Tyson Bowen is the President and founder of The Real Canadian Recreation Society, Tyson joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2005 with the 1st Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders in Pictou N.S. Upon his completion, he did many deployments to Afghanistan from 2007 -2010, for a combined total of 435 days in Afghanistan. In 2015, Tyson was diagnosed with PTSD and medically released from the Canadian Armed Forces in November 2018 retiring as a Sergeant. He now reside back in Nova Scotia and has undertaken s project of creating a veterans society.
Inside of this episode:
↣ Tyson’s Military Experience and the Onset of PTSD
↣ The Vision and Plan for Real Canadian Recreation
↣ The importance of giving Veterans purpose post-combat
↣ Why plant based medicine works for his anxiety and PTSD post combat.
Connect with Guest:
Tyson Bowen Interview:
Tyson Bowen: I joined the forces in 2005. And the reserves here out of Pictou, Nova Scotia, First Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders. That was my grade 12 year. Upon my completion of my basic training, the Afghanistan Mission had conducted its move to Kandahar from Kabul. I had volunteered my name forward to go on, tour any tour to Afghanistan with any job. I was selected to be in Augmentee with the Reservists and then once we did the Augmentee training, I then volunteered my name forward to go part of the battle group. So instead of being in my original job of Defense and Security and Close Protection for Convoys, I was then augmented into a Section and Rifle Company as a Reservist. Then I deployed overseas with the Second Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment in January 2007. Then I came back and then I just stayed in the Army. They did this thing called Component Transfers and any Reservists that had previous tour experience like early on in the days of Afghanistan, was pretty much you completed your post tour leave, and then you just walk back into your unit that you just left a month prior. I was three months back here in Nova Scotia being a Reservist and then I was rerolled to the regular force in January 2008.
Leanne: Was it hard for you to leave and then just go back overseas?
Tyson Bowen: No, when I went back I went back to the regular floor so that was like my day to day job then so I was no longer
Calla: What did that consist of for those that have no idea?
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, so a Reservist is a Part-Time Soldier and they have to work one weekend a month over one week a year, but you’re you’re just a volunteer so you can do your your tours, or your courses, or your one Thursday a week and then one weekend a month just that so you stay in. When I Component Transferred from Reserves to Regular Force I was then now like a 9 to 5 “Everyday Soldier”. Well, 24-7 actually with the role of the Infantry and the Canadian Forces. We’re always on notice to go anyways with different immediate response units and stuff like that. Once I went back to Regular Force I was just another Canadian Soldier and the Forces on a full time basis.
Calla: When you retired, was that big for medical reasons?
Tyson Bowen: Yeah. So, I retired in November 2018, after almost 14 years, like 13, medically released due to PTSD and other underlying conditions, physical ailments, and so on.
Leanne: Do you feel comfortable going into what your PTSD consisted of?
Tyson Bowen: h, I’m an open book. So whatever you want to know, I’ll tell you I don’t, I have no shame. Well, I have lots of shame and guilt.
Calla: So you’re human, awesome!
Tyson Bowen: So there’s guilt and shame and not being a soldier anymore. But no, I don’t care. I’ll tell you, whatever you want to hear.
Leanne: Let’s hear about that then, the trauma you experienced over there, and how that affected you.
Tyson Bowen: The trauma from over there, it’s not, I don’t have one specific incident that I can still nail down like, That was when I got PTSD. But I know when I got PTSD here in Canada, and that was the birth of my first daughter. So my daughter, Amelia, when I first saw her come into the world, just coming out of my beautiful wife, Jenna. Immediately, I had a flashback, and to when I was searching the car and when we searched the car in Afghanistan, we found a dead infant in the in the car, and just one of those things that you can never never unsee and what was supposed to be the happiest moment of my life with my firstborn turned out to be the worst.
Leanne: You see that, and then you remember you have that memory. What was that moment like?
Tyson Bowen: So that moment was, um, I don’t want to say, Well, I was just totally taken aback. Like I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t I didn’t want to touch her. I didn’t want to be near I didn’t want to like, I totally.
Calla: Scary almost?
Tyson Bowen: Yeah. Oh, it was total recluse like moment, like, total recoil away from my daughter and stuff like that. But after the next while and go into treatment, and stuff like that and that’s when originally I started going to my treatment. And then I had a second daughter, two years later and that experience went much better after dealing with that, like, initial trauma, and then being able to cope and have coping techniques to actually be ready to have our second daughter.
Calla: So after Amelia was born, you’re in the hospital with your wife? I mean, did you have to remove yourself from the situation and then come back to it?
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, I had to leave. So when she was born, or pregnant with my first daughter, I had to leave the course I was on in the middle of our field exercise. So I was on my Basic Reconnaissance Course, as a surgeon because I’m silly like that. And I decided to punish myself. So then I went from the field to the hospital, had this was totally sleep fuck kind of thing. And then I had my daughter and then this was the outcome. And so went my downward spiral.
