I’m a city girl, born and bred. As a child, I had romanticized views about what it meant to live rurally – a farm filled with baby animals, a garden that practically tended to itself, a quiet, beautiful sunset, tea in hand.
But I have never truly experienced what it’s like. And as an adult, I’ve often wondered… how would life be if I couldn’t hit up the grocery store every day? Stop at Starbucks for a mid-afternoon caffeine fix? If I got snowed in all day? If everything in the closest town closed at 6 pm?
Last week, I got a taste of that while visiting my partner’s home province, Prince Edward Island. PEI is a small island nestled on the East Coast of Canada, so small if you didn’t set out to see it, you might miss it. With a population of about 142 thousand people on the whole island, most people only have a degree of separation between them, if any at all.
PEI is bursting with tourists in the summer months, whether coming by cruise ship, plane, or the confederation bridge by way of New Brunswick. In prior years, we had visited the island in the summer months. In the summer, there are no shortage of beaches to play on. It’s also great for people who enjoy being on the water, golf, or really, really good potatoes. The economy thrives on the summer tourism, and that being said not everything stays open year-round.
Until this fall trip, I don’t think I was able to truly appreciate with it had to offer. On previous visits, Matthew and I always got caught up in trying to get out on the beaches, fighting over the other visitors for a good place in the sun.
When we arrived last week, the weather was cool. The air was fresh, and smelled like the sea. With beachin’ it out of the question, and no particular sort of plans, we were left to our own devices in the slower pace of the island in the fall, which I had never experienced before.
Every morning, we drove the 60 seconds up the road it takes to get from Matthew’s moms, to his grandparents. There was no wifi – nothing to distract yourself with when you feel the need to occupy yourself. Family members would roll in and out of the house, bringing cookies for Ninny (as grandma is so affectionately known) or simply just to stop by to say hello.
The weather iffy, we had the wood burning stove on to heat the home and keep us warm. We would sit for a few hours in the old farm house and talk about everything – and nothing, and drink hot tea while the sun tried it’s darndest to be seen through the clouds.
In the afternoons, we would go out in search of coffee (my favourite activity). We spent the days going for walks, sometimes in town, sometimes in the odd pumpkin patch. We went thrift shopping, and ate french fries at the diner. We even went to the gym when we felt up to it. But no matter what we did – and this is the beautiful part – not once were we ever in a rush. We had no where to be, at least, not anywhere fast. And this seemed to be the consensus of the residents – something I am not used to seeing around Calgary.
In Calgary, everyone walks fast, eats fast, and drives faster. The more in a rush you are, the more socially praised you should be – because being busy is great, right? In this city, you almost get the feeling that you are ‘lesser than’ if you are not making yourself busy all the time. Yet settling into the slower island place felt natural to me. I don’t remember the last time I sat at home doing nothing – I spend a lot of days thinking about the next one with a sense of anxiety and urgency.
It didn’t take leaving for me to appreciate what we had there – a chance to slow down. PEI is a place where life is slower. Family time is cherished. The dirt is red, the plants grow with ease, and the children are polite. The people aren’t rich, but a stranger would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it. People are nice, and I got the chance to breathe, and as simple as it all sounds it’s more than I could ask for.
Matthew and I discuss where we will live next, and are both keen on moving out of the city. I know city living has it’s perks, but there’s something about living in the country that’s always called to me. Maybe I need country livin’.