You get what you pay for

It was 7pm and we had officially arrived in Vancouver.  Since it was mid-December when we arrived it had already gotten quite dark out.  Yet, here we were in the ‘big city’, navigating our way through our new streets while allowing our new life to set in.

Instead of feeling that evening dread, we were met with excitement and a new found sense of adventure.  As the night went on, the city remained vibrant.  Neon signs glimmered down Granville and people stumbled in and out of different bars along the busy street.

The city was bustling…and that is certainly one of the things that we love most about it out here.  No matter what day it is or what time it is there’s always something going on.   It allows you to live a life ‘out of the norm’ (ie. not within the constraints of a 9-5pm job) and be completely okay with it.

Before moving out here, one of the things I remember most about my life in Ontario was my distain for Mondays.  Sunday would roll around, we would race off to Costco, stock up for the week like we were preparing for a great storm and then suddenly around supper time the dread would sink in.  Like clock work, the realization that in a few hours we would be back to slamming our snooze button before dragging ourselves from our comfy bed to race off to a job that we really didn’t like (obviously, this feeling stopped when I decided to stay-at-home with Hadley, but for Shawn it was still a regular occurrence).

But, out here, it was different.  Watching the people walk along the streets and wandering the waterfront, it finally sunk in…we were now living the life we had wanted.  We were taking the time to enjoy the moments instead of accumulating new things.  This was it, we had arrived.

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Now, I don’t know if it was the Universe’s way of laughing at us, but one by one things started to derail.  Looking back, we had to assume that it was coming our way.  I mean, we just travelled across the country, gallivanting around Canada and the United States with our barely 1.5 year old daughter with nothing going wrong.  I mean absolutely nothing (aside from one bad hotel experience) not a single thing went wrong on our road trip.  It was as smooth sailing as it could possibly get.

As we searched through our GPS to locate the address that our landlord gave to us, we found ourselves driving the unknown streets of Vancouver feeling quite hopeless.  She had given our condo keys to her friend as she was travelling to Toronto for business.  We found the location on our GPS, however, upon getting there we realized that there was no condo building in sight.

Shawn frantically raced in and out of businesses and shops hoping to find someone who could point us in the right direction.  Each quest leading him back to the car looking even more discouraged than the last stop.  Everyone kept telling us we were ‘at’ the right address, while also confirming there was definitely no condo building around.

I remember the overwhelming surge of anxiety that forced its way throughout my body.  At this point Hadley had given up on the road trip and was screaming frantically.  We tried calling our landlord to no avail (since she was on an airplane without cell service).  We drove around thinking, did we get duped?  Are we those suckers who drove across country after giving first month’s rent only to find out there was no condo waiting for us at all?

Yes, we went into full crisis mode.  After doing two loops around Stanley Park, I decided to play around with the address she gave us, just to see if maybe the street was slightly off.  And, after nearly two hours, voila, there it was.  The condo we were looking for.  Shawn raced to the new location, hit the buzzer and suddenly our keys were in his hands.

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After unloading the car, we sat on our air mattress looking around at our empty condo feeling the most relief we had ever felt.  Even though we only had an air mattress, 2 towels, a few toiletries and some water, it felt like home.  We listened as people wandered by our window, noticing how loud the streets actually were.  Traffic and partying people never seemed to slow down.  But, the sounds quickly became white noise.  We were informed to park in the visitors area with a note stating our landlord would be providing us with our parking slot tomorrow and that we had just moved in.

Uh-Ho…After a good nights rest, we went down to the parking garage only to find that our car was gone.  I guess the note we left with our landlord’s instructions weren’t sufficient and the condo board decided to tow our vehicle.  Strike 2 for the Bechtloffs.

Then came the furniture debacle.  Our furniture which was promised to have arrived by this point had somehow hit ‘bad’ weather and was going to be delayed by at least another week.  So, here we were sitting on our air mattress, sans car wondering how we were going to make due living like this, with a toddler for at least another week.

We decided to turn our luck around.  We finally got through to our landlord who informed us she would ensure we were reimbursed for the tow and the cab fare to retrieve our vehicle.  So, off Shawn went to collect our vehicle and then on we went to IKEA.  We stocked our cupboards with the basic necessities and we began to unpack some of our clothes.  We wandered the city and instantly fell in love with it, despite the less than perfect start.

Breathing a temporary sigh of relief, we wandered into a company hoping to set up our car insurance.  We were informed that we needed to go get an inspection completed since our vehicle was coming from Ontario.  They gave us a brochure for a place they recommended and off we went.  We giddily drove 30 minutes away, loving all of the new scenery along the way.