Leanne: Yeah, that’s what I want to get into. I mean, paint the picture for us. You said you sought treatment after that, but did you have the spiral and that’s what led you to start trading. I
Tyson Bowen: That was just the nail in the coffin. There were so many other other things. The final word was, me and my wife always had the understanding that she was with me right from my very first tour we met in April of 2006, just prior to my first tour in January in 2007. So we had been together through both tours together, and we always had the unwritten rule that when it came time that if she noticed a major change that, “Okay, enough was enough, and you’re going to see mental health.” So finally, I think February 2016, is when I finally went in and started the process.
Calla: Was that a scary thing for you to be able to do?
Tyson Bowen: I just didn’t care anymore. I was so burnt out. I didn’t want to be around. I didn’t want to be alive. I didn’t want to be in the Forces, I didn’t want to do anything. I was just at rock bottom and my wife was just like, “Yep, now it’s time to go in and get help.” And I was like, “Okay”.
Calla: What’s your wife’s name?
Tyson Bowen: Jenna.
Calla: Thank you, Jenna.
Leanne: What kind of treatment? Did you go to talk therapy? Or what was the first kind of treatment?
Tyson Bowen: So, I went with whatever the Army gave me. So that was how it rolls at first, and you go through the Canadian Forces Medical System. It involved a lot of interviews and appointments and appointments and appointments and appointments.
Calla: So, not instant help?
Tyson Bowen: No, no, not really. I think I was rather fortunate. I think I got in to see a Psychiatrist within like two weeks, I think. But, I know the wait time is far longer than that now at the Canadian Forces Medical Clinics, but I can’t speak on that to what it actually is, as I’ve been removed from it. I think I was there for two weeks. So two weeks is a great amount of time to wait for a doctor.
Leanne: Were you prescribed any medications as well?
Tyson Bowen: Oh, so many, so many. I think at one point I was on 14 pills a day. It was a mixture of Trazodone, Sertraline. [I think I’m still on Sertraline right now.] But Effexor, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Prozac, whatever you can think of as antidepressant, PTSD, antipsychotic, any of those things I’ve tried them. Now thankfully, I’m only down to two and I also use medical cannabis as well.
Calla: I want to get into that in a minute. What did those days look like when you were on all the opiates?
Tyson Bowen: Completely numb, like, you just didn’t want to do anything. It just turned me into a zombie. They were designed to keep me alive…and yeah, they did that, which is great. But, they definitely don’t allow you to live. That was the one of the biggest things I found with medications. But I had good Psychologists and good Counselors and as I was taking the different medications, if they didn’t work, we moved on quickly off them and went to another one. Finally I got onto a regime that was manageable. Then I got on to a stable platform. Now I can move off those medications and move on to medical cannabis. That seems to be the trick.
Leanne: Did your Psychiatrists also recommend you try medical cannabis?
Tyson Bowen: Negative. They did not. One did, out of Fredericton, but anyone here through Nova Scotia through the OSI clinic, they still say that the medical evidence isn’t there. But the guys at the root level, down on the ground, know that it works, and it’s doing wonders for us and other guys in our situation.
Leanne: It does seem like a common story that you guys are over prescribed medications, and then just feel kind of like a shell of a human because you don’t want to feel the bad feelings, but you don’t wanna have no feelings at all.
Tyson Bowen: Well, yeah, that’s one thing with just I think with PTSD in general, it totally takes away your empathy and your sympathy and any type of feelings. Nothing could change my point of view on life at that point. I didn’t give a f*ck. It’s just just how it is.
Calla: I want to talk about when you “Found your F*ck”. When did you get it back?
Tyson Bowen: Well, good counseling and therapy was obviously a major factor in it. Getting me to deal with some of my trauma and I still haven’t dealt with all my trauma, that’s just a little snippet, it is just a piece of what we’ve endured and what we’ve had to see and that stuff. That’s just one that sticks out to me and with all the coinciding events to that initial trauma, I can kind of say that that’s my, my breaking point when I broke, but it wasn’t actually I don’t think. I could have broke months earlier and I was just in a holding pattern, but that’s besides the point. When I found my f*ck i I tried really hard to stay in the army like, really, really hard. Because once I started my treatment, and everything’s going well, I had good support from my Chain of Command, they left me alone to do my treatment, then I just did my job and went to work. Finally, it was just enough is enough, like, I gotta focus on me and my mental health and my family’s mental health and my family’s well being. That was that, the Medical System made the decision and they suggested a Medical Release. On my way out of my Medical Release and through all my time in the Forces when you’re hanging around the Troops, just in your platoon offices, or whatever you’re doing, you’re always coming up with Brainiac ideas. One of these ideas was to one day own a Campground Park When I was 50, and retired from the forces after doing 30 years and just having a vision of being an old, crusty guy running a Campground, that’s what I wanted to do. Fast forward to Okay, now I’m released from the forces at 14 years, don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I have this really good idea and I’ve told a few people about it, and they think it’s a good idea, so now we’re just gonna run with it. That’s what we’ve been doing ever since. I think that was probably early 2017, late 2016 when I finally was like, “Okay, this is what it’s going to be called.” Then I just started registering everything right away.The good thing about the Canadian Forces is there are people from everywhere. I had a troop that had a St. Mary’s business degree, and he gave me a
business plan template and I just started filling stuff out. Next thing you know, I’m here doing it, and I don’t get it, but it’s serendipitous, and I’m sure we’re gonna get into all the other weird stuff here soon… Just the whole backstory of how this property came to be.
