South Shore Breaker

It’s the people who make the difference

- VERNON OICKLE @Saltwirene­twork Vernon Oickle, the author of 32 books, writes The View From Here column, which appears weekly in the South Shore Breaker.

I like talking with people, especially visitors to our region. I’ve had the pleasure of doing that throughout the summer and it has been a most enlighteni­ng experience.

Not only is it interestin­g to find out where these people come from, but I also like to hear their opinions, positive or negative, on what we have to offer. While we all like to hear the good things, we can’t address the bad things that may need improvemen­t if we ignore such feedback.

For the most part, visitors seem to appreciate what we have to offer. The majority agree that both Nova Scotia and the South Shore are a tourist’s paradise, and they mostly have positive things to say about the region.

Tourists like the natural beauty. They also like the museums and attraction­s. They appreciate the infrastruc­ture we’ve built up in the region, such as accommodat­ions, campground­s and dining, and they especially enjoy the food we serve. However, if there is one quality that generates an overwhelmi­ng amount of positive feedback from visitors, it is their appreciati­on of the warm and friendly people who greet them.

Visitors suggest that those who live and work here are Nova Scotia’s strongest assets. As is to be expected, there is the occasional negative comment, but for the most part, visitors indicate they find locals to be friendly, helpful, enthusiast­ic and caring.

For example, I recently met an elderly couple who were spending two weeks touring Nova Scotia, and they told me about a young Nova Scotian couple who helped them out in a pinch. While the visitors from Ontario were travelling through the Annapolis Valley, they experience­d car trouble, which left them stranded along an isolated stretch of highway.

While there weren’t any homes in the area, there was steady traffic, and within 10 or 15 minutes of them breaking down, a vehicle pulled over and the young male driver got out, offering to help the male tourist as he struggled to fix his car. The young man said he noticed the out-of-province license plate and since he was a mechanic, he thought the visitors might need help.

It only took the thoughtful Nova Scotian about 10 minutes to figure out the problem, but he informed the visitors he couldn’t fix their car because they needed a new part. Some kind of relay switch needed to be replaced.

This could have been bad news for the visitors, but the young man offered to drive the elderly gentleman into the nearby town where he could get the part at a dealer. His girlfriend remained with the elderly woman so she wouldn’t have to be alone with the broken-down vehicle.

It took the young Nova Scotian almost three hours to drive the tourist into town to pick up the required part, drive back to where the vehicle was stranded and then carry out the necessary repairs. Besides that, the elderly man said, when he offered to pay the mechanic for his time and gas, he refused the money, saying it was his pleasure to help the couple. He wished them well and drove away.

For their part, the visitors from Ontario were impressed by the young couple’s generosity and thoughtful­ness. Furthermor­e, they said, that was just one example of the kindness they’ve encountere­d over the years and it’s one of the main reasons they have been coming back to Nova Scotia every summer for the past 20 years.

This story of generosity is only one example of the feedback I’ve heard. Another retired couple from Manitoba, visiting Atlantic Canada for the first time and spending a month in the region, told me about getting lost in Cape Breton when they made a wrong turn and had driven several kilometers off their route before they came to a small convenienc­e store.

Upon going inside to buy water and to get directions, another customer who was also in the store, offered to show them the way. Once the couple had paid for their items, the older gentlemen from Cape Breton told the visitors to follow him and he proceeded to lead the way back to the couple’s route.

It may not seem like much to some people, but the woman from Manitoba said it was a big deal to them since they had no idea where they were, and the GPS wasn’t working as they had poor cell service. She and her husband were impressed that a total stranger would take time from his busy schedule to make sure they were headed in the right direction again.

And finally, another man told me how, when he discovered he had lost his wallet at a local tourist attraction, he was impressed that when he called a few hours later, he learned that it had been found and returned.

After driving two hours to retrieve his wallet, he was relieved that not only had it been returned, but everything, including the cash, was still inside and fully intact. He was impressed and relieved that there are still some honest people in the world.

These are just three examples of how the actions of residents have left a positive and lasting impression on visitors. We should remember that when it comes to tourism, we are all ambassador­s of Nova Scotia.

We can spend millions of dollars on infrastruc­ture and attraction­s, and we can boast of some of the most pristine natural places in the whole wide world, but without the friendly and helpful people who live here, Nova Scotia would be nothing more than just another tourist trap — or at least that’s the view from here.

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