Driven by a passion for adventure, photography, food and culture, Nicole Boutilier and Colby Veinotte started Explore the East as a way to share their adventures and highlight lesser known areas of the Maritimes. They love to collaborate with other East Coast adventurers and they seek to prove that the Maritimes has just as stunning landscapes as any other part of the country. They were happy to participate in our Share Your Maritime Love project and I’m so happy to have them here. Here’s what they had to say:
Do you live in the Maritimes? Where do you call home?
Nicole – I was born and raised in a small rural community in Cape Breton called Gardiner Mines. I moved to Dartmouth to study photography at the NSCC Waterfront campus for 2 years but made my way back to the Cape shortly after graduating and I’ve been here since.
Colby – Mahone Bay will always be my home, though I currently live in Halifax.
What do you love most about life in the Maritimes?
Nicole – I love just about every aspect of life in the Maritimes. Of course the obvious… the incredibly breathtaking landscape and unspoiled natural beauty. It doesn’t matter where you are in the Maritimes you are only minutes away from the ocean, mountains or all the awesome things in between. As a photographer I couldn’t possibly dream up a more beautiful place to call home. I also love the people, I dare say you will not find kinder, caring or more generous people then Maritimers. It’s a place where your neighbour will always let you borrow a cup of sugar or lend a helping hand. Our laid-back and relaxed atmosphere combined with our great sense of community is incomparable to any place I’ve ever been. And lastly I love all the fascinating history that we hold in every Maritime province, I never get tired of learning about our heritage and culture.
Colby – It’s hard to narrow it down to just one answer. First off I’d have to say the cuisine. Growing up with farmers and fisherman in the family makes it so easy to appreciate the food that ends up on our tables. Second, the scenery of the Maritimes. From the highlands of Cape Breton to the world’s highest tides of Fundy. It’s only a few hours of driving to see some of the most diverse landscapes. Most of all I love the people and the culture. I’ve never met anyone as friendly as someone from the Maritimes. Every person is as friendly as the next.
What do you find most challenging about living/doing business here?
Nicole – Being from Cape Breton, there are definitely some obstacles that make growing a successful business and life here more difficult. It’s unfortunate but the population is steadily on the decline and we have the obvious economic struggles. Last year, Cape Breton had the biggest loss in population over any other region in the country. I’ve seen half of my family move to other parts of Canada to find employment, and it always breaks my heart to see people leave this beautiful place. Personally I feel like many Maritimers are stuck in their ways, not too keen on taking risks or change. I believe the open-minded creative people are what’s keeping this island and other parts of the Maritimes going strong. We need more people who are willing to do whatever it takes to make living here long-term possible. I love seeing people going out on a limb and starting a new business. During a time when the economy is struggling it’s so rad to see people taking a risk and following their dreams. It would be great to see more people supporting our local businesses. Even if it means stopping by a little cafe for your morning coffee over Tim Hortons every now and then. Two of my biggest passions are photography, exploring and promoting the Maritimes. That is why Colby and I started Explore the East, we want to share how incredible this place is. We want to showcase not only the cool scenic places but also the small businesses that make this part of the country so special. If you are dedicated and willing to put in the extra work anything is possible. As Maritimers we don’t give up easily.
Colby – One of the toughest things I find is the old-fashioned mind set people have. People being set on their ways of thinking and not accepting change. I also find that far too many people seem to give up and make the move out west for work. There is much that one can accomplish here with the will to work for it. Especially with all the modern day resources available such as a myriad of social media platforms. Communicating and networking has never been so easy as it is today.
What is your favourite places(s) in the Maritimes? Why?
Nicole – This one is easy for me, Cape Breton. One of my favourite places in particular is the Cheticamp area. It’s where my grandfather is from, and where lots of great childhood memories were made. It has always been our go-to spot for summer vacations. I believe growing up in Cape Breton shaped me into the person I am today. I grew up always being outdoors, and I’m sure that played a massive roll in my love and appreciation for the island. It might sound a bit cliche but Cape Breton is in my blood and it will always hold a very special place in my heart. We are surrounded by the ocean, mountains, and wildlife that are simply stunning. We have endless hiking trails, beaches and little villages to explore. We are home to some of the most artistically talented people in the world, so there is no shortage of inspiration. The people are hard working, kind-hearted, strong and generous. I love that when you walk down the street, everybody greets you even if you are an unfamiliar face. I recently spent a weekend in the Highlands of Cape Breton exploring the Cabot Trail. As I was driving through the little communities I noticed that every person walking or every vehicle I drove by, would wave and greet me. I had dinner with some local folks and they couldn’t have been nicer. I felt like I was eating dinner with people I had known my entire life, even though we had just met. It’s the small gestures of kindness and big hearts that make Cape Breton, along with the rest of the Maritimes, so special.
