What Islanders living away are doing in lieu of annual P.E.I. pilgrimages

Many of the visitors P.E.I. welcomes every summer are not tourists in the strictest sense — they are people who used to live on the Island but moved away. With COVID-19 restricting visitors to those inside the Atlantic provinces, seasonal residents with P.E.I. property, and other Canadians who apply successfully to come to P.E.I. to support family, what are all those expat Islanders doing with their time and energy?

'This is the first time I haven't made it home in my life during the summer'

'It is what it is,' writes Jenna Delta of Calgary, here looking over Moraine Lake. 'Had to cancel a trip for April and August home to P.E.I. to see my family!... But can’t complain, we’ve been getting some great weather in southern Alberta, so I’m doing a lot more hiking this summer!' (Submitted by Jenna Delta)

Many of the visitors P.E.I. welcomes every summer are not tourists in the strictest sense — they are people who used to live on the Island but moved away. 

With COVID-19 restricting visitors to those inside the Atlantic provinces, seasonal residents with P.E.I. property, and other Canadians who apply successfully to come to P.E.I. to support family, a lot of those expats are left out. 

CBC News reached out via Facebook to find out what some of those folks are doing

(Please note that usernames are not necessarily the names of commenters. Some comments have been altered to correct spelling and to conform to CBC style.)

Discovering 'a world away'

"Crying and dreaming of lobster," wrote Heather Morrison of Kingston, Ont. 

"Need my Tim Hortons fix, ADL chocolate milk and watch some horses fly at the CDP," wrote Matthew MacLean, who is from down east but now lives in New Hampshire, where he and his wife own a veterinary hospital. He said they are "planning a trip close to home" this summer instead.

Melissa Batchilder is from Georgetown but now lives in Massachusetts with her husband and daughter. She usually returns to the Island for several weeks every summer.

'I miss that ocean air!' laments Rebecca Marion, who has fixed up the backyard of her apartment in Toronto. (Rebecca Marion)

She talks with many other expat Islanders, and said she has noticed a theme among their experiences — "discovering or rediscovering a world away in the summer."

"For me, we've got a number of home renovations underway and I've discovered the stunning beaches on the south coast of Mass. It's an unusual phenomenon. Most of us who are away during the year and home in the summer spend our entire summer racing around visiting people we don't get to see year-round. But this year, it's so relaxing not to pack up and transition to P.E.I."

Rebecca Marion writes that she's been living in Toronto for the past six years and usually comes home to Summerside "to see my family and buds, and after running around visiting, I'd go camping and just be sitting back on the beach. I miss that ocean air!"

Instead, she said she has redone her apartment's backyard area into a lounging spot and spends her days there "looking for jobs or doing crafts to keep from going crazy. Right now I'm painting gnomes for the yard!"

Gardening and renovating

Elizabeth MacDonald usually returns to P.E.I. from Alberta for six to eight weeks each summer. When she's on P.E.I. she gets her fill of local food and art and enjoys the outdoors. 

Angie Elsinga says she is exploring closer to home since she can't get back to P.E.I. to visit. (Submitted by Angie Elsinga )

"Missing the backyard BBQs and tea on the deck and that salt air. Just having dinner with my family — simple but extremely important. This you learn when you cannot enjoy the everyday things that tell you that you are at home."

This summer, she said, she and her family are "gardening, renovating and oddly learning Spanish. LOL. Yes a strange combination but what can I say? We love diversity."

This is the first time in 35 years Terilee Olorenshaw of Edmonton said she hasn't spent time on P.E.I. visiting family. 

"Still hopeful but in the meantime, beautiful Jasper and Banff, day hikes, Saskatchewan!" she wrote. 

'Sticking around Ontario this summer. Luckily my mom sent me a little P.E.I. care package!' writes Karena O'Brien. (Submitted by Karena O'Brien)

"I'm an Islander missing my huge family while I stay in Virginia," commented Debi Ling Henderson. "This is the first time I haven't made it home in my life during the summer."

Instead, Henderson said she is "counting my blessings for the health of family and friends. Thank you P.E.I. for taking this seriously and keeping the Island safer!"

Regrouping now and enjoying something I can't on P.E.I.: lake swimming!— Clara Jean Howard

Mary Mac comments that this will be the first summer in more than 50 years she will not be visiting P.E.I. 

