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"How to set sail with your family" by Corinne Baynes, 2013Reading time: 10-15 min

For years, Anne-Sophie and I have talked about what other experiences we want to welcome into our life. Well, we’re in our thirties, we have young kids, and we already made the conscious choice to work on our own so our lives are more flexible. So, just like when deciding the “ideal” time to have kids, now is as good a time as any to take a leap!

And so, after almost nine years together in Ottawa, Ontario, we’ve decided the next part of our adventure will be moving to Kelowna, British Columbia!

Say what?! Where the hell did THAT come from?!

I know… you think we’re crazy. It certainly wasn’t an easy decision, but it feels like the right one for us. Let me explain…

 

LIFESTYLE GOALS

Lifestyle design” is the practice of defining the lifestyle you want (on the scales of days, weeks, months, seasons, and years), then finding ways to purposely create and financially afford that life.

I’ll skip the details and say that to create the life Anne-Sophie and I want, we try to achieve as many of our “lifestyle goals” as possible whenever we’re making “grown-up” decisions:

1. Actively raise amazing kids while remaining playful adults
2. Show our kids, by example, that they can create the life and world they want to live in
3. Live in a vibrant neighbourhood that minimizes commuting and maximizes time with our kids
4. Live in a climate and city that allow us to enjoy urban life AND nature, year-round
5. Try to live close to some family, especially while our kids are young
6. Increase the freedom to work where we want, when we want
7. Do work that we love, that matters, and that keeps us surrounded by amazing people
8. Choose investments that we believe in and have some control over
9. Be life-long learners in a variety of ways
10. Remain passionate, ambitious, adventurous, and comfortable with change
11. Keep challenging ourselves for excitement and for personal and career growth

Wait, but we already have most of that in our life in Ottawa, don’t we?

Yep, we do, which is why we’ve loved it for so long! Both of us have lived in Ottawa most of our adult lives. We’ve cherished living here… it really has been amazing!

 

BIG LIFE CHANGES

So why give it all up?!

Well, we’re restless for new experiences, a new adventure, and a new challenge. Why? Because big life changes” allow you to discover new things about yourself, grow in unexpected ways, and see life with a fresh, new perspectiveIf you look back at the big planned (and unplanned!) changes in your own life, you’ll see what we mean.

 

CHOOSING KELOWNA

We first started seriously considering Kelowna after speaking to my uncle, aunt, and cousin about the “entrepreneurial brewing pot” that most of Canada doesn’t realize is happening there. Then we did some research, made some calls, did lots of talking, and decided I should go on a “scouting trip” to check out what’s really happening below the buzz, and soak up the lifestyle so we could decide.

So, off I went for 2.5 weeks in late June to early July, 2013. I went early enough to visit some French schools, while they were in session, and stayed long enough to meet lots of people and see my cousin, who just moved there to grow his own business. I rented a desk in a collaborative workspace; worked some days from parks and beaches; toured neighbourhoods; talked with families; met lots of entrepreneurs; plugged into the small French sub-culture; went camping, hiking, biking, swimming, and water-skiing; visited family; went to the surprisingly big Canada Day festivities; and “studied the locals”.

(NOTE: My whole research trip was made possible by my supportive, loving, and fiercely independent partner who stayed home with the kids during my trip (hey, she had been on a couple business trips and was actually happy to return the favour!); my generous and hospitable uncle and aunt, whom I stayed with; and the help of Accelerate Okanagan and Digital Okanagan, who got me started with some local business contacts. Thanks to you all!)

And so, after updates during my trip and talking once I was back, we decided to take the next leap in our lives and businesses by choosing Kelowna in the beautiful Okanagan Valley of BC, Canada.

kelowna-knox-mtn-pano1-tornborder
Panoramic photo of Kelowna and Okanagan Lake from Knox Mountain, 2013, by Brad Kynoch

To help Ottawa peeps imagine what Kelowna is like, picture a city the size of Kingston placed directly on a giant (135-km long) version of Meech Lake, complete with similarly clean, fresh water and lots of beaches, trees, and rising hills around it. Then sprinkle it with the Niagara Region’s vineyards, orchards, and farms (yay, wine and food!) and infuse it with a laid-back lifestyle that replaces downtown suits with (perhaps a few too many) downtown swimsuits.

 

TIPPING THE SCALES

Since many of our friends and family are asking, here are some of the reasons why we tilted toward Kelowna.

In addition to the cross-country move being the “big life change” we’re craving, Kelowna nails all of our lifestyle goals above AND features a few more deal-makers for us:

Beautiful Okanagan Valley

Mountains, lakes, luscious parks and beaches, vineyards, orchards, and spectacular views — the Okanagan Valley is a wonderfully beautiful area of the country. Plus, it’s known for amazing fruit and vegetables, and delicious wine! For a taste, here are some random Googley pics of Kelowna.

Lake and mountain lifestyle

This is a big one for us.

Both of us love being in, on, or near water. Anne-Sophie spent almost three years of her early teens living in Barbados. Many of my favourite memories as a kid and teenager were from weeks spent each year at my family’s lakefront cottage. We both have a special place in our hearts for being near the water every day.

Well, as it’s known for, Kelowna is on a huge, beautiful, clean, deep lake (Okanagan Lake) that’s great for all water sports. We’re excited to make swimming, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, water-skiing, and wakeboarding a part of our DAILY exercise and life, rather than occasionally or every few years. We’re eyeing neighbourhoods that are within walking or quick biking distance of many great beaches… in fact, Kelowna has over 30(!) beaches inside the city, just on one side of the lake!

