Why We Moved From the City to a Small Town

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. Although I’ve explained it a thousand times to people, friends, and clients who have asked “whyyyy?” in person, it’s hard to put things in writing.

But here goes.

Since graduating from university I’ve lived in an urban setting. And while I wouldn’t call central Ottawa the most cosmopolitan of urban centres, it had the feel of a little, big city. You know the ones? With great independent restaurants and cafes, a business district that was busy enough by day if dead at night, and the constant bustle of active people on the move.

Think free yoga on the lawn of our Parliament buildings, running classes along the historic Rideau Canal, fresh baked goods from the local french baker and cappuccinos served just the way I like it from a favourite barista at a local Italian grocer.

That was my life. For 7 years, my husband and I lived in a high rise condominium that was small – 720 square feet – but mighty in its location and vistas. A few years after we purchased and moved into this condo, I finally took the plunge and left my relatively lucrative finance job to manage a luxury boutique.

With this change in job, my income was significantly lower, and when my husband sold his business to work at a startup company an hour and a half outside the city, our lifestyle changed significantly.

We had less money to play with, and less time to enjoy our money and/or our beautifully located condo. Yes, I enjoyed all the delicious perks listed above, but my husband was coming home exhausted every day from working long hours then having to drive long hours, we were feeling more financially strapped (because we both took pretty big leaps in our careers) and I was feeling exceptionally guilty at the kind of carbon footprint we were leaving with the number of kilometers crossed with our car. For the longest time, my husband drove an SUV. Yes, our urban lifestyle meant we had a smaller footprint, and I was proud of that, but it bothered me that all of our slow, sustainable efforts at home were being wiped out by a 3 hour daily commute.

Because of our central location, I was always meeting people – and not always for work or business purposes. A coffee here, a drink there – as an introvert, this constant seeing of other people started really taking its toll, and I started to feel spent too.

Yes, I am mainly to blame in my inability to say no, but this was an eye opener for me. How can I promote slow living and enjoying the beautiful things in life, if I was moving too fast and was too stressed to live my own manifesto?

I know a giant commute and long working hours are the norm for people who live in big cities like New York, Toronto, Tokyo … but I didn’t feel like living that way in a small big city like Ottawa was worth it.

I wanted to slow down. I wanted my husband to be healthy, and have time to discover and grow his own interests. I wanted an excuse and the financial opportunity to say no to certain jobs so that I could focus on what had become a growing Youtube Channel and an incredible audience that somehow found me in the giant ocean of the internet. 

Let’s be real – I don’t have a ton of subscribers in the grand scheme of things, but I truly feel that the ones I have, and the people who follow along on Instagram and maybe occasionally read this blog (now that it’s going to be a regular thing, you know) gave me the courage to make the move from downtown to small town.

Knowing that it didn’t matter where I was delivering content from was a big factor in my decision, and knowing that for the past few months, I had received so much support and non-judgment from this awesome community made me go ahead and list our condo.

It sold while I was away in Greece with my mom over the summer and I can honestly say I don’t remember much from then until Christmas. Our condo sold way faster than we had anticipated and that fall also happened to be the busiest of my freelance career. So we lived with my parents for a little over a month until we found a rental in the town where my husband works.

I didn’t feel comfortable committing to buying property, and we wanted to live free of long term financial commitments until we sorted ourselves out.

So we moved to the small, industrial town that is not known for its beauty but its abandoned paper mill and slowly, S L O W L Y budding economy built on a hyperbolic mix of large distribution centers and independent businesses.

In a way, I felt like I was regressing: we went from being two-time home owners who also had an investment property and a boat in the Thousand Islands to only having a car lease and rental agreement in our name.

And yet I’ve never felt more confident and motivated in what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, and I’ve never been happier in our relationship. Maybe it’s the energy in this town, the charm, the rough edges, the warm people.

Weird, no?

Now to our new place. It’s only been three months, so it’s really hard to make sense of how I’m feeling. Here’s what I do know:

There is definitely no free yoga happening, but there is a waterfront trail that runs along the St. Lawrence river and it’s stunning.

My home isn’t on the 14th floor with epic views, but now I live in an industrial loft, in fact in the same textile factories that supplied most of Canada up until the 1950’s.

I don’t know any of my neighbors, and I have yet to find an amazing cappuccino. (Montreal has great ones though, and I have discovered some lovely hot chocolate).

I have not spent any time exploring my new environment, because a lot of my time now is spent commuting or hosting. I go into the city once, or twice a week and when I have to spend more than one day in town I sleep at my parents to avoid the back and forth. I have to keep an eye on this one.

I may not be walking distance to everything, but I’m only an hour away from Montreal, a city that I love to spend time in.

I miss the constant sound of buses and cars driving up and down the streets, but am getting used to the quiet and the river being right at my doorstep.

I see my husband so much more often. Our relationship is so much stronger and more of a partnership than it was before. He even mentioned vacation which is crazy.

I have yet to go on a nice long run that is both beautiful and where I feel safe. I was spoiled with endless bike paths that were constantly filled with people where I always felt safe. I really, really miss the kind of running where I can completely zone out.

I don’t go out to restaurants as often but with double the square footage and a cool industrial loft space, we are hosting a lot more. I love filling our space with family, friends and good memories.

Was this a good idea? It’s only been three months, but I think so. I still have a hard time telling people where I live. I always imagined that a move at this stage in my life would have been to another country, a big city. I have a hard time driving and running by a lot of deserted and abandoned storefronts and not having access to certain things, but I believe where I currently am has so much beautiful potential.  Maybe that’s the motivating factor? A friend of mine challenged me to look for the charm and now … I don’t really need to look for it – it’s there. The people I’ve met so far have been wonderful, and already I’ve been able to say no to certain things that would have kept me from what I really wanted to focus on.

Three months is not enough time to be conclusive, so maybe I’ll check back in with another blog post mid-way through the year. I’d love to hear any lifestyle changes that you’ve made – big moves, intentional choices. What did you do, why did you do it? How do you feel now? Hindsight is always the best, isn’t it?

Thank you so much for reading, xo

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