Post #3000: Selling the Urban Crow (and leaving Vancouver)


I’ve been quiet here these last few weeks – partly because I took a screen break in early February, and then I was sick and travelling for work…. but for the last week or so it’s because I’ve had news that was too early to share and I felt dishonest just blathering on here as though everything was as normal. Because it’s not. And that’s because Brian and I have decided to move.

We’ve made the announcement via Facebook this morning, after quietly informing friends and family over the last few days via telephone calls and emails. I always think that news between intimates is best shared in person as much as possible – and so we’ve tried to bring those closest to us (and most impacted) up to speed before sharing it more broadly via social media.

So here it is on the blog: We are selling the Urban Crow Bungalow. It is going on the market next week and there will be an open house towards next weekend. While that is progressing, we will be looking at properties to buy on Gabriola Island, because that will be our new home base.

Gabriola Island people – think about it! (For those of you who don’t know, Gabriola is an island with a population of just over 4000 people, a 20-minute ferry ride to Nanaimo, BC – it’s beautiful and rural and ringed by swimming beaches including some with sand, and beautiful sandstone formations).

We will also be purchasing a condo in Vancouver so Brian can continue to work here three days a week. He will share that condo with our daughter Mica who is currently living in residence at SFU – thus providing housing for her and a place to land for us when we are required to work from town. I am trying to move my work position to Nanaimo at least for the time being (we have offices there) which would make for a very reasonable daily commute.

Also, we’ll be paying off our debt on the Link Lake cabin meaning that we will have the funds to finish it inside of two years rather than five. So basically we are trading in a house in East Vancouver for a house on Gabriola, an apartment in the city, and a cabin in the interior.

Why are we moving?

Some of our friends are surprised by this news and others are not because they know that Brian and I have long talked about moving to Vancouver Island where both sets of our parents live. On the other hand, we have run our home like a community center for the last seven years and so I’m sure that many people in our lives are shocked to hear that we would leave all of that behind. Our decision to move has many factors and though we haven’t been actively talking about it with friends and family – we have been mulling together over how to get out of the city for most of our relationship – even more so in the last year.

Probably the key reason we are moving now comes down to age, stage and lifestyle. Our co-parenting relationship with Mica’s mom has come to a close (somewhat) with Mica moving into University residence which means we have more freedom to live elsewhere. Our own parents are entering their elder years (all of them now in their seventies), and would love to have us closer. And in our middle age, we are looking for a quieter lifestyle while still being able to maintain our careers. All of these shifts have prodded us into thinking about the various permutations our life could take (including one version which had us selling everything and moving out onto a very remote property which would have had us leaving work behind forever), and after poking around in our relationship and on the Internet we’ve decided this makes a lot of sense for us.

It’s also a very good time to sell a house in Vancouver. We won’t make any bones about the fact that Vancouver real estate being what it is, allows us to make some different choices than we had available to us when we bought in 2008. This is not our primary motivator, but the fact of it makes this possible in a way it wouldn’t be otherwise.

And finally, Vancouver is changing and will continue to do so in ways that I’m not entirely enjoying. While I love the city, the mountains and the sea around it, the great food culture, and the quirky East Van that I’ve lived in for most of twenty years — I don’t love the transit service on the decline, the increasingly clogged roads, and the lack of affordability that keeps many people broke around us. We are not immune from any of that! My feelings about Vancouver are not overwhelmingly negative at this point – not at all – but I feel the city gently pushing me out with each passing year and we are ready to go now before that feelings gets more insistent.

Didn’t you do this before though? 

Well, yes. I have done something similar before – fourteen years ago I moved  to the Sunshine Coast where I lived for four years before returning to the city. Longtime friends and readers of this blog will remember that I moved on my own to Roberts Creek and then to Gibsons where I owned a duplex that I ended up renting out in order to return to the city. (I sold the duplex in order to make improvements to the Urban Crow just over five years ago now).

I’ve been thinking a lot about that move lately – both what precipitated it and what brought me back to the city afterwards – and while on the surface it may look like a similar choice, it really feels quite different. Without going into too much detail about how I was deeply depressed and traumatized when I moved to a community in which I knew no one and was further away from family and friends, I will say that I was in a very different head space back then. This move to Gabriola is not inspired by a need to *escape* so much as a moving into a different life place and putting in place the supports to do that.

