Are you scrolling through Instagram, green with jealousy, looking at all the beautiful people sunbathing and swimming with dolphins in exotic locations like the Seychelles, St.Tropez, and the Baja while you are stuck in school like a chump? There is no need to feel such envy when you live in the most beautiful place in Canada, with beaches, mountains, islands, and rainforests all at your doorstep. It is possible to go exploring this summer without breaking the bank — let me show you how:
1. Victoria. Hop on the Twassen ferry, which is about an hour’s drive away from Abbotsford, as a foot passenger or with your bike to go to B.C.’s capital city. There are so many free things to do in this charming city that has a well-equipped public transit system: take a selfie in front of the parliament buildings, stroll around the docks at Fisherman’s Wharf, browse Canada’s oldest Chinatown, or take a self-guided ghost tour. Stay at a hostel for as little as $28 a night and meet even more travellers to adventure with.
2. Ucluelet. Take your car on the ferry to Nanaimo and go on a mini road trip to the hipster town of Ucluelet, just south of Tofino. If you want to make the scenic drive last longer, you can visit Goats on the Roof in Coombs, Cathedral Grove Park, and countless other parks, trails, and lakes that pop up during the four-hour drive. Learn how to surf from one of the many surf schools in town, or just enjoy beachcombing at Long Beach or Pacific Rim National Park. Since even hostels and campsites are crazy expensive here, I suggest doing as the locals do and sleep in your car. Of course, this is much easier if you have a minivan or hatchback, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
3. Gulf Islands. In between the mainland and Vancouver Island are the charming little islands of Galiano, Gabriola, Pender, Thetis, Saturna, Mayne, and Salt Spring. A unique way to experience these sunny, beachy islands is to stay with local, organic farmers, exchanging about five hours of labour a day for room and board. This program is called WWOOF, or WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and is great for people who want to learn how to live sustainably and form friendships with like-minded people. Annual membership costs $50/year or $75/year for a couple and gives you access to an entire database full of hosts who are looking for eager workers.
4. Squamish. It’s like Whistler, but cheaper, with hiking and mountain biking trails galore. Three of the most note-worthy trails are Sea to Summit, the Chief, and Elfin Lakes. Basically, if you like doing things outside, this small town in the mountains is for you. After you are done traipsing through the wild outdoors, why not try a craft beer at one of the local breweries? There are countless campsites to pitch your tent in for as little as $10/night.
5. Vancouver. This city is so easy to get to from Abbotsford, even if you don’t have a car, and is bountiful with free things to do during the summer. Some of my favourites include biking around Stanley Park, watching the Festival of Lights at English Bay, wandering around Granville Island, and sunbathing nude at Wreck Beach. If you are more outdoorsy, hit up North Vancouver to hike the Grouse Grind, Mount Seymour, or Quarry Rock in Deep Cove. As for somewhere to stay, ask around. I am sure there is a friend of a friend, a long-lost aunt, or an old co-worker who left Abbotsford for the big city who would be happy to host you for a night or two. If your entire Facebook friend list resides in the Valley, first of all get more friends, second of all, try couchsurfing. There are hundreds of strangers who welcome weary travellers to sleep on their couches in exchange for a good conversation over a beer. It sounds sketchy, but trust me, I have made many friends through this website and have never had a bad experience.
There you have it: five weekend get-aways to get your mind away from school work and enjoy this beautiful province which you have the incredible luck to reside in. After capturing obligatory vacation photos, put down your phone and enjoy all of the incredible beaches, lakes, and forests B.C. has to offer.
Image: Kayt Hine/The Cascade