Leanne: Yeah, that’s what we want to hear.
Tyson Bowen: I can’t make it up.
Calla: Tell us, let’s hear it.
Tyson Bowen: Okay, so the story is, Years ago, My wife and I were at a friend’s wedding in New Brunswick and we met up with another one of our friend’s parents, John and Nelly Smees. That’s who used to live here at the property, and they ran this nice dairy farm called The Crown. They ran it for years and years and finally sold it in 1998. When we ran into them at the wedding, they were like, “Tyson, we’re getting ready to sell the property we thought to you.”, and I said, “I’m not anywhere near time to do this. I would love to own it., II know the property well, and it’s perfect, like by far, perfect. So fast forward a couple years later, now I’m getting ready to get out of The Forces, and we’re looking at somewhere to go and what to do. I had come up with this idea, and I was running into issues with VAC paperwork. I told a couple people what the idea was for, “Real Canadian Recreation” and they thought it was a really good idea. They sent me to the next person and I just started climbing the ladder and figuring out what it was I had to do. But in my journeys of doing this I was in the process of being released from the Army. I was trying to fill out VAC paperwork, and my wife Jenna is friends with Juliane, Fabian’s spouse and then Jen is like why don’t you go see Fabian and get him to help out with your paperwork. Fabian had a notoriety around Oromocto for being the old “Marijuana For Trauma ” guy, so there was some hesitancy to go see him, but finally after months of her coercing me to go and just do VAC paperwork, which is annoying in itself. I finally went in and talked to Fabian and he kind of gave me the ‘what’s what’ and the ‘who’s who’ of what I need to do for VAC and how to fill it out properly and all that kind of stuff. I spoke to Fabian and then as I was leaving after we had our conversation, it was all good. And I said, “Hey, man, like, Don’t you have a Jeep? Don’t you want a Jeep for around here?” And he’s like, “Yeah, it’s in Cape Breton.” and I was like, “Well, do you ever like, ATV or, Jeep or go outside and run sleds and other outdoor activities?” He told me he did but it’s all in Cape Breton. I was like, okay, cool, man. I got this wicked idea. I’m just gonna run by right click. And I told him my idea. And he’s like, I love it. And I’m like, Okay, cool. Like, that’s, yeah, I got another thumbs up from someone that knows more about stuff than me. Then he’s like, okay, we need to set up a meeting for later on this week to discuss this more. I’m like, okay, man, like, whatever. Sounds good to me. I’ll discuss it. I figured he’d give me business advice or like, different business plans or something along those lines. And sure enough, it was completely the other way. And he essentially made my dreams come true.
Calla: He has a way of doing that.
Leanne: Yeah, we have a similar story with Fabian.
Tyson Bowen: Awesome. So he, we were coming home in Nova Scotia, again, I think the middle of the week for something else and Fabian sent me an email. And he says, “Tyson, does this property work for you?” And I said, “What property works for me?, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Then he sends me the link and I recognize the link in the property ad and it was John and Nelly’s Ad
Tyson Bowen: Yeah. He’s like, I want you to go see it and I told him, , I don’t need to go see it. I already know.. I know what it is. It’s perfect. It’s great. But I was also wondering, why am I going to see it? He said, “See if you can set up a meeting with the family and we’ll go do a tour of the property and the house and all this stuff.” I said, “Okay, I’ll call him right now.” I called up John and Nelly and said Fabian wants to see this house. He’s a medical cannabis entrepreneur. I don’t know what he wants with it. I thought he might want to do a retreat or something. It totally was not registering at all. So we set it up and another week later, we came to the property. It was me, Jenna, and my oldest daughter. We took some ATVs and Side-by-Side’s and we did a tour around the property. Fabian stepped aside at the end of the tour, and he was like, “What do you think?” And I was like, “What do you mean? What do you think, it’s awesome! It’s paradise” and he says, “Okay, it’s yours. This is for Real Canadian Recreation.” and that was it. He then went through and took care of all that negotiating with John and Nelly… and then yeah, now we’re here at the property. The other fun fact was John and Nelly, their family is originally from the Netherlands, and when their family was liberated in World War Two, and now their property is going back to Canadian soldiers in 2021. I can’t make it up. It’s completely incredible. It’s Full circle. I don’t know. We found poppies just growing on the property. We didn’t plan it. There’s a whole lot of cool stuff that happens here.
