Dr. Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil opened up Nova Scotia, burst the family bubbles and at this point, we hadn’t had a new case of COVID-19 in 12 days. But leaving Halifax—and the downtown core, which had become my safety net during the pandemic—felt strange. I was anxious and apprehensive to leave the bubble I had created. But I knew I needed the time away for my own mental health, for my relationship and for a battery recharge.

And what better way to refresh than with a visit to the beautiful highlands of Cape Breton, where cell service is sparse, the views are vast and the people are welcoming and kind.

Skyline Trail in Cape Breton overlooking untouched, foliage-covered cliffs that roll for miles along the Atlantic Ocean

When we crossed the Canso Causeway, it felt like we had left not only Nova Scotia, but the country. A weight lifted off my shoulders and I felt an immediate sense of relaxation as we quickly changed our carefully laid-out plans and headed straight to Inverness Beach. Once we arrived, we snagged a spot in the corner of the lot and broke out some snacks. As we powered through our peanut butter sandwiches, we were greeted by a slew of smiles and waves from those walking by. It was strange to not see people avoiding one another, but it was a glorious feeling. We felt welcome. We walked the beach and headed up the road to the Live Life InTents campground in Margaree Forks to get settled for the weekend.

When we arrived at the campsite, we were greeted with bug spray, a smile and the campsite COVID-19 plan. It was reassuring that the pandemic was still top-of-mind but wasn’t the first thing mentioned. Instead, it was a joke about the mosquito pandemic the region had been experiencing. After getting cozy in our tiny tent, we took a moment to enjoy the mountain views we would be waking up to for the weekend. Again, a wave of relaxation fell over me.

Camper's perspective peering out through a tent screen onto green fields and shallow hills in background on a windy day

That evening, we took a drive up the coast to check out the sunset. Stunning is the only way I can describe it. I wanted to capture the moment to remember and this was a task in itself, as you can see from the photos below. The accidental snaps really highlight the truth in Instagram vs. reality and a real lack of grace.

Here are some behind the scenes moments:

Live-action blurred visual from photographer rolling through green grass with person appearing sideways in background
Rolling away from my responsibilities.
Person enjoying lying in the grass with half of her face sun-soaked and the other half shadowed by rim of a ball cap
Accidental glowing selfie.
Two people on a Cape Breton hillside. One lying down taking a photo while the other looks out over a rocky shoreline
Keeping vulnerable ankles away from pesky ticks.
View of a Cape Breton shoreline at sunset, a peaceful setting overlooking the uncharacteristically calm Atlantic Ocean
This was the shot we ended up with.

We had a belly full of laughs and things felt normal—we were in our own world with no cares. We spent the rest of the weekend exploring the Skyline Trail, which had its own set of COVID-19 precautions, and the beautiful Gypsum Mine Quarry & Trail. We chatted with locals, we went back to the beach and enjoyed the sun and sunsets all weekend long.

To explore this part of our province that I hadn’t taken the time to do in many years was exactly what I needed to recharge, relax and reconnect. COVID-19 put a wrench in most people’s plans but learning to be resilient and flexible made for a wonderful weekend away. It wasn’t what we had planned for our summer, but it turned out to be better than we could have ever expected. It allowed us to escape all of our worries and the congestion of our 750-square-foot apartment.

A couple smiling at the main lookout of the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton with stunning blue ocean in the background