Going Coastal

I thought I’d sit down amidst the utter discombobulation that is packing with two small children to write a blog post about what led us to our decision to move to a small coastal community we’ve never been to. It might seem like it came out of nowhere but I’ll remind anyone who has known us for 3+ years that a surprise move is kind of… dare I say on-brand for Tom and I. I mean, we did elope and this feels pretty similar to that. In both instances we spoke at great length about what we thought was the right move for the future of our family, took it about as seriously as we needed to (that is to say… not very) and then took a leap of faith. The only difference is that getting married cost us like eight hundred bucks and was probably a smaller commitment than the current weight of our new mortgage and sprawling fixer-upper.

Our first home together was a cheery and bright one bedroom apartment in the city. We got married in that apartment and brought Hennie home to it a year later. When she was ten months old we bought our first home, a tiny but cozy two bedroom condo. A year later we brought Wells home from the hospital to that apartment; I guess we move fast! Even before he was born we were having the conversation most of our generation probably has when raising a young family: do we want to continue to live in a small space in the city or do we want to move further afield so our kids can have the stuff we took for granted, like a yard and their own bedrooms? Like many young families our age, we can’t afford to have it both ways. We had this conversation over and over and over again, never really deciding what we wanted.

A year ago this month I was reading this post on one of my favourite blogs and I started daydreaming, as I always do when I see a home tour of a whole house, about upsizing our home and downsizing our community. Though it had always been a bit of a dream in the back of my mind, something about that article made me think “why not?” and I began thinking more critically about the logistics of that move – whether it would be possible, what it would look like for us. It felt like a monumental decision for me but when I mentioned it more seriously to Tom he seemed game for a change; having lived in multiple countries throughout his twenties I don’t think moving outside of the Lower Mainland was too much of a stretch for him.

Soon I became pretty fixated on the idea of selling our tiny apartment and moving somewhere else, but the checklist of what we were looking for in a community made the move seem fairly improbable. Our non-negotiables included mild weather (well, for Canada), decent elementary schools, a young, liberal-minded (or at least open-minded) community, multiple breweries (if we’re being perfectly honest) and obviously a real estate market that would allow for a detached home to be within the realm of possibility for us. We wanted to stay in as close proximity as possible to family in the Lower Mainland but knew that this was asking a lot. Knowing that it might not be possible to check all of our  boxes, we didn’t pursue it too much.

When we became serious enough about selling our place to connect with our realtor, we focused on a move to another local city where we thought we could afford a decent townhouse. We hung out there and loved the area, even staying in an AirBnB for two weeks in the fall and viewing some properties. One evening as we were doing our usual nightly scouring of the real estate there, Tom entered our search parameters and just started cruising around the map to see what we could afford elsewhere. He ended up on the Sunshine Coast looking at the houses for sale in a little beachside town called Gibsons. We marvelled at some gorgeous ocean-view homes and went to bed. A few nights of real estate hunting later and we were still looking at houses in Gibsons. We had never been there before and knew nothing about the coast but within a week our search had shifted. Without even talking about it we had both stopped looking at townhouses in the lower mainland and completely redirected our house hunt to the coast. Rather than approaching our nightly real estate searches with our usual sense of tired obligation I could feel a palpable excitement in the way we talked about the possibility of this move. Just as I can remember the moment when we decided we were going to be together forever (me: “is this it!?” Tom: “…I think so!”), I can remember the moment when we decided to redirect our house hunt to this totally new, seemingly random community we had stumbled upon in our late-night, beer-fuelled deep-dives into the depths of REW (me: “should we tell our realtor!?” Tom: “…I think so!”).

And then we found the house. It checked all of our boxes: stunning natural light, all the windows I could imagine, bedrooms enough for guests (or more babies! or guests with babies!) and it was even a rancher, which we were kinda hoping for. It was on a huge property with a back and front yard, had a fire pit, a large deck, and a detached office for Tom to work out of. It even had fruit trees and space for an ample vegetable garden, which was a long-shot wish of mine. We could afford it because it needed a helluva lot of love, but we were game for the challenge. We told our realtor. He called to inquire. The house was sold.

To Tom’s credit, he stayed calm through the many ups-and-downs of house-hunting, a feat that I cannot say I was capable of. With my exemplary imagination and lingering postpartum hormones I was a maniac every time we found a place we loved and a much bigger maniac every time we found out that a place I was already picturing myself living in was unavailable. I took up meditation to try and handle myself and we continued to focus our search on Gibsons, a community we had still never been to. We moved out of our condo so we could stage and show it more easily, packing up all of our unsightly clutter and moving it to my dad’s house (lucky him!). Before we left we went for one last date night at a local pub. Over many cheap pints I found that my husband, who doesn’t get excited about much, was unable to stop talking about the renovations he’d do on that first house we had fallen in love with. Poor guy.

The next morning our realtor called. The sale on the house – that house – hadn’t gone through and it was on the market again. He wanted to know if we could hop on a ferry immediately to go view it. Tom booked the next morning off work and we loaded the kids into the car to take a look at the rustic rancher that had occupied his thoughts for so very long. On the way there we said “at least now we can see it for ourselves and if it’s terrible we can put it out of our minds forever.” The day felt easy and exciting. It was a clear and crisp day in early February and the views of the local islands during the ferry crossing were stunning. We docked, drove to the house and stepped inside. We viewed it for probably ten minutes, the backyard too covered in snow for us to even really know what we’d be getting. Shortly afterward we were back on the ferry on our way home for nap time, instructing our team to begin compiling our offer.

And it was accepted! But first we had to sell our own condo, and fast. We cleaned, staged, photographed, and showed it as well and as quickly as we were able to and received a really fantastic offer after only a few days. We accepted it (whoop!), but it fell through. We accepted another offer, but it fell through as well. On the brink of losing our DIY dream house, we accepted a third offer. My anxiety was through the roof waiting for the buyers to get their affairs in order but thankfully, it went through. Miraculously, it seems, everything happened at the last moment when it needed to, teaching me all kinds of lessons about trust and letting go of things I can’t control. You would think I would already know how to deal with those things, having a medically complicated toddler, but it appears I’m a work in progress.

So here we are. Getting possession this week of a home which needs repairs we probably won’t know the full scope of until we’re up to our eyeballs in asbestos-laden insulation and rotting cedar beams (jk, probs). We head into it with a meagre budget, an inspection report so long it has a table of contents, and, thankfully, a sense of humour, at least for now. We’ve had so many moments when we’ve looked at each other, laughed, and said “what if we don’t even like it there because we still haven’t actually been?” but we’re just so sure that this is the right move for us that it hasn’t even really been a question on our minds. At the risk of being excessively corny and barf-inducing, I think I could live anywhere in the whole wide world with Tom Procter and it would still be the most stupendous life, so moving to a scenic coastal town where we can slow down and enjoy our kids and each other just seems like the icing on an already delicious cake.

For so long I existed in awe of the people I saw who were able to take a leap of faith and step forward into the unknown of a big adventure. This feels like that moment for us.

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