Flights and funky loft Airbnb booked, my boyfriend and I each packed a carry-on and headed west while my Islander best friend waited to pick us up at the airport.
Surrounded by a vast ocean, the massive U.S. Olympic mountains across the way and old-growth forests sprawling with some of Canada’s most ancient trees, life on the island is big. Life on the island is also slow. Dominated by local small businesses, most places close between 4 and 6 p.m. People are friendly and warm, no one is in a rush and everyone is smiling. Big and slow, like the mountains, trees and nature in general—a considerable part of the culture on the island, where the Green Party is in power.
We started work days at 6 a.m.—running out to the bakery during Toronto’s lunch hour to get our breakfast— and we finished at 2 p.m. and set off to walk the town. I loved the emphasis on supporting the local community, and we spent a lot of time checking out small shops by the water or feeling like we were in a Harry Potter dream, walking through historical Fan Tan Alley.
Embracing the slow life, we went to different cafes and microbreweries and played cards, taking it all in. We talked about the lifestyle change and our appreciation for this new working world that allows people to have travel experiences—especially people still figuring out what kind of life they want to live.
We packed up my friend’s car on the weekends and went hiking. We did some of the iconic Juan De Fuca trails; we strolled along Cathedral Grove, taking in trees that were thousands of years old, climbed up a rogue path at Cox Bay Beach in Pacific Rim National Park and were rewarded with the most spectacular view! I had to FaceTime my parents, who were in Muskoka at our cottage, just to show them. We walked brisk beaches, hiked misty trails and had sandwiches, granola and craft beers to our hearts’ content.
On the final weekend of our trip, we drove out to Tofino—one of my favourite places in Canada. It’s a small surf town with many cute shops, unique eats and big waves. Also, there are a lot of off-leash beach dogs to pet. On Friday night, we went to the most anticipated meal of the trip. We ate the five-course chef’s tasting menu at the award-winning Pluvio restaurant in Ucluelet. It was sensational! This experience was especially remarkable for me because, at Pluvio, they make food from what is seasonally available from local farmers, fishers and foragers. The dishes are all inspired by the natural elements of Vancouver Island. Every bite was a taste of the Island, literally.
This weekend was bittersweet, of course, because we were leaving right after. As we drove down the Trans Canada highway back to Victoria to fly home, I reflected on my time out west. I left this trip very grateful. Grateful for friends and living in Canada. For nature and slow living, and oh my god, for the moody mists! Grateful to work at a place known for putting its employees first with so many perks, like the Work Away Benefit, to prove it. Grateful for this year’s experience and for more to come!
Curious to learn more about MP’s adventures abroad? Stay tuned for future Our Take #PassportToMP blog posts where employees will share their work away experiences..