In May, 2001, Chris Benjamin hitchhiked across Canada and volunteered on organic farms in British Columbia. He was in search of a good home, love and community, and perhaps a source of income to pay off his student loans.
In Northern Ontario, Benjamin writes, “Big Al was my first encounter with what turned out to be a hitchhiking trope, the kind and generous – to his own kind at least – racist.” The trope got worse after September 11, which happened as Benjamin was leaving Prince Rupert, BC, hitching south toward the USA.
This memoir is based on the detailed journals he kept at that time, hitching and Greyhounding his way across Canada and the USA, winding up in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The journals consisted mainly of what people said to him: those who picked him up and the bus riders he encountered – including soldiers and kids fresh from jail.
Travelling in post 9/11 United States, the author tried not to succumb to the anger of those who wished for a vengeful global comeuppance. Throughout his journey, our shy young narrator falls in and out of love with place and soul, remaining ever-watchful for signs of a peaceful pocket to call home.
What he finds instead is an unexpected sort of homecoming, and surprising joy in a sense of purpose. He writes of the oddities of organic food production, walking through the grotesque aftermath of a massive clear-cut forest, and drop-ins at artist hippie communes. Chasing Paradise is both an engrossing road memoir and a treatise from the generation stuck somewhere between corporate greed and hippie disillusionment.
About the author
Chris is author of Eco-Innovators: Sustainability in Atlantic Canada, winner of the Best Atlantic-Published Book Award and finalist for the Richardson Non-Fiction Prize, and the novel, Drive-by Saviours, which was longlisted for Canada Reads and a ReLit Prize. Chris’ creative work has been published by VoicePrint Canada, Descant, Arts East, Third Person Press, Nashwaak Review, Pottersfield Press, Fierce Ink Press, Rattling Books, The Society and The Coast. Visit www.chrisbenjaminwriting.com. He owes a debt to St. Lucia for changing his life for the better.