The Higgledi-Piggledi-Manor

How HelpX changed our lives

Back in December, we were not really sure about where to go next. Which might sound weird enough for some of you considering the fact how much Canada, this huge chunk of land, has to offer. Right now, however, huge parts of it could be compared to a frozen Oreo cookie: a solid layer of ice wedged in between rocks. Winters here can be harsh and the season does not really invite for big hitchhiking adventures. After our demotivating experience in Whistler, we renounced the temptation to work in the ski industry and settled for some voluntary work on Vancouver Island. Afterwards, we made this other reasonable plan to stay in Victoria over winter; thinking that we could surely find work there. We even started handing out our CVs and had a homestay lined-up. Et cetera, et cetera. All seemed to go into the right direction. And then, one random afternoon, we received a call.

It was a guy from Quadra Island. “I just saw your HelpX profile online and well, since I need a bit of help here: why don’t you guys come up?” Q-U-A-D-R-A. Jeez, sounded like a weird place. Where was that even? After doing a bit of research about the island, it didn’t take us long to decide… YES. Yes, please.

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him you have a plan.”

Jim & Maria: The Artist and the Nurse

Two characters. Truely.


Jim actually reminds us of Theo in many ways. He realized at an early age that he wasn’t interested in getting a 9-5 job. Instead, he dedicated his life to more pleasurable activities: Art. Independency. Adventure. According to him, he always chose fun over dull duty. “And boy, I’ve had a loooot of fun in my life!” He once owned an airplane and at some other point, he took care of a monkey. Another time, he rented his own little island and lived on a boat in its bay. That was before he started building his big house directly at the waterfront on Quadra Island. In fact, modern building codes don’t even allow such a location anymore due to safety reasons. Jim earned his money as a guide, an artist, a landlord and who knows what else. He is a self-taught expert of many skills and sees value in everything other people discard. Yes, some people might think of him as a “collector” and yes, his place is the absolute nightmare of any minimalist but you can’t help but have respect for his determination to live life to the fullest and by his own rules. He certainly has great stories to tell! His motto? Don’t worry, be happy.

Maria, by contrast, worked a regular 9-5 (and overtime) job for most of her life. She actually met Jim when she was a traveller herself, at a time when he rented out parts of his house to backpackers. After moving in with him, her nursing job required her to commute to work with the ferry for years and years. We soon came to love her dearly and that it not only due to her gourmet cooking skills. Maria has a huge heart which she willingly opens to every creature around, be it her huge, black cat “Big Boy”, the guinea pigs her daughter ‘outsorced’ to Jim and Maria’s house or all the seabirds and racoons outside.

Both of them welcomed us with open arms into their home.


The Higgledi-Piggledi-Manor

What’s the story with that odd title!? It’s Jim’s tongue-and-cheek nickname for his own property. It means something a little silly, a little improvised, a little unfinished. Ha! And indeed, there are lots of projects waiting to be finished around his house… Which is why we soon decided to focuse on only a couple of them and complete them before we would leave. In the following weeks, we

  1. put up and finished the dry wall constructions in Maria’s sewing room,
  2. laid bricks for an outside terrace (until we ran out of bricks…) and
  3. had an amazing time packed with stories, labour and nature



And boy, it kept us busy enough! At some points, when we could still feel the dust in our eyes hours later, when we accidentally banged a finger with a hammer or dropped a brick precisely on a toe – we wished we had never picked these jobs. But the effort was worth it: We managed to finish both projects, learnt some more practical building skills and made an improving impact on the house. Jim and Maria were truely lovely hosts and played a key role in the further development of our Canada adventure. If any fellow traveller reads this who is planning to visit the Discovery Island – get in touch with us and we’ll happily forward their contact details!

Wait a minute! “Before moving out” – where are you guys now? And what’s the deal with that QU-Island? We want to see more landscape pics!” You will… Promised. For now though, you guys should take Jim as a positive example, turn of your screen, go out and have some fun!


One thought on “The Higgledi-Piggledi-Manor

  1. Pingback: High on Quadrenalin | Feeding Fernweh

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