"Instead I will be staying in Boston, staying inside as the heat is unbearable. I'm used to the cool breeze from the Island. Stay safe everyone. Maybe the fall things will be better," Mac wrote. 

'Trying to make the best of things'

Molly Sullivan Abbott posted a photo of her kids in a backyard pool, and said: "they would rather be splashing in the Brudenell in Georgetown, P.E.I., but the kids are making do in the backyard here in Medfield, Mass. Happy to be healthy and safe. Hopeful we will cross the Confederation Bridge in 2021!"

Molly Sullivan Abbott's kids would rather be playing in the water in P.E.I., she says. (Submitted by Molly Sullivan Abbott)

Clara Jean Howard, formerly of Charlottetown and now a lecturer at the University of Southern Maine, said this is the first time in memory she is missing a P.E.I. summer.

She said she "was miserable at the thought, but regrouping now and enjoying something I can't on P.E.I.: lake swimming!"

Melissa Drummond said she is "trying to make the best of things here in Manitoba." She is planning a trip to Lethbridge and Jasper, Alta., to visit family instead of coming home. 

"So sad to not be coming home, but trying to stay positive knowing that it's not just us that this virus has affected. Crossing fingers we'll be in P.E.I. next year," Drummond said. 

'My husband set up what he calls our COVID cottage at our local lake because we can’t get to P.E.I. and have our typical summer, only we’ve seen more rain then we have sun — it’s not much of a summer at all!' says Dorothy Wakelin of Rainbow Lake, Alta. (Submitted by Dorothy Wakelin)

Dorothy Wakelin, who calls Rainbow Lake, Alta., home — that's close to the N.W.T. — said her family's typical summers on P.E.I. include the Cavendish Beach Music Festival weekend and local amusement parks, day camps at Credit Union Place in Summerside and swimming lessons at the Kensington pool. 

"We work hard and make the sacrifices to be so far away from family so that we can have these summers in P.E.I. to share with our children! Our summers in P.E.I. is a time we use to rejuvenate our souls, fill our buckets, in order to carry us through the very LONG LONG winters we have up here!" Wakelin said. 

Emilie Rocketdog Harrington said she is "stuck in Massachusetts, would give anything to go home to P.E.I. Hey Canadians in Massachusetts! Let's team up and have an outdoor kitchen party somewhere! We could bring 'home' to us, haha." With several responses on Facebook, it looks like Harrington may be well on her way to a hoedown.

Henry Scannell said he has been walking the longest streets in Boston and taking pictures. 

'Angry and sad'

Denise Tourigny lives in Calgary and said she is spending her summer "watching the news hourly to see when I can go home to see my parents and siblings. A year is too long to go without going to P.E.I./home."

'Enjoying some staycation time at home in Connecticut. This is Harkness Memorial State Park,' writes Devon Ann Conover. (Submitted by Devon Ann Conover)

Jean Selines said she is "heartbroken here at home in Massachusetts. First time in over 60 years that I am not on the Island." Selines is holding out hope that she may be able to visit in the fall, adding: "I do totally understand why Americans are not permitted across the border."

Linda Hallas writes she is "doing nothing but missing P.E.I.!" 

"I normally come to my cottage for five months, but due to COVID I am stuck in Florida where it is too hot to go out for a walk until after sunset," Hallas said. "I do write weekly emails to Trudeau begging for an exception for property owners who can quarantine but so far, no luck."

Some readers voiced displeasure with COVID-19 restrictions that won't allow any visitors from the U.S. or from outside the Atlantic provinces, unless they own property or need to help care for family. 

"I'm angry and sad that my home won't let me come home," commented Michelle Turtle of Lumsden, Sask. "I miss my family. I miss my Island. We're making the best of it camping in Saskatchewan and Alberta."

"Disappointed those of us born there can't return to visit our immediate family, including aging parents," wrote Rob Simpson, who grew up in Charlottetown and now lives in Seattle. "Until then, we'll be spending our hard-earned dollars in the U.S. where we're welcomed regardless of what our licence plate says."

"I understand the need to keep everyone safe, including my own family, but there needs to be a better process to qualify and screen visitors, including those born on the Island who still consider it home," Simpson added.

More from CBC P.E.I.


Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara has worked with CBC News in P.E.I. since 1988, starting with television and radio before moving to the digital news team. She grew up on the Island and has a journalism degree from the University of King's College in Halifax. Reach her by email at


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