moving west!

img_5381near the end of pierre’s and my first date, he mentioned that he’d had a really good time, but that i might not hear from him for a few weeks because he was probably off to ecuador for a while. while we were dating, he spent three months in a mining town in quebec and went back and forth from peru. shortly after we got engaged, he was sent to botswana and zimbabwe for three months. my 22-year-old self did not see (or refused to see) the writing on the wall. i thought that by telling my new fiancé that i planned to stay in toronto forever would protect me from ever having to move to one of these remote locations. every time that he looks at a job board and raises the prospect of moving (a regular occurrence!), i remind him of this statement, which i made nearly ten years ago and to which i hold fast. pierre’s kind of a forgetful person and he denies we ever had this conversation.

one day last june, pierre came home from work and mentioned his company was considering bidding on a gold and copper mine in northern british columbia. if they bid and if they won and if pierre was able to wrangle a position there, would i consider moving to northern bc?  by my early thirties, i had figured out that me clinging to my decade-old statement that i would never, ever move was probably not something i was going to be able to do forever. if i said “no” to prince george (the community closest to the mine), i would most likely end up saying “yes” to somewhere else, sometime down the road. and that somewhere else might not be in canada and that sometime else might come at a time when it was harder to pack up and go. not that it’s ever easy to move (especially across the country or internationally), but it’s harder if your child is enrolled in school and has a real sense of time and place or if you’re in a job you enjoy. so i said i would move to prince george if all the ifs ands played true. and then i watched as his company did bid on the mine, did secure the property and did offer pierre a position as a senior geologist.

at some point i found out that not every person who works at the mine lives in prince george. some people live in much more metropolitan cities like vancouver and victoria and commute to the mine with an altered schedule. so, as if we didn’t already have enough to discuss, we started chewing through the pros and cons of living in lower mainland or northern british columbia.

vancouver was out immediately due to the cost of living, but the pros list for victoria was long. what is there not to love about vancouver island? affordable character homes; beautiful beaches; mild weather; a scenic ferry ride away from vancouver and a road trip away from seattle, portland, san francisco; an incredible local food movement; orca whales — there’s even a waldorf school on the island for frankie rose. on the con side was simply: pierre being gone two weeks out of every month and the added expense of weekly flights to and from prince george.

on the flip side, the cons list for prince george was pretty dispiriting. the housing inventory is bleak. it snows six months of the year. the paper mill gives the city a certain odour. pierre could come home every weekend on the free shuttle bus, but researching the city gave me very little about which to be excited. if you’re really outdoorsy (the hike/fish/hunt/quad style of outdoorsy), prince george has a lot to offer. i don’t mean to knock it. but my enjoyment of the outdoors is more of the soak-up-the-sun on a licensed patio variety. i really tried to get excited about living in a remote, northern community, but deep down i knew that i would be unhappy there.

ultimately, we reached a happy compromise with his employer of a 7-7 schedule out of victoria. pierre will make the trip north to prince george via a 1hr 40min direct flight and then catch the complimentary bus to the mine site, three hours north of prince george. after seven days of work, he’ll make the return trip and be completely off for one week at home. he will also get to take two full weeks off work per year, which amounts to six weeks of vacation, since each work week is already bookended by a rest week. it is still a good bit of travelling, although it’s not self-driven; that is, he can read, watch movies, listen to podcasts on the plane/bus.

since we are choosing to live in victoria instead of prince george, the weekly flights to/from prince george are on us, as is the cost of moving from toronto to victoria; those added expenses are ones we will be factoring in when we fly out there next month to purchase a new small home. the cmhc added victoria to their list of “overheated” housing markets recently, but toronto is basically a pyre, so everything seems like a bargain to us.

our wish list for our new place in victoria is pretty straightforward: a one storey home in a walkable neighbourhood, two bedrooms, one bathroom, hardwood floors and, ideally, close to a beach. exactly what we have now, basically. what can i say? we know what we like.

speaking of what we have now, i’m beginning the very emotional process of preparing our little house for sale. this house has been a depository of such happy memories and has taught us so much — everything from how to use a circular saw to what is important to us as individuals and as a family. it’s frankie’s first home and i’m sobbing internally knowing that she won’t remember this house, which will be impossible for me to forget. i’m vacillating between excitement for what’s next and sorrow for what we’re leaving behind on an hourly schedule, pretty much. i do know that moving at this stage in our family life and careers is the right choice and i’m super excited about living on the west coast, but i doubt any amount of self-talk will make seeing the “for sale” sign tucked in next to my snowball bush next week any easier.

it is such a relief (to us and all our friends and relations i’m sure!) to have the will we/should we move? question answered, but our to-do list is impossibly long now that we know we’re leaving. i’m so happy i completed the minsgame challenge back in december, because not having to donate/sell/sort our stuff is a relief, and swapped our living and dining rooms more recently, but i’m open to any and all tips regarding stress-free moves. bonus points if you have experience doing it cross-country, with a baby and sedated cat in tow.