Friday, May 21, 2010

Paradise Lost...

Constantly moving and often in search of waves, I frequently tend to find myself at the end of the road. Culture at the end of the road always seems to intrigue me. People don’t just pass through the end of the road, they are there for a reason and when they’re done they turn around and leave. This serves to create a concentration of unique characters from all tracks of life, each with a different tale about what brought them to the end of the road, each contributing to the formation of that distinct end of the road culture. Tofino, a small town facing the open Pacific on the western extreme of Vancouver Island, is a glaring example of this phenomenon.

Its geographic location on the outskirts of civilization tends to attract to Tofino those people that live life on the fringe of mainstream society. Such people are often typified as vagabonds or wanderers, hippies or soul searchers, but their common connection is simply that of free will and free thought, a love for this world and for humanity, and the undying thirst for new experiences. When you live a transient life of uncertainty and relative freedom, often finding a concentration of like individuals is a great comfort. This is why Tofino continues to not only attract new and interesting characters all the time, but is also a permanent home to many of those people who are fatigued from the journey but still want the fix of the free spirited, adventurous lifestyle.

The atmosphere in Tofino is friendly and welcoming; picking up hitchhikers is a norm, and lending a helping hand to those in need common. There is a sense of community and familiarity here that cannot be found in the vastness and emptiness of other settlements along the road.

In addition to the abundance of interesting characters and the air of friendliness, Tofitian culture is accentuated by the surrounding beauty of the temperate rainforest, the great Pacific, and the lining mountains. People flock to Tofino to experience nature in its rawest form, to connect to it in ways that cannot be achieved within the great metropolitans of our world. To come face to face with a giant whale as it surfaces from the sea, to walk along an ancient-growth rainforest path in the darkness of the night guided only by starlight, to ride a wave as it peels across a bay, such are the experiences that one can find in Tofino.

Such attributes leave the impression of a seeming utopia here at the end of the road in Tofino, but nothing is ever as it seems. Tofino, like so many other once isolated societies, is a paradise lost; another victim of the subliminal machinations of capitalist society. One cannot last long in this place without a steady source of income, and because people are willing to do anything to be able to live in a place like this, the upper class are able to stipulate working conditions and pay. The prices are steep and the options slim, Tofino is a place that has steadily developed into a bourgeoisie destination. It has become an isolated bastion for the rich and famous, mansions constantly springing up along the coastline, resorts becoming ever more luxurious. Beautiful space that was once communal and enjoyed by all is fenced off and labeled as private property.

One can make a decent living if they find the right job, but at what cost? It is so easy to forget where you are and to take for granted the beauty of this place; making money becomes a necessity and a preoccupation. Long hours limit your time to enjoy the people and the surroundings that make this place special.

Tofino is thus a glaring contradiction, a paradise lost for those on the losing end of capitalist society. People come here to escape the pressures of mainstream society, to leave behind the rampant consumerism and the material obsessions that they have come to know so well. Quickly they realize that Tofino is no exception, that even such a settlement, isolated at the end of the road, rich in natural beauty and open mindedness, cannot escape the pervasive and pitiless hand of capitalism.

I am content here right now, enjoying nature and surfing, appreciating the one face of Tofino that I have come to love. But as I slowly start to work more and more, I am reminded of why I chose the life that I am living, and I am emboldened in my desire to help people wake up and see the world for what it really is, and to fight for what is really right.