Storytelling is unique to humans. We are the only species capable of telling stories, not only about ourselves but about all the other species on Earth as well.
We’ve all grown up on stories. Some have been told over centuries and generations; others will be told for the first time today. They inform us on who we are and who we are capable of being as a people. There are “his stories” and “her stories.” There are stories of hardship, pain, resilience, accomplishment and joy. All require courage.
Stories reward us with the healing lessons of compassion and gratitude. They shape our character, our beliefs and our traditions. They link us as individuals to families, generations, communities, nations, the world—and even to planets and imaginary worlds beyond our own.
This is a land of stories created and shared by a mix of cultures, which, because of our fascinating Canadian history, few other countries have had the opportunity to experience for as long and as deeply as we have. From the Indigenous peoples’ legends and the Nordic sagas to the coureurs du bois’ word-of-mouth adventures, the explorers’ detailed records and the settlers’ and new immigrants’ tales, storytelling is a rich Canadian legacy. We’ve grown and prospered as individuals and as a nation listening to our stories—and retelling them.
HOW RURAL TOURISM BEGAN
Ontario covers a vast area, but have you really thought about how large it really is? According to Wikipedia, Ontario encompasses 1,076,000 square kilometres. That’s more than 10% of Canada’s area.
Now, imagine what that looked like before Europeans arrived—a wilderness of forests, lakes, rivers, wildlife and a number of Indigenous communities. What courage it took for the Indigenous peoples’ ancestors to voyage across the Bering Strait unto a newfound land in search of food. What vision it took for explorers to set sail for destinations unknown. First, each had to wrestle through a ladder of emotions—be it shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger or pride—before they reached the level of courage it took to pursue their dreams.
Courage. That’s the spark behind everything. It demands action. It’s the doorway to neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace and, eventually, enlightenment. At any given moment, we have it or we don’t. It takes courage to step into the unknown or to do something different, especially when every fibre in our being is blasting out signals warning us of imminent danger. Courage is where the magic and the adventure begin. Until then, we are only dreaming and wishing time away.
It took courage to look at the imposing Canadian landscape and see opportunity. Before roads, waterways and boats transported anyone who ventured into the unknown. Eventually, railways linked rural communities across this vast land. People needed a place to stay on their journeys and, as the demand for accommodation grew, interesting properties popped up in the lake country throughout Ontario, some of which still exist today. And so began rural tourism.
With the arrival of automobiles and bus transportation, Ontario’s resort country was within reach of almost everyone. Better roads were built, creating even more access—and demand. During World War II, factories and workplaces were legislated to provide everyone with two weeks’ paid vacation. Since everything was rationed and movement outside the province was virtually impossible, Ontario resorts were especially busy between June and Labour Day. Following the war, the custom continued, whereby people would plan their annual vacation in advance and make a deposit to hold their reservation. And still more resorts sprouted up throughout the province.
Today, Resorts of Ontario consists of more than 100 member properties. Each one is a shining example of how courage persevered. Some of the original properties date back more than 100 years and are still operated by the same families—families just like yours. Others have disappeared but their stories live on in the hearts and memories of the owners, staff and guests who cherished them. They are all proud of their history and the role each has played in our nation’s storytelling legacy. Through good times and bad, their purpose and goal to create lifelong memories has never faltered.
And so, let us begin…