29 Years - 3 Lessons (Part 2)

Joel’s Journal - January 20, 2018 - Volume 3 - Entry #20

On the Important Things 


Family and Friends 

I remember the family of loons the clearest. I think I was in the middle of the canoe, my dad was at the back and my older brother Kyle at the front. The day was overcast, threatening rain, but warm. We were in the middle of one of Algonquin Park’s many lakes, and there was nobody else around. It was quiet. 

Then, one after the other, like gophers popping up in a game of whack-a-mole, a family of loons popped up right beside our canoe. There were a few babies, there feathers dirty brown, and not yet formed into their adult beauty. The mother though, with beads of water glistening off her black and white feathers, glanced up at us in our canoe. Her bright red eyes a pair of glistening opals, regarded us with curiosity. It’s head flicked left, then right, then back at us again. Nobody paddled, we just sat and watched. 

And just as quickly as they appeared, they drifted off and disappeared into the fog. 

Now, this memory may have altered slightly over the years, I was very young when it happened, but I do remember the loons, and I remember them being very, very close to us. I was fascinated. 

With that said, this next part I remember as clear as water. 

The overcast sky was starting to darken, and we were nowhere close to shore. I guess my dad knew the rain was close and we wouldn’t make it back to the beach in time, so he paddled us the shore of a small island, and we took cover at the edge of some rocks, beneath a large, overhanging tree that would shield out most of the water. 

I heard the rain before I saw it. Like the rushing vibration of an approaching subway, a growling purr began to fill the world, and when I turned my head to look out over the lake, a wall of rain was approaching. 

The rain licked over the treetops, seeming to curve its way around the shoreline and the wall of trees, coming right for us. 

The tree above us kept us mostly dry, but it lasted for quite some time. It was during this time that my brother and I hopped out of the canoe to explore the island a little bit. Mostly, we were intrigued by a large wooden box that sat perched in the woods. 

“It’s a treasure chest,” my dad told us. “Go see what’s in it!” he said. 

My brother and I exchanged looks of wonder, climbed over the rocks and scampered up the hill toward the box of treasure. 

Now, we were both too young, and had no idea what a privy box was, but needless to say, we were quite disappointed when we flipped open the lid, expecting a nice surprise and being greeted with a toilet seat and box full of old shit. 

My dad’s laughter echoed through the trees as we slammed the box shut and ran back to the canoe with matching looks of disgust. I’m sure we were laughing too though. 

Over my 29 years, there are a lot of good stories, and there are a lot of sad ones, funny ones, and heartwarming ones. 

However, the one thing life has taught me is that your family are the most important people in your life. I’ve also learned that your family grows and your family shrinks as the years go on, and a lot of the time those family members aren’t even blood relatives, simply friends, and regardless of the size of your family, you should love each and every one of them. 

I’ve also learned that sometimes in life, you can expect to find treasure and be greeted with shit. However, when it happens, your family will always be there to laugh it off with you and make you feel better.




The salt water lapped over our feet, washing away the sand sticking to our skin just as it flattened out our footprints behind us. The shadow of our footprints slowly fading back into smooth shoreline. The warm morning sun shined down onto the crystal blue sea. 

It was our last day in Jamaica, and we taking advantage of the last few hours. 

The chairs collected on the beach were mostly empty, many people still sleeping in the early morning hours. We round a point near the end of the beach and took a seat on the chairs closest to the water. 

I rested my hands on the chair behind me, leaned back, and listened to the sound of the sea. Each small wave caressing the sand pushing me further and further toward bliss. 

I glanced over at M as she looked out over the water. My gaze didn’t leave her face as a feeling rushed into my stomach and down through my limbs just like the warm water of the sea rubbing the shore. It was a feeling of certainty. A feeling of absolutely happiness. An unchallenged feeling. A feeling so strong it completely took over my brain and pushed all other thoughts and worries away. 

It was the certainty that there was nowhere else in the world I was supposed to be. At that moment, everything I’d been doing in my 28 years before that had led me to right here. Right here with her. 

And nothing else mattered in that moment. 

It didn’t matter that we would be leaving that lovely place in a few short hours. It didn’t matter that we were going back to reality and work and normal life. 

None of that mattered because in that moment, everything was perfect. I was completely in love. 

With that said, love can be tough. I’ve taken my fair share of bumps, just like everyone else. 

However, the thing I’ve learned in my 29 years is that, in this world today, a world that is filled with so much evil, we have to continue to believe in the power of true love, and use it to our advantage. 



Getting outside of your bubble is one of the most important, and liberating things you can do in life. 

Aside from the excitement that comes along with purchasing a plane ticket and knowing that soon you’ll be flying off to a completely different part of the world, experiencing other cultures, and other people and other lifestyles it is the best way to learn about life and about how you want to live as you grow up. 

In my 29 years on this earth, I’ve been very lucky to have had optimal opportunity both with my family, by myself and with my friends to explore some pretty amazing places. I haven’t even put a dent into the list of places that I want to see before I check out, but I’m grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve had so far. 

Even before I was able to form real memories, I was on a plane out west. Before I became a teenager, I travelled to Denmark to visit family along with my grandparents, getting to explore viking graves, Legoland and swim in the Atlantic Ocean before I could really appreciate just how lucky I was. 

In high school, I was able travel to Europe again as I took a trip to Rome and Greece, exploring the Colosseum, Roman ruins, and nearly overdosing on Gravol on an overnight ferry across the Ionian Sea. 

After university, my brother Daniel and I backpacked around Europe for two months, making a wide circuit of the continent, seeing Denmark (again), Germany, Austria, Italy, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. I’ve written a lot about this trip, and could probably fill a book with the experiences, lessons and life changing moments that happened over those two months, but for now I’ll leave that for another post. 

I’ve moved across the country, explored a lot of the eastern side of the United States, made a number of trips to Florida and visited the Caribbean on trips to Cuba and Jamaica. I’ve explored a lot of the province I call home, and made a number of trips to Quebec and Montreal to visit our french counterparts. 

Long story short, I’ve gotten around a bit, and the one thing I’ve learned is that staying in one place your entire life is a mistake. 

Get out there, see the world. It has a lot to offer you, and you to it.





In 29 years, I’ve learned that if you put your mind to something, it’s only a matter of time before you achieve it. 

Like in Grade 10, I hated math, but I knew I needed to pass in order to graduate. So, I spent hours studying and trying to wrap my head around what, to me, was a foreign language. Eventually I passed with a C (I think it was a C, maybe a C+). Anyway, I did it. 

In the same way I passed Grade 10 math, I think a lot of things in life can be achieved, with hard work and determination. 

However, if hard work is the fire wood, and determination is the match, passion is the gasoline that is poured on top of the whole mess and REALLY gets things roaring. 

I truly believe that finding that thing you’re passionate about and working as hard as you can on it, is a big part of life, and it’s how truly special things are created. 

I’ve always wanted to see one of my novels on the shelf at Chapters, and I’m working to achieve that. However, it’s not the thought of my hard work and determination that get me out of bed in the morning to sit down at the computer when I would be more than happy to close my eyes and snooze for another hour. 

It’s something else that pushes those sheets aside and gets my feet moving to go turn the coffee pot on. 

It’s something else that opens my laptop and starts writing fiction before the clock strikes 6 a.m. 

And I think that something is called passion. 


Thanks for reading everyone!


Joel Wittnebel