san juan island trails

Slower This Time on San Juan Island

I rattled off my order at the cafe and the owner just stared back at me, silent, with both salt and pepper eyebrows raised toward the espresso scented ceiling. It was like I had spoken in a language he didn’t understand, though we both spoke English.

“I’m going to need that again. Slower this time.”

And, I laughed.

It was my third day on the island and I thought I had the whole chillin’ thing down. But I wasn’t going to fool a San Juan Island local, even one who ran a bustling cafe right by the ferry landing.

I wasn’t catching a ferry and I certainly wasn’t on my lunch break at work. What’s the rush? Well, I’m used to it.

san juan island ferry

A four-hour drive, then an hour ferry wait followed by an hour ferry ride, took us to not to another part of Washington—the journey took us to another world. I had many recommendations to go check out the islands. And though I’ve wanted to for a few years, other trips were prioritized.

It’s not exactly a hop, skip, and a jump away. Any time a ferry is toting your car across a large body of water, it can seem like a lot of work when you’re craving a relaxing getaway.

The islands are such a down tempo place that it seems like there isn’t anything to do. And it’s pretty typical for a Portland city girl like yours truly to shy away from that kind of isolation.

On top of that, spring is the off-season in the San Juan Islands. Restaurants are closed, bakeries operate at funky hours, and the sidewalks are there for the taking. Summer water sports aren’t happening, because it’s too cold. The families are off in warmer climates for spring break. The tourists are few and far between.

But that’s where the experience becomes even more brilliant. You get the place all to yourself, and you get to soak in all the things you didn’t know you needed.

Sometimes you need nothing more than to get away from it all.

san juan island trails

Sometimes you need to detach from the busy world you’ve become accustomed to.

san juan islands nature

Sometimes you need to bundle up with a really fantastic book.

reading in nature

Sometimes you need to find your balance when you think you’ve lost it.

san juan island beaches

Sometimes you need to pause and take it all in.

pier san juan islands

Sometimes you need to notice how effing cute alpacas are.

alpaca farm

Sometimes you need to concentrate on each other.

northwest couple

Sometimes you need to take a break on your hike.

kiss and hike

Sometimes you need to realize there are other couples just like you.

cabin rental

Sometimes you need to go to the end of the earth to understand how small you are.

san juan island view

Sometimes you need to go to a place where time moves at a different speed—where you can be with nature, yourself, and perhaps someone you love more than anything. Rushing isn’t allowed, because it doesn’t exist. There’s nowhere else to go, but right here.

San Juan Island isn’t the kind of travel destination that dazzles you with things to do. It’s a place that unapologetically teaches you to slow down and embrace doing absolutely nothing.

Have you ever been to the San Juan Islands? Or another place that invited you to slow down?

45 thoughts on “Slower This Time on San Juan Island

  1. Looks brilliant Britt. Just the right antidote to city living, but only if you allow the inner peace to happen. Which you clearly did.

    A couple of our smaller Channel Islands would do the trick too. On Sark the only transport is horse-drawn, or bicycle (apart from the doctor’s car). Herm is so small that is has no roads, just a hotel 🙂

    1. Antidote indeed! We are lucky to have a forest within a mile of our city apartment, so I can’t complain. I make it a point to get up there every weekend for a hike.

      I’m sure there are many gems in your neck of the woods. 🙂

    1. San Juan Islands are glorious! Nature has a way of helping us unwind even when we don’t think we can. It took me a couple of days to let the real world go, but when I did, it was like…aaaaah. 😉

  2. Wonderful! For many years, The Mister and I would vacation alone on Sanibel Island. We’d ditch the children with my parents and hole up in a cottage on the beach. Dreamy.
    We probably won’t get to do that any time soon :/ but somedays will come 🙂

      1. Yes, it looked dreamy. Made me yearn for a short getaway! 🙂 We’ll be trying to plan accordingly, so I thank you for the reminder and the inspiration!

      2. Sure thing! We had to basically make ourselves do it, because life gets so hectic…it’s easy to just keep grinding. The off-season made it nice and cheap too! 🙂

  3. Looks Divine Britt and when you mentioned no people EVEN BETTER!. Off peak is my kind of wonderful. Chuckled at the visitors book, ah to be young again and full of cheek! Now I feel like going on a holiday.

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