When people plan a vacation, they dream of tropical beaches or cities teeming with history. But for Rachel Marshik, locations like Marine Drive and Moody Centre made their way onto her itinerary.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted Marshik’s yearly international travel plans. Despite border lockdowns, she continued with tradition, and staying local, by travelling as far as the SkyTrain would take her.
“It was a really nice summer thing to do within the restrictions that we had,” she says.
Marshik’s summer 2020 plans included attending a language school in Mexico. To satisfy her wanderlust, she traded in tequila for trains. Travelling to random stations intrigued her due to its spontaneity, and she ended up visiting all 53 SkyTrain stations.
“I would randomly choose the SkyTrain station of the day, and I wouldn’t really know what I was going to see in the area; it made it feel more like travelling, more like exploring, since you were sort of dropped into a new place, and then you went from there,” she says.
A high school teacher at Burnsview Secondary School in Delta, her love of travelling is a longtime love affair. Her immediate family lives in Vancouver, so travelling to visit extended family is something she grew up with.
At 19, she spent a year in Brussels and has since embarked on an exotic trip every summer. She’s travelled to Europe, the United States, China, South America, and North Africa.
“The idea of going to new places was always something that was part of my life,” she says. “I couldn’t stop travelling after that.”
Marshik loved travelling on sunny bluebird days, and one of her favourite adventures started at Holdom, where she walked through residential neighbourhoods and up hills with “really amazing views.”
“One day I walked from school to King George along the powerline trails…and there was a field with goats, and I was just like ‘Well that’s really cool!’ so I went and watched the goats for a while…I would never have found [it] if I was looking for destinations ahead of time,” she says.
Marine Drive stands out due to how “textured” the community is, says Marshik. At first glance, it appeared to be all highrise condos, but she discovered heritage buildings, huge mansions, modest residential homes, quaint cafes, and gardens. There was one light post covered with flyers which advertised free food to people struggling during the pandemic, written in five different languages.
Her trip to YVR sticks out due to its surrealism. During Marshik’s quick stopover, she noticed all the new COVID-19 signage, including symptoms and travel advisories, reflecting rapid infrastructure changes.
From Lake City Way, she walked to Burnaby Lake for the first time and was astounded by the massive lake in the middle of the city. Likewise, her walk around Inlet Centre surprised her due to its combination of heritage sites, new green space, and walking infrastructure.
“What I enjoyed most is sort of being aimless. It’s discovering things that I don’t anticipate,” says Marshik.
Once COVID-19 restrictions loosen, Marshik says people looking to explore should first discover what makes them happy. Travelling doesn’t have to look a certain way, and it depends on a person’s personality. What works for one traveller might not pique another’s interest.
“Dropping yourself off at a bus loop or SkyTrain station is a great way to start because you don’t know what you’ll find in the area, but it will bring you to an area that is new to you,” she says.
After the pandemic, Marshik hopes to travel to a sunny country to immerse herself in a new language. She says travelling is an opportunity to learn things about new cultures, the human experience, or even things about oneself.
“My sister says that, ‘above all else, the thing that makes my brain happy is learning,’ that I’m obsessed with learning anything to the point of becoming sleep-deprived,” says Marshik. “I learn so much just by observing a new place.”