Above: 7-Eleven on Bowen Rd., Nanaimo via waymarking.com

By contributor Philip Gordon

When given the opportunity to escape the monotonous hell-hole that is small-town Nanaimo avail myself of the sights and sounds of a distant land, I was ecstatic. Visions of a Pacific Ocean sunset and sakura blossoms danced behind my eyes—or maybe the shores of Ireland, or the scenic vistas of a backpacking trip through Europe.

As I have learned in my tenure with the Navigator, however, a thriftier execution of budget is part of the job description.

The Fifth St. 7-Eleven several minutes from my apartment boasts a sizeable presence within the University Village shopping complex, complemented by its proximity to Value Village and the piles of garbage in the ditch beside the bus stop. Drunks who pass out in front of the store are frequently escorted away in a timely fashion; the floors are swept when someone remembers, other than the sticky patch in front of the Slurpee machine, and all the employees are as friendly as anyone can be while earning minimum wage.

In addition to its well-kept low-key décor, the Fifth St. 7-Eleven also houses a wide array of Canadian delicacies, including questionably-flavoured potato chips (maple syrup, curry, and macaroni and cheese, to name a few), stale doughnuts, sub-truck-stop-quality chicken wraps, and a half-smoked joint I found one time in the magazine section. Perhaps in the future, 7-Eleven could consider a cross-promotion with High Times magazine, and offer a sample of BC bud with every purchase to zone right in on their target demographic. I wonder how much High Times pays their feature writers? Just fun to think about.

What the 7-Eleven offers in convenience (close enough that I can find my way there at 2 a.m. on a flat bottle of diet Dr. Pepper), it sometimes lacks in stock: several late-night junk food runs saw me come away with only a stale taquito or two, and the chili button on the nacho machine seemed prone to malfunction. On a vaguely related note, it’s possible historians will one day pinpoint the decline of western civilization to the moment the phrase “chili button” entered our common vernacular.

I would definitely return to the 7-Eleven, under the assumption that the trip was covered for expenses. The savings I allocated allowed me to get a bag of mini-cinnamon buns and a Full Throttle energy drink on my last visit—a lavish-living style I’d be unable to keep up for any length of time on my own dime.

If you’re looking for an affordable, charming vacation getaway, I highly recommend the 7-Eleven—and, please, when you’re there, consider taking a side-trip to make a donation to the bearded fellow staring longingly from the nearby corner. Tuition costs are high, and taquitos do not come cheap.