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How Is My Nationwide Joy, Hope, and Positivity Tour Going So Far! Highlights and Touching Stories
While all emotions, including sadness, are valid and important, it is essential to return to the source of joy after experiencing other emotions. This balance is vital for living a fulfilling life.
During the height of the pandemic, I created a daily video series from my cabin in the Yukon to spread messages of joy, hope, and positivity throughout Canada and beyond. Each day, I danced the Punjabi traditional folk dance, Bhangra, in various spots in the wilderness. Then, I uploaded one video of my dance to various social media platforms every day. To my wonderful surprise, people from all over the country not only started watching but also sending me letters, many of which were handwritten. In those letters, most people talked about one thing: sadness. They wrote that they were going through a tough time, and the letters gave me an understanding that there is a lot of sadness in different communities, people's lives, the country, and beyond. Therefore, it's important to spread joy whenever possible.
Understanding the significance of joy on a deeper level, I have realized that joy has a natural ability to heal. It's like medicine - an essential pill that everyone needs, especially during times of sadness. It's vital to take a step back, find stillness, and center yourself. When feeling low or gloomy, joy is pivotal find balance in life. People experience a wide range of emotions, all of which are valid and important. However, it can be especially challenging, yet crucial, to return to a state of joy for balance.
After much consideration, I have decided that once the pandemic subsides, I will embark on a nationwide journey to deliver the same messages I have been conveying through my videos, in person, to different communities. While digital mediums such as videos and social media are useful, meeting people face-to-face is essential. It allows for a personal experience and reinforces these messages in a powerful way. In the summer of 2022, I launched my “Joy, Hope, and Positivity Tour” on the East Coast with one simple mission: to spread joy, hope, and positivity. I visited several cities in Newfoundland and Labrador, including St. John's, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Gander, Gros Morne National Park, Corner Brook, and Port aux Basques. It was so wonderful to organize a Bhangra workshop in St. John’s, where 300 people showed up with only 3 days' notice.
Sonya Corbin Dwyer lives with her family in the small town of Corner Brook, NL. During the peak of the pandemic, she spent hours creating a beautiful rug hooking piece, framed and mailed it to me at my cabin in the Yukon. Her kind gesture touched me deeply. When I visited Newfoundland and Labrador, I had the pleasure of meeting Sonya in person for the first time at her home in Corner Brook. She also invited her other relatives to her home during my visit, and it was wonderful to meet all of them. Her brother-in-law even honoured me with a "screeching in" ceremony, making me an honorary Newfoundlander.
I also visited Nova Scotia for approximately two weeks, during which time I explored Cape Breton Island, including the stunning Highlands National Park and the Cabot Trail. Some of the highlights of my trip included dancing at Inverness Beach, performing the Bhangra with a bagpiper friend at Peggy's Cove, and touring the picturesque coastal line of Nova Scotia. I also had the opportunity to observe a schooner at Lunenburg, as well as explore the charming town of Dartmouth and then explored Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. One of the most memorable experiences of my trip was spending time in the small community of Mabou, where I even had the chance to dance step dancing with some local community members. I also danced with the mayor of Sydney at Cape Breton Island.
I then traveled to Prince Edward Island, where I arranged Bhangra workshops in Charlottetown, Georgetown and other locations, and performed Bhangra at Stanley Bridge Hall Ceilidh. Additionally, I made it a point to visit nearly all of the lighthouses and stopped by Green Gables Heritage Place. While in PEI, I collaborated with a talented local saxophone artist named Todd MacLean, and together we produced a video. I also had the pleasure of dancing with some local First Nations friends during their Pow Wow and did cross-cultural collaboration with a fiddle player.
Afterwards, I traveled to New Brunswick where I toured Moncton, Saint John, St. Andrews, and Fredericton, as well as visited Hopewell Rocks, Bay of Fundy and Fundy National Park. I had the privilege of observing whales in the ocean near St. Andrews-by-the-Sea. Additionally, I was honoured to receive an invitation from the City of Saint John to take a guided tour of its main attractions with city officials. Together with the Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick, we organized a Bhangra workshop and talk on joy, hope, and positivity in Fredericton. Despite only having two days' notice, the event was well-attended with over 300 participants. Afterwards, I traveled to various northern communities, including the entire Acadian Peninsula. During this time, I visited places such as Dieppe and Dalhousie, and even conducted a dance workshop at Sugarloaf Provincial Park in Campbelltown.
