Driving to the airport was akin to driving to work. It was a bi-monthly routine that was met with much excitement. And, when that stopped, it did not curb the wanderlust that many travel writers exude, it simply altered.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, there is something to do and see within minutes of exiting your front door. The city is constructed in a way to accommodate ones needs to eat, play, chill and stay. And a linear public transportation system will get you there, bar any service interruptions.
With cautionary travel restrictions firmly in place, like many, I have opted to stay put until these uncertain times begin to feel, certain again. And when it felt comfortable to venture outside of our home post lockdown, the majority of Canadians donned their facemasks to rediscover their surroundings, and I was no different.
A popular and free destination that attracts thousands of people daily is the Toronto Beaches (or as the locals call it, The Beach). As one of the approximately 21,500 residents that reside in this vibrant neighbourhood, I completely understand the allure. It is why I have lived here for almost 14 years.
It offers a vast uninterrupted sandy shoreline along Lake Ontario and a beautiful treelined grassy park on the other side. In between, there is a paved bike path –which is a part of the Martin Goodman Trail – for cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers/skaters and a wooden boardwalk for pedestrians. One block north is Queen Street East and up the hill is Kingston Road Village. Both are lined with quaint shops and eateries. The homes in the area can be characterized as Victorian and Edwardian. Many still have the cottage vibe from the bygone era, whereas some have been updated to reflect modern architecture. Interestingly, no two houses look the same.
It is a charming neighbour that boasts famous residents. Some have passed on, moved away or still live here such as famed pianist Glenn Gould, award-winning director Norman Jewison and Guillermo Del Toro and actors Donald and Keifer Sutherland, John Candy and Keanu Reeves.
The Beach has all the elements of the perfect getaway. It is no wonder that people from the Greater Toronto Area have visited in droves. And, with the beautiful balmy weather that we have been blessed with, it has helped revitalize not only the area but our souls.
This year has proven to be difficult for many having to deal with health issues, job loss and loneliness. Yet, in true Canadian spirit, every day at 7:30 pm you could hear the clanging of pots and pans and anything that made noise as a beacon of hope and acknowledgement of our first responders working on the front lines.
The Beach community Facebook Page has its regular contributors sharing the beautiful sunrise and sunsets reflecting off the water and action shots of the new fox family and their little kits frolicking (it’s an animal-loving neighbourhood). The platform is also used to share uplifting stories and reminders of the local business who need our support. This sense of togetherness is a snippet of what has been happening across Canada. There is an underlying way of life that is a part of our being. It is an osmosis affect that happens to people born here and to those who make Canada their home.
All across the country, individuals and communities continue to find ways to help each other out during the pandemic. In early March, approximately 35 Facebook groups were created within a handful of days in Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax. They amassed thousands of members where people can post — #ISO meaning “I’m searching for”, #Offer where someone can offer assistance, #Discussion and #News — allow people to facilitate and give proper advice or exchange goods. The posts range from people offering to do grocery runs, providing guidance for applying for employment insurance and keeping each other updated on the latest COVID-19 news. And, across Nova Scotia, a Kitchen Party Facebook page was created to keep each other connected and entertained. I even came across a website called covidkindess.ca that was created to ‘share the acts of #covidkindess and uplifting stories from the front lines of Canadian health care.’
A common good deed was supporting our elderly demographic by grocery shopping and running various errands for them. Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart were dedicating the first hour of opening only to seniors and those who were immunocompromised to allow a safe and sanitary shopping experience. And, volunteers rallied together to pack meals for hospital workers who were not permitted to go home during the height of COVID-19.
These beautiful acts of kindness happened quickly and efficiently and continue to occur all across Canada, even during a deadly pandemic. Canadians will always find ways to make the rest of the country smile. You can’t cancel kindness in Canada. Two Canadian authors, Heather Down and Catherine Kenwell, compiled all of the wonderful acts of ‘kindness’ in a book titled “Not Cancelled: Canadian Caremongering in the Face of COVID-19.”
Caremongering. This word did not previously exist in the dictionary. According to Collins Dictionary, “caremongering: a movement encouraging acts of kindness, especially to help vulnerable people, during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Additional information was also included alongside the ‘new word suggestion.’ “Just a few days ago the word “caremongering” did not exist. Now, what started as a way to help vulnerable people in Toronto has turned into a movement spreading fast across Canada.” 
And although a big part of my life is revolved around travelling abroad to explore the world, I have truly enjoyed the last six months of rediscovering my own backyard and revelling in the joy of being Canadian.