There is nothing like waking to the sun. Waking to the outside ocean air. Waking to the boats sailing by. Waking, wrapped in layers of cozy blankets to the tune of morning birds. Messy hair, a bit sweaty perhaps—never getting the concoction of blankets to the world’s temperature just right. No mirrors to show smudged eyes.
No longer falling asleep to Netflix. Not even turning it on. It now feels wrong to end the island day with a blare from a small screen. It’s a fear of it erasing the beautiful energy of the island roads and wilderness. It is either voices nearby (too early), birds (just right), or waking naturally (too late), that has been my #vanlife experiences on this trip. My eyes open and I groggily peek out of the windows. I always try to be stealthy, but they cannot see me through the tint. I stay sneaky any way. A professional for the most part, I know where to sleep so as to not arouse suspicion, even on foreign islands. People tell me to ‘be careful’. They mean be careful of predatory people, but all I am scared of is law enforcement—or really just the awkwardness of the knock on the window. My mom once told me that my bouts of living this way actually make me a homeless person—she was referring to the time I lived in Vancouver to go to school and chose a driveway instead of a real place. I’ve always taken some pleasure in the idea of homelessness.
Starting in Victoria, it was the place for visiting old friends and chatting with shop owners. I did not plan really anything in advance for this trip. This is how I have learned to travel. Take it one day at a time so that you can experience all the adventures that come your way—although often inconveniencing people, or missing opportunities, because of course, other people have lives. But it’s worth it so that every hour is a new adventure.
I intended to do breakfast in Sidney, the town in which I found a roadside place to sleep, but I took a wrong turn and ended up on the highway to the ferry. It was a good wrong turn as I enjoyed my van-brewed coffee and oatmeal in my bed instead, the first in line for Pender Island, which also meant the front of the boat for the ride as well. A bed on the front of a boat…people pay a lot for that sort of thing.
As I drove onto Pender Island with my GPS at the ready, it was with a wave of excitement. I don’t get excited about most things, as that can lead to disappointment. But there was something about Pender. Perhaps it was because I arrived on a Saturday morning, the island abuzz with summer happenings. I explored Otter Bay Marina. I explored the farmer’s market. I explored the little village, and popped in to sell some mags to Talisman Books.
I had a meeting with a lovely couple: uber talented guitarist, Adam Dobres, and visual artist, Elspeth McLean. I then headed to an outdoor concert in the rain after thinking I locked my keys in the van (nope), but then subsequently forgot my laptop at their place. Lol, what a mess.
I had the fortune of meeting Colin Hamilton, who had a brief appearance in the first edition. He took me on a tour of his orchard, his beautiful straw bale house (slowly nearing completion), and his workshop for Thuja Wood. I also met his wife, whom I had surprisingly previously emailed about her weaving (small world), and his family. I don’t think you could find nicer people.
There was so much to see, and I rolled late to my next destination late. At this point, I was a bit people’d out. I love it all but I re-energize alone. Alas, no time for that.
I met David Morton (Happy Monk Baker) and his wife Jennifer, who were having me over for dinner and letting me park in their yard for the night. David was an early appreciator of FOLKLIFE, sending us supportive messages as soon as he heard about us through our Kickstarter campaign, and he contributed the ‘Baker’ morning piece in the first edition. One of my most favourite things about FOLKLIFE are the supportive strangers whom I have connected with.
This pair of beautiful Penderites were so easy to talk to that even my introverted exhaustion was forgotten. We ate delicious caramelized cabbage and drank good wine and chatted about lives and businesses. The kind of conversations where real interest and curiosity was at the forefront, leading us easily into the evening. I wish dates went that way haha. I was then left to sleep, with the idea that I’d perhaps follow David’s suit and go swimming in the frigid air the next day. A good challenge.
After a deep sleep and a good sleep-in (I LOVE sleeping in my van), I went inside to find Jennifer off for her walk and David packaging rye bread for the morning pickups. He made me pour-over coffee then took me down to the water. And in to the freezing water I did go. It was brilliant. Especially followed by a hot tub, a shower, and some Happy Monk bread.
I then zoomed off to Jo’s Place to get a taste of the bustling town scene (the owners seemed quite lovely). Not that I needed more food, but I just love to experience the culture of a place. I explored the island a bit, and then headed to artist, Joanne Green’s she-shed.
I was her first studio visitor! Awesome! As a supreme art supporter with a history of successfully helping to elevate artists, this was fabulous for me, and so was our lovely conversation about what it means to be an artist.
I then headed to Brownings—a waterfront pub and marina—to meet a man in which I had already received photos and a story on but needed more information to make it work. It was an interesting chat, but on my way out I was told some things from some locals that would mean a story wasn’t possible…can’t hide on an island of 2,500….
I headed straight to the ferry after that, to go to Saturna Island. Hoping that it would work out, as the idea of the inter-linked islands from afar, confused me.
It was a pleasurable Pender experience. Perhaps it was my weekend arrival in the summer. Perhaps it was the closeness to Victoria. Perhaps it was all the truly inclusive and nice people I met (which I find hard to find). Perhaps it was that there were many shops open and many people about, as my favourite thing is a bustling culture. Perhaps it was the morning swim. All of it was so lovely. Perhaps Pender is a place to consider to be (although it sounds like the rent there is just as high as everywhere else - le sigh). Off to Saturna!