Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What are we working for anyway?

Photo from  Mamboman1 on Flickr.
Do you ever just get the desire to opt out? Just leave civilization & become a hermit off the grid? I find this feeling has been coming up more & more lately because our little family is at a crossroads. Neither of us are working much, Sprout's not in school yet--other than social & family connections, what's tying us to our neighbourhood? Our province? Our country? I start asking what if...? What if we rented the house to someone else & moved to Germany for a while? What if we sold the house & bought a home on Bowen or a Gulf Island? What if we sold the house, bought some land in the middle of nowhere & built a treehouse run by photovoltaics & turbines?

So far, a lot of our time & energy has gone into the goal of owning a house in Vancouver, not Greater Vancouver, but the City of Vancouver. Because we're nowhere near rich & neither of us made a lot of money when we were working, there had to be some serious compromises to do this. Our choices were limited by the fact that the house had to have one or two rentable 'mortgage helpers'. We had to buy an older place: built in 1946, the last time it was renovated substantially was 1969. Sadly, this house hasn't been cherished or invested in by its previous owners, judging by how many people bought & sold it in the last 20 years or so during all that real estate insanity. Unfortunately, the condition of the roof, sundeck & downstairs suites reflects this lack of concern for the future. Most of the previous owners' repairs have been half-assed quick fixes to hide the problem then make a quick buck, things our home inspector called 'years of marginal renovations'.

Enough whining about the house. First World problems, right? Even though it's on a somewhat busy street, it is in a neighbourhood we like. Transit is really good here & we're close to several bike routes, plus there are lots of Modo vehicles near us, so we don't need to own a car. We can walk to cafes, restaurants & shopping within five minutes & there are plenty of parks, community centres & other places for Sprout to play. We have a full-size city lot with lots of room for veggies in the back yard.

But is this what I want? Do I want to be paying off a mortgage here until I'm 60? Do I want to stay in such an expensive city? I find it a bit depressing that only the friends who got onto the rickety 'property ladder' a decade ago when we did are homeowners. It's hard not to wonder what it would be like to live in one of those towns where we could get a beautiful new home for less than half what our house here in Vancouver is worth. Do I want to live in a busy city? Might I be happier somewhere rural, where I couldn't see or hear my neighbours? Somewhere that my concerns might shift to bears raiding my freezer, rather than junkies stealing my bike? I've always thought of myself as an urban person, but then again I've never lived anywhere else as an adult. Maybe I just need a vacation...

Whether or not we make any big changes, I think it's still worth asking the questions because we haven't got great jobs that we'd hate to give up, Sprout's pretty portable, I'm two months away from finishing school. If we were to move to Europe for six months or a year, we wouldn't have to worry about finding a cat sitter now that Stimpy is gone. I mean, we'd have to figure out what to do with our house plants & all our stuff, sort out renting the house or something, but we could. We could just go somewhere.


  1. Sometimes I wish we could sell our house (although I love it) and move somewhere where we didn't have a mortgage. I'm sure we could do that in many smaller towns. But job-wise we are kind of tied here, and family wise. I would like my children to be able to make long-term friends, and attend the same school for 6 years.
    If this is something you and Oliver are passionate about, I think you should do it. Couldn't Oliver work in Germany? Or you? There is a blog called Designmom that is along a similar vein. A family who mostly works online moved to France for a year. They have 4? 6? kids.
    Do you remember Jo-yee? A friend of Mikey's from high school? Her and her husband (and now 2daughters) went off-grid, they live in a homestead near Slocan right now. She's occasionally on facebook-I've seen pictures of her house-they built it themselves.
    Sometimes I would like to move to the country.... actually, we've seriously considered moving to Gabriola Island. But there are no high schools there (kids take the ferry), and no medical care either. Realistically, I don't know if I could be a very good mother without having both sets of grandparents helping us out occasionally. I don't know how people have huge families!!

    1. That's basically what I'm thinking--go somewhere we could be mortgage-free. The Gulf Islands or Bowen are attractive, but the lack of schools & medical help would be difficult. When we had to take Sprout to emergency for his croup it was reassuring knowing that one of the closest places was the best children's hospital in the province.

      As for Europe, Oli could easily work in Germany as a citizen, (or anywhere else in the EU) & I could probably get residency, then a working permit without too much hassle.

      I know what you mean about needing family help to raise kids. I feel the same way a lot, but we don't have any grandparents near enough to help out much.

      What I really want is to win the lottery, then I can have an off-grid summer home on an island, a decent house in the city & maybe a flat in Berlin too. :P


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