A Chilean woman travelling in Australia falls in love with the sport of hockey, which redirects her life to Canada. She moves to the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Canmore, Alberta, to study English but with plans to pursue university elsewhere. A twist of fate keeps her in Canmore, and she sheds her identity as a city lawyer for a more rugged and meaningful life in the mountains. Her hiking boots were key to this transition.
I dedicate this story to my family and friends of the Bow Valley.
Have you ever received a gift that at first you didn’t like, but over time it becomes a necessary part of who you are? Ten years ago, I was a lawyer in Santiago de Chile. I wore high heels that were expensive and uncomfortable. They made annoying click-click sounds when I walked fast through the city. As someone who likes to walk fast, this was a bad mix. One day, my older brother gave me a pair of red hiking shoes as a present. I laughed, “What use could these possibly have for me?”
Little did I know that hiking would connect me to the mysteries of Easter Island and the endless sky of the Atacama Desert, or that miles of sandy trails and oceanside paths would soothe me with fresh air and singing birds. As a child, I remember hiking alongside my dad in the mountains at Mirasol Beach. Hiking connected me to my Mapuche ancestors who respect Mother Earth and to my European relatives who explored and embraced the unknown.
As a young lawyer, I experienced sexual harassment and discrimination at work, which is all too common for women in Latin America. This drove me to Australia for a year of travel where I studied English, worked as a server and toured across Queensland. My sister Margarita and her husband, Johnno, lived in Canberra and welcomed me into their home.
One day, Johnno took us to a hockey game. As players raced for the puck, Johnno spoke about his earlier life in Banff. To the backdrop of slapshots and skates scratching the ice, his stories caught my attention and became the inspiration that would ultimately lead me to Canada. I returned to Chile for 11 months, long enough to complete the tedious visa process. In May 2014, I was ready to move to Canmore, the town next to Banff.
My goal was to improve my English while working as a front-desk agent and save money for a possible master’s degree at Stockholm University. Although I was accepted by the university, my application for a scholarship was denied. I was deeply upset. I could not afford school, I began to miss city nightlife, and I felt alone. Then in an unusual twist, a few days later, I met the man who would become my husband. Is this how life plays out its surprises? Shayne, a manager at my new job, asked me on a hiking date. Canmore became attractive again, and my brother’s gift was very useful.
I began to contemplate the mountains as a local, with an intense appreciation for my surroundings. My hikes with Shayne revealed the depths of this majestic landscape and the depths of our connection to one another. He was born in Saskatchewan but grew up in Alberta, and I was born and raised in Santiago, Chile. The more we hiked, the more we talked, and the more we liked each other. We realized that despite being from different countries, we made a good team. In March 2015, we married at the exact spot of our first hike, with Margarita and Johnno by our side.
Surprisingly, a gift that was not my first choice and a scholarship that did not work out was the perfect combination that led me to my true self and a family of my own. My husband continues to share his Canadian way of life with me, my daughter teaches me to play in the snow, and I live my dreams rather than just imagine them.
My hiking shoes, scuffed and not as red as they once were, remain symbols of my story. Now, on the mountain trails that I have come to know so well, my heart feels full of love as a mother, wife, landscape photographer and proud Canadian citizen.
Fabiola Menares, better known as Fabby Klatt, was born and raised in Santiago de Chile. She earned a law degree in 2011 at the top of her class. Fabby moved to Canada in spring 2014. Five years later, she received her Canadian citizenship. Fabby loves to hike and write and is an avid landscape photographer with a successful online presence.