Calla: Divine stuff on that property it sounds like.
Tyson Bowen: It’s very, very serendipitous all the time. Everything just lines up and I just go with it. I’m not complaining. I’m cool with that.
Calla: So amazing. Such gratitude for that.
Leanne: You said earlier that you’re brainstorming and you knew you wanted to be in charge of a campground, when did you first realize that nature or camping is healing for you?
Tyson Bowen: I always knew that. I think that’s an inherent thing with guys that join the Army. They just want to be outside so they join, and then the Army just sucks all the fun of it. But we have an inherent draw to nature and, I always say, “you can fake it till you make it with mental health”, but being outside, getting vitamin D -that’s all and an additive to it and then once you’re in treatment and add that additional outdoor activities into it, it just makes sense. I didn’t know I was gonna be doing this but it just morphed into what it is, and now I’m very happy to be part of this and making this place accessible for veterans across Canada. That’s the goal.
Calla: Take me back to the moment like when Fabian said, “This is yours, we’re doing this.” What was your conversation with Jenna like?
Tyson Bowen: We were totally flabbergasted. And I was like, “Okay, yeah, so we’re doing this.” We were in the process of getting ready to be released from the Forces on our move back to Nova Scotia, so we had to wait for John and Nelly to move out, so we bought another property, just 20 -30 minutes away from here. We lived there for a while till John and Nelly moved out, then we moved in. We renovated the farm house and did some updating and now we’ve been here for almost two years. It’s gonna be two years here in June.
Leanne: What kind of activities are you going to have on the property?
Tyson Bowen: So the thing about the property is, we have lots of space. You can come do whatever you want. We have roughly close to 400 acres right now, and if we can get land usage agreement or memorandum understandings with other landowners around us, which we were going to do, we hope to get 1000s of acres of usable property for us. The other benefit of where we’re situated in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, we’re backed on to the Game Sanctuary and a big, essentially, Nature Preserve behind us. There’s nothing from here to Sheet Harbor, which is about 45-50 minutes away. We’re the last house, and then it’s nothing other than camps. So we’re just out in the country all the time.
Leanne: What activities will you have?
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, so specifically, activities are that people can come, veterans can come here for free, and be in a safe space that they can be amongst their peers and not be judged if they have a bad day, or if they’re being a little off, or a little snappy. If you’re here, you can do what you want. If you’re having a bad day and need to go for a walk, that’s cool. If veterans come here, I’m essentially the tour guide, and I’m here to talk to, to help. I’m here for peer support, that kind of thing. While they’re here, we have ATVs, we have a bunch of tractors, two jeeps in production – it’s any outdoor activity that you’d want to do in Canada, hence why we’re called Real Canadian Recreation. But that’s also a play on words of my old unit Royal Canadian Regiment. So people see the logo, and it’s very similar to the real Royal Canadian Regiment one.
Calla: So you are also a Creative Arts Director and Ambassador.
Tyson Bowen: This is again, is not me, this is the business template. I had a witty thing to get people’s attention that looks like the Army, but it’s not… And it worked out well. It’s essentially a tire. And then the eight-point star from our hat badge- instead of the middle says VRI, it now says RCR.
Calla: It’s really ingenious. That’s awesome.
Tyson Bowen: We have a pond that we stock with fish so you can come and teach your kids how to fish. We’re in the process of building wooden tents, A-frame tents. Our goal is to build 18 of those so people can come and camp on the property. They can bring their own camper on the property. They can use our camping equipment that we’ve been able to purchase through grants from different organizations. A veteran can come through if they’re going from Newfoundland on the ferry and driving through Nova Scotia to go to Cape Breton to get the ferry. They can stop in here for the night. If they don’t have a sleeping bag or tent, or an air mattress, we have all that here. Veterans can literally stop in for the night, keep going if you want to, or you can stop in for a day, a night, week, whatever. We’re not gonna tell you to leave. There’s so many activities and reasons to stay. You can do as much or as little as you want. You can just go wander around the fields and look at butterflies – whatever makes you happy is what you can do here. I’m just the “Facilitator of Good Ideas” or something, I don’t know.
Calla: That’s going to be my new title, “Facilitator of Good Ideas”, I’m gonna steal that. I really like that. I’m going to update my LinkedIn after. One of your great ideas is, you coined the term “Eco Adventure Park” for your space, and I think that’s just so genius. I was reading an article that you were interviewed for, and it talked about how you wanted to open up your space within four phases. Can you talk about what those four phases are?
