04 Nov Life in Tofino: Riding the waves of emotions that comes with change.
“Don’t go to Tofino.” He said.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea. Go check out Victoria or somewhere with more action.”
I was already feeling overwhelmed dealing with all the thoughts and emotions going through my mind and heart that my brother’s input was just bouncing off the shield I was putting around myself.
Friends expressed their wishes for me to find a place in Vancouver.
Family hoping I’d stay close to my brother.
My ego wishing that a place would just land in it’s lap.
My heart yearning for companionship and someone to make this decision with.
My soul asking for me to go get grounded.
Everyone and everything each truly wanting the best for me in their own way.
As I was walking through one of my favourite trails close to my parents’ home during my quick visit East, I asked myself what would be the purpose of my going to Tofino were I to go there.
The answer came so immediately and with such clarity that it would have been impossible for me to ignore it amidst the beauty of the nature that surrounded me.
Momentum in my business.
Health in my body.
Love in my heart.
These three components led to my booking a place on Air BnB for the last two weeks of October in Tofino. I didn’t tell anyone about my decision until the transaction went through and there was no turning back.
I was to stay here for just those two weeks and somehow make the three components of my intention materialize. Turns out I’ll be here until at least January 1st.
It’s been raining non-stop since yesterday afternoon and the power went out about an hour ago.
With no WIFI to distract me. No cell phone reception to call a friend (not that I have reception here even when there is power). Bali not even wanting to go outside himself and my feeling too lazy to drive back into town to sit at a café, I guess I am finally going to write this update. This update that I have meaning to share with you since I arrived here on October 14th.
I think I’ve been pushing off writing as it is a combination of a dream coming true to the extent that I want someone to pinch me, and facing some of the recurring struggles in my life.
In order for me to feel authentic in sharing this update with you, one cannot go without the other.
In a world where we want things to be peachy and light all the time, I am still trying to find the best way to share what’s real. Even those challenges that I know you can relate to even if you wish otherwise.
But let’s start with the dream. And because I am committed to seeing the positive in every situation do not fret the end, something in my fingertips will guide me to share something that I will most likely be inspired by myself. I think that’s why I write really. Sometimes things just come out and surprise even me.
So here we go.
The dream starts years ago. Probably when I first watched the Little Mermaid in fact. This Disney classic remains one of my favourite films of all time and probably why I can feel so messed up about relationships with men. It’s also one of the reasons why I fell so madly in love with the ocean.
I used to pretend I was a mermaid as a kid, and still sometimes as a grown woman. I’ll glue my legs together and swim under water as if I could live down there. It still makes me feel magical even if I can only hold my breath for a few seconds.
And so began my dream of living by the ocean. This grew with time and I fed the idea with different trips and visualizations.
When I took my first solo trip at 19, I chose to go to Costa Rica. Even though we weren’t allowed to walk the beaches alone, I’d manage to distance myself enough from the group I had joined to experience some alone time with the ocean.
I spent a semester studying in Australia. Spending as much time as I could by the ocean. Dreaming I had been born near a surf break as a part of me believed I would have somehow become a surfer. It was a lovely fantasy to entertain.
I took advantage of the McGill exchange program and spent another semester away. This time in Vancouver. On my first day I spent the afternoon on Wreck Beach. Skim boarding with new friends and toying with the idea of getting naked like the rest of the crowd…that would only happen on my morning runs along the beach when I would skinny dip before anyone else was around.
My favourite memory from my time in India was not completing the first part of my yoga teacher training but rather the absolute best body surfing waves in Varkala. A place where I felt flow like I have never felt before.
I moved to Lachine in order to live as close as possible to Montreal’s main body of water.
Every vision board had some element of the ocean on it. Be it a beach wedding or a chick surfing her heart out. Since I can remember the ocean has always played a part in my dream life.
At some point the idea of living by the ocean and thus living away from family and friends just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t bear leaving those relationships behind. So I started looking for ways to make it all work.
I made a promise that I would visit my brother in British Columbia and also go on a trip to a sunny surf destination at least once a year.
I kicked off that promise with a trip to Nicaragua in 2015. It was my first non-family related trip since India 5 years prior. The warm sand between my toes. How everyone gathered on the beach to admire the sunset. Reading in a hammock. Surfing. Losing track of time star gazing. It made me realize just how much I needed this in my life.
But an injury on that trip clouded that desire and I came home excited to be back in my routine.
Then last year while on a beach near Paia in Maui the call to the ocean came once again. This time it wasn’t asking me to visit for just a week but rather to do what I needed to do in order to come and experience living close to it, at least for a little while.
The call was stronger than the discomfort that came with leaving friends and family behind. It was just something I felt I needed to do and it was worth pushing through emotions for.
