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.”

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a FAIR amount of caffeine

Coffee Tasting with Helene

Quadra Island does not only offer beautiful scenery but also a very inspiring and welcoming community. Helene, a beautiful French-Canadian woman, is part of it. She’s also the owner of the Aroma Roastery. Helene has invited us to a couple of super interesting (and delicious) coffee tastings by now where she taught us so much more than the difference between ‘fragrance’ and ‘aroma’ (fragrance is the smell of the freshly ground beans and the aroma is what you sniff when you hold your nose over a mug of ready-to-drink coffee). My brother, the modest Pro-Barista, was honestly jealous when we sent him pictures of the elaborate event and we can’t wait for the next one!

 

 

In Helene’s roastery, she processes organic, Fairtrade beans from a cooperation that supports only female growers. And it was her who inspired us to write this post and made us more conscious about our choice of beans.

Why exactly? Let’s see…

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Indigenous Canada Pt. 1: The Basics

Today, we will start a new blog series. One that will be just as diverse and wide-ranging as its topic: Canada’s Indigenous people. Simply because it would be like repeating colonial history all over again if we wouldn’t pay heed to them during our travels and on our blog. Yes, this might sound a liiiiittle dramatic to some of you but it’s a serious issue to many others and one we can’t and won’t ignore.

So, to break a huge issue down to comprehensible pieces, we will start with some key data.

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Coastal Life: Oyster Harvesting!

So here we are, still on Quadra Island and the winters here are very enjoyable. There’s quite a bit of rain and we had one week of snow, but the temperatures are relatively mild and whenever the sun comes out, we are off exploring! This clip shows us jumping into a canoe and paddling out to one of the neighboring islands to harvest some fresh seafood that would sell for top prices in any fancy restaurant: oysters!

 

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Walking on Southern Vancouver Island

So you are on Vancouver Island and you’d like to see some more of that scenic Canadian landscape everyone gets excited about? You can’t bother to walk the whole West Coast Trail but you want to explore more than just Victoria’s parks? Then, these three recommendations are just perfect for you. All of these relatively short walks can be reached within 30 to 60 minutes from Victoria Downtown and are suitable for young and old adventurers alike!

 

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Coastal BC: Quadra Island

It didn’t take us long to draw a conclusion from the recent experience in Whistler: We’re not made for hyped places and we didn’t come to Canada to spend all our meagre savings there. So we moved on. By now, we are on Quadra Island (one of the Discovery Islands between the Westcoast and Vancouver Island) and we really feel like staying for a while…

Upon our arrival, our host took us for a nice walk around Rebecca Spit, a peninsula that offers stunning views in all directions. Click and enjoy the video that we quickly edited for you!

 

 

 

A Culinary Christmas, everyone!

Don’t worry, we won’t develop into a foodie-blog and we have another couple of posts about other topics lined up. Yet, we felt like we wanted to offer you guys a ‘lighter’ read for the holidays. Which is why we decided to share two recipes with you which we just recently learnt here on Vancouver Island. In fact, we think they could make a great gift for your loved ones. Who needs another half-arsed, impersonal and uncreative present anyways? Screw the consumption hype and bring something that can be enjoyed together on the spot!

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Put your gumboots on, baby! We’re going farming!

Alrighty, it’s about time to give you guys an update! We have turned our backs on Whistler a while ago and headed to Vancouver Island instead. This Canadian gem is also referred to as THE ISLAND. This nickname makes a whole lot of sense considering the fact that it’s freaking gorgeous and almost half the size of Germany… We found a host over HelpX, a network that works similarly as Workaway or WWOF. What these three platforms have in common is that they connect international travellers and locals. Why? The deal is to volunteer a few hours per day (farm work, household chores, childcare, …) in return for food and accommodation. This allows low-budget travellers to get to know a variety of local projects and well, the hosts get affordable temporary workers in return. This can be extremely helpful during harvest times for instance. Cultural exchange at its best, we’d say 😊

 

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On the ferry to Vancouver Island. We’re looking forward to new adventures!

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A winterwonderland with nasty issues: Whistler

 – WHISTLER – A name that has a magic ring to it – at least when you’re either into snow sports or mountain biking. In fact, it’s North America’s biggest ski area and every year, it attracts more and more people from all over the world. And although we know about the negative impacts of the ski industry on the environment, we succumbed to the legend’s call to find out what this hype is all about. So about a week ago, we caught a greyhound bus and drove right into the heart of this hyped winter wonderland.

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Arriving to 30cm of fresh powder!

Almost immediately, we were confronted with a problem that is omnipresent in town: The shocking (!) housing crisis. Getting a job in Whistler is the easy part. Almost every shop displays a desperate “We’re hiring!” sign in its windows and it’s quite common to get a signing bonus, free ski pass and free meals. Sounds sweet? Yes…. BUT. These treats are a result of the fact that there is just not enough long-term housing space in Whistler. We soon learnt that this is an issue that is affecting everyone, not only seasonal/international workers.