Tyson Bowen: The four phases first and foremost will always be veterans and Canadian Forces members. So it doesn’t matter when you serve, where you served, how long you served, if you serve the Canadian Forces, and you have a valid piece of military identification, veterans card or current, you’re cool, like you can come here and use the facilities. The first in priority will always be veterans. Next will be Fire, EMS, Police, first responders… We are already starting to get the trickle down effect in that area of first responders. They are starting to hear about us and come out to use the property for their own mental health and so on. Third phase will be for adult education about PTSD, what is PTSD and what we actually did in Afghanistan. Everyone thinks that we are in Afghanistan doing peacekeeping functions, which we were absolutely not, we were doing combat in a war. So that’s the third phase. The fourth phase will be doing things with kids and at-risk youth. We’ve partnered with the local Army Cadet Corps, and we have them here doing training on the property. That’s what the properties are about to teach kids how to do stuff the right way. We teach survival, we teach them fishing, we can teach navigation. There’s a huge military presence in Pictou County, so for example, in WW2 , Westville, Nova Scotia had one of the highest rates of volunteers per capita, and that’s just down the road. There’s lots of new age veterans in the area that have all these different qualifications and skills that will eventually be able to teach the future generations what to do properly. And it keeps us busy.
Calla: It’s really evolved from your original idea, hasn’t it?
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, it has. Now it’s just doing its thing. I’m just trying to drive the boat. That’s it.
Leanne: Let’s talk about goats.
Tyson Bowen: I built them a goat palace. Yes. So again, everything we do is just organic and down to earth. Just be around your peers, build something, do something productive. Everything is trying to be a productive avoidance technique, in a way. But, we’re trying not to also avoid the situations and we’re around each other while we’re doing work, which allows us to share our struggles of the day and what’s going on at home, their home life, and how you’re feeling, when is next year’s appointment, and so on. So, while we’re building this goat house, we had different veterans Air Force, Navy, Army guys come up and help. They bang a couple nails in and they leave and that’s what we’re here for. During COVID, we have lots of space for social distance, so people can come show up and bang a couple nails, cut a couple boards, and they’re providing a service, but they’re also making a space for them as well. So, the goat barn was turned into a house. We have two goats, Walter and Waylon.
Leanne: Oh, my God, Walter.
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, so Walter is our new guy. He’s just 10 weeks old, and then Waylon is two. We hope to use them later around the property because goats like to eat everything. So we’ll be able to take them on walks and they’ll help us maintain trails and eat all the unwanted foliage on the trees that we don’t want, and they keep all the good stuff that we do want.
Leanne: On your website you talked about “Healing Goat Moments” or , “Goments” 10
Tyson Bowen: It’s probably the same as equestrian therapy and stuff like that. But I don’t know if it’s from Afghanistan, like seeing so many goats when we were over there, like there’s just goats everywhere, and they’re hilarious. They’re either above you or next to you and they’re everywhere. So now, I don’t know what drew me back to goats. I have no idea other than my friends have goats, and that’s where we got it from, another veteran farmer, owner of “Our Hideaway Homestead ”, The Balkan Family Farm. They had goats. When you go to the Goat Palace, they’re just super chill. They’re like deer dogs. I call them deer dogs, because they’re pretty big. But, any animal is gonna make you feel better. That’s one thing that I think, Veterans, if they don’t have an animal when they are released from the forces, they should try to get some type of animal. It takes your focus off your daily struggles and then it puts the focus on them so you take care of them. So, now I have two goats and I just get to hang out with them and have “goments”
Calla: Hashtag, #Goments
Leanne: Goats are all the rage right now though. You can even get on Groupon and do goat yoga.
Tyson Bowen: They are 150 pound Nubian goats. They’re not going to goat yoga. Our little guy Walter will still jump on us, like he’ll go on my back. But no, I’m not letting Waylon, he’s 150 pounds.
Calla: I didn’t know goats could get that big!
Leanne: I didn’t either.
Tyson Bowen: Yes, he’s a big boy, boy. But he’s cool.
Leanne: Have you guys hosted any retreats there yet? Or is that just a future plan?
Tyson Bowen: What we’ve been able to accomplish so far, I guess is the better way to explain it. So last year was our first year, then we wanted to do something bigger, so unfortunately, one of my good friends killed himself in October of last year, Herman Williams. So another terrible fact of what PTSD and stuff will do. He unfortunately took his own life and he was always such a happy, outstanding, outspoken person. He was a Newfoundlander, he was just happy, always down to earth, ready for a good time. So we decided to have a concert. We put a couple of our friends together and a couple of bands. We got a 53 foot flat deck donated to us by a local construction company and turned it into a stage. We had music and food, and now we are going to do a yearly festival for Herman Williams. So that is one thing we’re going to do. The retreats going forward and future events we’re hoping to have include an ATV rally out here for in July. But other than that, COVID kind of really did a number on us. Veterans have been using the property but it’s not how much I want people to be here right now. But that’s just with what’s going on in the world. You have to pivot a little bit right now with your plans, huh? Yeah, and that’s one thing we could do during COVID. That event was in October, and we we’re allowed to have a gathering of 250 people outside socially. I was like, if we can socially distance on a 400 acre field then we have a problem. We did all the stuff. We did all the tracking and so on. We even got a visit from the RCMP. So it was good to go. They wanted to make sure I was counting all my people. And I said Yep, sure.
