Happiness does just seem to happen on Orcas Island. It’s a lifestyle found far and wide on our Island home, yet answering the question what exactly makes Orcas Islanders so happy is not an easy answer. With help from a few locals and a dip into the Interweb, I am excited to share some local insight into why we are such a grateful family of our amazing Orcas Island life, neighbors and neighborhood.
I was delighted to find while researching why we’re such a happy bunch many keys and habits to happiness used to elevate positive emotions, focus folks in the moment and raise happiness baselines in our everyday ebb and flow.
“Pat and I came to Orcas to visit friends in 1977. Bought waterfront property for 18,000. and never looked back. We built 4 houses over the years, lived aboard a boat, established careers and have hiked most every trail on the island. Scenery and good friends are the best mental health medicine around. Living the dream as they say.” – Lisa B. Retired Banker, Ambassador at Orcas Island Chamber of Commerce and Treasurer Orcas Island Garden Club
1 – SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO
An island filled with natural beauty surrounded by waters showcasing mountains and beautiful sun rises and sets with a bounty of culinary experiences is optimal for releasing dopamine anticipating something wonderful around the corner. We are rewarded just thinking about our incredible surrounds.
2 – CONSCIOUS ACTS OF KINDNESS AND SOCIAL INVESTMENTS
Orcas with an astonishing number of nonprofits, one for every 45 residents according to the Islands Sounder frames a unique culture of giving, kindness and vested interest for a better world that is simply contagious.
“As a relative newcomer to Orcas Island, I have been struck by the incredible sense of community here. There is always someone to offer guidance, a recommendation, or a helping hand. What a change from the city where I barely knew my neighbors’ names! I’m also fortunate to work at Rosario Resort & Spa where every day I am filled with awe and gratitude for the incredible beauty of this special place.” – Holly S. Rosario Resort & Spa
3 – MAKE YOUR ENVIRONMENT INSPIRING
San Juan County and Orcas Island are renowned for our inspiring environment. We are a national monument with more shoreline than any other county in the country featuring orcas, marine life and abundant wildlife tucked into the Salish Sea along with being considered an “Arts Hot Spot’ by the Washington State Arts Commission. One would think the definition of Inspiring Environment is the San Juan Islands.
“I love Orcas because it fosters the artist within all of us. There is a large community of creative people here. I think the energy of the island draws those yearning to live their passion. We feel it in our hearts. The Orcas Island Film Festival is a great example of this. Our amazing core group on the production team, as well as our many wonderful volunteers all come together because of our love for the art of cinematic story telling. A good film is in the eye of the beholder, which is the same for any art form. Imagery, sound and dialogue all come together to create a journey for the senses. It can leave you with emotions and thoughts that last for days, even weeks. That is the Orcas Island Film Festival at its best. Our community takes that journey with us, and we love it!” – Sara D. Orcas Island Film Fest
4 – EXERCISE WHENEVER YOU CAN
Ranked number one in the state for quality of life, physical and mental according to recent national studies as a community we take health seriously. Pair our organic healthy minds with an inspiring environment and it’s challenging to avoid the opportunity for even a short walk to improve your mental and physical health. I challenge you to not enjoy even a walk from the post office to The Loft at Madrona along our amazing Eastsound waterfront boardwalk – It can’t be done.
5 – THE RIPPLE EFFECT
Warning, before reading on please know the happiness on Orcas Island is infectious. The contagious positive emotions and mindsets of Orcas Islanders spreads throughout our island community and beyond. Please don’t solely take my word for it, let me quote a few locals who also find our amazing life on Orcas Island contagious!
