When I was two years old and my new baby sister was only a few months old, my parents decided they’d had enough of the professional life in the city. Mom was a high school French teacher on maternity leave and didn’t feel like going back to work. Dad was a research chemist who travelled a lot for his job and he was going to be transferred to Calgary. So the two of them decided to jump ship instead. They sold their house, packed up their belongings, and moved the family into a 400-square-foot cabin beside a lake in Muskoka. It needed a lot of work — insulation and new electrical wiring, for starters — which my dad did happily, having discovered a new passion for carpentry. Afterwards they joked that my sister learned to walk by pushing a wheeled scaffold around the cabin.
We lived in that cabin for several years and I have wonderful memories. I faintly recall my fourth birthday party, when my mom made purple origami rings and miniature boxes for all my friends. I remember blasting The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack and dancing around the living room like a ballerina. I have a memory of sitting at the glass-topped kitchen table and eating Mom’s homemade mac ‘n cheese with gusto.
One morning when I was six, I woke up to see my parents piling our belongings in boxes. “What’s going on?” I asked. “A crane is coming to move the cabin,” they told me. I didn’t understand what they meant. Sure enough, a giant crane lumbered down the driveway a few hours later. As I watched in disbelief, it picked up my home from its waterfront location and carefully set it down partway up the driveway in a clearing prepared in advance. I still had my house intact, but its location had changed by about 40 feet. The reason was because Mom and Dad were going to start building a bigger house and they wanted the cabin’s prime location. It took two years to build the big house but, as much as I loved it, I still felt homesick for the cabin and the cozy feeling of togetherness that disappeared when we gained more space.
Now that I’m a mother with two little ones, I often think about my parents’ decision to pursue true happiness at the cost of their ‘good’ jobs. For many years, I saw it through the eyes of a child, but now that I’m at the same stage of life that they were when they gave it all up for a cabin in a bush, I admire them more than ever. They went from a double-income household to very little money. Dad started up a construction company, but it took several years to establish. Mom’s passion was art and painting, though she did a bit of supply teaching to keep food on the table; and yet, they never complained and always seemed overjoyed to be living in the forest.
I hope I’d have the courage to give up financial comfort for greater personal and familial happiness if I ever found myself in that situation. I do believe that not having to worry about money does a lot to increase general wellbeing by eliminating stress, but I also think that too many people cite large salaries to justify awful jobs that make them hate their lives. Thankfully, I don’t have to make a decision like that right now because Jason and I already made our big-city-to-small-town transition and are still loving it. But if we ever feel the need to give it all up and buy a farm in the middle of nowhere where we can work at becoming self-sufficient (yes, I do get the urge sometimes), I know who I’ll be calling for tips.