 

Some employers offer staff housing but the waiting lists are loooong, especially at the beginning of the winter season. And the normal shared houses are being rented out for ridiculous prices (like $2,000 per room and month) and more often than not, you don’t even have a room for yourself. We met full-time working people who slept in campervans (in winter!) because they had not found anywhere to live. We heard of landlords who ask you to pay 6months of rent upfront – in addition to a huge deposit, of course – and who make you sign a contract that strictly forbids you to have friends crashing on your couch. We got told to check a diversity of Facebook groups, magazines and various online platforms h-o-u-r-l-y (don’t hesitate to email us if you need more detailed information about these!) and to accept any offer we might get, no matter how expensive. “There’s always a price to pay in order to fulfil your dreams”, they said.  It seemed that there was no other topic than the housing crisis in our hostel and it was hard to see people’s optimism get crushed and grinded down to pieces with every passing day.

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Baby, it’s cold outside! So let’s wrap our hands around a steaming mug of coffee and browse the internet for housing…

 

There are a few reasons that led to the current situation:

  1. Stupid city planning: We can’t name it any other way (however, we are not sure about how strict the building code is in the valley…). There are loads of luxurious hotels but only a few normal residences. And most hotels refuse to rent some of their rooms out to their own staff because naturally, you can get more money of the tourists. An attitude that already shows consequences though: We saw a fair number of restaurants or shops that are closed because there is just not enough staff to operate them.
  2. International fame: Whistler is North America’s Number 1 and naturally, that attracts many people. Too many people. When talking to locals, they claimed that housing has always been a problem is Whistler but that the issue has become even worse since the little town hosted the Olympics in 2010.
  3. Air BnB: We love the original idea of that platform and have used it a lot on our own travels. Yet, it has become severely commercialized by now and is stealing away living space from locals all over the world (Berlin is no exception there…). When you check out Whistler on AirBnB, they are loads of results in the area – compared to about 1-3 free rooms on Craigslist. Again, a result of the human greed for filthy lucre…

 

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Air BnB in Whistler? No problem if you have enough money…

Over a personal connection and some luck we actually got offered two rooms. Which is something other people can only DREAM OF after a mere week there. And to be honest, we were tempted to take one of them and “pay the price” for living in Whistler. We honestly were because as tough as the housing crisis is, the vibe and community in Whistler are truly great and the snowy mountains do seem like an endless playground. But luckily, we listened to that odd feeling in our stomachs and talked it through…  and then declined both offers. Instead, we decided to NOT let ourselves get exploited by greedy landlords and a totally f’%ked-up system just in order to live in an overly-hyped place. Instead, we made use of HelpX, reached out to some organic farmers on Vancouver Island and settled on a Plan B; a plan that seemed to be more ‘like us’ anyways.

Bye, Whistler and thanks for teaching us this lesson!

 

P.S.: For the podcast fans among yous…

 

 

An Active Arrival

So. We made it! Our journey to Vancouver went smooth as silk and we entered the country of brownbears without any hazzard. We are now proud owners of a beautifully crafted, printed 1year Visa which I am already afraid to lose somewhere on the road…

Vancouver greeted us with an icy drizzle but coming from Berlin, we didn’t even notice. What we immediately realized, however, was the extreme politeness of the Canadians. This loveable stereotype seems to be true! “Excuse me, Sir” here, “Sorry for the inconvenience” there and cheerful “Hi there – Bye Now“s everywhere! And we’re not making it up when we’re telling you that we already scored two free busrides! Jeez, Canada, we’re already in love with you. That first night, the jetlag hit us hard and we went to bed pretty much straight after we had checked into our AirBnB.

scyline vancity

 

Naturally, our time in Vancouver didn’t stay as sleepy. Yes, our jetlag drove us to bed early every night but we did walk around all day. In fact, we did a 33km sightseeing-run just yesterday because I guess that’s what happens when we feel like it’s been too long since a decent workout Click on the picture below to see how we animated our route with Strava & relive (two very recommendable apps).

 

Route Screenshot 01

 

“Vancity” itself is pretty cool: There are looooads of great coffee shops around and we also loved that it’s a perfect city for biking and walking (nice parks and broad bike paths which are separated from pedestrians as well as cars – Berlin, pleeaaase take a leaf out of that book! Please!). We especially loved the vast Stanley’s Park, the markets on Granville Island and the fact that you can see snowy mountains looming behind the scyline. Yet, we also noticed a great number of homeless people but can’t really say more about this issue without having done any further research…

 

 

Today, we’ll jump on a Greyhound bus straight to Whistler Village. Whistler-Blackcomb is THE biggest ski resort in Canada and internationally famous amongst snowlovers so we’re hoping to find a job there. The prospect of spending the winter skiiing/snowboarding is just too tempting and all staff members get a free season pass as well as discounts on gear rentals and accommodation. Wish us luck! And now lean back and enjoy the first result of the – also very recommendable – 1secondeveryday app. The short clip shows us travelling to Canada and running about Vancouver.