Leanne: How many people did you have show up?
Tyson Bowen: That night we had 144 out of the possible 250 so we’re pretty happy and again, it was just a little fundraiser for us. We’re doing it to just recoup our costs of what we spent to pay for most of the music and the actual sound systems and stuff like that. Everyone else just did it on the generosity of their heart. It was great. We hope to build on that this year and next year and next year and just gonna keep doing it.
Leanne: What is it like lockdown wise over there right now? I’ve got family in Ontario and I know that they’re completely locked down. Yeah. Currently Nova Scotia is in a two week lockdown. But in rural Nova Scotia, we do what we want. Life goes on. If you go into town, you wear your mask if you have to go to the store, but I try not to go into town at any time. I just stay here.
Calla: In creating all of what you’re doing on the property, what are some of the challenges that you’ve come up against?
Tyson Bowen: Insurance and funding. Insurance is very expensive when you tell people that you want to let people do whatever they want.
Calla: Maybe you have to reword that in your business plan.
Tyson Bowen: I’m just honest. They asked, what do you want to do? ” and I told them, ” I want to do whatever we want to do, like, cover us for when someone dies?” They didn’t like that, so I said, “You’re not supposed to say that to your insurance provider? Like, I don’t know. Whatever.” But, seriously, the biggest hindrance right now is COVID, and funds. We’ve attempted to apply for grants through different government organizations and are waiting back on some, and some we’ve been denied. So we’ll just wait and see. But people are always doing good deeds for us and doing different fundraisers for us. I’m
definitely not saying that we are ready to open but we’ve made great progress from what we’ve been able to do with the funds and just volunteers. It’s being built by the community is what it’s doing. But now the community can help understand what today’s new veterans are dealing with, and what all their struggles are. On top of all the unknown that they’re still dealing with, with their treatment, we’re going to teach people that we’re still a community and that community can take care of us – because other people aren’t going too, so that’s gonna work.
Leanne: It sounds like a tight knit community over there.
Tyson Bowen: Oh yeah, East Coast is predominantly in The Forces because that’s just how the East Coast is. There’s not many jobs. A lot of people join the forces. Now a lot of guys move back .One of the reasons why we chose Canada not just because from here but it’s for our centrally located all the Maritimes. So you can go from Northern New Brunswick to the South Shore and Yarmouth, from right off the boat and Sydney from Newfoundland or take the ferry over and be here within four hours. So we’re right in the prime, prime country of Central Nova Scotia. 25 minutes to the beach and about six minutes to a river behind us.
Leanne: I’m landlocked, so that sounds like a dream.
Tyson Bowen: Are you in Texas?
Leanne: Yeah, I’m in Dallas.
Tyson Bowen: That’s unfortunate.
Leanne: It’s so funny. Because, when you’re from Dallas, there’s definitely a lot of “Dallas pride”, but it is by far not the prettiest place to live. And I tell myself, I’m like, “Well, at least when I travel, I can appreciate everywhere else more because there’s a lake or a big hill.”
Tyson Bowen: And when those people, such as yourself come up here and they’re taking pictures of rivers and stuff. We’re like, “Man”. That explains it, you’re one of them.
Leanne: Yeah, I’m one of those. Like I said earlier, I have family in Ontario.
Tyson Bowen: It’s pronounced “On- terrible.”
Leanne: Oh, no.
Leanne: We’re gonna have to edit that one out.
Calla: That’s going to hurt some feelings.
Tyson Bowen: Bring it.
Leanne: So we went back in October and all the leaves were changing, and I was videotaping out the car window. We don’t really get the seasonal changes either.
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, that’s true.
Leanne: I can tell you appreciate the beauty and nature – which is great.
Tyson Bowen: We’re pretty lucky to be where we’re at. To be able to see the beauty and have a waterfall five kilometers away from here, that’s awesome.
Calla: Are there things that you want for your property that you want to have happen? I read this article and if you don’t remember it, no worries – It was one you did for Salt Wire, and you talked about that you have this dream of wanting a helicopter to come and land. Do you remember that?
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, I made a Helipad up there. So like I said, if you have a good idea or a terrible idea, we’re probably gonna do it. Ask and you shall receive. You know what? There’s no such thing as a bad idea. So, as we’ve been here, The Forces helicopters , Shearwater Bay Shearwaters, are essentially directly to the south of us, across the musket, our harbor and stuff. So the Cyclones or the Search and Rescue aircraft were always flying over. So, we painted our mural on the sea can. I don’t know if you’ve seen that big Canada flag. So we painted a big Canada flag on the sea can, then we started noticing that the aircraft from the forces were circling all the time. So as they were flying on their missions or whatever, they were just circling back. I was like, I’m gonna build them a landing pad, and they’re gonna land here
one day, and it’s gonna be amazing. And they’re gonna come and land here and have coffee with us because that’s what it’s about. Just come have a coffee or a bite of food and go back on your way. We put the landing pad up there, and a couple days later, we had a helicopter come in. It was a construction company’s helicopter and the pilot had agreed to take pictures of the property with us and it was awesome.
