Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but I think I found a piece of my soul on Bowen Island. Or at least a vision of my preferred future.
Yes, we had a wonderful time.
On Bowen Island we felt like guests, not tourists. Unlike some vacation destinations of the “resort” variety, Bowen Island felt real, not like a facade erected for the purpose of entertaining me in exchange for my tourist dollars.
Heidi and I were, for a few days, guests in a home, guests in a small community. Sure, we spent our weighty American tourist dollars, but we had the satisfaction of knowing that each dollar we spent went directly to real flesh and blood people. People who are trying to make enough to enable them to stay on an idyllic island far from the security of the large-employer paychecks available to those who attempt the lengthy commutes to the mainland.
Bowen is a hard place to make a living. No large employers. It’s a long commute to Vancouver that involves a not-too-cheap ferry ride which makes commuting by car problematic if not impractical. It’s not much of a suburban bedroom community. As a result, people on the island get creative filling niches in the local economy to support their “Bowen Habit” (as I came to think of it.) I was happy my money went to support someone else’s alternative to the mainstream nine-to-five drudgery.
In Bowen, we were among the locals. So much so that my mind couldn’t help entertaining the future possibility of residing there myself. I even went through the mental exercise of figuring out what’d be my biggest gripe if I were a local — which was how much of the beautiful coastal vistas were privately owned — and figuring out what my niche would be if I were to try to support myself there. It’s a nice place to visit, but I’d really like to live there.
There are lots of beautiful places in the world to live, but Bowen Island is a rare combination that I want for my own retirement place. Small, bucolic community with a cozy feel and breathtaking natural beauty. Artsy quirky local culture. Not too far from a major urban area to get my “city boy” fixes. And cool, temperate climate. Sure I could probably find a “Bowen” elsewhere in the country, maybe even in Texas. But it was nice to take the concept for a test drive.
But what really makes Bowen a rare jewel, one that’ll be hard to match elsewhere, is the unique community dynamic. But that’s another post, and it involves my coincidental acquaintance, Chris Corrigan, and our meeting about the work he does.