My colleagues and I recently endured six or more months of planning, trouble-shooting and organizing for a marathon of mini-conferences that took place from July 13th until July 19th in Vancouver, BC. As soon as I knew we were hosting our meetings there, I booked my vacation for the two weeks following the events. A couple of my colleagues and I decided we would head to Tofino after the conference; it’s the best place in the world, by my estimation at least, to unwind. After that, I would relax with a friend in Sooke and the rest of my holiday I’d spend with my cousin in Victoria. I also planned to carve out a lot of west coast writing time. I was so excited!
After reading the latest draft of my manuscript, my editor had challenged me to think about how I would express my dream locale; ‘How does it change you? How does it manifest in you’, she asked. I hadn’t done a great job of showing how or why Morgan falls in love with the West Coast in my previous draft and she was trying to coax this out of me.
Her questions got me to thinking: what is it about BC that I love so much?
One of my travelling companions suggested that perhaps it’s simply a clear case of nostalgia – ‘You had a great time when you lived out here,’ she proposed.
Vancouver was life changing, for sure, but as I contemplated this proposition, I remembered the Marni who lived in Vancouver in the early 90s. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say, she did not have a ‘great time’. Not by a long shot. She was a little lost soul, trying to sort out her place in the big wide world.
Don’t get me wrong; great things happened in BC. I was romanced by old growth forests, I hiked up into the mountains often and kayaked the Pacific Ocean. I met people from all around the world and was introduced to ways of life that were very, very different from my own. And I loved it. “I could always go back to school and study anthropology” became my mantra whenever I sat down with paper napkins to try and sort out what I wanted to be when I grew up.
As The Spirit of Vancouver Island ferried my colleagues and I from Tsawwassen to Swarts Bay, I stood at the rail watching the bustle of Vancouver and the majesty of Mount Baker recede into the misty distance that locals refer to as ‘The Mainland’. I contemplated the sun as it glistened over the soft, rolling Pacific. I scanned the water for any sign of sea life: seals, otters, an orca or two if we were really lucky, perhaps even an eagle. I took photos and listened to my colleagues debrief about their weeklong conference experiences and plan a kayak trip to the Broken Islands off of the coast of Ucluelet. I was quiet. For the first time in a week I didn’t have to do a thing. I just sat and watched and listened.