Calla: What a moment. Just one more thing you manifested for yourself. I love it.
Tyson Bowen: Apparently, yeah! Apparently that’s what I did. I manifested a helicopter and I almost got one landing at the property and it was awesome.
Leanne: Do you believe in that though? Because I feel like that’s really what this whole thing is.
Tyson Bowen: It is and I don’t know if I believe it. But there has to be something because I don’t know the reasoning behind this. It’s just all “The Secret” and stuff like that. Like that’s the real thing. So…
Leanne: That is insane that you just said that because my client just gave me that book last week to read.
Calla: That is what Fabian attests a lot of his stuff. We talked about that with him. That’s so wild.
Tyson Bowen: It’s “The Secret “, man. Like, you put it in your mind and your future. It’s gonna happen.
Calla: I feel like you were planning this before you even knew it. And I love that.
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, I don’t know. People always ask, “How are you? managing all this?” and I’m like, I can’t remember what I came into a room for, or to take my medication, or to do anything considered ‘normal everyday life’, but asked me anything about this idea, and I got it under control.
Leanne: That’s how you know you’re in the right spot.
Tyson Bowen: Meant to be.
Calla: Who’s part of your care team? Who helps you get on track when you struggle a little bit?
Tyson Bowen: Oh, definitely the wife. She is in the care team Numero Uno. Without her I wouldn’t be here. I’ve said that many times. She knows that. But, a good team of psychotherapists, psychologists, nurse practitioners, like there’s so much stuff. A lot of individuals in the Army, they swallow their pride on a lot of things, injuries, whether it’s physical or mental health. I did close to 14 years in the Army, and never went to the Sick Parade or the hospital ever unless it was actually broken bones. Now it’s tough to go through, when you’re putting yourself in a vulnerable position for your mental health side, while you still have all these other underlying conditions that are showing up in the physical side of it. I’m just now starting to get into that and get some follow up surgeries for carpal tunnel and, and other things. And it’s just, it’s a long slog.
Leanne: What does a typical day look like out there right now?
Tyson Bowen: Um, right now, Well, just before this, so the whole thing, what we’re doing is “Veterans helping Veterans” and that kind of thing. So, if a veteran moves in the area, they don’t know any other Vets, they can come here and connect and do that. So, Fun fact, that just happened. A new veteran moved in a couple kilometers down the road, heard about us, said, “Hey, man, like Do you mind coming down on my property and taking a look, see if you can help me out with stuff”. I said, “Sure”, so all this morning, I was down there helping him bush hog and dig up his septic field and try to find where the septic tank is for his house. And that’s just what we do as veterans. It’s another peer support kind of thing where you just go and talk about how you’re feeling, but you’re also doing productive tasks to help each other and so it’s great. Now I forget the questions.
Calla: No, don’t worry about it, What are you puffing on over there?
Tyson Bowen: Some THC.
Calla: Do you have a strain that you found that works for you or are you still trying to figure it out?
Tyson Bowen: I’m kind of all over still. I’m mostly just getting into the oils now and edibles. So far, so good.
Leanne: Be careful with those edibles.
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, they’ll get ya.
Calla: Punch ya right in the face.
Tyson Bowen: Yeah. [laughs]
Calla: What was your cannabis story? I’m so curious about that, since that is one of the pillars that lead us to have these “Stories of Healing”.
Tyson Bowen: It’s so funny. So, I was like “If the Army doesn’t want to do it,, I’m not supposed to be doing it. I’m not doing it. Like I’m in the Army, I’m straight edge, like no. no drugs, no, nothing like that. It was great because, when you’re doing the pre-deployment stuff, and you’re getting drug tests and you can see everyone freaking out that smokes weed -it’s great. So I never smoked any marijuana, any cannabis or anything like that until I was out and released from The Forces. So even upon my initial caretaking and stuff like that, I never went over to the medical cannabis side at all until I was completely- 100%-free-and-clear from The Forces. I don’t know, I said I just wouldn’t smoke it while I was in The Forces That was just my own thing. I don’t know why. But then, just upon my move here, and in dealing with OSI when I got to Halifax and stuff like that, I made the decision to go more towards the cannabis side instead of all my pharmaceuticals and I was able to get rid of a majority of my pharmaceuticals, which is great. So that’s all I care about.
Calla: How long did it take to come off of the pharmaceuticals?
Tyson Bowen: I did a gradual come off of my pharmaceuticals because I just didn’t want to lose all my gains that I had made from the mental stability at the time. I didn’t want to lose that. So, I took a really really gradual approach and did not rock the boat at all. So now, I’m okay. I’m not great. I’m not cured, but I’m definitely manageable and a slightly better person.