We already decided that we would run over to Starbucks, get a coffee and snack and hurry back to pick up our vehicle.  We knew it couldn’t take long considering our car was a 2014 model and was previously serviced before leaving Ontario.

The worker showed up almost 20 minutes late for opening the shop (we should have just drove away at this point).  But, we waited, watched him unload his car and greet his also late employees as they staggered in.

They hoisted up our vehicle and advised it should be quick since it was a newer model.  So, off we went and patiently counted the minutes waiting for his phone call.  After 1.5 hours, we decided we’d make our way back to the shop.  We pushed our way into the reception area and noticed that our vehicle was still hoisted up.  The owner quickly ran over to inform us that our vehicle didn’t pass the inspection and that we needed new brakes, new this and new that, but that he was going to give us a very good rate to make all of the fixes.  20% off here and 20% off there.  Then came the real kicker…he proceeded to advise us that if we didn’t get the items fixed then and there he was going to upload our information to some ‘registry’ and we would be unable to drive our vehicle.

Here is where the alarms starting going off.  First off, any time you’re trying to tell me that you’re giving me a really good deal, always makes me leery of what you’re actually doing.  He was as sleazy as they could come.   Needless to say, we argued for a few minutes before we requested our car be brought down and that we were going to take it to a different shop.

He again advised us against that and that we would be wasting another $70-$100 to have it re-inspected only to be told we would need all of these items fixed.  He was way to thirsty for the business, so we happily left and went to Canadian Tire.  This was when we learned once again that you get what you pay for.

Canadian Tire examined our vehicle and laughed when we showed them the slip of ‘fixable items’ given from the last guy.  We were notified that our vehicle was perfectly fine and did not need new brakes, new tires, yada, yada, yada.  We were also informed that there was no ‘registry’ for him to upload such information about our car.

I felt very discouraged at this point.  I truly felt like we had finally found this amazing waterfront city with cascading mountain views and it was turning against us.  I remember crying and saying, ‘maybe we’re just not cut out for the big city.’

Thankfully, Shawn reassured me that we found our condo keys, our furniture was on it’s way, our car was retrieved from the impound lot and that our vehicle really didn’t need anything to pass the inspection.

And he was right.  Our furniture arrived (nearly 30 days late) on December 24th and we made it work.  By Christmas morning we were waking up to a furnished condo and a new adventure.

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Road Tripping with a Toddler!

Things were moving quickly and we were surprisingly prepared.  The house was rented out to great tenants, our furniture was on the truck heading to Vancouver (or…so we thought…more to come on that later), we had a new place waiting for us in Vancouver and a job lined up for Shawn.

We finished packing up our car and said our goodbyes.  The goodbyes were definitely much harder than I anticipated they would be.  So, after a few tears and a slightly delayed start to the drive, we were on our way.

Day 1:

We left from outside of London, Ontario and ventured toward our first stop (which we were hoping would be somewhere near Chicago).  We didn’t pre-book any of our overnight stays as we weren’t entirely sure where we would end up each day.

Within about an hour our daughter was sleeping peacefully.  We crossed over the border into Michigan and continued on our way.  Finally around midnight after 6 or 7 hours of travel we decided to call it a night.  We took the first exit that we saw for hotels and ended up stumbling across a hidden gem.  Right before we turned into the Best Western we noticed a sign for the Marina Grand Resort.  We followed the signs until we ended up at the cutest little spot.  It was lit up with a veil of twinkling Christmas lights around the entrance.  We knew this would be the perfect spot to stop.

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So, in Shawn went to check us in and it actually came up way under budget.  We unloaded the car and carefully carried Hadley into the hotel room.  It was a stunning room with a fireplace, living room and a covered balcony overlooking the marina.

The next day we quickly toured the New Buffalo beach and then boogied onwards to Chicago.

Day 2:

We parked at the Navy Pier and decided to wander around for a couple of hours.  It was a little bit chilly, but the sun was shining.  We walked around Grant Park and then went on to find Cloud Gate.  On our way to the Cloud Gate we noticed an ice skating rink that was just opening (at noon).  So, in we went, grabbed some skates and took Hadley on her first ice skate.

After one blissful lap, the attendant promptly advised us that carrying a child in our arms while ice skating was not safe and that we would have to leave after our lap was completed.  This was perfectly OK with us as we got to skate the rink practically by ourselves and Hadley loved it.  **Disclaimer** Shawn is an excellent skater and Hadley was in perfectly safe and capable hands.

