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Up, up and away to Thunder Bay

Thursday, 01 October 2015 Categories // Activism, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Wayne Bristow

A (working) summer vacation for Wayne Bristow, on the road and in the air, helping people with HIV handle disclosure issues

Up, up and away to Thunder Bay

I am not a big fan of weather that includes heat, I’ve often said that if I were to travel anywhere for a vacation it would be north. I just figure, even in the warmest of days there would be a special spot for me to rest and enjoy a cooling breeze, especially if it were near water.

Most of my working life, I have spent my holidays as a ‘stay-cation’. The furthest I have ever travelled east is Montreal, south – New York City and Ohio, west I’ve only made it to the Ontario shores of Lake Huron, and north to Muskoka where I lived when I was younger.

The highest my feet had been off the ground happened in the very early 80s when I took my kids up the CN Tower in Toronto. They were able to lean up against the window and look out as we went up while I was glued to the back wall. I have developed a fear of heights, but when I was younger I thought about traveling somewhere by plane. At one point I even thought of going in a glider plane.

All of this changed last week. My co-facilitator and I were invited to go to Thunder Bay, Ontario to present our HIV disclosure workshop. I was going further north and I would fly for the first time - ever.

I had some worries. When I saw the plane, how small it was and all 59 of us were going to get on it and actually get off the ground, I thought……oh-kay!?!? Then I find out I’m not sitting with my co-facilitator, he is seated near the back. I was on my own. It was suggested that chewing gum would help to keep my ears from popping so I made sure I did it after buckling up.

I know, its 2015, people have been flying since the early 1900s, I get it but I got through life without it, I like travelling on land and being able to see the landscape.

I didn’t get the window seat so I could only look past the other person periodically; she was busy shuffling through her work documents. On the way home I did get the window seat but it was night time. Only a couple of times could I see the lights below. The patterns they made on the landscape were amazing, I tried to take some photos on my phone but they were too blurry to share.

After touching down in Thunder Bay, we were picked up and taken to Mink Mountain Resort in Neebing Ontario, about 40 minutes away. At the resort, we learned that we would do the workshop and eat at the resort but we’d be staying in cabins. I’m not a camping type to begin with, but cabins are a better option than tents. These cottages are the equivalent to staying in a hotel, all the needed comforts were there. 

We stayed on the property called Blue Jay Haven. It had three bedrooms that we shared with two of the participants of the workshop. We had a TV, only one channel though, and in the back yard, a heated hot tub.

I have this belief that I was born in the city, I belong in the city, well that went pretty quick. This setting was somewhat nostalgic; it brought back memories of living in Muskoka as a child. The quiet at night was addictive. Being able to go outside and look up and see the Milky Way was amazing and sitting on the deck listening to the waves slapping against the shore below, I could get used to it – well maybe for a week or two. Having a hot tub came in handy the one night I needed to get some sleep and it worked so well, I was dozing off watching TV later.

I often take on a lot of volunteer work. I should come with a warning label – “Wayne is supposed to take it easy, don’t suggest new projects around him for the next couple weeks”. This trip  combined both of the things I needed to do so I’ll take it and enjoy it.

If you ever get a chance to work with the great folks in Thunder Bay – go. The people and their hospitality alone is worth the trip, and the work they do up there is inspiring. We went there to help them learn new ways to challenge disclosure issues and we came home with new knowledge learned from them. I’ve said it many time since going there and I have to say it one more time - the experience was amazing.

About the workshop: The workshop is very in-expensive (for some) to run. Your agency would have to provide a lunch and snacks, some paper/pens/markers etc., a safe space with plenty of room, and it works best with eight to twelve participants. There are no powerpoint presentations or guest speakers. The content of the workshop will come from the participants, what they have experienced or they have heard from their peers. We use role play and throw in some humour if it works. No two workshops will be the same so its very hard to describe what happens each time.

The workshop originated from the Positive Sex manual; it allowed us to expand on it and have we changed things, we are always adding new activities to work with. It was designed for practicing disclosing to potential partners, and we have expanded it by developing activities to deal with disclosing to family and friends as well.

This workshop can be attended by anyone; you don’t have to be someone living with HIV. HIV disclosre is complex, join us and live our reality. We are starting talks with two ASOs (AIDS Service Organizations) to present the workshop at their staff retreats.

For more information, I can be reached through my email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .