Travel, Memoir

Date Published December 2020

Publisher: Cougar WebWorks

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Midlife crisis, his life’s dreams at an early end, it was time to bust out and see the world.

Nowick Gray sets out with backpack and drum to find out what he’s been missing. Tropical warmth, better health, inner peace… He scours Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Latin America for that perfect beach, a new tribe, a winter home. Will ayahuasca heal his woes, or an ayurvedic cleanse? Beset by desperate touts on an abandoned Bali shore, he knows he’s a dying breed: the last tourist.

With this fourth book in the My Country series, Nowick’s travels extend across the globe, caught in fresh prose reminiscent of Chatwin, Grant, Iyer, Matthiessen, Gilbert, Theroux. His creative nonfiction “shows the reader all the ways in which one can perceive, digest, and make sense of the world.” With “language that is superb: detailed yet economical; vivid and appealing,” The Last Tourist invites you to join an intrepid traveler “in the midst of the action as if walking alongside.”


Part I – Paradise Lost and Found

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been. Travelers don’t know where they’re going.

Paul Theroux, The Happy Isles of Oceania

Hawai’i: Gateway to the Tropics

Return to Paradise (1998)

Fourteen-year-old Nashira and I are en route to Hawaii; our first trip outside of continental North America. The most trying part of the journey is already behind us. It’s winter in the British Columbia mountains, and the Castlegar airport was socked in, so our initial flight was canceled. The airline offered to bus us instead, but by a roundabout route that would have arrived too late for our early-morning flight from Vancouver to Kauai. So we piled back into our pickup truck at four o’clock, with a twelve-hour window to complete what normally is an eight-hour trip to the coast. We would need that cushion, encountering snow in all three passes.

Nashira took it all like a trooper. We lifted our spirits with stops every hour and a half: more gas, a stretch, snacks, new music tapes to keep us rolling. But it was a grueling trip, with slippery pavement and poor visibility: faint clues of tracks on the snowy highway ahead, with only glimpses of a center or side line here or there; heavy clumps icing the windshield wipers; a pair of red lights to follow when I was lucky.

Manning Park in silence was a snowy, treacherous dream, forcing me to be calm, relaxed, attentive. I followed the lights of one car most of the way through, coasting in soft communion behind it, pacing my distance, breathing, sweating lightly, coming finally to a peaceful revelation of being home again, truly at home, on the road. In that breathing space of acceptance expanding suddenly to all of my world, wherever I now would move, my center would come with me, a home mobile and live and adaptable to any contingency. Facing death on every curve, with every passing truck a whisper away, I knew that in that calmness and steady awareness is the power to protect, to guide, to hold the life force in sacred responsibility.

Snow turned to rain as we approached the coast, but there were more challenges to come. In Abbotsford the wind buffeted the truck and it was hard to hold it steady on the road. Through the outlying areas of Vancouver, hazard lights were flashing with this or that minor disaster everywhere: a tree across the left lane of the Trans-Canada Highway that we almost hit, blinded by the warning lights; an overturned vehicle at a dead-end crossroads where I took a wrong turn to the airport near Langley; a taped-off area of several blocks in Vancouver; another tree blocking both lanes of the Trans-Canada eastbound; another blinding repair light; whole sections of the city darkened with a power outage (affecting 200,000 people, we heard later). The plane even now, two and a half hours after takeoff, is rocking through 200 km/hr winds. 



About the Author

Nowick Gray makes his home on Salt Spring Island, BC, where he writes fiction and creative nonfiction. A frequent contributor to The New Agora online magazine, Nowick also works as a freelance copyeditor. When not engaged with words, he enjoys hiking, kayaking, and playing African drums. In winter months, if not seeking unspoiled tropical locations, he settles for cozy hibernation at home.


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