The reality is that SO many of my friends have (…maybe it’s me!). While their transitions haven’t been easy, they all have been worthwhile and I wanted to share their stories, including the highs and lows, with you!
Meet The Families
Matyas Family – Coquitlam Condo to Prince George Home
In order to get into the Vancouver housing market, Joey and Erica bought a run down, one bedroom condo in Coquitlam. After doing a complete renovation they realized they could flip it and with the sale be able to upgrade… perhaps to a two bedroom or maybe even a townhouse. OR, they could sell it and get a house in Prince George.
Since Joey’s family was from Prince George, the idea started to make more sense and the research began. Erica quickly realized that there would be more job opportunities for her in her field in the smaller community, and with that, the For Sale signs went up on their condo and they started house shopping in PG.
Eight years later, Joey and Erica have two young kids and love that they are raising them in a smaller community. “The rush of the lower mainland is gone. There is less focus on conspicuous consumerism.” Erica and Joey are outdoor enthusiasts and love being surrounded by similar families.
“People spend their money on recreation and experiences.” Whether they are spending their weekends camping or just heading out for a walk on their bee farm (yes, bee farm) moving to the outdoor lifestyle of Prince George has been the best decision they ever made.
Benson Family – From New West to Nelson
Fifteen years ago Marty and I worked together and I remember him saying that someday he’d like to leave the city and move to a smaller town like Nelson. “Nelson?” I asked, and had to look it up. Marty quickly described it as the perfect city. Where each season is greeted with a change of colours, and a change of gear so that you can get outside and play. Where mountain biking trails are literally out your front door and the whole town gets to wake up every morning looking out over the beautiful Kootenay Lake. Where skiing isn’t a hobby, but a lifestyle…and where children would be raised outdoors as part of their school curriculum.
So it was no surprise to me that when a great job came up in Nelson that he’d be applying and hoping to move his family to their dream home. 4 years later the Benson family is loving Nelson more than they ever could have imagined. Marty’s wife Jess says, “It’s the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to” and regularly fills her Facebook feed with magazine worthy images of the city.
The kids have adjusted well too, even though it wasn’t easy at first! They love having so many friends with common interests, perhaps even more than they did in the city. Marty and Jess feel the same, and while they miss their friends on the coast, they are very fortunate to have a new group of “terrific friends” to hang out with.
Strzelec Family – Lower Mainland to Lakeside Living
After taking a brief break from Langley and living in Osoyoos for work for 2 years, the Strzelec family fell in love with the “Okanagan” lifestyle. “More adventure, slower pace, fantastic weather and the ability to get out and participate in more activities.” It wasn’t until they left the Lower Mainland that they realized, “Vancouver is extraordinarily busy. We want to be able to take our family skiing on the weekend without having to wait for 2 hours to get up the mountain or face huge lineups.”
So when another job offer came up for them to move to Kelowna and back to the Okanagan, it was almost an easy decision for them to move. Leaving their family and friends again would be hard but since they had the experience of doing it, they knew that they would stay closely connected with everyone and even plan lots of holidays and vacations together.
McLaughlin Family – Abbotsford to Campbell River
“Jami” she said, in a serious tone that I’m not accustomed to hearing. “I have to cancel our camping trip next week, I think I’m moving to Campbell River.”
And 45 days later it was confirmed. What had started out as a baseball trip on July long weekend quickly turned into a “I think we’re going to move here” and September 15th the boxes were being unloaded as the kids moved into their new school.
What many would consider a difficult decision was relatively easy for the McLaughlin family. They absolutely fell in love with Campbell River. The ocean-side community offered amazing views and endless things to do. From beach combing to hiking to mountain biking, moving to Campbell River would give the family of six more chances to raise their kids in a “slower, more outdoorsy environment”
Now I was shocked… The McLaughlins were the epitome of an “Abbotsford” family. Sean was a Vice Principal with the district and Samantha was the head of the school PAC. With four children, they were involved in a variety of activities and knew everyone in the community (okay, maybe not everyone but you get the idea). They had an incredible neighbourhood that was like an extended family. I never imagined them moving but once I heard the sound of Sam’s voice on the phone, I knew she was in love and it was only a matter of time!
