On our last trip to the cabin, we took a drive out the Summerland way to spend the cool morning meandering and poking about. The drive from our cabin to Summerland is done on a secondary highway also used as logging road, and at a certain point not far from us, the pavement (and the powerlines) run out. For about 45 kilometres (and thousands of hectares around them) it’s off grid territory, where no building rules or municipal services apply.
Up until recently, there has been little for sale up through there. We know because we looked when we first bought our place three years ago. Though I am happy we purchased something on the grid (I feel a bit safer when I’m out there by myself) – it does seem like a lot of interesting property is suddenly available, including a 153 acre ghost ranch on the banks of the Empress Creek. It’s listed for far too much at $995,000 (they are billing it as a development opportunity which it might be, but not for a few decades) but it is a gorgeous piece of land. (Almost as nice as this one selling down the road, on the power grid, at $200k less for 100 more acres of land).
Anyhow – this piece isn’t about the price of land…. My point is that *every* time I see a big piece of land for sale – particularly one that has good water, and proper building sites – I want so desperately to move there and make a little home in the wilds.
I know this is a romantic impulse – but it doesn’t stop me from exploring it pretty much all the time, and Brian too! Though we are both long-time urban dwellers, we have a strong affinity for quiet and remote places, and love exploring the possibilities even though we know they will not come to pass.
Just a couple of months ago, a piece of off grid property as desirable and (more) remote as this ghost ranch came across my Facebook feed. As is our usual habit, I sent the link to Brian with a “Wow, look!” attached and didn’t think much more of it. But….. it proved fodder for turning over while sitting in bed drinking coffee the next morning. This one was not an interior property – but a beautiful little eco-lodge on the edge of the sea, boat access only, with everything all set up for bringing in a small income – enough to support basic needs. Enough that it begged the question, would it be possible to do if we sold our East Vancouver home and had money to spare.
Truthfully, it was probably the first time in our off-grid-dreaming-lives that an opportunity was there to actually pull up stakes, leave our community, and disappear into the edges of the coast with enough money to live on for several years at least.
But (as anyone could predict), we balked. We didn’t want to be so far away from our daughter, our parents, a night out on the town every once and awhile. We didn’t want to leave the security of jobs with pensions – or remove ourselves from our fields of expertise in which we would be forgotten in no time. We thought about how great things look in the first rosy sunrises of spring, and how hard it is at this latitude once the darkness of winter sets in. In the interior it’s boatloads of snow, on the coast – driving wind and rain. It’s one thing to be off grid in good weather, but B. and I are a little too soft for the hard turns that weather can drive.
I am always the one to say no to these fantasies first, and this time was no exception. I said, “let’s just be realistic and acknowledge that we aren’t going to do this thing,” to which Brian looked utterly crestfallen – his disappointment greater than I had ever seen before. Agh! I was being such a meanie and crushing the dream again!
So instead of letting the conversation go, I turned it in a different direction and started asking questions. Was he really ready to move from the city? What would our objectives be for a new place? Could we keep our jobs and make flexible arrangements happen? What other things would we need to do to make it work?
And through that 2-hour conversation we became unstuck together. We realized that it was not either/or – the city or the middle of nowhere – but that we had a lot of privilege available to us to start making different decisions about our lives now. Possibilities that were not even available to us a year ago were suddenly right out front. What had been a defeating conversation became one of “what if”, as if we were suddenly free to explore real options. Options that included our community and our family.
*This* more than anything else I’ve said – is the why of the move to Gabriola. It’s the dream-stopper if you will. The place that is not the overly-romanticized other world, but is also not the hard grit of sun on concrete and noise.
Which doesn’t mean that the dream will ever die – because at every ghost ranch and acreage for sale I come to on the dusty back roads of this province – I get out and take a look. I always do, and I always will. I’ll fantasize about where the house would go, and the mico-hydro in operation right on that creek bank over there. I’ll dig root cellars and plot a kitchen garden. I’ll put a shotgun by the front door just in case the bears come up in the cool light of morning and thump on the door.
And then I’ll leave that place and tell myself that when the collapse comes, that’s where I’m returning to. As a way of letting myself believe that one day I’ll find my way to a piece of land as remote as that. But in the meantime I know that even though this dream isn’t fully realized, it’s one that has inspired the place of change in me over and over again.