The two things that propelled me back to the city (being single and my bid for greater union leadership roles) are no longer factors in my life (thankfully!) – so I’m confident that this move is going to stick even though it involves a ferry commute.

So what about that ferry commute? Why Gabriola Island?

My hope this time around is to co-locate close to Nanaimo rather than commuting into Vancouver every day (which is what I did from the Sunshine Coast). While we recognize that the ferry adds an extra commuting dimension, my overall time to the office will be half of what it was from the Sunshine Coast, and exactly what my door-to-door commute is on transit right now. For Brian, the commute happens twice a week and the extra money freed up from mortgages allows him to take advantage of the harbour plane during good weather, and to afford the downtown-to-downtown passenger ferry being proposed to start again in Nanaimo this year. Worst case is that Brian works from the ferry a couple of times per week – which is far preferable to a daily round trip commute of 3.5 hours (ask me how I know).

Gabriola Island appeals to us specifically because it is rural, and because it is possible to travel easily on the island without a car and with aid only of a bicycle when necessary.  As Brian doesn’t drive, something similar on the main Island would put us into a more remote community, with connections that utilize the highway. This is not preferable for either of us – and in fact I hope it will be possible to cycle commute from the Island to our office in Nanaimo during most times of the year – something that wouldn’t happen if we bought in a more rural part of the central island and were linked by highways to Nanaimo.

Also – beaches! And lots of them. And artists! Lots of those too.

Anything else?

We are looking for a decent-sized (but not monster) home with enough bedrooms for guests, with good hosting space for dinners and parties, and with room for both a music/jam space and a textile studio. While we may purchase something that doesn’t initially have that studio space, we know that there are enough prefab companies out there which specialize in just such buildings – and a two-car garage can be easily converted into something for that purpose also. Ideally we would like half an acre or more, for the privacy more than anything else. We can’t really afford waterfront or anything super-fancy – but with our Vancouver dollars we will certainly be purchasing something that is ready for move-in – not building or doing an extensive reno.

I’ll tell you more as our plans unfold. We’re prepping the house for sale this weekend and house hunting on Gabriola next while the open houses take place. I’ve got a storage locker rented for overflow, and plans to hire a packing service for this move already in my head. We expect that once we start, we’ll be packed and moved to Gabriola by mid-June at the latest, though it may take more time to get the condo in the city (our goal is to have that sorted by September move-in if not earlier).

And yes, I am somewhat stressed about this move because it’s a *big* change for us – but I’m also ready for this in a way I didn’t realize until I started to let the possibility in. My test for that is to ask myself – “how would I feel if we pulled the plug on this plan today?” If the answer was “relieved” I would know it wasn’t time. But each time I ask myself that question I honestly answer it with “no way! we are totally doing this!” Which means I’m committed. Which doesn’t preclude being a bit scared.

So hold my hand people because I am ready to leap!

6 thoughts on “Post #3000: Selling the Urban Crow (and leaving Vancouver)

  1. Interesting and your reasoning seems sound to me. I hope it’s a good move and house search. I guess I’ll have to try harder to find you this summer if I make it to the west coast. love bear

  2. Huzzah! Wonderful. Don’t run away from, run towards … that is what you are doing. From one paradise to the next, not leaving anything behind. We’re all still here for you, and i for one am stoked to come visit you on Gabriola. Which, by the way, is a sweet 15-minute bikeride along the seawall to the ferry terminal … then put your bike on the horshoe bay 257 express, and you’re in downtown vancouver zip-zip-zing. No car needed. And of course, you will LOVE riding the lochside trail to victoria … 🙂

    • Yes. I keep hearing your wisdom about just letting things happen without pro or con lists. And there will be a lovely room for you to crash in when you roll on through. Plus I plan to complete my jukai at the zen-do which means I’ll be in town for that and retreats also! I really don’t want to leave Mountain Rain.

  3. I found your blog through Ravelry / LSG and all I can say is I am so, so jealous. As a fourth generation Vancouverite I spent many summers on Gabriola. But now I live in California and suffer from homesickness every day. I’ll be living vicariously through you and cheering you on all the way!

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