Tyson Bowen: Yeah.
Calla: The first time using cannabis, how was that for you? Did you feel good instantly? Was this the connection that you were missing?
Tyson Bowen: Well, I smoked cannabis when I was kid.
Calla: I mean medicinally…
Tyson Bowen: Medicinally, there was the relief that I was looking for, and what this property prescribes, I will say is, calm. That’s one thing, I just can’t be calm. I can’t sit still, I’m constantly… my brain is going a million miles a minute. But, when I have some medical cannabis, I can actually sit in my own skin for about five minutes at a time and then I’ll just be up and going again, and just off the walls, but for that five minutes I get, relief. Now, I’ve been able to to extend it in more than five minutes from just different techniques and stuff like that. But that originally was what I was searching for. The sense of calm I finally received with with medical cannabis.
Leanne: Do you do any sort of meditation or anything as well?
Tyson Bowen: No, because my brain is too crazy all the time. Like, I… I want to… I know that would be a physical activity. It’s like going to workout and going to the gym and stuff like that is good. I don’t know, I just… I don’t want to do it.
Leanne: Well, hard labor that’s got to be, I imagine you’d get into a flow state just by doing what you love.
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, when we’re doing what we want to do and doing what my body will allow me to do through the day and that’s another thing, so then pain management, not just mental health management, that’s another side of it. Then, “many hands make light work”, so we have a good group of veterans around here that come out and we all work with our broken bodies and get some stuff done, and some days we don’t get anything done.
And that’s enough, right?
Tyson Bowen: Yeah.
Leanne: Well, we can’t wait to visit.
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, and that’s the property, we’re still working on our building right now. It’s the old dairy barn that we’re turning into our headquarters. We had to unfortunately tear down the first part of the barn that was close to 120 years old so that would have been here, right from when the property was first settled way back when, and then definitely when the family immigrated from the Netherlands after WW2, so that was here. We were sad to lose it, but we’re going to try to keep as much of the history alive and put back any of the barn boards and beams that we are able to salvage, we’re going to put them back into the other building. We were able to salvage close to 42 by almost 100 feet long barn, so it works out almost 6000 square feet, top and bottom, And we’re slowly renovating it, and we just were able to have a local company and come out and spray foam it so it’s another step and getting closer to finishing it.
Calla: So awesome.
Leanne: Yeah, you’re living a similar life over there, Cal.
Calla: I know. I know. I’m like you got your spray foam. How did you get them to call you back? We’re converting our barn into a fitness space and we’re waiting on that.
Tyson Bowen: Barns are great. They’re built really, really solidly. This one needed a lot of work, but we’re getting there. So, that was the original part and the part that we have left was finished in 1978.
Calla: How can people help?
Tyson Bowen: Talking about mental health is one. Just talking about it in general and being open to it. Eventually, we’ll break down the stigmas of what’s going on. Other ways they can help, they can join our Real Canadian Recreation volunteers group on Facebook, our website is scheduled to be completed on June 6, so that will be up, and that will have more information on what we’re doing and when we’re doing it and how we’re doing it. But then, just a lot of the local community organizations do fundraisers on our behalf, and we haven’t done any of our own fundraising per-se. Someone started a GoFundMe when we first did this, but that’s anyone I can’t. I can’t ask people for money, cuz I don’t. I don’t. I don’t like that.
Calla: But people do want to help because you’re doing a really great job.
Tyson Bowen: Yeah, people do want to help. I try to give people options if they want help, such as local businesses and stuff like that. I can take a monetary donation, or you as a heavy equipment operation can come do the work, promote your business, and help us at the same time. Then it’s Win-Win. We’re kind of like an Eco Adventure Park, Nonprofit. But we’re also kind of like a hybrid CoOp society, but we’re like a hybrid Co Op and peer support group. I don’t know. Yeah, our community is just yeah, we’re a community.
Calla: So great. So to the veterans who don’t know you exist yet, and are hearing about it for the first time on your first podcast. What do you want them to know about your space?
Tyson Bowen: *sarcastically* “Hi. Come on out”
Leanne: This is the promo video right here!
Tyson Bowen: Honestly, I’m just a dude, trying to still take care of my troops, and that’s all. If I can’t be in the Army. I guess that’s the only thing I can do now. So I guess that’s what it is.
Calla: Well, you’re doing it. Don’t have too many more ideas because you have a way of making them come true. You’re gonna be really busy.
Tyson Bowen: We’re always busy. We’re always doing something. And that’s the beauty of it. If a Veteran stops in and wants to give a hand for five minutes when we’re doing something outside then, he or she was here, and then they were part of it, and you’ll be able to say, “Hey, I helped do this.”, and that’s what we’re we’re trying to do.
Calla: A true grassroots movement. I love it so much. Thank you so much for being here with us today, Tyson.
Tyson Bowen: Thank you. And we appreciate it. I look forward to having you here.