Couple looking for accommodation on San Juan Island
Salvation! My name is Daven, and my fiancée Olivia and I are entering our fifth year on SJI. We loved this place, which is pretty much a no-brainer for anyone lucky enough to live year-round on the island. I moved from Juneau, Alaska, and she moved from Akaroa, New Zealand. We are lucky enough to have crossed paths years ago at the San Juan Brewery, and the rest, as they say, is history.
We have been living in the same rental, year round, since 2018. It has been an absolute blessing to have this stability on SJI. We’ve both worked full-time since we’ve been here, she as a marine science communicator and I as an independent contractor in science communication and the marine industry. Olivia previously worked in wildlife rehabilitation and reintroduction, helping injured wildlife recover and return to their natural habitat. She has also supported community education efforts associated with the realities of wildlife rehabilitation.
My job regularly takes me to Nunavut (Canadian Arctic) and Antarctica, where I captain small boats and, in the North in particular, I am a presenter on the history of polar exploration and a “keeper” of polar bears. . Locally, I have captained boats in the wildlife and ecotourism industry, prioritizing ecosystem-scale education and the interconnectedness between freshwater ecosystems, estuarine and marine, and how human and societal health is directly linked to environmental health. Prior to joining SJI, I worked as a large carnivore field biologist in Zambia and Angola, a brown bear field biologist in Alaska, Bristol Bay commercial fisherman, cabinetmaker and co-directed a conservation Wild Salmon Region and the Tlingit Nation. organization advocating for food sovereignty in Southeast Alaska. Olivia and I have remained committed to the field of biodiversity and ecosystem education, and in particular the protection and restoration of wild salmon ever since.
Olivia and I have spoken at length about our desire to stay on San Juan Island, and as a young couple looking to start a family, we want to make sure we have housing stability. We have both watched the recent surge in house prices, as well as the many renters who have had to either find alternative accommodation or leave the island altogether when their rental suddenly comes on the market. Our landlord has been exceptionally kind to us for the past four years, but has hinted that his family may return to the island and reoccupy the home they have owned for decades in a year or two. We were assured that we could stay in our place for the rest of the year, but just observing the housing and real estate trends on the island, of course, made us want to start plan our next step sooner rather than later.
As a young couple wishing to start a family, we do not wish to rent forever. However, we ran into a small puzzle. Olivia and I are both dedicated to our line of work. We both believe in it, we are passionate about it, we have an academic background and a decade and a half of hard work in the field. While the work we do is what we believe in, unfortunately it is simply not competitive with some 21st century industries and the associated remote workers who have left the city for more rural communities. Without wanting to sound offensive or resentful, that’s just the reality. Our industry simply cannot compete with other industries when it comes to buying a home here.
A realtor friend a few states east of here recently told me not to give up hope. He noticed a small but significant percentage of landowners who expressed a desire to sell to the “right people” or the “right people”, rather than fetch the highest price. I understand that such hope on SJI is currently a total moonshot, given the rapidly rising prices, but hopefully there might be a few owners on the island who fall into this category. That of wanting to meet and get to know the people they are selling to, of wanting to pass on their legacy to someone who will take care of them like they did, rather than just chasing the highest bid.
Reading that last sentence again, I understand how crazy it might sound. And it probably also sounds like we think of ourselves as “good people” and everyone else is something other than that. Which is certainly not the case. We’re just people, looking for a home, like everyone else. But as my friend recommended, we are not losing hope and hope to connect with anyone on the island who would be interested in selling to a few people like us.
The future Olivia and I envision is something similar to how we both grew up: in small towns with small town values. Olivia grew up in a rural industrial town in northern Wisconsin, and I grew up in a family of carpenters in a small farming community in western Colorado. Our dream is to live on the same land and in the same single house for the long term, rather than buying and selling houses and constantly moving and upgrading. Our vision of paradise is quite simple: a small piece of land with a few fruit trees, a productive vegetable garden and a greenhouse, a few chickens for eggs, a small carpentry workshop, a few dogs running around and a few children chasing dogs around. . Somewhere where we can build a life and enjoy things as they develop over the years, including the growth of a small family that enjoys spending time outdoors. Simple, grounded and oldschool. We hope that we have not missed the boat to turn this vision into reality.
We would like to build this life on the island because we both enjoy the way a lot of islanders live here. On their own plot of land, growing their own food and working with wood from the island’s small sawmills, being creative and independent. A simple but beautiful life of freedom, truly. In many ways, it reminds me of a few communities in Alaska that I love, just with noticeably better weather. And it reminds Olivia a lot of her time in New Zealand.
If there are people on the island who are considering selling a piece of land, a cabin, a small house or some other unconventional idea and want to pass the torch to a young family who will respect and care for the land, someone’s history and legacy they would like us to care about, and to continue the simple, oldschool way of life, we’d love to hear from you. Email is best for us, and we can be found at [email protected]
To everyone who took the time to read this, we offer a heartfelt thank you. And we’re crossing our fingers we’ll hear from someone at some point.
Thank you very much,
Daven and Olivia