Vancouver Island: The Cat's Arses

Ben looks back on his eight weeks spent on Vancouver Island and how leaving might be more difficult than he expected

Ed, Kate and their two boys Cullen and Stewie hosted me as part of a work exchange in Langford, Victoria.

Welcoming me in to their home with arms wide open I was made to feel throughout my stay like one of the family and living in this kind and supportive environment was unlike something I have felt in a very long time.

During my stay, the work I was asked to do was always at a relaxed pace and most enjoyable was that it usually involved hanging with Ed - a real top bloke who educating me on everything from the art of fine coffee to performing correct sun salutations, his only fault was his at times a painful sense of humour.

Long Beach
On my first full weekend on the Island, I was invited by Ed and Kate to join them on a camping trip, 5hrs away on the West coast of the Island in Tofino. Joined by their friends Doug, Marilene and their daughter Selina, we had a great weekend where with long walks on the open beach the sea air made me think a great deal about being back home in Exmouth, Devon.

Stranded on Sombrio

At 47km (29 miles), the Juan de Fuca trail offered scenic beauty, spectacular hiking, wildlife viewing and a roaring surf. Reading about the trail some months beforehand I was really keen to give it a go and thanks to Ed and Kate from whom I borrowed some basic essentials, I headed off looking forward to a week spent in my own company.

Unfortunately though I twisted my ankle pretty badly on only the second day and after an excruciating walk to the next trailhead I spent three days "stranded" on the beach. Whilst initially I was pretty cut up by my injury, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for not only did I have the chance to truly put my feet up and take in the natural beauty of this spot, I got to meet a large number of great people from across both North America and Europe with whom I shared some great laughs. I did of course eventually complete the hike.

A merry old crew of people I met whilst "stranded" on Sombrio Beach
Mill Bay
From Ed and Kate's I went straight on to my next work exchange host, some half hour drive North of Langford in Mill Bay. My host, I hated, and I did so within a fraction of a second of meeting her. I vividly remember clocking her dead eyes from across the way for the first time and knowing at that moment this would not be an enjoyable stay. Compounding the problem was that this was the first work exchange where I was not encouraged to participate with the family; rather it seemed I was there to work and work only.

Whilst I am sure there were some positives to be had from this two weeks I frankly struggle to identify them.

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Chris and Susannah
My stay with Chris and Susannah came about with thanks to Ed and Kate who as friends of theirs recommended my 'services' after I left their home to head for Mill Bay.

Chris and Susannah were a dream. With two adorable children, Oak and Camas, I have never before met such kind and serene people. The lifestyle they lead whilst not perhaps entirely mainstream is nothing short of inspirational and living on an urban farm they collect a large proportion of their produce from one of three gardens they tend to in the neighbourhood.

Helping out by painting the kitchen cupboards and tending to some work in the gardens I have taken a great deal away from Chris and Susannah's about the way of life and quality of living they seem so effortlessly to achieve.

Doug and Marilene 
Having had a great time camping with Doug and Marilene in Tofino we made arrangements for me to go stay with them for a week at their home in Victoria. During my stay I helped them out by laying a small pathway outside the front of their home and restaining some wooden steps.

The highlight of my stay lay somewhere between the carrot cake that Marlilene baked and the drink-fuelled night out I shared with Doug during the middle of the week. Whilst I consider myself to generally be a good house guest I did it seems falter this night, stumbling in to anything and everything and making more noise than an eight month pregnant woman apparently wants to hear. Rest assured though, I got my just desserts and the following day I awoke to a hangover that was like no other I have experienced before.

Canoeing on the river at Sunset
Home is where the heart is 
On my final night on Vancouver Island, the three families I had stayed with had organised a small get together at the park to bid me a final fairwell. As we tucked in to this near banquet of food I thought back over my time on the island and became quite sad to know I was in fact leaving.

Both individually and collectively, these people have made me feel like part of their own family and have given me somewhere that truly feels like home. Throughout my eight weeks here I have not once stopped being blown away by the kind and spirited nature of these people and am just so grateful to them for having me.

This said, I have most enjoyed the time I have been able to spend with the children. Each with a very distinct personality, these  toddlers and babies alike have enlightened a part of me that previously I did not know exist and if there is one thing I take from this island it is that no matter what happens in the future, gay or not, I most definitely want to have children.

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Fun at the park with Selina, Cullen and Oak