Why I Sleep on the Ground

*Photo from a 3-day hike in Auyuittuq National Park, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

*Photo from a 3-day hike in Auyuittuq National Park, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

My family and I immigrated to Canada from southern China when I was 8 years old. 

My father grew up in rural Guangdong province in a poor village where he herded cows. My mother is from a mid-sized city and her family of 8 endured a lot of suffering during the Cultural Revolution. However, through hard work, sacrifice, and luck, my parents decided to leave their humble beginnings behind to seek a new life in Canada. 

So imagine their horror and dismay when I told them I wanted to go "camping": to sleep on the forest floor, eat simple meals cooked over a tiny propane stove, and to hike for days just to come back to where I started. It made no sense to them. They did not see the value in risking my life, spending my hard-earned money, investing my time and energy into an activity that reminded them of their peasant past. They say to me: "Nu-er, we don't have to sleep on the ground anymore. Do you need money to buy a new mattress?" 

I laugh and say no, I've actually been eyeing the ultra-lite sleeping pads at MEC. What they don't realize is that, for me, being able to choose to spend my leisure time outdoors is an honour and a privilege. Although we did not know the colonial history of Canada before we settled here, I have since learned about the Indigenous land that we are now "nouveau-settlers" on. So when I hike through the beaches and trails of my new home, I and mindful to respect the land of which I am a guest on. I do this by acknowledging the traditional territory and by taking the time to learn about the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities who have lived, worked, and played on these lands for millennia. 

When my parents moved us here, they wanted to give me access to opportunities, to possibilities. They may never truly understand why I choose to spend my weekends and holidays in the mountains of North Vancouver, or the coastal Gulf Islands in the Pacific Northwest, or the remote valleys of Baffin Island*. But I always think of their resilience on the hardest ascents and it motivates me to step over that last ridge to reach new heights beyond their wildest imaginations. 

Author: Sally Lin

Instagram: @sally.yue.lin