Welcome to Canada - the frozen, frigid land without any good beaches
Here I was, about to go on a big rant against American travel folks ignoring Canada. And then I found out that, just like Jimmy Buffett in Margaritaville, it's our damn fault.
I was checking out TripAdvisor's list of the top beach destinations of the world this morning when I noticed (you can't slip these things past me) that there was no mention of Canada. There was mention of 21 destinations around the world - Spain, the U.S., Australia, Brazil, The Caribbean, The Middle East, Africa, Turkey, The UK, etc... - but not a word about Canada.
I was thinking it was yet another instance of American-based companies forgetting about that loyal friend they occasionally look up and notice. But apparently we're the ones to blame for the slight, if you want to call it that.
A TripAdvisor official explained in an email to me today that the ratings are based on what people around the world say about different destations. Only the top-rated beach destinations made the list of 21. Which means that, at best, we're the 22nd beach destination in the world.
I can kinda see the point. The ratings are based on quality of the beaches (which we have in spades, if you'll pardon the pun) and on sun. Well, there goes Tofino I guess. And beaches in Nova Scotia might be sunny in winter but hardly the stuff of tourism campaigns with fit, tanned men in white pants rolled up just so strolling the beach with their perfect wife and perfect children, all of them also dressed head-to-toe in white (and what parent on a holiday would let their kids wear all-white clothes and then gussy up their burger and fries with ketchup I don't know).
I suppose really should be pushing our own cause a little more. But it's a shame to not be able to look down the beaches list and see where folks rank Tofino versus, say, Goderich or Sand Banks in Ontario (see photo) or Lake Winnipeg or Summerside, PEI...We've got some great ones, even if they are a tad cool to the touch from November to March most years....
Maybe it isn't fair to mention this here, but I still get far too many press releases from American travel companies that ignore Canada. The TripAdvisor bit on Canadian beaches isn't their fault, but that doesn't change the fact that I get dozens of emails a month that talk about this or that list of the best airlines or hotels or spas or whatnot but only mention the U.S.
I get that we're not France or China or Brazil. We're not all that interesting or different up here. But we are the closest friends the U.S. ever had, and it would be nice to get a little more acknowledgement every now and then.
I was talking about this issue a few minutes ago with a friend, who told me he spends a lot of time in upstate New York.
"A friend of mine has a daughter at one of the top universities in the U.S. and she's absolutely brilliant," he told me. "She knows history, philosophy, science, you name it. Incredibly smart. But we were at a cottage on Lake Ontario in New York state once and she said to me, 'Where do you live, again?' I told her I live in Toronto and she said, 'I've heard of it. Where is that?' I pointed across the lake and said to her that it's right over there.
"She asked me if it was cold in Toronto. I said, 'it's 25 miles away. Does it get cold here? Yes. And it gets cold in Toronto. It gets warm here. It gets warm in Toronto."
My buddy said the young American had heard of Vancouver, Washington but she didn't know anything about Vancouver, British Columbia.
Owing to the fact I grew up in the U.S., I'm fairly sensitive about American ignorance of our fair country. It pisses me off when we get those stupid comments about igloos and harsh winters and all that, when we have the same weather as Chicago (just a day later) and nobody thinks they dress for blizzards in July.
I understand the U.S. is a giant, self-sufficient (except for oil) country that doesn't need to know as much about the rest of the world as perhaps Canadians do. I kind of even understand the fact that so many Americans don't have passports. I mean, think about it. If you live in the U.S. you can go to some of the greatest cities in the world without anything more than a driver's license. You can visit New York and see shows and Central Park and eat at fine restaurants. You can go to Hollywood and see the stars or enjoy tropical rain forests and incredible, sun-splashed beaches in Hawaii. You can sip coffee in Seattle or raft through the Grand Canyon or hike through deserts or ski down some of the most gorgeous, snow-covered mountains on the planet, not to mention chowing down on cajun cuisine in New Orleans or enjoying a round of golf on the magnificent Monterey Peninsula in California or checking out the inland passage of Alaska on a cruise ship. There's just about every type of geography you can imagine in the U.S.
But it's still the U.S. when you get right down to it. The language is the same. The food is pretty much the same, with some variations.
You can't really taste what it's like to travel if you're an American and don't get out of the U.S.A., folks. And we Canadians, to be fair, can't get a taste for travel if our big trips are mostly to Florida or even the Dominican for March break.