When I was young, my family had a few favorite spots to vacation: the woods of Wisconsin, beaches in Rhode Island, lakes of Arkansas, mountains of Colorado, and others. I looked forward to those times mostly because they were just fun: I could play, hike, ski, or water-ski in the great weather.
Being a Dad now, I realize that Family Vacations serve a much more important function than fun: it’s a place where time slows down. We live life at a fast (and, it seems, increasingly faster) pace, and have an endless stream of stimuli clamoring for our attention. Despite many good intentions, I get lost in my roles and schedule, and it causes me tension and stress. So, I need places where I can forget the rest of the world, take a breath, and “re-center”. I need a place where I can remember important things: God, places, values, family, relationships, etc… Most importantly, I need a place to remember who I am, who is important to me, and where I “fit”.
We have taken a few great vacations over the last few years, but I think we’ve found here a place that will be a real mainstay for the Knorthwest Kniffins: Smuggler’s Villa (SV) on Orcas Island. It’s a community of 32 condos on the waterfront of Orcas Island. Let me tell you why I like it:
- The magical realm of the Islands: it’s a little like going through the wardrobe to Narnia every time I take the ferry to the Islands. If you’ve never visited the Cascadian Islands (in USA, they are called the “San Juan Islands”; in Canada, the “Gulf Islands”), I can only describe them as a little piece of heaven. As beautiful as everything in the Cascadian region is, these Islands are my absolute favorite. They come over you like a trance the moment you enter them… they calm down your pulse and make you enjoy the beauty around you. SV has one of the most beautiful visions of the Islands overlooking each of the properties.
- “Relaxed Comfort” of Smugglers’ Villa: though it’s on one of the most beautiful spots on Earth, the Community itself is less of a country club and more of a nice camp. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, and it’s not the type of place that has black-tie events.
- A great blend of individuality and community: SV is 32 condos along the water. Having 32 separate means you can spend the day by yourself, looking out at the ocean, but can also get together with whatever the many other people (often families) are doing on the property. There’s solitude and community life at the same time.
- Activities: speaking of things to do, you will just not get bored here:
- On the SV Resort property: tennis courts, a beautiful beach, pickleball, a community fire overlooking the ocean while you watch the sunset, a pool, hot tub, sauna
- Boat Trips: one of SV’s best features is that it has its own dock, so you don’t have to moor your boat off-shore. While there, we took Uncle Mike’s boat off the shore to visit other islands, go crab-fishing, and just travel around
- Day Trips right near SV: the Orcas Airport is a few blocks away from SV, so you can take a flight to the other Islands or just look around. One of the whale-watching outfits is also a few blocks away.
- The town of Orcas Island (called “Eastsound”) is a few blocks away from SV. This is one of the best vacation towns I’ve visited, with all the great things to do that the best vacation-towns you know has.
- Things you can do on the Island, all the time: boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, kayaking, camping are all easily accessible.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to call Smugglers’ Cove a “Thin Place”. “Thin Place” is a term that originated with the Celtic monks of Ireland, to describe certain monasteries where the “veil between heaven and earth seemed5 very thin”. It was, thus, a place where your sense of God’s will was much clearer and practices like prayer, silence, and deep contemplation became natural. Life’s natural rhythms come back to you, and by the time you’re done, you feel more confident about the direction(s) you need to take.
Here’s to many more such vacations. I suppose many of them will happen here at Smuggler’s Cove.