Me on the other hand, I had completely lost my seven-year-old self’s ability to navigate the rink and was clutching to the rails for dear life.  After leaving the rink and getting some pictures at Cloud Gate we headed back to the Navy Pier to play at the Children’s Museum.

The Children’s Museum was wonderful.  It was equipped with lots of activities for busy little ones!

Day 3:

We ended up in Wisconsin and after every single hotel in Madison was booked, we were left in a very, very, verrrry small town where the hotel options were extremely limited.  We took the room but greatly regretted it when we felt as though we had to sleep with t-shirts over our pillowcases and in our clothes from the day (with socks on).  It was imperative that no bare skin would touch the bedding.  My distain for the hotel was highlighted when I found fake rose pedals scattered near the Jacuzzi which was situated in the middle of the room.  *Insert nausea here*

Needless to say, this stay resulted in a very early morning!

After realizing we couldn’t stand being in a tiny town with limited accommodations for another night, we pressed on for 10.5 hours until we made it to Rapid City.  I can’t even describe the feeling of relief when we pulled into a hotel whose brand we recognized with a clean room.  We ordered food up to the room and enjoyed some much needed R&R.

Day 4:

This was by far one of our favourite days from the journey.  Travelling to Keystone and through the little town during off season was incredible.  (We were sad that nothing was open, but it was such a neat feeling being in such a monumental city with absolutely no one else around).  Driving around the bend and up the hill towards Mt. Rushmore was incredible.  The sun was shining and the view was spectacular.  We took a few pictures until a lovely gentleman stopped on his way up the hill to offer to take a family photo for us.

We toured around the park observing the scenery.  This was definitely one for the books.  If you haven’t been, I strongly recommend it! It was extremely quiet, you could hear the water bubbling underneath the ice on the lake.

Then, on we went to Billings, Montana.  I’m not going to lie, I really had no expectations for Billings, Montana.

However, to my surprise and delight, this city was amazing.  Once we made it to the downtown, we noticed it was lively and filled with delicious restaurants, quaint coffee shops and lots of beauty.  Unfortunately, it was also freezing  (notice the ice cube floating in Hadley’s water cup above….that was after the cup was left in our car for a little while).

We checked into our hotel, bundled up and wandered around the downtown for as long as we could.  I wish we would have had a bit more time to experience this city, but it was late and soooo cold, so we grabbed dinner and went back to our room for another restful night.

Day 5:

Next up – Helena, Montana.  I’m not going to lie, we really felt like we were playing A Ticket To Ride.  Helena was definitely not what I was expecting.  It was still freezing cold when we woke up, but again the sun was shining making for a great day on the road.  And, considering it was December, it wasn’t the worst weather we could have encountered.

The drive to Helena was beautiful.  When we arrived, we looked around and I remember feeling very confused.  “This is the Capital city?”  I don’t really know what I was expecting.  High-rises, a bustling city perhaps.  But, instead it was a small town in what felt like the middle of no where.  But, it was charming and gave us a reason to slow down and relax for the afternoon.  We checked into our hotel after some exploring and took Hads for a swim.

Day 6:

After breakfast, we got back on the road again as the sun was coming up.  The sky was breath taking.  The clouds looked like cotton candy and snow dusted the streets and trees.  This was probably one of the most scenic days we experienced throughout our travels.

We cruised through Idaho and ended up in Spokane, Washington.  The weather continued to get worse as we pressed onwards.

Despite the ever changing weather, we made it through without any problems!

We stayed at an amazing resort in Spokane (after we failed to remember the exchange rate).  But, hey, we had made it this far and decided it was time for us to celebrate!  We had a fabulous stay in Spokane.

Day 7: 

When we were planning our travels, we figured after Spokane we would stop in Seattle.  But, after making it this far and being so close to Vancouver we decided we were going to push through and make it there.

Hadley was such a trooper.  She never complained once during our drive and kept a smile on her face the entire time.  We couldn’t have been any luckier.

The bad weather disappeared as we made it through Seattle and towards the Canadian Border.  At the border, we were informed that our vehicle was selected for a ‘random search’ which makes complete sense considering we were relocating from across the province and entering from the United States.  The border officers were great.  They handled our search in a timely manner and got us back on the road quickly.

After one week on the open road, it was final, we had made it to Vancouver! Everything with our road trip went so smoothly, we almost expected that something had to go wrong…stay tuned!

 

What I’ve Learned from our Adventure Out West!

After travelling to Kelowna and road tripping to Vancouver last year in November, we immediately fell in love with British Columbia.

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It’s hard to believe a province this beautiful exists.  It feels funny looking back on our time in Ontario now and our longing to live somewhere else for a change.  All the while, this gem was right underneath our noses.

It’s no surprise that we’re a family who loves adventure, challenges and change, so why did it take us so long to make the move out west?  I really can’t answer that question.  Aside from the fact that we got so comfortable in our day-to-day routines that we became terrified to make such a large change.

On top of that, I’ve also noticed something else since making this move.  When you’re surrounded by the same people and grow very close to them, they start thinking that they know you better than you know yourself.  Any time I tried to make even small changes about myself (say, a slight darkening of my hair), my decision was typically met with “But, that’s not like you?”  These simple words are so dangerous and haunting.  Even though they are unintentional, they can have such a large impact.

For example, I found myself longing to make lifestyle changes or become more in tune with my creativity, but felt too scared to make any changes because of the comments I would receive.  I dreaded those words, “That’s not like you,” and eventually started believing it.

I remember thinking, “Yea.  They’re right, that’s not like me.”  And even though I wanted to make changes, I ended up remaining stagnant in order to keep the people I loved at bay.  (This isn’t to say that everyone in my life voiced opinions like this, but they seem to happen more often than not).

On top of that, I spent many years feeling unhappy in my career and my life, but I couldn’t justify reasons for my unhappiness.  I had a job, a nice house, the perfect husband, great family and my health.  I remember thinking that something just felt off yet I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

After sharing my unhappiness with family and friends, I remember getting an outpouring of advice.  Advice mainly revolving about how I could change my mind by reading different books that would allow me to become happy in ‘any’ situation and that my happiness wasn’t about places/ things but it was a mentality.

For some reason, all of this advice led to an even bigger void in my life.  Not only was I feeling unhappy but I really couldn’t put my finger on why I was feeling this way.  I was also being told day in and day out that no change was going to bring me the happiness that I was after.

All of the well intended advice really just ended up driving me more mad.  I felt like there was no basis for my feelings and that I was ‘crazy’ and ungrateful for feeling unhappy.

I kept saying, “I feel like there’s something else out there for me.”  That mentality coupled with my longing to experience living in at least one different city/ province from where I was born and raised led us to finally making the leap.

It wasn’t until my Mom agreed that I was longing for something else and that I should try to seek out whatever that may be.  Our conversation gave me the confidence I needed to make the change.  My Step-Dad, Mom and her sister, My Aunt were the perfect sounding boards.  Not only did they champion this decision, they were there for me 100% of the way.

The moment we decided to make the move across the country, I immediately felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders.  After taking my parents’ advice yet again, we decided we would keep our house in Ontario (…and we couldn’t be more thankful for this as our house has appreciated quite a bit).  So, we worked with a real estate agent to find great tenants for our home in Ontario and rented it out for the year.

We easily found a condo that was small (extremely small) but would do the trick for our adventure and my husband secured an amazing job.  Everything fell into place quickly and felt pretty effortless.  We knew then that we were making the right decision for us.

So, this post is also an open Thank You to Mom, B-ri and Aunt Cathy.  Not only did you help us to make the necessary changes to try something new, you were our advocates.  You gave us time to discover if we were missing something in our lives.  More importantly, you helped by guiding us through the process ensuring we were making smart decisions instead of emotional ones.

Even though we received a wide range of feedback, majority of it seemed to be very positive.  There was a bit of humming and hawing, but that seems consistent any time you make a change that people around you aren’t totally comfortable with.

Regardless, we packed up our house and began our road trip.  From the moment we hit the open road with our car literally packed to the brim, we knew this was the right decision for us.

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Now, being out west for almost 6 months, the only thing we find ourselves saying is Why?  Why didn’t we make this change quicker?  Why didn’t we make this move sooner?

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from this journey thus far is that it is okay to make changes to your personality and lifestyle.  Personal growth should be embraced not feared.  Who I am today, probably will be different from who I am in a years time and I’m good with that.  Having some separation has given me time to develop thicker skin and to be comfortable and confident in my own decisions.

I guess my biggest take away is… if you’re feeling unhappy or that you’re missing something from your life…well, you probably are.  Does that mean you have to make a move across the country to find out what that is?  Probably not.  But in our case, it is exactly what we needed.