Colby – I would have to say my hometown and surrounding area. I’ve had so many great memories in Lunenburg and Mahone Bay and continue to make more with every visit.
What do you think we can do to build a better Maritimes?
Nicole – I’ll say it again the Maritimes are one of the most beautiful parts of Canada. From the Bay of Fundy’s rising tides, to the sandy beaches of Prince Edward Island, to the mountains surrounding Margaree Valley. While it’s scenic beauty may be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of the Maritimes (with good reason!), it’s the people who call it home that are really at the heart of it’s beauty. Many musicians, photophraphers, writers, sculptors, painters and other artists have created works of art that mirror the beauty of the land. It is through their creations that we are able to experience the Maritimes for what they truly are. It is for this reason that it hurts so much to see the provincial governments cutting funding to the arts. It is unreasonable to remove the funding for an arts program and then to expect the artists to remain in the Maritimes. Tax credits, grants, and scholarships are relied upon by many in the arts community. We need incentives, not only to keep our artists here, at home, but also to attract foreign artists to the Maritimes. The Maritimes has no shortage of artists, but unless we’re able to give them a reason to stay, the art community has a serious risk of facing an upcoming departure of talent. And I’m positive this is also relatable to many other industries and fields of work beyond just the arts. If the government isn’t going to support us, we have to take it upon ourselves to make a change. Support each other, and do whatever we can to keep Maritimers here. Shop local, support our artists, small businesses and keep promoting that we are just as great as Western Canada or anywhere else in the world.
Colby – We need to realize that the Maritimes are just as important as Canada’s other more-celebrated provinces. We’re still growing in some areas but we are well on our way. We need to learn from our Canadian counterparts that social networking and similar platforms are just as important as other tools in the workplace. Collaborating and working locally can only do good for the economy. We also need to remember the beauty of our own provinces. We have few landscapes that are publicized, but Peggy’s Cove is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to discover and share.
Thanks so much for participating in our Share Your Maritime Love project, guys!
If you would like follow along with Nicole and Colby as they Explore the East, you can visit their Instagram account here.
I don’t know of many islands in the world that you get to by driving over the ocean floor at low tide, but Ministers Island is one of them. Located in the Bay of Fundy, just off the coast of uber-charming St. Andrews by-the-Sea, a trip to Ministers Island is like stepping back in time. The island is home to the property of Sir William Van Horne, famous for his role in building the Canadian Pacific Railway. Van Horne bought part of the island (named Ministers Island because one of the first settlers was Reverand Samuel Andrews) in 1890. On the property he built a magnificent 50-room summer home named Covenhoven and several other outbuildings, including a windmill, ice house and creamery and a stunning bathhouse built against the cliff-side that offers panoramic views of the Bay of Fundy.
I was really enchanted by our short visit a few weeks ago. Even though the buildings are closed up for the winter months, you still get a real sense of history as you stroll through the grounds and their beautifully built structures. You could spend hours here exploring the island and it’s many trails. Just make sure you make it back over the bar before the tide comes up!
The barn recently sustained significant damage to its silos and requires extensive repairs. For information about how you can help with the restoration efforts, follow their Facebook page Ministers Island or visit their website here.
Here are some pictures I took from our trip to the island. I would highly recommend planning a trip of your own. It would be really lovely in the summer!
This is the start of a new series at Maritime Love, called A Little Good News. In the series, I’ll tell stories about positive things happening around the region. Because, frankly, we could all use a little more good news. My first A Little Good News story is on a subject very close to my heart: rural schools.
In June of 2015, the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board voted to uphold the decision to close Wentworth Consolidated Elementary, along with Maitland District Elementary and River John Consolidated, after rejecting their hub school proposals. The communities were obviously devastated by the closures. They fought, and continue to fight to keep their schools a part of their communities.
I grew up in the next village over from Wentworth and while I did not attend this school, I’ve visited many times and I know the toll that a school closure has both on the students and the community. It can be very hard on kids to adjust to a new, often much larger school many kilometers away; their grades often suffer because of it. On the community the effect can be even more drastic. When a school closes, a community’s centre of gravity is lost, leaving it’s members unsteady and unsure of where the next step lies. Many families will move, simply to be closer to school and after school activities. The remaining community struggles to maintain solidarity, without the school as a rallying point.
The people of Wentworth refused to give up and because of the hard work of some very committed members of the community, they have just announced that in September of 2017, they will be reopening the school as a “P-3, independent, not-for-profit, community governed and community maintained facility“. And starting May 1, 2016, they will also offer “commercial space available for rent to encourage small business ventures and give owners affordable space to grow“.