And, in the winter, it’s a 30-45 minute drive to Big White for skiing above the clouds, and a few more ski hills within another hour’s distance.

Then throw in hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing in the surrounding hills and mountains, skiing or snowboarding one of three ski hills within an hour drive, floating the winding Shuswap Rover in Enderby, many hot springs within a couple hours.

More temperate, drier climate

Kelowna summer days are hot and dry (25-35C), and summer nights are cooler for sleeping (12-15C). Winters are shorter and warm enough that their light snowfalls rarely stay on the ground more than a couple days at a time, especially close to the lake, and people go boating year-round on the lake, which doesn’t freeze. This means almost year-round biking and a long spring/summer/fall to enjoy playing in the water, especially since our family is OK with cold water swimming. Sign us up!

Thriving and cohesive small business culture

This is another deal-maker for us.

Six years ago, a Kelowna startup had developed and reached huge success with their online children’s game called Club Penguin. So successful that Disney bought them for around $700 friggin’ million (at the time)! Holy crap! The founders required, as part of the deal, that their staff stay in Kelowna, growing to what is now a 400-person office in Kelowna for Disney Online.

And that was just the start of the rush. Since then, hundreds of companies have started up or moved to Kelowna, mostly software- and technology-related. And most of them with a healthy balance of work and play. Six years later, in terms of entrepreneurs per capita, Kelowna is the top in BC and one of the top three in Canada.

It also has a level of small business support, both government-funded and grass roots, that rivals cities many times its size. And it’s not just the support through accelerator programs, mentorship, local funding, networking, etc… there’s also a spirit of togetherness among entrepreneurs, like it’s a movement that THEY are making happen. There aren’t a lot of local “employee” jobs in Kelowna, so entrepreneurs who fall in love with the lake and mountain lifestyle are committed to not only being successful and getting to stay, but helping other businesses thrive, as well.

It’s a scene that many people feel is on the edge of exploding into something truly amazing! So we’re pumped to be actively joining the energy, vision, and opportunity that their startup scene is nurturing, and we’ll help keep it growing!

Better access to small business funding

Although it has 140,000 people, Kelowna is considered “rural” under Canadian business funding rules, meaning there’s better access to business grants and loans than in larger cities. And, despite its size, it has more than its fair share of startup investment and growing connections to big-city investment pools.

Staying as close as possible to some family

We both love our families and wish we and our kids could be close to all of them, all the time. But my family lives in the three western provinces and Anne-Sophie’s lives in Ottawa-Gatineau, the St. Lawrence, and France.

There are 3,000-5,000 km separating the families, so there’s no ideal place. However, we and our kids are glad to have chosen somewhere that’s within a day’s drive of family in Prince George, Vancouver, and Calgary, and still drivable to my family in Saskatoon. Plus, I have an uncle, aunt, cousin, and two great aunts living right in Kelowna.

And we have LOTS of friends and family in Ottawa so we’ll be back to visit often enough.

Purging extra stuff

People collect crap and, despite our best efforts, we’re no different. We’ve kept our belongings to a reasonable amount, but our house still feels bloated and there’s LOTS of room to trim. There’s nothing better to encourage purging and lightening your life like a cross-country trip in a moving van, pulling a car strapped with bikes!

Fresh change and adventure

As we mentioned above, we love challenging ourselves because it’s exciting, rewarding, and allows us to make leaps in personal and career growth.

Moving our lives and businesses to another city means maintaining all the connections we have in Ottawa / Gatineau, plus getting comfortable with being uncomfortable while we create a new groove in a new place, and forge relationships with new friends, colleagues, and mentors. It’s scary, exciting, refreshing… and we love it!

 

SAYING GOOD-BYE

Not everything is perfect, though, as we’ll be saying good-bye to LOTS of things we’ll miss in Ottawa, such as:

Anne-Sophie’s family

Although we’ll be 4,000 km from Anne-Sophie’s family in Ottawa / Gatineau, we’re hoping to host visitors(!) and make it back to Ottawa as often as possible for a visit. Damn good thing for mobile video chats, because it’s hard to say good-bye! 🙁

Tonnes of friends

Having lived and worked in Ottawa much of our adult lives, we’ve built up big circles of friends, many of whom have kids now. It’s really hard to imagine our lives without them, so the four of us will look forward to coming back to visit. And we’d love visitors, too!

Big city urban lifestyle

Ottawa isn’t a giant city by worldly standards, but it’s one of the bigger cities in Canada with over a million people in the Capital region. That means we’re saying good-bye to all the amenities, cultural events, ethnic diversity, family-friendly museums, nightlife, etc. that make Ottawa so wonderful.

French language and culture

Many of our friends and family in Ottawa/Gatineau are bilingual (English & French, for the non-Canucks reading), so it’s a big change for our bilingual family to move to a very English part of the country. Thankfully, we found a French public school in Kelowna, we’ll become members of the Okanagan French Cultural Centre, and we’ll actively seek enough French friends for our kids to keep sharp their gift of two mother tongues.

 

MAKING IT HAPPEN

We’ll sell our beautiful Ottawa house, move across the country before winter sets in, and rent in Kelowna until we grow roots and make our businesses self-sufficient.

Are we crazy? Maybe. Do we know how it will turn out? Not really. But that’s all part of the adventure!

How are you choosing yours?!

(If you’re thinking of making the same leap, read the extensive comments below for answers to some questions you may have!)