My First Sojourn, An Insider Experience
sojourn is a “temporary stay” or “a period of time spent in a place as a traveler or guest,” according to Webster’s Dictionary.
As Guest Service Specialist at Sojourn Bicycling & Active Vacations, and a lover of travel and adventure myself, I’ve found myself thinking about the profound poetic implications of how our name, Sojourn, could be interpreted. Award winning poet, educator, and academic literary critic, Ed Hirsch, described poetry as a message in a bottle. The significance of the written message doesn’t take shape until the bottle is opened and interpreted by the reader. There is a call. There is an answer. Both the call and the answer are an expression of something within and the only way to understand that message is to open the bottle – to experience for oneself. The same could be said for time spent on a Sojourn bike tour. Recently, I returned from a Sojourn Ottawa-Montreal bicycling tour where I enjoyed many discoveries that “you only know if you go.”
Some of these discoveries are obvious to the naked eye and shared by every traveler. The breathtaking properties that house a Sojourn traveler or the picturesque landscapes on tour, for example, are impressive. Walking into the Montebello, the largest log structure in the world and host to G7 summits, is akin to walking into a large cathedral. It’s difficult to determine how to capture the structure in a photograph because the sense of interior space is overwhelmingly impressive. And then there are the unexpected and less tangible, and more personal discoveries that leave equally lasting impressions. In terms of the unexpected, Sojourn guests arrive on day-one as strangers to each other. By virtue of being on a Sojourn tour together, “strangers” quickly become friends in the shared experience.
There were many shared experiences on this Ottawa-Montreal tour but one stands out in particular. It stands out because it almost didn’t happen, and it could only have happened if we took the time, as we did, to approach our ride as a journey and not a race. Le Petite Nation Falls is a site that, during colonial times, was a thriving lumber mill powered by immense waterfalls. An impromptu town developed around these falls to support the workers, fur trappers, traders and commerce centered on the river. A couple guests joined Sojourn tour leader Leigh Mallory and I for our own impromptu gathering below the gorgeous falls. I skipped stones on the river. Leigh waded knee deep in the water to cool off and guests followed. The lines between Sojourn guests and Sojourn leaders blurred as we enjoyed friendly conversation by the riverside with sun on our backs and the soothing waterfalls rumbling away in the background.
As a Vermonter, I think specifically of my now greater appreciation for the shared cultural past between Vermont and Canada. I have Sojourn tour leader and Montreal local, Mark Weinberg, to thank for that. He was our professor on tour. There were no final exams but we enjoyed knowledgeable storytelling during meals and at key points of attraction while on tour, and most certainly in Montreal, Mark’s native city. In terms of the less tangible, I also think of the nature of relationship building and the gregarious demeanor of Sojourn tour leader, Leigh Mallory. From every guest on tour, to hotel staff, to the ferry crossing boat captains, he engaged each with sincere warmth and enthusiasm.
As a cyclist, and particularly a cyclist who occasionally tries my hand at mountain bike racing, the destination is all too often the primary directive. “Achieve the goal. Do it in good time. Do it in better time next time.” While this mindset has its place on a race course, I try to remind myself, and certainly our guests, that a Sojourn tour is an experience to be savored. Developing relationships with our tour leaders, engaging in conversations with fellow travelers, witnessing beautiful landscapes, relaxing in wonderful accommodations, and savoring the time spent on a bike all combine to create an experience that will culminate in something different but memorable for everyone. The reflective time spent on a bike in the rolling farm country between the beautiful Canadian cities of Ottawa and Montreal provided me the first-hand perspective that a Sojourn tour is indeed a journey, a sojourn, with much to discover along the way.
Daniel Langevin is the Guest Services Specialist at Sojourn. Sojourn is a boutique company offering extraordinary and unique, bicycling-based vacations in the US and Canada.