My Come from Away (CFA) story and the one vacation that turned into forever
For my adult life, my version of Canada was Ontario – flat and hectic. Where Sunday drives usually included a traffic jam and escaping the city was a five-hour trip to the Muskokas. Don’t get me wrong, Ontario has moments of beauty, but they felt fleeting and far in-between. If I sound jaded that’s because I was. The “rat race” was not something I liked or wanted to keep up with.
For some time, my husband Josh and I were looking for a way out of our comfort zone. We had discussed uprooting ourselves to Alberta, BC, the US, and even Europe but nothing ever felt like the right fit.
It wasn’t until my solo five-day vacation to St. John’s, in September 2018, that I finally felt like we could be home. From tasting the wild blueberries heated by the sun along the rugged trails of Signal Hill, to sipping a pint overlooking the edge of a cliff in Quidi Vidi, St. John’s felt like a more beautiful and colourful version of my childhood Canada. It also didn't hurt that the housing prices were actually obtainable.
The place and experiences weren’t the only thing that drew me here, it was the people that also stole my heart. At first, I thought I must have a CFA beacon on me, but I have come to realize that this is just how Newfoundlanders are. The love of a good chat and the opportunity to share a few yarns is seasoned into the people. And much like the salt water that shaped the rugged shores, the people here carved a way into my heart.
Upon my return home, I hastily told my husband that I had fallen in love with St. John’s and thought, just maybe, we should move there. Maybe it was my excitement or the glimmer of the ocean in my eyes, but he agreed sight unseen, and we decided to take the plunge into the North Atlantic together. We quickly began working with a local real estate agent and started applying for work when things began to line up. With only a month and a half left before the big move, we hosted a family dinner and shared our news with our parents, grandparents and siblings.
Most people told us how “wild” this move was, especially the people we knew who grew up in Newfoundland & Labrador. It was as if I had said that I kissed a fish and liked it. But I think what we were missing in our lives was a true taste of the wilderness (and of course, fresh cod too).
A short three months after my time in St. John’s we:
Bought a home in Downtown St. John’s
Quit both of our jobs
Applied for work — I was hired for the Content and Digital Marketing Specialist at a Destination Management Organization, Josh was hired at Quidi Vidi Brewery as a Hop Shop associate
Finished minor renovating and sold our house in Kitchener, Ontario
And finally, packed our life, including our cat Ringo and dog Roxanne, into our tiny Kia to start our trip
Our cross-country move had begun. During our drive we faced the best and worst of a Canadian winter. From whiteouts in New Brunswick and a blizzard on the west coast of the island, to a romantic stay in a seaside log cabin on Cape Breton and finally, witnessing the glimmering sun over the snow-covered peaks in Corner Brook — Canada gave us a full show. What was planned as a three day trip ended up being five and a half days of fighting with the conditions. When we finally made it to North Sydney, NS for the Ferry to the island of Newfoundland. I was slightly relieved, then the captain came over the speaker to tell us that we were in for a bumpy ride... What a treat. I was so thankful that we had a cabin booked as I am all land legs and I was worrying myself almost sick about our dog and cat. To be very honest if you are travelling with pets there is no ideal way to take them but we did end of kennelling Roxanne in their pet room and leaving Ringo in the car*. We knew that this part of the trip would likely be their most stressful and flying would be no different. To this day I wonder if Ringo has flashbacks as when we returned to the car he was trying to hide in the dash. Thankfully he is a big cat.
I can honestly say the drive here was one of the most anxiety ridden times ever. Not only were we uprooting our lives, but we were having issues with our moving company, our mortgage specialist hadn't filed things properly, and the Caution Moose signs were giving me heart palpitations. It was during the blizzard that my brave husband drove through, from Port Aux Basque to Corner Book, that I felt a full on melt down coming. (Somewhat) luckily I have had panic and anxiety attacks before, so I knew how to breath through it. I also knew that if one tear rolled down my cheek a million more would follow. Crying or hyperventilating wasn't going to solve any problems or change the weather. And it certainly wasn't going to help my husband driving. I think the laboured breathing techniques and me clutching onto the safety handle (aka Holy Shit Bar) was enough distraction. Still to this day I have no idea what that part of the road actually looks like, it felt like we were in the mountains, so thats what my mind holds on to. Not that I am eager to return to those roads anytime soon, but the curiosity may get the better of me next summer. It is on that note that I strongly urge you not to move across Canada, and in particular to Newfoundland during Christmas/ winter time. If you have the opportunity to wait until late spring then do it.
After arriving in Corner Brook, getting the animals and our overnight bags out of the car and settling into our AirBnB we could finally both let out a sigh of relief. We were officially in our new home province and the weather network was predicting sunshine for our next 8 hours of driving from the west coast of the island to the far east.
It was during the last leg of the trip, from Corner Brook to St. John’s, that the beauty of our country, and more specifically this province, hit us. Josh and I were oohing and aweing at the sheer untouched wilderness that was enveloping us along the TCH (Trans Canada Highway) when he commented, “This looks like the French Alps” and I replied giddily “No, this looks like home.” I can honestly say now that Newfoundland truly made us fall in love with Canada again.
I never intended to have a five-day vacation turn into forever but here we are, one year later living in the great capital city of our new home province. St. John’s is only one and a half hours ahead of Ontario, but it has transported us back to the real beauty that our country has to offer. Put simply you never know how one decision (like a last minute trip) can impact the rest of your life.
From decorating our new home with an east coast flare and hosting dinners and card nights with our new found friends eating Newfoundland treats we are finally feeling settled in our new home and town. We have even been able to host our parents on their summer vacations, showing them why Newfoundland stole our hearts. This journey is far from over and we are going head first into exploring how we fit in to this quirky town called St. John's. As one of our favourite songs by a local artist, Dave Whitty, says "People may wonder why we, like to live as far east as can be. I don't think they underdstand we're just living the best that we can. In the town of St. John's".
*Marine Atlantic: The rules are quite strict for travelling with pets on the ship so I would strongly suggest to review their policy and make the best decision for your pet.