“I love the pace of life on this slice of heaven. The community is unique, crazy, loving, and truly one-of-a-kind. It’s amazing to watch residence of Orcas (and all the San Juan Islands) come together to create such an incredible quality of life. I have a special glimpse into the community working with the Farmers Market, and this land is full of creative, supportive and just down-right cool folks. The picturesque valleys full of happy sheep, goats and cows (and people!) never cease to amaze me. The sea-salty air replenishes the soul. I love Orcas Island.” – Mandy G. Market Manager Orcas Island Farmer’s Market
In Close –
“Thank you Lisa, Mandy and Holly for helping showcase just a few of the reasons we LOVE calling Orcas Island Home and cannot see ourselves anywhere else! If you would like to share your reason or reasons, please shoot us a message. I never tire talking about LOVE for Orcas and the San Juan Islands.” – Wally
Why LOCAL Is The Right Choice For The San Juan Islands
‘Buy Local’, ‘Island Grown’ and ‘Eat Local’ are phrases heard from many an islander and seen throughout the islands and on our transportation. We experience the benefits of these ideals to our island sphere in something as small as purchasing dog treats from Jeff at Pawki’s for Pets or in more important investments such as hiring local firms like Madrona Point Insurance to protect our island lifestyles.
You may ask in regards to one of the largest purchases made in our lives, real estate, will buying or selling with a local real estate expert translate into better representation? To answer your question, undoubtedly yes. You will enjoy a more distinctive and personal experience along with the benefits below:
1 :: Local Knowledge Is Power
When buying or selling in The San Juan Islands an advocate with extensive understanding of our remarkable island market and lifestyle significantly increases your insider knowhow easing your real estate voyage. An island grown and trained agent arms you with knowledge of the myriad of idiosyncrasies of island real estate, including and not limited to shoreline regulations, archeology, septic systems, wells, community water systems, building regulations and local financing options which in real time equate to saved money when either selling or buying in The San Juan Islands.
Local Island Knowledge, a negotiation tool that can be offered only by local brokers is developed while immersed in our unique market over time paired with interactions within our island communities. This local insight atop a solid understanding of real estate can be a dynamic advantage offered by local brokers who have spent their career studying, working and living in the San Juan Islands.
2 :: Readily Available Boots On The Ground –
As many know, our market is smaller than that of our mainland neighbors and as such can require the reflexes of a cat to seize an opportunity. The opportunity to show property NOW, Not now, but right now, around ferry schedules or around the less predictable Orca Whales. Having a set of boots on island has also helped uncover on the ‘street’ the ideal, one-of-a-kind perfect opportunity sometimes weeks before Mainland America brokers discover the property through online tools such as the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, NWMLS.
Your real estate expert on the ground, in the Orcas community allows buyers and sellers the advantage of time, an increasingly more significant element in the real estate equation.
3 :: The Ultimate Social Networking Channel –
With over 85% of Mainland America real estate transactions starting online, island brokers have capitalized on web marketing channels while continuing to thrive in the traditional. True to our island roots, our community is firmly rooted in traditional face-to-face while embracing the ever-growing online networking channels to build one amazing blend of community.
Local brokers are connected in the island community. We network at community events, volunteer at our many non-profits and still talk real estate over lunch with friends. Enlisting a local broker with strong community ties and values along with a significant regional, national and worldwide network can offer buyers and sellers a micro and macro networking advantage that has a huge impact.
4 :: Trickle Down Community –
Shaping our island’s character and vitality may be the most important of all the reasons to “Shop Local”, “Eat Local”, purchase “Island Grown” products and to enlist a local team for your real estate needs. Island businesses and ardent residents give rise in our community to its distinct personality. Local community-serving businesses and residents build our community; we create jobs and opportunities that expand the landscape for local entrepreneurs ultimately promoting the prosperity of local organizations, residents and our real estate market.
“Hiring local talent does not mean limiting exposure or professionalism – It Means nurturing local businesses, our island community and prosperity, creating jobs, supporting local non-profits, And All While signing up for more attentive personal service and a deeper understanding of our unique island real estate market. I’m here, call me let’s do lunch and talk real estate in The San Juan Islands – One of my favorite subjects.”
-Wally (360) 507-5443 mobile
It’s difficult to think anyone who has seen The San Juan Islands and Orcas Island specifically would need even one more reason to call Orcas home, or at the very least, their home away from the millisecond pace of a Mainland America Home. And, without further ado for those in need I present a few reasons to get on the next ferry to change your zip code and call Orcas Island Home!
