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THE GIRL FROM AWAY is a little online shop with a soft spot for the Canadian East Coast.

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ASK THE GIRL FROM AWAY: LIVING IN THE MARITIMES

Nadyne Kasta


Today's question is from Taylor in Kitchener who's considering moving to the Maritimes. She writes: 

Hi, Girl From Away!

I saw you're doing a Q&A and although I'm not a maker and don't have any questions regarding the business side of your life, I do have some questions about how you became a Girl From Away.

You see, I'm 24 and from Kitchener Ontario and I've been in love with Charlottetown for about 2 years. It's hard to explain, but something seems to be drawing me out there and I just can't seem to shake the feeling. In less than 2 years, I've made 9 trips out to Prince Edward Island and although I've made friends out there, it feels like there's something bigger that keeps me coming back. The 'feeling' of the Maritimes is something so special and it seems so cheesy to say but I just feel so at home out there.

So why not just move there, right? Well, I'm terrified. I'm a huge homebody, I've never lived anywhere other than here, I'm scared to be on my own and away from my family, what if I fail miserably, what if it's not all I imagined it will be? I know 24 is not "old" but I do feel that whole I'm unmarried, with no kids and no serious career and no mortgage, now is the time to do something huge like move halfway across the country before it's too late and I regret never doing it.

Do you have any advice for this ultimate wannabe islander/wannabe girl from away?

Firstly, thank you so much for sharing this, Taylor. I think it perfectly expresses how most of us feel when we're considering making a big change in our lives. How, on the one hand, we have a little fire burning inside, an internal voice that says: "Do it! Do it! You know you want to", and how, on the other hand, we're trying to be sensible, to minimize risk, to avoid regret and, ultimately, pain.

I've been thinking a lot about your question in the week since I received it. And thinking also of how best to respond to it. I could write a 15 page essay on this topic but I'll try to reel it in.

Let me start with the easy stuff.

I think you're right when you say that now is a good time. It doesn't get easier to make big changes as you get older. Mortgages, steady jobs, kids, ageing parents; these are all factors that often make it trickier to pick up and move somewhere new. So there's that.

Secondly, I should state, for the record, that I'm a firm believer in moving away from your hometown (and your comfort zone), at least once, and at least for a little while. There's something about being in a new place, on your own, that teaches you a lot about yourself. A lot of growth comes from these kinds of experiences, even when things don't work out as we'd hoped. Especially when things don't work out as we'd hoped. The more we know and learn and experience, the better we are at being human beings in the world. Plus, as corny as it sounds, life has a lot to offer, and we miss out on a lot of it when we repeat the things we've already done in the places we've already done them.

Thirdly, I suspect this fear you have (the one that's making you terrified) is unfortunately not going to go away. There is no age at which making big changes (like this move) gets easy. What does get a little easier as you get older (and as you get a few big changes under your belt) is the realization that very few things in life are life-shattering. You ask what will happen if you fail miserably, and I would answer: "Define fail." Is "fail" moving to PEI only to realize that you don't actually like living there so you end up moving back to Kitchener? Because that's not what failure looks like to me. For me, the bigger tragedy would be to have a life dream go unfulfilled simply because it doesn't come with guarantees.

Here's a thing we don't talk about a lot, or that isn't quite as glamorous as making a big, exciting change: we're allowed to make that change, and then we're also allowed to change our minds again. You're allowed to go to PEI, experience what it's like to live there, and then you're also allowed to say: "OK, good. I did the thing I wanted to do and now I want to go back to Kitchener." Or I want to move somewhere else. That's what we do as human beings: we grow and evolve and what we want changes. There's no need to stay stuck somewhere we don't want to be simply because it's what we wanted a year ago or 5 years ago or 6 months ago.

Will you miss your family and friends and all of the comforts of a familiar place if you move? Definitely. Will it be so unbearable that you'll have to move back? We won't know that unless you try, right?

