Lessons From My First Week on Pelee Island
Life can be hard. Especially when you have just finished 8 years of post-secondary education and have no idea what you want to do with your life or how you ever plan to deal with the horrifying prospect of paying back your student loans. So, as is common practice with new graduates, I did my best to put on my big girl pants and get a grown-up job in the city. It was miserable. So I tried a different job. Still miserable. Then, on a whim, I applied for a job at Explore Pelee, spoke with Anne Marie, and within 24 hours I had planned to move to Pelee Island and be a tour guide for the rest of the summer. That was about 2 weeks ago. Having spent one full week on the island, here are a few things I’ve learned:
- There are lots of people in the world who wear many hats from day to day, working different jobs, volunteering, and dividing their time between other endeavors, but I have never been to a place where this is more evident than Pelee Island. People and places tend to serve many different purposes from one day to the next. Our Mayor, for example, is also an accountant and the owner of the bicycle shop, Comfortech. The town hall building, built in 1911, was at times used as a jail and and event venue, but is now the Pelee Island Heritage Centre. One of the old quarries is being used as an amphitheater for live music on Sundays. At Explore Pelee, we not only offer the island’s best tours (the world’s best tours, if you ask me, but I am admittedly biased) we also provide accommodations AND Canada’s most southern taxi service.
- You are only as good as your phone book. Living on an island with a permanent population of only around 300 (and even less in the winter) means that many of the things mainlanders take for granted are woefully out of reach. No, we do not have a Tim Hortons. Or a McDonalds, or a Canadian Tire, or a big grocery store chain. We do have one gas station, but it’s only open until 2:00 pm (closed Sundays) and fueling up can cost almost twice as much as the mainland. We also don’t have CAA, so if you lock your keys in your car, as I did on my first day of work (OF COURSE!) you better hope you have the phone number of someone who is good at breaking into cars. Luckily, Anne Marie knows everyone and it only took about an hour to solve the problem.
- “Traffic” is a relative term. City dwellers are familiar with the aggravation associated with endless rows of stop signs, red lights and traffic jams. On Pelee, there are no traffic lights. The landscape is dotted with a few stop signs and yield signs where the roads meet, but we don’t usually have traffic jams. At least not in the typical sense. Here, “traffic” is a couple of wild turkeys crossing the road with 20 or so of their hatchlings. It’s a great blue heron swooping in front of your vehicle as you try to make a turn. It’s a turtle meandering across your path. It’s a snake sunning itself on the asphalt in the afternoon sun. Often, it’s also the Explore Pelee passenger van stopping on the roadside to explain a point of interest to a tour group, or a group of cyclists making the 34km trek around the island.
There are many other lessons I could mention, but the bottom line is: Pelee Island is one of the most fun, unique and interesting places I have ever been. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I accepted this job, but it’s clear to me now, only one week in, that it was an excellent decision to take it. Based on my experiences so far, life on Pelee will be challenging at times, but the rewards will far outweigh the risks. Life seems a lot less hard when you’re surrounded by so much natural beauty, depth of history and wonderful people. I can’t wait to see what kinds of adventures the rest of the summer has in store.
See you at the dock!