I began my tour in Quebec by exploring the Gaspé Peninsula, stopping at scenic places such as Percé and visiting Forillon National Park of Canada. During my visit, I conducted Bhangra workshops with locals. In Quebec City, despite the language barrier, I communicated with locals using an English-French translation app. I also organized a Bhangra dance workshop for residents of Quebec City, and I am glad that many attended it. I was welcomed into people's homes. Some even offered me vegetables from their gardens for my tour. From there, I traveled to Tadoussac, where the Saguenay and Saint Lawrence rivers meet. I danced there and made a video. Continuing my journey to Saguenay, a beautiful city located in the center-north of Quebec, situated along the Saguenay river. After enjoying the sights of Saguenay, I traveled to Montreal, where I conducted another Bhangra workshop with local residents. When I was in Quebec, Bishop's University of Lennoxville, near Sherbrooke, invited me to conduct a dance workshop with their students, which I happily accepted. Following that, another school in Sherbrooke invited me to conduct another workshop, which I also conducted. I then received an invitation from the community of Drummondville to conduct a class with their members, which I also did. Over there, I also taught young students from local schools how to dance Bhangra and find joy in their daily lives. Finally, I returned to Montreal and stayed overnight at the home of my dear friend and local celebrity, Damien Robitaille, who is a multi-instrumentalist. Damien created joy during the pandemic through his music, and we also collaborated on some videos together. Later, I was honoured to be invited by a group of First Nations people near Montreal to dance with them and they shared stories from their culture.
I traveled from Montreal to Ottawa where I had the opportunity to dance. During my stay, I was kindly hosted by a local family in the village of Wakefield. Upon arriving in Toronto, the weather had turned wintry, but I still managed to explore the city and its suburbs. The CN Tower invited me to host a dance workshop at the tower, which was amazing. While in Toronto, I had the privilege of dancing with Doctors Without Borders and also had the chance to visit various schools and nearby attractions, such as Niagara Falls, Niagara on the Lake, Erie Lake and Sarnia. Visiting a couple of schools in that area was a very fullfilling experience.
Afterwards, I visited Stratford, the hometown of my friend Brittlestar Stewart Reynolds. This place is also home town of Justin Bieber. There, Brittlestar organized a large gathering that brought together the local community for dancing and spreading positivity. During our stay in Stratford, Brittlestar and I also created a fun and uplifting video.
Afterwards, I traveled to Guelph and had a fantastic cross-cultural collaboration with the Guelph Symphony Orchestra. Next, I visited Wasaga Beach and was able to join in on some local dancing. Finally, I went to Barrie, Ontario, where I conducted a workshop with local residents. Additionally, I taught Bhangra dance to approximately 900 students in Orillia Secondary School's gymnasium.
At this point, winter had set in and I was on my way to the Yukon. However, I had to temporarily halt my journey due to temperatures dropping below zero.
This year, I resumed my tour of Ontario and explored various locations, including the 1000 Islands, Cornwall, Kingston, Morrisburg, and Iroquois. While in Parry Sound, I had the opportunity to teach a dance class to local residents and bring some joy to their day through movements. This event was hosted by Festival of the Sound. Additionally, I had a chance to appreciate the stunning sunset in Georgian Bay. Finally, I managed to make time to visit the breathtaking Killbear Provincial Park during my stay.
I went camping in Algonquin Park and was touched by the wilderness beauty of the park. I swam there and looked at beautiful nature. Afterwards, I visited Huntsville where I had the wonderful opportunity to meet new people. Britta Runtz and her husband, Michael Runtz, who live in Huntsville kindly invited me to stay a night at their place. Michael Runtz is the author of multiple books about Algonquin Park, including "The Explorer's Guide to Algonquin Park" and "Algonquin Wild". They generously gave me copies of both books.
I then headed further up north to North Bay where I participated in a community event. There, I collaborated with a local fiddle player named Samantha Depatie on a cross-cultural fusion. While she played Celtic music on her fiddle, I accompanied her on my Punjabi Dhol drum. We also recorded a video of our unique Celtic-Punjabi collaboration.
Then I made my way to Cochrane. The journey continued all the way up to Moosonee and Moose Factory Island via the Polar Bear Express train, where I was privileged to meet members of First Nation communities and even danced together with them to foster cross-cultural understanding.
During my journey, I stopped in Timmins before heading to Sudbury for a workshop with the local community. While there, I had the pleasure of collaborating with a yodeling singer named Christian Howald. Our collaboration was well-received by the people. In Sudbury, I also visited the local Sikh Gurdwara, where I was touched to learn about the Sikh community's efforts to cook and distribute free food to homeless and vulnerable people.
From Sudbury, I continued on to Manitoulin Island where I was struck by the Island's beauty and took a refreshing swim in Lake Huron. In Sault Ste. Marie, I had another workshop with the community and was honoured to receive a feather from an Indigenous person. It was a heartwarming experience to feel the warmth of the community. I then traveled to Lake Superior, where I spent time cooking, sleeping, and relaxing by the lake. The experience was truly amazing. I enjoyed being at Pancake Bay Provincial Park and then dancing at Katherine Cove beach. Lastly, I made a stop in Wawa where a family kindly invited me to have supper with them. I also took some time to visit Pebble Beach in Marathon and enjoy the stunning view of Lake Superior.
I made a stop at Terrace Bay and took the opportunity to visit the stunning Aguasabon Falls & Gorge. Afterward, I continued on to Thunder Bay where I was invited to perform at the Rock Folk Festival in Red Rock for a brief period of time. A video of my performance ended up going viral. At Thunder Bay, I led a Bhangra workshop that was attended by many members of the community. It was a truly amazing experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the positive energy of the community.