I also really want to tell you this:
My feeling is that, unless money is no object, you absolutely need to secure work or some way to make money before you move. Lots of Maritimers have to move away because there isn't enough work for them here. That's just a fact. And life can be hard when you're struggling to make ends meet. We don't want this to be a struggle. We want this to be awesome. If I were you, I'd make finding work a priority, and I wouldn't move until I had that part figured out. The Maritimes, unlike a big city, is a not a place where you can move to and just pick up a job once you're here. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm just saying I wouldn't bank on it.

Also, have you considered the possibility of a trial run? Say, instead of moving, you spend 3 months here? Or 6? Just to test it out. Or what if you were to tell yourself that you're just moving for one year? Or two years? Sometimes, it helps to give ourselves an out in case we need one. It helps to know, especially when things get hard, that there's an end in sight. And sometimes, what we're looking for is just to switch things up for a while, an adventure to break the monotony of day-to-day life, in which case a little stint on the Island may be a better idea than a full blown move.

When I moved to Nova Scotia, I, like most people I know who've visited the East Coast, had very romantic notions of what life here would be like. The ocean, boats, lighthouses, fog, saltbox houses, lobster traps in the yard; it's what Pinterest dreams are made of. And in many ways, parts of my life here are exactly as I'd hoped they would be. I live in a little fisherman's cottage by the ocean. My boyfriend and I walk to the sea almost every day; it's healing and powerful and feels like my friend. And Maritimers are friendly, and whatever-the-opposite-of-pretentious-is, and I really like those qualities a whole lot. And it's low key and rent is relatively cheap. And I eat lobster, oysters and scallops a lot. And my childless life in the very slow lane here allows me to take everything in and to process it at a pace that I find very civilized. There are lots of great parts.

In the first 6 months of having moved here, I received a surprising amount of emails from old friends and acquaintances back in Montreal all saying similar things: we're so happy for you, your life looks so dreamy, you deserve to have things work out as they have. And while I was touched by their words, I was also surprised. Because the reality of my life is that, on most days, it does not feel like a dream come true, and does not even come close to feeling like I've got all of the kinks worked out of it. My biggest challenge here, by far, is missing my mum and my friends. I miss them a lot. A lot, a lot. And I think a lot about moving back. But, as much as I miss them, I don't regret having moved here. I wanted to do this, and I did it. And I wouldn't have known what it was like unless I'd moved. And I wouldn't have had the experiences I've had here had I stayed in Montreal.

Nothing is ever just one thing, is it? We all know that. But our minds, or my mind at least, loves to believe in fairy tales and happy endings, and yet all evidence, my entire life, points to the contrary, points to sometimes good, sometimes a shitpile, and most times somewhere in between. And that's no different on the East Coast than it was in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa or any other place I've lived.

Here's what I would do if I were you (and what I did before I moved here): make a plan for what you'd like your life here to look like. Figure out as many parts of it as you're able to figure out without actually moving. For example, how are you going to meet people and make friends? How are you going to find your tribe? What about money? How are you going to support yourself? Are you going to get a job? Where? How much money will you earn? How much money will you need? Find out how much rent is, and utilities and food and all of your expenses.

Most things are more expensive on the East Coast. When I moved here, my cell phone, home internet and car insurance bills all went up by $30 (each per month - from about $70/month to about $100/month). For the exact same services/plans I was getting back in Montreal. And everything at the grocery store seems to be about $1 more than it is in Ontario and Quebec.

So without committing to moving, make a plan for your future PEI-girl-from-away self. Make a mood board, visualize, get a binder and write: "PEI Life" on it, and fill it with all of the information you gather. And maybe in the process, you'll realize some things that are less appealing to you. Maybe in the process, you'll change your mind about the move. Or maybe it'll just stoke the fire and you'll be a bunch of steps closer to getting what you seem to want and where you seem to want to be.

Only you know what's best for you, and what you want and don't want for your life. And there's no shame either way. Whatever you decide, I'm wishing the very best for you, Taylor.

If you have a question you'd like to ask, I want to hear it. Big, small, medium sized, trivial, super heavy duty - all questions are welcomed at thegirlfromaway@gmail.com.