“How’d you get here? Why’d you stay?”
Ubiquitous phrases heard in the Yukon indeed. With the sheer number of transients coming through the territory, it’s a natural inclination to pose these questions to the ever-increasing population of the North.
The getting there. Some people have long stories, grand tales of wanderlust adventuring, where they suddenly, almost serendipitously, found themselves in the Yukon. Others have simpler tales, whether looking for work or just something different.
I was in my early 20s, living in Ottawa, and I got dumped. Feeling sorry for myself, I just wanted to run away somewhere. The opposite end of the country sounded like a good idea for my whiny, angsty self.
The main reason for pondering origins in the North? A bartender named Roy.
Foregoing the usual Floridian excursion to the money-swallowing Disney emporium, we decided to take a wee cruise through the Caribbean.
Our first task, as most people’s should be, was to find the person behind one of the numerous bars on the ship who had masterful mojito crafting skills.
That person was Roy.
Hailing from Costa Rica, Roy had been working for the cruise lines for over 7 years. He’s travelled the length and breadth of the Caribbean Isles, through the Panama Canal and even a four-week journey across the Atlantic.
As we sipped our sweet minty elixirs, we asked this well-travelled barkeep what places he enjoyed the most and where he might hang his hat once he grew tired of slinging hooch for overly bronzed septuagenarians.
“Alaska – I like it there.”
Roy had previously worked for one of the many cruise lines that chugged up the Alaska Panhandle to make final port in Skagway.
We were slightly shocked and a little excited to suddenly, a few thousand miles from the North, have some common ground with our new Costa Rican pal.
After explaining our life in Whitehorse, the proximity of Skagway and other Northern tales, I grabbed a rum-infused cocktail napkin and started to take notes.
I was enthralled. This soft-spoken man — having spent almost all of his life in some of the most beautiful island countries in the world, filled with soft, white sand beaches and azure waters – wants to claim his final stake in the North.
“I like the pace of life there, slow, it was nice.”
Asking Roy if he could elaborate, he said:
“I bought this nice leather jacket in Juneau, I can’t wear it where I live now. Too hot. But it’s a really nice jacket.”
I guess I didn’t need another napkin. Roy didn’t say much else after that, perhaps from us keeping him busy muddling our mint and sugar.
He didn’t need to say much else on the subject. Roy’s easy-going, soft-spoken and affable manner was so immediately familiar to me. He didn’t really have a particularly interesting story of why he wanted to get to the North and his eventual travel there won’t be much of an adventure. But it seems inevitable.
Here, on the wobbly seas, in the most unlikely place, I found another “lost” Northerner.
The questions of “How you got here?” and “Why did you stay?” now seem more profound to me these days while I regularly meet people who would fit so perfectly in the North.
There’s a calling out there … and lots of people are listening.
Maybe Bobby Service had it right after all.
After helping build a thriving comedy circuit for the Yukon, Anthony Trombetta is now on the road looking for a bigger stage. You can contact him at email@example.com.