To get the full scoop on the project I called on an old friend, Nathan Patriquin, who is the Vice President of the Wentworth Learning Centre Cooperative Ltd, the group that is overseeing the project and will be responsible for the Centre’s operation. The Centre will not be affiliated with any local school board, instead relying on an ongoing fundraising campaign to raise the funds necessary for it’s operation. He tells me that they are also accepting proposals from certified daycare providers and are marketing the almost 1500 sq ft of remaining available space as a “business incubator to encourage new entrepreneurs to pursue their ideas“. When asked how the community has received the project, he tells me that while cautiously optimistic at first, the community is encouraged by the progress that has been made as the project gains momentum.
I congratulate the people of Wentworth on their commitment to providing local education for their children and for fighting so hard for their community. It is exactly this kind of innovative thinking that will keep our rural Maritime communities alive and help them prosper into the future.
If you would like to learn more about the learning centre or are interested in renting space, please visit their Facebook page Wentworth Learning Centre.
If you live in or around the Saint John area, you’ve undoubtedly seen Dominique Leger and her In Pursuit Mobile Boutique. It’s pretty hard to miss. It is, after all, a big pink truck. Inside, Dominique sells the latest in women’s clothing and accessories. She got the idea after spotting something similar on a trip to Boston’s SoWa market for mobile vendors in 2011. She knew almost immediately that she wanted to bring this unique idea to the Maritimes. Getting the boutique up and running wasn’t easy but In Pursuit has been in operation now since October of 2013 and has been building a base of loyal shoppers all over the east coast. Here’s what Dominique had to say about what she loves about living and doing business in the Maritimes:
Do you live in the Maritimes? Where do you call home? I do! I currently live in Saint John. Growing up I spent the most time in Fredericton (from Grades 2 – 12) before moving to Toronto. I lived in Moncton after that and then Ottawa before relocating to Saint John.
What do you love most about life in the Maritimes? It’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever visited or lived. All of the cliches are true. The atmosphere is relaxed, the people are friendly, everything you need or want is within 15 minutes from your house. You’re surrounded by water and stunning scenery at every angle, every single day of the year. Life on the East Coast is magic, it’s the total package (and it explains why I’ve moved back twice).
What do you find most challenging about living/doing business here? This is a tough question! I like living and doing business here so much that it’s difficult for me to list any negatives. Simply because of the nature of my business and it being mobile, sometimes Mother Nature really gets in the way. Because we’re on the coast we get a lot of fog, a lot of rain, and a lot of cold weather during the winter months that can sometimes prohibit me from operating street side. That said, because In Pursuit is a 24 hour operation, those days give me an opportunity to work from home on my never ending to-do lists and website updates.
What is your favourite place(s) in the Maritimes? Why? There are so many! Every city or town you travel to is completely different so it’s difficult to pick just one favorite. I love Fredericton because my family is there. I grew up going to the Saturday market and now every visit brings back all kinds of memories. I love Moncton because of its faster pace and its hustle and bustle. I love tiny towns like St. Martin’s and Saint Andrews because nothing smells better than ocean air and there are few things cuter than little shops and boutiques full of tourists and locals alike. I recently traveled to Halifax and I instantly regretted not having spent more time there. It has a perfect mix of big city coldness and Maritime hospitality. It’s gritty and pretty all at the same time and I’m so anxious to get back (sooner rather than later, hopefully). All of that said though, I really think Saint John is my most favorite of all. It took awhile for me to warm up to it, but once I did; I fell in love and I fell hard. Saint John has so much character (and so many characters). I am charmed every day by its landscape, its buildings, its history, its people. I’ll never get over the fact that “rush hour” is having to wait your turn at 2 stop lights instead of just 1. Or that the Nature Park is even a place that exists in real life. Everything we need is right here. There’s a renewed excitement in the air and so many things up and coming, I’m proud to say I live here and that this is the place I’ve purposely chosen to open and operate my business.
What do you think we can do to build a better Maritimes? I think it’s important that we all take ownership individually and stop relying on other people, other corporations and other governments to “make it better”. I think if we approach things with a sense of optimism and belief that things can and will get better instead of a negative attitude and “we have to do it this way because it’s always been done this way” approach we’ll see a shift. We really do have so much opportunity here; just as much if not more than what exists in any larger city.
Thanks so much to Dominique for sharing her Maritime Love! You can follow In Pursuit on social media to see where she’ll be next and don’t forget to check out her online shop at www.inpursuittruck.ca!
If you would like to participate in our #ShareYourMaritimeLove project, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you!