After 6 months on the coast the kids have asked their mom, “Can you stop asking us if we’re okay Mom? We LOVE it here. Now can we go to the beach?” Life has never been better!
Wilcox Family – When Work and Play Collide – From YVR to Whistler & Pemberton
Adrienne and I grew up hiking, snowboarding, and going on outdoor adventures together, so it was no surprise to me when her and her boyfriend (at the time) decided to move to Whistler to work for Whistler Blackcomb. Adrienne was sad to leave her teaching job in the Lower Mainland, but with such a transportable career she knew it would be easy to get a job with the new school district.
Now almost 5 years later, Dave and Adrienne have gotten married, started a family, and moved north to Pemberton. Every morning they get to wake up at the base of Mount Curry and take their son bike riding in the mountains, or teach him how to ski on the slopes of Whistler. I am regularly in envy of Adrienne’s Instagram feed which is filled with epic girls bike trips, more powder than one can play in, and weekends full of adventures and escapades with their huge group of friends. At least I get to go and visit her whenever I want!
Shannon Family – Fort Langley to Building Forts in Vernon
Wendy and her husband found themselves working too much and quietly started to explore the possibility of moving to a smaller town. They spent months going back and forth, researching and trying to decide if and when it would be the right fit. When an opportunity with her husbands work came up they jumped at the opportunity and sold their house and moved to Vernon.
Now Wendy’s days are spent looking for things to do, people to meet, and places to explore, which has been a big transition from the hustle and bustle of the city. “Living out of the Lower Mainland means less work for both of us. Weekends are for skiing now.” The extra flexibility has even given them the opportunity to book their first trip to Mexico! A lot more “adventure awaits” for this family in their new home!
Keenan Family – Condo to Keenan Farm!
“So we’re going to sell our condo and buy 35 acres and start a farm” was the start of the campfire conversation. I immediately knew that this would be something we’d be talking about for a long time.
James and Chelsea had three kids at the time with another one on the way, and with rising house prices and a 2 bedroom condo, something had to change. While on a long term assignment in Drayton Valley Alberta, away from family and friends, they quickly realized that maybe the farm life was worth doing more than dreaming about.
With that they started searching and happened to find a property in Salmon Arm with 35 acres waiting to be converted into a farm. Their goal in the first year was 24 chickens and 4 pigs… they ended up with 600 chickens and 20 pigs. On their first year anniversary they had 20 pigs, 499 chickens, 9 sheep, 12 rabbits, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 4 kids and a partridge in a pear tree. Chelsea says, “I love the small town, slower pace. Busyness is not standard. Everyone has time to stop and talk and help. People are more genuine.”
My kids LOVE going up and visiting the farm and last time we were there we did a whole feature on the family and their new farm life, check it out here.
I asked all of the families what some of their hardest things were about moving. As romantic and adrenaline filled as the decision is to make a major life change it doesn’t come without it’s hard times. Here’s some of the key things these families struggled with:
Trying to decide where to move was a challenge for many families. “We knew we needed to stay in the province and max just a one day drive to the Lower Mainland. Although with grand plans of frequent trips, it does get too costly and eats up a lot of time to go south all the time.”
Leaving our Families and Friends
This was a consistent message that was easily the hardest decision for every family to decide. Some left with tears streaming down their face as they pulled out of the driveway. Others refused to have going away parties and simply snuck out in the middle of the night to avoid the challenge. Family members cried too (ie. Auntie Dawn). It was hard… but it was worth it.
Once settled, the families all found themselves finding new friends, often people who they had more in common with than they did on the coast. Kids were quick to settle and Samantha said, “My kids have asked me to stop asking them if they are okay!” Which is something she’s so grateful for.
