Every few months or so, I feel the need to seriously decompress; to expunge major stresses in my life and reset my mind so that I can be refreshed and rejuvenated once again. Sometimes these urges are also for increased mindfulness during times of conspicuous consumption. You just need to get back to the basics and be good to yourself again - be good to your body. Often this means heading to the islands. I feel this constant need to be near the water, even though Vancouver as a city is right on the Pacific Ocean. Maybe it’s because I’m searching for catharsis and that the physical separation on an island is not only an apt metaphor but a metaphysical one as it relates to my mind.

I heeded my body's call recently and packed my bags to head to Bowen Island, a little retreat on Howe Sound just 20 minutes by ferry from Horseshoe Bay, one of two main ferry terminals in Vancouver. It’s the perfect quick escape from the city as Horseshoe Bay is just 15 minutes from downtown. Popular with locals, Bowen Island has been known historically as “Vancouver’s Playground” for the last 100 years. In 1902, Captain Cates sailed to Bowen Island on the S.S. Britannia and dubbed her “The Happy Isle.” Word got around and thousands of passengers arrived daily in steamships from Vancouver to frolic on Bowen’s beaches, picnic grounds and dance halls. In the 1920s, some of the best dance bands of the era performed on the island and over 200 summer cottages and a lavish hotel were built to accommodate the throngs of summer seekers.

These days, the dance bands are gone and locals are much more focused on the arts and recreational scene that the island is now known for. Hundreds of artists call Bowen Island home. Creativity flourishes here with the tall trees and ocean vistas; such inspiration captured by many artists, classic concerts and theatre presentations. There are numerous festivals that celebrate the arts year round. As for the recreation scene, Bowen is a hiker’s dream. There are 11 great hikes for all abilities and that doesn’t even include the trails within Crippen Park where lush rainforests meet the quiet shores of Killarney Lake. You can leave your car behind at Snug Cove and access many of these trails within a short walk. For more advanced hikers, Mount Gardner awaits you; an 11-km trail that ends with breathtaking views at the top. Besides hiking, you can rent a kayak and explore Howe Sound on water or play golf at Bowen Island Golf Club. 

For me, it’s a little bit of everything. This particular trip, however, I’m focused on achieving some form of inner peace and mindfulness. I’m at a fantastic yoga retreat on Bowen that I’ll fill you in on - and will let you know if I actually get what I came for - a restorative reset.