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When a Canadian says, “the world is my backyard,” they might be referring to Toronto, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. But it is more likely they are referring to the endless expanses outside the cities, otherwise known as the Great Outdoors, that makes up most of Canada’s geography as one of the largest countries in the world.

A lot of Canadians grow up outside the cities and towns, and in order to survive they must learn basic survival skills. They don’t have buses and taxis to drive them home. They must learn to drive through all types of extreme weather, especially in the winter. That might include snowstorms and blizzards, glare ice, hail, heavy rains, freezing rain, lightning, high winds and maybe the occasional tornado, to name a few. Snowstorms can last for weeks and the snowbanks often rise higher than the cars and people. Snow shovels are essential gear. It’s not uncommon to rescue each others’ cars from snow banks in the winter when they slide right off the road. You don’t wait for a tow truck in the extreme cold when your friends could be there in a fraction of the time. It’s pretty normal for teenagers to test the limits of their cars in fields and empty parking lots in the winter to learn how to handle a car in the snow. Everyone keeps survival gear in their cars and houses. You don’t get far without it.

But to Canadians, even though lives are saved every day (and many people do that for a living), they laugh about it. It’s a matter of daily life, and most Canadians consider the Great Outdoors to be their playground, a place for all types of sports. Hiking is popular, so are hobby vehicles, including all types of boats and airplanes, and even children drive four-wheelers now. But even though people joke that they risk their lives every day, they remain humble about it, knowing that any poor decision could really be a matter of life and death in the Great Canadian Outdoors.

There is also a sense of responsibility and a sense of wonder that comes from living in a place with such radical weather and four distinct seasons. There is a high respect for human life and lower respect for people who abuse that privilege. It’s not that Canadians are tough, but just in order to live day to day, they have to know how to survive. And many work in medical or safety careers, including emergency workers, and others make a difference every day in the lives of others. They also deal with the local crime which comes and goes.

People who frequently overcome great obstacles typically have their priorities in full view all of the time. They know how to keep their heads screwed on straight and expect that from each other. They don’t have time for people who don’t have other peoples’ or society’s best interests in mind. They typically see through people in three seconds and can tell you what kind of person they are and will call them out to their face if they consider them to be flaky or dishonest. No one wants to depend on someone who isn’t on the same page if you actually needed anything. People survive because they depend on themselves and each other.

These are the people who grow up in Canada’s great outdoors, and when they speak, people listen. No matter where they go in life, they make a difference. They don’t bend their integrity for anyone and couldn’t care less what others think of them. Because they know what life is about and the reason why they are here.

And because they are strong people, the great outdoors is sport. When you see hobby aircraft flying around in the sky, hear four wheelers in the fields and forests, and see speedboats on the lakes, and all manner of outdoor sports, the Canadians are outside enjoying their beautiful and sometimes insane weather!

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