Storm watching: Making sense of Clayoquot Sound winter mobilities
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From Goa to Bali, from Tuscany to rural and coastal Spain, and from Puerto Vallarta to Palm Springs, one key characteristic of lifestyle migration destinations is clear: warm, sunny climates (e.g. see Gustafson 2009; Korpela 2009; Trundle 2009; Williams and Hall 2000). Even within a nation not exactly known for its balmy temperatures, Canada, “the search for a better way of life” (Benson and O’Reilly 2009: 608) is known to concentrate upon its mildest climatic region: southern Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands. Indeed, as Benson and O’Reilly (2009: 611, emphasis added) simply put it: “the most renowned of lifestyle migrants have chosen destinations in coastal resorts or islands in the sun.” But as we are about to see, if not all that shines and glitters is gold, then not all that is dark and gray is gloomy either. Take the case of the western side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia (BC), Canada. In Tofino, the region’s best known village, it rains 3306mm1 per year, on a whopping annual average of 216 days with precipitation. About 100km down the coast the small town of Port Renfrew sees even more rain, topping Vancouver Island’s average rain rankings at 3674mm. In between the two is equally damp Ucluelet—which on October 6th 1967 is known to have recorded 489mm of rain in a 24-hour period. And incidentally, nearby Henderson Lake, on the mountains behind, also has two Canadian records: one for greatest annual average precipitation (6655mm), and one for greatest precipitation in one single year: 9749mm. But in spite of all this “liquid sunshine,” this region has recently experienced unprecedented flows of migration—thus presenting us with a challenge to our understanding of the role that climate plays in lifestyle mobilities. The objective of this writing is to describe and understand lifestyle migration in the geographical context of Clayoquot Sound—a region located on the western side of Vancouver Island encompassing the aforementioned towns of Tofino and Ucluelet. This chapter is primarily driven by the need to make sense of how a uniquely wet and relatively cold climate can draw, rather than repel, short-term tourists, residential tourists, and lifestyle migrants. But in broader terms, my aim here is to interpret the significance of climate and weather in the phenomenon of lifestyle mobilities. To this purpose the case of Clayoquot Sound is of great interest because it highlights how lifestyle migrants and short-term and residential tourists alike incorporate climatic characteristics of a region into their own treasured everyday practices, challenging their common values and meanings. As the data show, the redefinition of stormy and rainy weather as a comforting and appealing phenomenon prompts us to focus on the unique meanings of the intersection of different moving forces—such as weather fronts and the flows of short-term tourists and lifestyle migrants—as a complex but relatively harmonious constellation of mobilities.
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