A chance connection through the pages of Real Simple helped these two women meet—and allowed one to take the mother-daughter trip of a lifetime.

By Lauren Phillips
July 27, 2018
Vickie Hakim, Kristin McNamara, and Kristin’s mother on Prince Edward Island
Courtesy of Vickie Hakim

It took Kristin McNamara a series of flight delays and missed connections, an unplanned two-hour drive, three flights, and a night in the airport—a total of almost 24 hours of travel—to reach Prince Edward Island, in Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence. But, she says with certainty, it was worth the trip.

Prince Edward Island is just off the coast of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, a little bit northeast of Maine. The island is lined with red-sand beaches and dotted with lighthouses; it has a picturesque capital, Charlottetown. And it’s the iconic setting of L.M. Montgomery's beloved book series Anne of Green Gables and its sequels, which were published in the first half of the 20th century and have been adapted into highly popular movies, mini-series, and TV shows in the decades since. Prince Edward Island is undoubtedly a beautiful place to visit on its own, but McNamara was there for Anne.

“I have always wanted to take a trip with my mom to Prince Edward Island, where my favorite book, Anne of Green Gables, is set,” McNamara wrote in the November 2015 issue of Real Simple, where she was featured as subscriber of the month. “I can see both of us getting nerdy over Avonlea Village, attending the musical Anne & Gilbert, and shopping in Charlottetown. I imagine us enjoying tea for two and being careful not to drink too much raspberry cordial.”

Almost three years later, in June 2018, McNamara and her mother—accompanied by McNamara’s father, who had promised to refrain from eye-rolling at the Anne-centered activities in order to tag along—finally made the trip to the island to stay at the home of Vickie Hakim, a woman none of them had met before.

Hakim and McNamara weren’t strangers to each other, though. They had communicated over the phone and through email for years in advance of this first meeting, ever since Hakim saw McNamara’s subscriber feature in Real Simple.

“I saw the subscriber of the month and her picture, and it said something about how her number one bucket list item was to go to Prince Edward Island with her mom, because she was a fan of Anne of Green Gables,” Hakim says. “I thought, ‘Huh, wow, this is meant to be.’ How unusual, of all places. I sent an email to an editor of the magazine and I just said, ‘I know this is probably weird, but we have a home in Prince Edward Island, and if Kristin and her mom would like to come stay at our home, they’re more than welcome. I’d love to share our island with them.’”

The editor, Brandi Broxson (now Real Simple’s Articles Editor), forwarded the email to McNamara: “I was floored,” McNamara says. “I’m a stranger. It was mind blowingly kind."

After searching for Hakim on Facebook and feeling comfortable with what she found, McNamara started emailing with her. 

“She told me about herself and her family a little bit,” Hakim says. “I responded, and we’ve been going back and forth for almost three years now, sharing our lives with each other.”

They spent years coordinating schedules and picking the perfect timing that would allow McNamara and her mother to enjoy the number of Anne-focused attractions on the island. When McNamara and her parents finally arrived at Hakim’s house on the island's north shore, the two women agreed that it felt like they’d known each other for years.

“It was kind of emotional,” says Hakim, who had never opened her house to a stranger like this before. “It was really a neat connection. I just had this feeling, like it was meant to be."

McNamara and her mother had come to the island to enjoy the live Anne of Green Gables–based shows (there are two!), the museum, and the locations featured in the books, movies, and TV shows (McNamara calls it “Anne of Green Gables Disneyland”), but the trip turned into much more than that, thanks to their host.

“We didn’t just go to just visit," McNamara says. "It wasn’t like we came and she was like, ‘Here’s my house and you can stay, enjoy. She made the trip wonderful for us. She was a wonderful host. She was constantly making sure that the trip wasn’t only something we could check off our lists, but that it was also a wonderful, beautiful trip. It was the greatest trip of my life.”

McNamara has wanted to visit Prince Edward Island since she was young—probably around five years old, she says. She and her mother, who had cancer several years ago, connected over Anne of Green Gables (the books and the 1985 mini-series adaptation, predominantly) for most of McNamara’s life, and her mother’s health struggles only made it more important that they make the bucket list trip a reality.

“Going through something like that with your mother is eye-opening,” McNamara says. “You realize life is short. This trip needed to happen. No matter what happens in the rest of our lives, we have that trip. And we have those moments. I will not have that regret that we didn’t go, no matter what happens with the cancer or with life.”

Hakim—who has been vacationing on Prince Edward Island for more than 15 years and has had a vacation home there since 2010—joined McNamara and her parents on many of their Anne activities, but she also showed them the island’s other attractions.

“I really wanted Kristin and her parents to feel what I feel about this island,” she says. “It’s a small, beautiful island, but it’s what I call my happy place. You look all around, everything’s green, there are small rolling hills. The red dirt fields. And it’s just beautiful.”

McNamara has only just returned from Prince Edward Island, but she and Hakim are already talking about a second visit.

“She went out of her way to make the trip so wonderful for us,” McNamara says. “In a world where there’s so much unkindness going back and forth between people, it was amazingly humbling to experience a stranger reaching out as if we were friends. There is kindness in the world, and it’s beautiful.”