Kaslo memoirist Anna Källström has spent over a decade traveling to some of the most remote camps in North America, where she spent over a decade working as a camp cook. Recently she decided to sit down and recount her experiences, and the resulting book Have Pots, Will Travel is now available.
“It’s based on diaries I wrote over the years while I was working as a camp cook,” said Källström. “At times I felt like I was in a Gold Rush town of the 1800s. I had my son with me, he was about 13 at the time I first set out.”
She said the decision to abandon her lifestyle and retreat into the wilderness with “the kid” is one she’s never regretted.
“I made a decision to jump headfirst into an unknown and very different way of life. And there have been no regrets, no looking back. Since that one day, I have been living my dream,” she said.
That dream, at times, involved putting herself in extreme danger. During one expedition she was crossing a mountain range in the Northwest Territories on horseback and decided she couldn’t do it.
“It was quite a ways down if you were to fall you’d be gone, and the guys said this was probably as steep as you’d ever want to ride. I refused. I walked. They told me ‘look, the horses have four feet, so if one goes they still have three. But you only have two’ but I didn’t buy into that. I walked, and it was frightening.”
She also had encounters with wildlife.
“This was prime grizzly country and up there they were quite aggressive,” she said. “Especially being alone in camp, which I was a lot of time, it was very frightening.”
She said the experiences intrinsically changed her.
“I learned my place in nature and my place in the big scheme of things. As I say in the book, I’m just another animal. Nothing more and nothing less. Just like the ants, the bears, everything around me,” she said, noting that self-sufficiency is one of the most important gifts she’s gleaned.
And though she hopes everyone enjoys the book, she was quick to say she realizes camp cooking isn’t for everybody. So though they may enjoy reading it, and imagining her experiences, they won’t necessarily be following in her footsteps.
“Even people who like the book might not want to do the same thing, because they’re so into their lives here and its not easy. You’re wet, you’re cold, you’re lonely, you’re miserable but you have to keep going,” she said.
So what made it all worthwhile?
“It was phenomenal to see that kind of country, true wilderness. Most people will never see that, and I was fortunate. I was in northern BC most of the time, but at one point I was on Baffin Island and that’s not one of the places you travel to. I had the opportunity to see some wonderful places,” she said.
Now that Källström lives in Kaslo, she said she appreciates her surroundings but they’re nothing compared to some of the places she’s seen. But she’s excited about embarking on her new career as a writer at the age of 66.
“It’s exciting. It’s a new learning situation,” she said.
She encourages everyone she meets, if they’re unhappy with their lives, to embrace risk and try something new.
“I knew I wanted a change and I took the opportunity and did it. I hope that people struggling with that will take a chance.”