It was on a brisk Friday back in late April that I was en-route with Sara from Social City Networking for my first adventure on Salt Spring Island, where we shared an incredible two day getaway in a cottage nestled amongst nature. Having never before been to the island, I was looking forward to taking this trip with Sara--a Salt Spring veteran--knowing we’d make the most of our short stay. I had no idea what a journey there was in store for me, both physically and emotionally.
As soon as I stepped off the ferry and onto the solid land, I felt the dissonance. While I’d expected to feel that familiar anxiety of the unknown envelop me, I felt immediately relaxed. I was home--in a new land. It was as if the brilliant sunshine beaming down upon me was a warm hug of familiarity. Looking around, I felt transported back to my homeland and it clicked into place--Salt Spring is my Canadian California. I could almost feel my mind struggling to understand these conflicting responses, one of comfort and home and one of excitement and anxiety at the unknown. We hopped on the little bus and took off on a ride along the island and into the town of Ganges, stopping to pick up little old ladies and teenagers along the way.
When we got to town we ate at Treehouse Cafe, an adorable little cafe build into (and around) a large tree. Again, I grappled with taking in this new image while the muscle memory of driving towards a hike in Madrone Canyon occupied my mind, dodging the large redwood trees around which the concrete of the roadway had been lain. After dinner it was off to find our home for the next two days...only we weren’t sure where we were going. But let me backtrack.
My intentions for this trip were simple and two-fold. This was time set aside for me to relax, unwind, and bond with Sara; however, it was also an important goal of mine to work on letting go this weekend and relinquishing control, acknowledging and absorbing the fear and anxiety without letting it overwhelm me. I am a very cautious person by nature, a true planner through and through. I quell fears of impending anxiety with careful research, learning as much as I can to prepare me for new unknowns. However for this trip, to an island to which I’d never been, I left everything up to Sara--where we would stay, how we would get there, who we would see, and where we would eat.
And so it was these simple intentions that I returned to when we set off towards our temporary home, sun beginning to set to the West, just as Sara’s phone died. Only on the island for one hour and I was already facing my first huge test. We were flying blind, heavy backpacks weighing us down physically while my nervous energy buzzed around my head like a persistent bee. But in the end, all was fine. We got a bit lost, hiked down an unmarked path only to scare the piss out of the inhabitants of the lone house at the end the driveway, but eventually we found our way. Westover B&B. We were home. After a nine hour travel day, we tucked ourselves into our cozy cottage for a well-deserved night’s rest.
Our only full day on the island started bright and early with a delicious breakfast of fresh mango, gluten free pancakes with maple syrup and yogurt paired with a large french press of Salt Spring Coffee. Then it was off into town and over my next mental hurdle--Sara informed me that we would be hitchhiking into town. Breathing in my trust of Sara’s judgement and breathing out my fears and worry, we started trying to flag down cars. It wasn’t long before a lovely couple picked us up and cheerfully transported us into town. As our main form of transportation while on the island, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of our hitch-hiking experiences were nothing but pleasant and positive, as if we’d arranged for a friend of a friend to give us a ride. This was a true testament to the energy and attitude of those who call Salt Spring home.
Reaching town, we grabbed some Yerba Mate Canadianos from Salt Spring Coffee Roasters (one of Sara’s Salt Spring staples) before heading to meet Jess, the owner of Thrive Lifestyle and a client of Social City Networking. It was an incredible experience to meet Jess as I shadowed Sara’s casual business meeting, which gave me a bit more insight into the social media world of SCN’s offerings as I learned more about Jess and the inspiring, eco-conscious clothing label plus store she had launched just a few years ago. We visited Thrive to check out some of their latest pieces (and do a bit of shopping) before heading on to the big event in the town of Ganges--the Saturday Market. Packed with vendors touting everything from handmade clothing and soaps to delicious locally-made cheeses and juice tonics, we slowly wound our way through each of the aisles. We reached the end of the market just in time to rendezvous with a friend of Sara’s, who picked us up in her truck and drove us back to her property, a beautiful 140+ acre plot of land at the foot of Mount Erskine. We got a tour of the property and saw the indoor garden they’re building from scratch (structure and all) before beginning our steep and rewarding hike up the side of Mount Erskine.
Growing up in Northern California, I feel more alive and present while hiking than I do in virtually (no pun intended) any other situation. I am conscious of my breath, my heart pounding, the wind blowing through my hair as sweat collects at my brow. I feel alive. I feel present. I feel calm. All of my insecurities, all of the pressures of everyday life effortlessly fall away and what remains is the appreciation that my body works hard for me, taking in deep breaths of the freshest air around, my eyes gliding back and forth as they take in the visual feast of scenery. At the top, we were rewarded with gorgeous panoramic views of the other islands with downtown Vancouver barely visible in the far distance. While we were paused at the peak, a bald eagle glided by at eye level, closer than I’ve ever seen one before. It felt so incredible to get out in nature and work up a sweat, a beautiful moving mediation.
Post-hike, we regrouped and washed off at our cottage before heading into town for dinner. It was at this point in the trip that I was suddenly overcome with another familiar feeling--strong emotions brewing up suddenly and without an obvious trigger. I started talking it through with Sara and before I knew it I was crying deeply. I felt as I do when I sometimes come out of a deep backbend in the middle of a particularly calming yoga class in that I was caught off guard and overwhelmed with these deep emotions I was struggling to categorize and process. I felt suddenly self-conscious, hyper aware of my body in the exact opposite way I’d felt while hiking mere hours earlier. I felt out of control, a bit out of my element while crying in this new public place in front of a dear friend for the first time. We decided post dinner that it would be best for me to return to our cottage alone to process my feelings while Sara gave me space by meeting up with a friend of hers. When I returned home, I was met with my next anxiety challenge--I was alone. I was truly and deeply alone. I didn’t have internet, I didn’t have phone service. I was by myself in a strange new space without my safety net. I spent the next few hours meditating and journaling as I worked through my emotions. It was hard and uncomfortable and yet extremely fruitful and rewarding.
The next morning, we had our breakfast and said goodbye to our hosts and our little cottage, throwing our packs on our back and hitching our way into town and then onto Sara’s friend’s farm, called Duck Creek Farm. We got a tour of the land, walking amongst a wide variety of newly sprouting crops and blossoming cherry trees. Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye as we caught the bus out of town and to the ferry terminal to begin our journey back to the mainland.
Our trip to Salt Spring was one of the most surreal weekends of my life. It was at times a relaxing homecoming, a stressful emotional rollercoaster, a deep bonding experience between Sara and me, and a tranquil resting place. It was beauty and stillness and overwhelming stimulation all rolled into one. Salt Spring Island is a truly magical place, buzzing with the palpable energy of the warm, kind, trusting people who call it home. It was a delightful indulgence to spend a few days away from the bustle of the city as I washed my skin of the daily grime and pressures to bask instead in the raw and vulnerable yet fulfilling and peaceful energy of island life and I loved it, every second.
Article first published on Social City Networking.