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!