This post has been months in the making! But the more time passed, the longer my list of reasons grew—and the more intimidating the thought of writing it all down became.
From DMs on Instagram to comments from fans on HGTV’s Facebook, people have been curious to hear about why I made the move to Squamish, BC from Milton, Ontario. So finally, I got around to writing it out to share with all of you…
The best place to start is at the beginning of where this little urge, dream—whatever you want to call it—first began.
Rewind nearly two years ago to late 2017. I found myself facing a season of downtime—my first real slice of downtime from my career since I graduated in 2012. The first season of Save My Reno had aired, and as I awaited a green light for season two, I felt an ironic mix of stagnant and free.
I was single, living on my own with Piper, and facing a winter of waiting. So I found myself with time to really evaluate where I wanted to go from here, in every possible area of life.
I ended up booking a yoga retreat in Bali, Indonesia (which I blogged about along the way) where I spent time hanging out with myself and exploring everything from Canggu’s beaches to Taipei’s night markets. It was one of the best trips of my life, and I learned a ton about who I was and what I wanted.
When I returned home to Milton, I spent lots of time wandering around with Piper, at the cottage with family, and hanging out with friends.
After the winter thawed and spring arrived, I felt refreshed! I was having an awesome time filming Home To Win, working on freelance art direction projects, and getting to know my now boyfriend who dog-sat Piper throughout some of my travels and work days where I was away overnight.
After my retreat in Bali, I became more passionate about yoga, so I booked myself one last stretch of time for the year to do something I really wanted to do: become a certified teacher.
I flew to Thailand and throughout the six weeks that followed, I attended Frog Lotus Yoga’s teacher training course in Koh Samui, I spent some time in Chiang Mai, and I fell in love. It was awesome.
Coming home was a whirlwind. I was super happy to see loved ones again, but it felt strange being back in Milton. I had grown and shifted perspectives so much in the six months that passed, and yet here was my house as I left it. It didn’t feel like home in the same way it once did and I found myself feeling geographically stunted.
It was then that my boyfriend and I started to daydream about moving, or building a cool house. We were the happiest we had ever been in our lives, but we still yearned for a better quality of life.
For having done well for myself, I didn’t really feel like the work I did to get there was justified by the life I found myself living in Ontario. Don’t get me wrong, I still felt immense gratitude for having a home, a successful (albeit rollercoaster-y) career, and a great relationship. But it just felt like I hit a cap there. And making a jump to get ahead again of shift gears in any other direction (Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton, etc.) didn’t feel right.
Meanwhile, days after I got home from Thailand, I found out Save My Reno was renewed for a second season which kickstarted me to think about the future again, my career, and what was important to us.
Both of us worked a ton that spring/summer, usually leaving the house by 6am and getting home around 8pm. And in our downtime we tried to squeeze in the things we love doing: being outdoors, biking, hiking, exploring and adventure. It was nice when we could find the time, but that was one of the problems: the things that made us happy and fulfilled were a squeeze.
Not to mention, I had already exhausted most every trail and park in the Greater Toronto Area. I was born and raised in Milton, and despite a few stints living in Toronto, Jasper AB, and Mississauga, still living in Milton wasn’t working for me. (By no means do I think Milton isn’t great, or Ontario for that matter, but it was simply time to go.)
By summer, our pipe-dream of finding some cute cabin on the west coast and letting Piper live out a leash-less life started to seem like a possibility. We’re both lucky to have jobs where we can work from nearly anywhere, so we started looking into areas that made sense for us both and everything kept pointing towards BC.
I loved the time I spent living in Jasper, and Mike had a huge affinity for BC already, so after tons of research, we started house-hunting.
It just felt right. And the timing was perfect. And every time we asked our selves, “Why not? What could go wrong?” we weren’t satisfied with the answers.
Sure, it’s daunting to think about leaving the familiar, and it takes a lot of work and guts to re-establishing your career and life in a place you don’t know. But neither of us let worry dictate much in our lives, so we followed what felt right. And moving to BC felt right.
As summer chugged along, Squamish quickly became a place we seriously looked into. The wheels were already in motion and we set up a few meetings with landlords, but it wasn’t until we visited and vacationed here in August that we really got to know Squamish and fall for it.
Going into our trip, we were open to everything from Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood to north of Whistler. We spent days driving along the 99 (our rental car bill was awful), exploring everything from Horseshoe Bay and Brittania Beach, to Whistler and Pemberton. We wanted to make sure there wasn’t something that felt more appropriate, but we kept returning to this little adventure district. The halfway mark between Vancouver and Whistler, Squamish felt right.
By September, I found a tenant to rent my home in Milton, we secured a beautiful home in Squamish, and we started packing up our lives in Ontario.
Flash-forward to now, just six months after the vacation that sparked it all, and neither of us have looked back.
For those lucky enough to call Squamish home, there’s enough to go around. Whereas in Ontario I felt like everyone was scrambling to get some before the next guy, there’s a slice for everybody here.
Because of the mountains, national protected parks and reserves, only so much land is inhabitable, so the environment is the boss. The goal isn’t to gain more, build more, do more. It’s about enjoying what you have and your surroundings, living your life with more intention and working reasonably as a means to support your lifestyle and passions. And even then, the culture around working is much more laid-back. “The Grind” doesn’t exist here. Most shops aren’t open when I wake up, and most are closed Mondays and Tuesdays. And while this was mildly annoying at first, it forces me to shift my priorities in the right direction. Which is exactly what I wanted back in 2017 when I felt stuck.
Here, the earth is alive and lush and different every day. In the winter, there’s still greenery and an endless network of free, groomed parks and trails. And in the summer, you can float down the river watching seals or hike up a mountain and enjoy free camping in a national park.
The list is endless of places to see and land to explore. And better yet, it’s touchable and reachable from your front door. It’s not impossible—and frankly, it’s encouraged—to enjoy a morning hike or rip a few trails and be back in time to jump into the start of the work day.
The district is still small and humble—which was a huge selling feature for us both. It has everything we need, but nothing more. You won’t find big chains or the brand name stores you’d be used to in the GTA, but you will find independent shops, kind, relaxed people, and a safe young community.
It’s simple here. There seems to be less in the way of the things you want to do, and more emphasis on slowing down a bit and enjoying the view, literally and proverbially. And while it’s definitely not for everyone, it’s perfect for us right now.
PS: I’ll be sharing another post soon with all of my Squamish go-to favourites, from restaurants and shops to trails and sights.