When my adventure road tripping across the US and up the California coast came to an end, a surge of emotions came over me. Hit with the reality that I needed to find a place to live and not feeling clear as to where that was to be, I needed to go inward for the answer.
It was while on that hike in the Laurentian mountains that I finally heard what my intuition had to say.
“Go to Tofino. You’ll figure it out.”
I knew that coming here would allow me to get grounded. To let all the emotions from the trip sink in, or at least some.
I immediately fell in love with my little suite here. Located across the street from Cox Bay, one of Tofino’s most popular surf beaches, I was in disbelief how lucky I was to have found this place.
Wanting to make the most of my two weeks stay, I geared up for cold water surfing and purchased a low-end 5’4 wetsuit. I paddled out nearly everyday during my first week. It invigorated and challenged every muscle of my body to the point where I was so sore I needed to take all of last week to rest and treat myself to healing services. It was so worth it as within a few sessions making the decision to stay longer was a clear yes.
The owner of my little suite told me that the suite was available till January. His offer was too good to pass up.
While I was walking on the beach at sunset one day it occurred to me that I was truly living a dream. I had dreamt of living by a surf break for 3months at least once in my life.
This was it.
With Tofino being the surfing capital of Canada it attracts a community of people who live to surf and who also need surf to live. It’s everywhere. Not having a surf board on your car is nearly as dangerous as not having your winter tires put on before December 15th (don’t forget you East Coasters!). Talk about swells and the length of your new board can be overheard in the grocery aisle or coffee shop. Wearing your hooded neoprene is sexy as it gets here.
I love it.
I love how passionate people are about the sport. How it brings people together. How you can easily turn a stranger into a friend simply by asking “Do you surf?” Even better is that even if you’re a terrible surfer, everyone is just so stoked that you are out there.
I quickly just loved the vibe of the town. Life is simple here. People wake up later since first light only peeks through the rainforest around 7:30AM. They go to bed earlier as darkness hits hard just after 6:30PM. When people aren’t working they are either surfing, kayaking, fishing, sipping a beer at Jack’s, or grabbing dinner at Shelter or Wolf In The Fog. People say hi to one another while waiting for waves, on trails, and in cafés. It’s lovely.
It’s also a place where even though you feel isolated from the rest of the world in a way, you can’t hide from your shit.
Most people who live here aren’t originally from here. Now don’t quote me on statistics as I don’t actually know the percentage of Tofitians to imports, but it feels like there are a lot of us who aren’t from here. Of these, most have an interesting tale as to what brought them here. From the 21 year old who saved up money to buy a van and take the first job he could find in a restaurant here to the professional who has had enough of the soul-sucking reality he was stuck in the city, everyone has a story.
There’s something about the energy here. The stormy weather. The power of the waves. The shadows of the trees. It sparks something in you. In me, at least.
For me it’s brought to the surface those things that I more easily could hide amongst the crowded streets of Montreal. I had a feeling it would.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit to battling feelings of loneliness on a regular basis since leaving Montreal back in August. For goodness sake I consciously made the decision to pack up and drive cross-country solo! With my dog, of course, but our conversations are pretty unidimensional if you know what I mean. Don’t get me wrong, he is my favourite companion and I have no idea how I’d manage these feelings were he not around.
I’ve often thought about opening up about this topic but to be honest it terrifies me. There’s something so uncomfortable about admitting feeling lonely in a world where there are so many ways to be “connected.” Especially when overall my life is beyond amazing.
A part of me thinks “Who are you to feel lonely? You’re living the life. You chose this life. Mothers would kill to have the amount of solitude you have.”
Then the other part of me knows that there are plenty of people out there who feel ashamed admitting their bouts of loneliness. Many of these people aren’t even solo. They might be married, working in social settings, part of a team, etc. In fact, I have a feeling lonely in a crowd is way more common than we would like to think.
Living in Tofino is forcing me to find ways to deal with this. I chose to make this move and the period of adjustment will take the time it needs to take.
For one it forces me to put myself out there more than I feel comfortable to. Last week I went to the same bar three nights in a row simply to see who I could either strike up a conversation with or eaves drop on. I’ve given out my number to anyone who asks and accept any offer to hang out. I volunteered at the SUP Surf competition (which was da bomb!!) and met some amazing people from different parts of Canada. I make a point of asking the names of every barista, cashier, server, and stranger I meet.
At times it feels exhausting. Mostly just before I’m about to enter a room where the possibility of people already knowing each other is high. But once I make that first move that heavy feeling lifts. It’s kind of how the hardest part of working out is just getting yourself to the gym.
I’ve realized that I can’t hold back from making meaningful relationships while I’m here. Even if I do end up only staying for a couple months. I need to play full out. Say yes to invitations and create opportunities to invite. Be awkward and embrace the courage in that. Get rejected and remove the “r” to let the ejection take me towards someone new.
