In October 2021 with our trip booked and our perceived dream life awaiting us in Costa Rica, we sold or got rid of everything we owned. Truly – everything. The last few days before we left became a flurry of Marketplace pick ups and eventually leaving piles of our stuff in our driveway for people to pick up as they drove by. At the time it was so liberating, see you later extraneous items I’ll no longer need! Sure don’t need these snowsuits in the tropics. So when we started to plan our return we knew that coming back to what once was, was impossible. This further amplified these feelings of longing for ‘home’ – where even was it? What was it? We had nothing, where could we go?? This started to feel like an existential crisis. But it made us consider things we hadn’t before.
Pretty much from the time we were married we were on the move. We went for a cross country drive in 2006 and spent a few months living in BC. Once we returned to Kingston we got a dog and bought our first house. Two years later, after I had switched jobs a few times, I went to college for goldsmithing in Toronto. After living apart from Steve for that year he left his family’s business and moved to Toronto with me. He started carpentry and construction, I worked at an eaves trough cleaning company in dispatch, and then we decided to go to Costa Rica for a few months. After that we came back to Canada and cashed in our RRSPs to buy furniture for an upscale downtown apartment we rented. Steve started to establish his business and I began managing my fourth chiropractic office. We still owned our first house but had been renting it out. We moved back to it that spring and I got pregnant with Gracie in September. We sold that house and bought a tear-down in a waterfront neighbourhood just east of the city. Steve started building our house while we lived for several months at my moms. We moved in a month before Gracie was born and nearly immediately listed the house for sale. It was back in the day when houses took months to sell and we ended up moving out just weeks after Gracie’s first birthday. We were in that phase again – limbo, suspended, waiting for our landing but uncertain where that was. We left our house on Rudd Avenue and stayed at random friends’ houses for a couple weeks until we found a rental. Are you keeping up with this?!
This brings us to 2013. Over the next decade we actually didn’t move houses much but we travelled a lot and each time we basically cashed in everything we had to fund it. We were building our businesses and our family and exploring our options and never feeling fully settled anywhere. Looking far outside of us for the next best thing, thinking that we would have to trade it all in each time to get there.
Shockingly, “there” was always elusive. It’s this realization that was finally solidifying in our final months of our Costa Rica excursion. I recognized this pattern of always searching for home everywhere exceptwhere I actually was but also that I thought I had to give it all up in order to get what I wanted. I believed for some reason I had to sacrifice security for adventure. That in order to have the exploration, the spontaneity, the wildness and freedom I crave in my life I would have to compromise on things like stability, safety, steadiness. It’s not important why I felt that to be but it’s nearly revolutionary to now know that I need not trade one for the other. I will always desire adventure, to see new places, to experience the culture and beauty of other worlds. And now I feel solid in my expectation to alsoalways experience steadfastness and rootedness. I can be a homebody and a traveller after all. And I value the certainty of home now more than I ever have.
So the actual decision of returning to Canada was maybe less exciting than you hoped to hear. It was simply a returning to a truth we had and buried and had to reclaim. What we desired most was familiarity, connection, community, sustainability. Steve and I used to say we wanted to live a ‘cottage life’. Slow mornings where the aroma of coffee and bacon float over the early morning breeze catching your attention as you sit wrapped in a blanket on the dock. Watching the morning mist and catching an elusive sighting of a loon gliding silently over water so still that it looks like oil. Pine needle pathways. Canoes. Fire pit. Late night laughter. A gathering place. Celebratory dinners. Bunkies for our friends to stay in. Gardens. Bees. Wildlower honey we make ourselves. Jars of maple syrup in the pantry. Winter slumber. Summer rejoicing. Hopelessly Canadian idealism.
One thing we’ve always dreamed of. Coveted. But resisted at every turn. The one thing I’m afraid of doing – being still. Being where I am. The wheels were in motion from the moment Steve and I sat in our Costa Rican villa deciding that Canada was the next place we needed to be.
This is actually where this adventure truly begins. As we honestly look at, and speak of, our long held dreams and desires, and see if from nothing we can create everything we’ve always wanted.
I guess it took this big upheaval to have this reckoning, perhaps I’ll chalk the whole thing up to that someday. There were so many times over the months in Costa Rica where I just couldn’t quite get a grip on it. We couldn’t find our place, or maybe more accurately we made it impossible on ourselves. We knew the whole time what our dream and desire was. It wasn’t foolish to hope that it could come together in this lush tropical country. The Pura Vida vibe, the sunshine, the kindness and simplicity of the people, the brightness of the sun, the coolness of the waves. So much beckoned us there, so no, I won’t live in regret for the cost of it. The videos of my kids surfing, feeding monkeys bananas from our porch in the rainforest, watching Edie learn to swim at two years old. Friendships that will last our lifetime. That was a trade worth making.
We got scared. This weird time the world is in, shaking me to my core, making me question everything I thought I knew. I thought that everything I desired must be somewhere else, outside this country that no longer felt like my own. I have so many friends who think coming back was crazy, walking right into the trap. But I know, for me, a decision made from fear will never be the right fit. And, as naive as some may think it is, I still stand by our ability to create the reality in which we want to live. What I’ve been meant to create is only just burgeoning now and there’s no mistake to it. The world needs what I can make.
In the end there’s this. When we think we are making decisions and we’re weighing out the odds; what’s in our favour, what works against it?
When we look at the pools of options and decide where to dive in.
When we feel ourselves on the edge of choosing but we can’t quite know what is best.
Will we get it all wrong? What is our motive?
Can you make this decision knowing that everything is going to work out for you?
Could you at least imagine that it is?
Is the decision coming from outside factors or from your heart.
I think the point is to fully align with the highest vision of your life, the ultimate way you would want it to turn out. If homesteading and sustainability and self reliance and community have always been a dream of yours then that is the right direction to move forward with regardless of what may happen.
I feel like I’ve stopped running. It’s been two decades I’d say that felt like perpetual forward motion. I’m tired. Perhaps having the words “moving forward fearlessly” in my wedding vows was not for my benefit after all! I see myself right now with my head thrown back and my arms raised up, palms outward saying STOP. And it’s to me. It’s just me that has frenetically propelled forward. I’ve known it all along, conceptually I’ve known that home was within me, not without. But I’ve spent so much time racing after it anyway. It doesn’t matter anymore why that might have been, it matters that I am actively changing it now. I’m stopping my own perpetuation of this endless chase, this restlessness, this hustle. I’m putting my foot down to myself, like standing on a dogs’ leash when it wants to leap forward. And in the same vein I’m gentling myself to myself, running my hands over my racing heart and mind and shushing “easy girl, easy”.
What will happen?
I am at the ending of something and the beginning of another thing. I am empty. I am without all the ‘normal’ trappings of life a 40 year old mother of three often has. At times I am appalled, others I am terrified but mostly I am curious. For when something is empty it allows for being filled up. I want to call back to me everything I expelled. As easily as I gave all of it up I want to invite it back in. In new form. With consciousness and deliberation. To lovingly choose now a stayed life. Stillness, peace, ease, simplicity. I desire it deeply now, the tide has turned and I see on the horizon the waves of opportunity and chance rushing back to me.
There might be more to this story yet so, stay tuned…