It doesn’t matter if that opportunity lies in stories of gold, or the calling wild. It doesn’t matter if opportunity comes in the form of a great new job, or a relationship with someone that you can’t imagine living without. Opportunity requires change. When a person is brave enough, change happens. So it was with me, so it has been with many of the people I’ve met since I’ve been here. Each and every newcomer to the Yukon can easily tell you why they are here, but that rarely satisfies the questions of the inquisitor.
People don’t really want to know why, what they want to know is: how?
‘How’ is the question that tourists ask me when I tell them about my recent relocation. How do you live up here? How do you like it? How do you sleep with all this sun? How do you find the schools? How much are groceries, and gas, and rent? How long has it been since you saw your mother? How cold does it get? How?
‘How’ turned out to be much more difficult than the ‘why.’ Deciding to come to the Yukon was easy. It was the business of determining how to do this that seemed impossible. It was so far, it was remote, it was winter.
Then I thought about my grandmother.
My grandmother was a British war bride. In 1947, she boarded a boat and set sail from everything she knew towards her husband in Canada. She was moving to a remote community where she didn’t speak the language, where her modern world had not yet extended, and where shortly after WWII, her new mailing address would indicate that she lived in a place called ‘Swastika.’ My grandmother brought with her no cell phone, no internet, no television, and a two year old daughter. Trans-Atlantic flights were uncommon and beyond their means at the time. Overseas phone calls were saved for very rare and special occasions. She had no family in Canada. My grandmother was brave. The prospectors who ascended the Chilkoot Pass were brave. People who hitchhiked their way north in the 70’s were brave.
I had Google.
I entered ‘should I drive to Whitehorse in January’ into my search engine. I found a blog which heartily discouraged the concept, citing the risk of imminent death as a possible barrier to such an adventure (in retrospect, this was ridiculous). I queried the cost of u-hauls, and of loading my personal effects on an airplane. I looked at the charges for shipping my vehicle, and for sending it up by rail.
In the end, I contacted a moving company and they came and loaded our personal belongings onto a truck. They told me they were going to wait until other people added to the load to make it economical. ‘It might take a month or two,’ they said. My best friend and I packed up boxes with the boys’ old report cards, drawings and photographs, along with our winter clothes, dressers and the odd kitchen appliance. Nervously, I watched our history load onto a truck willing that I would see it again in the Northwest. I would buy new furniture and essentials in Whitehorse, and figure out the transportation of my vehicle in the summer, when conditions were better.
Hours later, we left for Ottawa with our two cats, both of whom were overweight for carry-on, but whom Air North assured me would be accommodated under our seats on the flight through Yellowknife. My mother met us in Ottawa, and on the morning of our flight she drove my truck to the airport and hugged us goodbye, before taking it back to her home in Northern Ontario.
My mother is a fortress.
In those moments I realized that I had bravely overcome the terrifying logistics of a move across Canada, and it was really rather uncomplicated.
As we worked our way through security I pretended that the load of the two giant felines in carry-on cages was lighter than it was. Our biggest challenge came when we were advised that we had to cart them through the x-ray machine without the carriers. My eldest son put on his brave face and carried the lighter cat through in his arms, while I struggled with the other. No problems, no questions, no worries.
With the cats under the seats in front of us, the boys watching movies at my side, and a copy of Yukon, North of Ordinary on my lap, our little family moved to Whitehorse during that flight. By the time we landed at the Erik Nielsen Airport we were citizens of the Yukon, and my opportunity met us at the gate.
Three weeks later, our belongings arrived from Ontario.
How did I move from Ontario to the Yukon?
On a plane.
Just like that.
(I would like to thank Air North, Yukon’s Airline, for their consistently wonderful service. Their regular flight between Ottawa and Whitehorse has made me all the more brave. www.flyairnorth.com.)