It’s not easy. In fact, surfing feels easier at times. But it feels damn good when it pans out.
In fact, the other day I was on the other side of loneliness. The side where I was the space for someone to feel heard and supported. I had noticed a tall young man with long hair and tattoos on his forearms at the coffee shop the day before.
He was there once again the next day and my first thought was “Cool, I’m not the only one who comes here almost everyday.”
He had a little notebook opened in front of him. A blue ink pen had written a few words but for the most part, the page was blank.
I caught him starting off into the distance a lot and I felt that his mind was filled with so many thoughts that they were begging for a place to go.
I was meant to focus on my work but it didn’t seem all that important for some reason.
“Can I ask you something?” I asked.
“Sure.” He said after taking a moment to process the fact that I was indeed asking HIM that question.
“What are you thinking about?”I was direct and it surprised me. But I also felt it needed to happen.
He went on to tell me his story. His heart had just recently been broken by the girl he had moved here with. They worked in the same place and within a couple days of their break-up she had ran off with one their co-workers. He admitted that he was in a cycle of asking himself what went wrong and of wondering how he would make things work here.
We had a beautiful conversation and I truly felt for him. Despite whatever judgements might be bestowed upon him because of his tough appearance, his eyes showed me what a kind and loving human being he is. He was vulnerable in front of me and I wanted to respect that.
He sent me a text later on to thank me for our conversation.
I realized that I often catch people staring off into the distance the way he was and yet I hadn’t just asked that simple question that could break their cycle of loneliness, even if just for a few minutes. I think I’ll ask more often now. I think you should too.
Second, wanting to share this experience with someone.
As the saying goes, “if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around, does it make a sound?”
I sometimes reflect on that with my life. Are the breathtaking moment real if there’s no one around? Would I even be writing this update had I someone to live it with?
I’ll continue to live this adventurous life for as long as I can, even if I am doing it alone. However I will admit that the desire to share my excitement for the magnificent sunsets, for catching that one wave, for how delicious the fish burrito at TacoFino was, has grown exponentially. This heightened awareness of wanting to share myself with someone also leads to shutting down the emotions quickly as a protective mechanism. I return to a baseline that stops me from feeling too much, cause sometimes it’s easier.
It does bring up a lot of fear at times as I think we should feel all emotions for what they are and avoid numbing anything. Yet I’ve caught myself shut down certain emotions of joy and even sadness simply because there isn’t anyone to share these with.
Now some of you reading will immediately go into protective mode. You’ll want to take these feelings away. Make it better.
But that’s not what I am sharing this for. The thing is, there is nothing wrong. The feelings, like all feelings, are fleeting. But trying to pretend they aren’t there makes it worse. Sugar coating will make it last longer than it has to. Chances are you’ve felt some level of this in your life too. It’s human. Or at least I like to think so.
I do make the most of all the communication tools available: phone, FaceTime, Skype, social media, journalling, talking with whoever is sitting next to me. Even so the feeling of wanting someone to be creating these memories with remains. How could I not? It’s so incredible here!
I also share because I’m doing something that I’ve never done before: moving cross country. I’m pushing myself way outside of my comfort zone to a place I’ve only dreamed of. As we know dreams and reality are different. Both amazing, the real experience comes with new sensations, realizations, and learnings. I’m taking all these in and instead of waiting to share once I’ve processed the lesson, I’m taking you along for the ride.
I feel I need to face these challenges head on. To let them do their thing so that I can feed the fire inside. Grow. Expand. Light up.
In the end it’s all kind of like surfing.
You need to build strength to paddle out. There will be times that you’ll want to quit but you’ll give yourself a pep talk and fill your lungs with just enough air to make it under that pounding wave.
You’ll eventually reach the space behind the break. The space where it’s calm and peaceful. Where you can rest and prepare for your next move. You might even skip a few good waves knowing that another will come around soon enough.
At times you’ll get impatient or feel unprepared. But eventually it will happen. You’ll catch that wave. You’ll ride it all the way in. Smile to your ears. Perhaps even knock yourself over with joy. And after all of it, you’ll be eager to do it over again.
It might take riding several terrible waves before catching that one wave that makes them all worth while. You’ll get tossed and turned. Humbled by the power of nature. Inspired to connect with her. You’ll paddle out time and time again because you know that the next good wave is out there waiting for you to catch it.
But you can’t do that if you leave your board on the shore. So suit up, paddle out, and surf your little heart out.
So I’ll keep suiting up. Paddle out. And make the most of every good wave that I catch. The falls and stormy days make the good waves and sunshine that much more special. This process is teaching me a lot about myself, and I plan on being a devoted student to it’s teachings.
Stick along for the ride as I am sure there will be more waves for us to catch soon!