanks Abby! :)

  • December 6 2014

    I just opened this link, expecting to read something about exotic locations I could only dream to live in and what I find … Its trully emotional for me when somebody says such great things about my home, somebody who traveled all the world only to find this little country ‘his dream place’. Thank you for sharing the word! Urška
    Urska recently posted..The mini-travel guide to Dublin

    • snegi
      December 7 2014

      I was also expecting something else. Than I saw picture and was like oh wait I know that place. Usually poeple don’t appreciate what they have. But we do live on amazing piece of planet

  • December 7 2014

    Love this!! And I had a feeling Roatan would be in this post :) I struggle to convey to people that living here is so, so different from enjoying a glorious monkey lala-filled vacation here for a week or two. I know it’s definitely not my ‘end-space’… I think that will be somewhere still by the ocean, but at least 20 degrees cooler haha!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..An Ode to Rainy Season

  • I loved Slovenia and Canada for the same reasons, because they remind me of home (New Zealand). I want to live in Vancouver because there are mountains and beaches :)
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..My 2015 travel plans REVEALED

  • December 8 2014

    As a fellow Albertan, I completely agree. The mountains are invigorating, majestic and just… home. Here I am in sunny, humid Thailand wishing my hair weren’t a rat’s nest and that I wouldn’t sweat through every piece of clothing I own in ten minutes. But the mountains, even the mountains of Sapa, reminded me of home. Great post.
    Victoria recently posted..30 Before 30 – The List

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