I have quite a few friends living in Canada, so I’ve made the trek north to visit them a number of times over the last few years. Today I’m reflecting on my short visit to Vancouver Island, off the west coast of British Columbia, a place I wish I could go back to spend a little more time, and a place where I was reminded of the importance of appreciating the moments of travel, and not focusing too much on trying to somehow preserve them for later.
What did I love about Vancouver Island?
The island is accessed by ferry from Vancouver or Seattle in an hour or two.
Although I visited towards the end of summer, there were still snow-capped mountains visible in the distance.
The capital city of B.C., Victoria, is located on a harbour on the island.
As a bit of a political geek, I always love visiting the legislature buildings of cities that I travel to and learning about their history and politics.
B.C.’s Parliament building is beautiful both day and night.
There are some obvious similarities and parallels to the Australian parliamentary system, although at the provincial level, there is only one house of parliament rather than two.
Canada also has a first-past-the-post and non-compulsory voting, which seems to make for a more varied make-up of members of the parliament.
There are some beautiful Victorian-era homes on the island, including Craigdarroch Castle which was one of the filming locations for the 1994 movie Little Women.
One of Vancouver Island’s best known attractions is the Butchart Gardens, a group of privately owned and amazingly well kept floral gardens.
I have to admit at first it didn’t sound like the most exciting place to visit, but when even my father (not at all renown for his appreciation of flowers and the like!) commented on how much he enjoyed it, I knew I had to make a stop there.
The variety of flowers, fountains, statues etc is impressive, but there was also a great vibe with various live music at picnic spots.
What did I learn from Vancouver Island?
Canadians well deserve their reputation as friendly and helpful people, so it is always a great place to visit. It’s nice to be able to visit a place relatively unprepared, and know that the locals will help you out and point you in the right direction as you need.
My strongest memory from my time on the Island, however, comes from the Butchart Gardens. The Gardens are huge, with such a variety of natural delights to see. My photos don’t do them justice, and this post includes almost every single photo I have from there, because shortly after I entered the gardens, the battery on my camera died. I was so frustrated at the time, surrounded by all this beauty with no way to capture it.
Of course, that is not true at all. It is captured in my memory. And a photo can never fully capture any moment anyway. I was reminded while there how easy it can be with all our modern technology to focus on the documentation of an experience rather than the experience itself. How often am I looking at amazing places, historical or natural, through the lens of a camera? It is great to have the pictures to reflect on later, but it is also so important to just enjoy where you are right then and there.
Spending a few hours in that place, with no pressure to capture it, but simply the opportunity to enjoy it in the moment, was a great reminder to me to make sure wherever I go that I soak up the moment more than I worry about capturing it for posterity. I will never be able to capture all I see and feel and taste and smell anyway, so I want to make sure I’m most focused on the place, and the person, that is right in front of me. And that is a lesson I have tried to continue to apply in all my travels since.