The Fear of The Unknown
The initial fear of the unknown and having to put yourself out there to meet new people was a challenge many had, especially Mom’s without work to go to immediately. The challenge of having to make friends as an adult was seen as more of a chore than a fun task, but within a few months most people were settling in nicely. “You have to be vulnerable and put in a lot of effort to meet new friends as a grownup. Living in a new city can be lonely at first.”
Not having that immediate support network was challenging as so many people had close family members and often relied on them. “There was no one to turn to for help and we had to develop a new support network.”
Change of Routine
“My daily routine has changed the most. My husband has work, the kids have school. I really have to get out and try to meet people.” Between specific examples like this to “There’s nothing open on Sundays, that’s when we normally do our shopping!” There was definitely a transition time for families.
What Surprised You the Most About Moving From the City?
It’s always interesting to ask families after they have moved what the most surprising thing was about their transition… here’s what they had to say:
- “There was more access to outdoor activity and living around like-minded people.”
- “The fact that I was able to move away from my comfort zone (family and friends) and thrive and be happy living away from them. We often talk about the quality of our visits instead of the frequency. We connect with our loved ones more when we appreciate and value the time spent together”
- “Paying the movers to move all our stuff, it was so expensive!”
- “How easy and smooth it all went and how well the kids adapted!”
- “How much money we spent in the first year after moving.”
- “How quickly cost of living has started to rise here in the last 3 years and that more people haven’t done it yet.”
What about Family? I Asked Anonymously if Their Families were Supportive and got a Wide Range of Answers…
- “Our family and friends didn’t understand our dream and it took them a long time to come around on the idea. We knew it was right for us so we had to pursue it whether we had the support or not.”
- “Family was genuinely excited for us but sad/disappointed about us moving out of their direct circle/physical contact area. It was a ‘logical’ decision that we have grown to love.”
- “They were somewhat supportive. It was pretty hard for our families to watch us leave.”
What Could Families Have Done to be More Supportive?
I asked each family, now knowing what they know, what family and friends could have done to be more supportive, here’s what they had to say:
- Share in the excitement. It’s a big and difficult decision and we found ourselves gravitating towards family and friends who wanted to share in the excitement rather then with those mourning their “loss.”
- Go and visit! We had family members come and visit our new home and we were so excited to show it off and help them see the reasons why we were so excited to move.
- Plan a vacation! Go and see your friends and make a vacation of it. You’ll have more quality time (just be a good house guest and don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot!)
- Plan a going away party – if you can and it’s the right fit. Sometimes it’s too emotional.
- Help pack! There’s SO MUCH to do when moving and more hands make for lighter work!
- Embrace technology – Facetime, Skype, texting… stay connected over the distance to allow the family to stay close. This is especially important for the kids!
Each Family Offered Up One Piece of Advice
- “Research. Visit first. Trust your gut. Don’t rush to buy right away. Maybe rent for a bit and figure out where you want to be if possible.” – Erica, Prince George
- “The initial feeling of excitement will fade and you will realize it takes time to really start over. Remember to breathe and reflect on the all of the changes happening.” – Marty, Nelson
- “Just do it! You never want to look back and say ‘what if’. Even if you move and it doesn’t work out, the experience will make you stronger and more resilient in the future.” – Hayley, Kelowna
- “Find out what is happening in your new community and get involved to learn more about the place and people around you.” – Adrienne, Pemberton
- “If you feel it in your heart… go for it!” – Samantha, Campbell River
- “Think about how far from family and friends you want to be. A 5 hour drive is going to get you a lot more visitors than a 12 hr one, especially in the winter.” And “It’s only stressful if you let it be. We were even in limbo for several months between selling and buying. No big deal.” – Wendy, Vernon
So Am I Moving?
I’m always inspired by families who take the risk and move, but is it right for us right now? No. We’ve seriously considered Powell River, Campbell River, and well anything and everywhere that has an ocean lifestyle. However, we are very settled and not in the space to move yet… but once my kids are out of school…I hope to be gone! I yearn for a lifestyle that involves waking up next to salt water, going for a swim and then jumping on my mountain bike!