One of the toughest parts of owning my own business is knowing when to take a break from it. The last “real” vacation we had from MAJAMAS EARTH was over ten years ago when we went to Italy and we were gone a little over two weeks. Skype wasn’t super accessible then and cell phones didn’t work when traveling overseas so communication with my employees was close to impossible. The first week we were gone, I kept worrying about the company and hoping our orders went out. The second week, I finally relaxed and honestly felt if the office burned down, all would still be ok as long as no one was hurt.
I should probably clarify how we define a “real” vacation. For us, that means no planning our travel around sales calls, watching water polo games or swim meets our girls are in and absolutely no sneaking in a trade show. This year, we were going to get off the grid and escape all forms of work and responsibility. We wanted to go somewhere we’d never been, where we could appreciate nature and take in all its glory, so we went to Vancouver, BC.
Packing for an eight day trip with no access to laundry meant we had to pack smart so my girls brought a good amount of our new MAJAMAS EARTH collection. We designed this line to pack easily and take you from a day of shopping to a night out. We came to the conclusion that the Qualcosa Tank and Picolli Shorts make perfect traveling garments because they have wicking abilities that keep you cool in the heat. We also agreed that without our Elina Hoodie, we would have frozen on the airplane and in the air-conditioned restaurants.
We flew direct from Chicago to Vancouver and as we made our final approach into the airport, we knew we had made a great choice. Vancouver is a relatively new city, especially compared to Chicago so the architecture there is no comparison for the Windy City’s but the landscape of Vancouver is the most beautiful of any city we’ve ever been to. It is surrounded by mountains and water and once we landed, we checked into a quaint boutique hotel in Yaletown and headed straight for the water front. Yaletown was a big industrial area that still has a lot of re-purposed warehouses and rail yards running thru it in downtown Vancouver. Today, it hosts a plethora of popular stores, clubs and restaurants and after eating dinner, we were drawn into a small water front restaurant that had a great jazz band playing all the classics.
Our goal was to hike and explore as much as possible so the following day, we headed out to Lynn Canyon Park. This gorgeous place has a suspension bridge overlooking running rapids and beautiful trails surrounded by lush forest and wildlife. We were warned about bear sightings but never came across one and spent a good three hours hiking through this ecological masterpiece. The following day we got on a ferry and headed to Vancouver Island. Once there, we hit the Sook Coast Trail that is a winding, hilly hike boasting amazing ocean views from narrow cliff paths. There were tiny inlet beaches and areas of moss covered rocks and we realized after an hour of hiking that the path wasn’t a loop so we went farther up the trail and back tracked to the start at Aylard Farm. Even though we were on the same path, the view was different going back and absolutely stunning.
There’s nothing like seeing huge mammals to make all of our human problems seem insignificant so we did the touristy thing the next day and went on a whale watching expedition. We were given orange jumpsuits designed to keep us warm and help us float, kind of making me panic, but we jumped into a yellow raft anyway and headed out into the bay. First we saw a harbor seal which was hunted close to extinction until a moratorium put a stop to that in the 1970s. Then we saw an otter who curved in and out of the huge kelp forests while grooming himself and smiling up at us. As we turned to head back to the port we eyed a majestic bald eagle sitting by itself on a rock but the best part of the trip was seeing what we went there for; a huge Hump Back Whale “mugging” another boat.
We returned to Vancouver the following day on the ferry and saw a school of Orcas eating along a coastal island. We were amazed at how much smaller they looked compared to what we’d seen on TV and we learned they are the bullies of the ocean attacking everything, including their own species.
When we got to Vancouver, we stayed on the other side in Coal City Harbor which is closer to Stanley Park. This park is a huge tourist attraction but it is so beautiful, we didn’t mind sharing it with the rest of the visitors so we rented bikes and road along the winding coastal trails. We cut through the center of the park to grab an ice cream cone by Prospect Point where the main wildlife was a family of hungry raccoons focused on stealing food right out of the hands of the tourists. The next day we ran along the same paths going earlier than the crowds and slow enough to take in the wild ferns and huge trees surrounding us.
We headed up to Whistler later that day and shopped in the transformed Olympic Village taking pictures by the Olympic rings and eating the surprisingly delicious Mexican food. We took a gondola ride up Whistler Mountain and hiked on the steep hills along the top. Then we did the Peak to Peak Gondola ride forcing my daughter to face her fear of heights as we took in the breathtaking scenery. We watched the insane mountain bikers riding down the same mountain the 2010 Olympic skiers raced down and the difficulty of both sports overwhelmed us.
On our way back to Granville Island, across from Vancouver, we hiked the hardest trail of the week. We got up early and headed to Squamish to hike the Sea to Summit Gondola trail. This is a relatively new trail that is 7.5 km and almost completely up hill. The start of the hike intimidated us with its 3 foot high steps and vertical path but it only got harder. We found ourselves pulling our bodies up ropes along sharp, mountain rock, and navigating around tree roots but seeing the rushing rapids and waterfalls made it all worth it. After three hours, we made it to the Summit where we were welcomed by the Base Camp field house that had a cafeteria boasting homemade soups, sweet potato fries and warm sandwiches to warm us up after hiking in the pouring rain. We took the gondola down, amazed we had climbed the spectacular terrain we were passing over and reached our car completely exhausted.
Our final night, we stayed on Granville Island close to the famous, Public Market where we found everything from fresh produce to homemade pastries and freshly caught fish beautifully prepared for grilling. It was packed with people clamoring for the local faire and every stall was beautifully laid out as if awaiting the photographer from Sunset Magazine to come and shoot the featured spread. There were stores surrounding the market filled with souvenirs and the painted people on the towers of the concrete plant added a whimsical touch to the landscape.
On our way to the airport, we stopped in the VanDusen Botanical Gardens to admire the variety of roses, plants and trees so beautifully laid out and we regretted giving ourselves a mere hour to walk thru it. We have promised not to wait another ten years before taking another “real” vacation but after all we did and loved about this one, I can honestly say, it was well worth the wait. We have returned feeling hopeful and inspired by this beautiful planet and we want to encourage the rest of the world to see what’s out there. It is my belief that if we see animals in their natural habitat and the magnificent nature we take for granted we may just care a tiny bit more about how we affect it and try a little harder to save it.
– Germaine Caprio, MAJAMAS EARTH Company Owner & Designer