I will go deeper into each reason on my top five over my next blog posts, but for now a few notes to mull over while stuck in traffic.
#1 – COMMUNITY
Orcas Island is a community like no other. Reminiscent of the Mayberry friendliness of the Midwest paired with culture rivaling the sophistication of many micro-neighborhoods of metropolitan cities. Think SoHo, Silver Lake, the Mission District or Wicker Park surrounded by the Pacific Northwest’s finest troposphere, organic farms, the crystal clear Salish Sea all at a pace that tops out at 45 mph on island thoroughfares. Savoring the flavor of life, its bounty and beauty is at the top of any good Islander’s to do list.
#2 – REAL ESTATE OPPORTUNITY
The opportunities and nuances of Orcas Island Real Estate is something as a second-generation island realtor I know a bit about. Our market is as unique as they come. Buyers can choose from waterfront cabins poised on breathtaking shorelines for as little as $400,000, majestic cottages or homes tucked into our beautiful island starting at $150k or if you’re in the market for luxury, choose from one of our exquisite multi-million or million dollar island retreats bringing to mind the finest art or architecture and comforts with one thing in common: Excellence.
#3 – QUALITY OF LIFE
For those who dream of slowing life to an organic 45mph pace with nature from concrete cookie cutter surroundings there is no better oasis than Orcas Island to indulge this call. Lapped by the iridescent Salish Sea and views of the snowcapped peaks of Mt Baker, Rainer and the Olympic Mountain Range and shaped of tranquil pastures, organic farmlands and mountaintops boasting marine and mountain views painted in fir, pine, madrona, ash and birch with ferns and moss accents finished with natural ponds and springs to frame. Orcas Island is the most diverse topographies in the San Juan Islands with truly something for every taste.
#4 – EDUCATION
Education is important to families, retirees as well as young or young at heart adults alike and Orcas Island offers one of the finest educational solutions in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to an award winning public school system grades Pre-K through 12, Orcas has a wide variety of private options. From an eclectic array of retreats, seminars, workshops and independent higher-education offerings, aspirations and educational passions are limited only by time. Many find there is simply not enough time to explore all the fascinating subjects available made possible through the amazing population of famous authors, Oscar winning directors, master gardeners and chefs, world-renowned artists and spiritual guides that call Orcas Island home and keep us happy, active, healthy and fulfilled.
#5 – EMPLOYMENT
Working on island time has many advantages that cannot be found in the Mainland America workforce. Beyond the most enjoyable commute time imaginable, many who call Orcas home come to retire, but still fill their internal need to keep busy and contribute by volunteering with one of our many nonprofits to create the island and world they wish to live. Others still, continue in their chosen fields downgrading their workweek to a part-time schedule or sharing their wisdom as community mentors or in local government.
Having a wealth of exceptionally talented industry leaders and creatives as your community gives rise to exceptional opportunities to build a resume. Folks normally overlooked in a sea of applicants often find the small community experience a chance to intern, learn or work with amazing mentors. We get to know each other at the post office, the grocery or hiking the beaches – We learn of each other’s dreams, goals as well as character. An opportunity you rarely enjoy racing through big box stores. Though I will add, we do run into fellow islanders at those Mainland big box stores, where we wish each other a quick “Hello, yes I made the trip over today… me too, cant wait to get home and I will see you on the ferry.”
As I said it’s truly difficult to imagine anyone after seeing photos of beautiful Orcas Island would need another reason to call Orcas home and it has been my pleasure to provide a quick overview of my top five reasons I call Orcas home. As promised over the next few blogs I will explore deeper the top reasons I feel Orcas is an optimal place to live and I look forward to helping you indulge your inner voice telling you Orcas Island is your new zip code.
Please also know I am here to directly answer any questions you have about life on Orcas, buying, selling or upgrading an Orcas Island home.
(360) 376-2172 mobile
Take a look at this 2016 forecast by Chief Economist, Mathew Gardner
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