While in Thunder Bay, I had the chance to visit the local significant places such as the Terry Fox Memorial and Lookout, as well as spending time with some local families. Sandra and her husband, who are long-time Thunder Bay residents, were gracious hosts and showed me the warmth of the community. I also visited Kakabeka Falls, located just 30 kilometers west of Thunder Bay, and found it to be a truly magical spot that I adored visiting.
As I continued my journey to the west, I took a break at Ignace Beach before making my way to Dryden. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to explore Dryden as well.
I traveled from Dryden to Kenora to conduct a workshop with the local community. Dancing with the people of Kenora was an amazing experience. While there, I also had the opportunity to swim in Lake of the Woods. The universe then led me to Fort Frances, a small community located on the border of Minnesota, USA. On the Canadian side is Fort Frances, and on the US side is International Falls. I conducted another workshop there with the community and had the pleasure of being joined by two sisters, Cassandra and Callahan Armstrong.
During the pandemic, Callahan and Cassandra brought joy to people through their singing. Their version of "An Easter Hallelujah" became popular on YouTube and was watched by millions worldwide. I had the pleasure of having the two sisters attend my workshop, and the very next day, I created a dance video with Callahan. She easily picked up on Bhangra, and our collaboration was fantastic.
During my travels through Fort Frances, I had the opportunity to stop by the Couchiching First Nation Band Office, where I had the pleasure of meeting Chief Brian Perrault. He shared valuable insights into the cultures of the First Nations, which was a great learning experience for me. Afterward, I headed towards Kenora and as my travels through Ontario are coming to a close, I realize that Ontario took up most of my time, as it took me over a month to travel through the province. I visited numerous communities and was touched by the vastness of the province. Based on my experience, I have come to know that Ontario offers more than just Toronto and Ottawa, which is the common perception of the province for those who are outside of Ontario.
The small and remote communities of Ontario are truly remarkable. Their lifestyle is refreshingly distinct from the province’s big cities, and the people are more down-to-earth. The Ontario countryside is also stunningly beautiful, with amiable locals and a completely different atmosphere. During my travels, I had the opportunity to swim in four of Canada's 4 great lakes, which was a personal blessing and allowed me to reconnect with nature. Overall, I have traveled to six provinces in this amazing country so far and have met incredible people everywhere I went.
One story that stands out is from St. Andrews in New Brunswick, where someone parked their car behind mine, then approached me, and quickly placed a hundred-dollar bill in my hands, saying, "Thank you, Gurdeep, for helping us through the pandemic." I was taken aback in a wonderful way by this kind gesture from a complete stranger, as I had never anticipated such an act of kindness before.
During a workshop in Fredericton, New Brunswick, I was approached by an elderly man in his eighties who expressed gratitude for the event, saying "Thank you very much, Gurdeep." Despite being in a wheelchair, he attended the event and wanted to personally share his appreciation. This encounter left a deep impression on me, emphasizing the importance of joy and its impact on the world. I felt moved and humbled by his gratitude.
One more wonderful incident that comes to my mind is from Barrie, Ontario. I parked my van in a parking spot to take a break. After some time, a stranger came and suddenly dropped money into my hand through the window. Before leaving, all he said with tears in eyes was, "Thank you, Gurdeep, for lifting my spirits." This incredible experience has shown me that happiness and positivity can motivate people to be more compassionate, hospitable, and much more, which in turn inspires them to pay it forward in any way possible. Joy has a ripple effect, and I have seen through these random acts at so many locations in Canada.
Through my experiences, I have come to understand that true joy is more than just temporary pleasure. Despite the numerous advancements we have made in science and technology, we must not overlook the significance of joy in our lives. Joy feeds our soul and mind, and is crucial for achieving balance, fulfillment, and good mental health. While all emotions, including sadness, are valid, important, and part of human experiences, it is essential to return to the source of joy after experiencing other emotions. This balance is vital for living a fulfilling life.
Take a moment to delve into your past interests and hobbies. Don't be afraid to try new things. This will not only broaden your horizons but also give you the chance to share your newfound knowledge and experiences with others. One great way to boost your happiness is by making meaningful connections with people from different cultures. Take the time to learn about their customs and traditions and embrace new perspectives and ways of thinking. By doing so, you'll not only expand your own understanding of the world but also foster cross-cultural understanding and unity.
It is important to remember that true and fulfilling joy can be infectious in many ways and can go beyond just creating a little smile on someone's face. It can help prevent someone from committing a serious act. Some people have shared with me that during difficult times, they have considered suicide. In these situations, finding joy can be a powerful source of strength for such individuals, when vulnerability is at its peak. When you're feeling joyful, you're more likely to spread those positive feelings to those around you and beyond. This can include your friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers. By sharing your joy with others, you're not only making their lives better, but you're also creating a ripple effect of positivity that can have a profound impact on the world.
In order to live a fulfilling and grounded life, it is important to recognize what brings you joy, enhance your own life and the lives of those around you, build connections with people from diverse backgrounds, be inclusive, welcoming, kind, and spread your happiness to strangers. Prioritizing these elements can help you cultivate a sense of positivity and joy that will not only enhance your own life but also have a positive impact on the polarized world.
In conclusion, I hope you feel content, calm, optimistic, and motivated.
I'm going to start my tour of Manitoba soon.