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GUEST COLUMN: Tales from a seasonal resident: Part 1 — Toronto to P.E.I.

Vera Teschow, her partner and her dog cross the Confederation Bridge on their way from Toronto to P.E.I., being one of the first seasonal residents to apply to visit their Island property. 
Vera Teschow/Special to The Guardian
Vera Teschow, her partner and her dog cross the Confederation Bridge on their way from Toronto to P.E.I., being one of the first seasonal residents to apply to visit their Island property. - Vera Teschow/Special to The Guardian

Vera Teschow
Guest column


I shuddered the other day when I heard the report of a cluster of new cases of COVID-19 on Prince Edward Island, the first such report in 65 days! I shuddered because I was concerned for Islanders, yes, but also because I knew how quickly the newly strained hospitality we were enjoying here could turn to venom.

My partner and I (and our dog) were five days into our two-week, provincially imposed, self-isolation. Until Saturday, July 18, we are confined to our property on the north shore. We must remain on our property, and are reliant on friends and neighbours to drop off everything for us — from groceries to personal items we forgot to pack when we left Ontario for the 20-hour drive to P.E.I.

Vera Teschow's dog breathes the clean Island air after travelling by car from Toronto.  Vera Teschow/Special to The Guardian - SaltWire Network
Vera Teschow's dog breathes the clean Island air after travelling by car from Toronto. Vera Teschow/Special to The Guardian - SaltWire Network

 

It’s a trip we’ve made often over the past 10 years when we sold our house in the city to buy property on P.E.I. instead. Usually we travel by plane (a very civilized two-hour flight), and occasionally by car, typically over a stretch of four or five days, stopping along the way to overnight in various Canadian cities.

But Toronto has been a hotbed of COVID-19 cases, with a population of approximately 3 million (compared to about 155,000 in all of P.E.I.), so we knew that coming from a province with over 30,000 confirmed cases and nearly 3,000 deaths to a province with a tiny fraction of that number of cases and zero deaths would be a test of everyone’s patience, empathy and human rights!

Having read some of the vitriol online over the past six weeks from Islanders who — out of ignorance? Fear? — posted discriminatory, assumptive and downright cruel comments on anything related to the imminent arrival of the province’s seasonal residents, I knew it would be especially important for us to reduce any chance of picking up coronavirus “cooties” along the way. Besides, there wasn’t really anywhere to stop anyway; most tourist-related businesses are still closed in Quebec, and New Brunswick didn’t want us stopping anywhere either, on our way through to P.E.I.

Vera Teschow, her partner, their dog, and some plants from their herb garden in Toronto, made the 20-hour trip to P.E.I. in one long drive. Vera Teschow/Special to The Guardian
Vera Teschow, her partner, their dog, and some plants from their herb garden in Toronto, made the 20-hour trip to P.E.I. in one long drive. Vera Teschow/Special to The Guardian

 

So, when we drove out this time, it was in one long stretch, stopping only for gas and washroom breaks, and eventually to pull over in the middle of the night and sleep in our car for three hours in a gas station parking lot, when we grew too tired to be careful about hitting a moose.

I was among the first out of province residents to apply for permission to travel during this unusual time. The morning of June 1, I had an alarm set, and took an early lunch break to log off my work computer and log on my personal device to complete and submit the necessary paperwork on the provincial website that had launched that day. Filling out all those forms with the correct information felt like working on a PhD, but I was determined!

Being cramped since March in our humble rental apartment in Toronto with a newly unemployed partner, our two teenage sons and the family dog, I was desperate to get to my north shore property and experience the cool breeze and pastoral surroundings. And I was prepared to sign away my freedom for it. I was done working at the dining room table with everyone tripping over each other. I had had enough of our hot, sweaty, small apartment. I needed a change of scenery!

The view from Vera Teschow's Toronto apartment is nice, but differs from the property in P.E.I.'s north shore she has been impatiently waiting to visit.  Vera Teschow/Special to The Guardian
The view from Vera Teschow's Toronto apartment is nice, but differs from the property in P.E.I.'s north shore she has been impatiently waiting to visit. Vera Teschow/Special to The Guardian

 

The process was not as straight-forward as I’d hoped, but everyone I dealt with was very friendly, if firm, and by mid-June, our travel request was approved and our travel dates confirmed — we could head to P.E.I. ... provided we were symptom-free and prepared to follow the rules.

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried too much about the report of new cases. News outlets seem very aware of the unfair blame being cast on seasonal residents as a group, and everything I read was careful to point out that the new cluster of cases came from an Islander, as a result of out of province travel, and NOT from a seasonal resident or someone travelling in the Atlantic bubble. And while our local network of support seems eager to see us, they and we are respecting a largely text-based relationship and outdoor, physically well-distanced communication only, often with me wearing a mask. Friends and neighbours email, text and call to check in, and offer to bring us various tasty Island treats we can’t yet go get ourselves. And while I know that some of them are anxiously monitoring us, I also know that they are genuine in their offers of support, and as eager as we are to get to the end of the 14-day period.

So far, so good!


Vera C. Teschow is a certified teacher, lisensed pilot and parent of monozygotic twins. She shares her time between Ontario and P.E.I., and has been doing so for over a decade. Find her online at verateschow.ca or Instagram.com/schlagzeug_usw. Part 2, Social isolation before the novelty wears off, will appear Thursday in print and online at theguardian.pe.ca.

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