Having made the decision to leave Nanaimo and move across the country we had 3 months of hard work ahead of us: defending and explaining our decision to leave the city to move to rural New Brunswick; the goodbyes were difficult and emotional; deciding how to travel (fly, drive, moving truck…); getting rid of almost everything we owned; my husband had to sell his sail boat—not an easy task in the current market; transitioning the children to leave the only life they knew and preparing the new school for their entry. Every task on the list seemed monumental and took a great deal of effort and planning.
From day one, the thing that hasn’t changed for me is the reason (and excitement) of leaving. When my children wavered, I clearly told them that I wanted us all to be together to make the move and I would not go without them. I let them know they could and would move on with their lives, however I didn’t have many years left to re-establish myself. That may sound pessimistic; yet, when I break it down, I am in my mid 40’s. I could have many years of health left, but to start a farm with the work involved, I felt that the sooner I left the better. My children understood that mom “didn’t want to be 60 years old, in a city, with my husband and children gone, no job and struggling to survive.” I am determined not to be a statistic in my later years.
We had to sell almost everything we owned and downsized from a three bedroom house with dining sets, furniture, basement and squeeze all that we could into a ‘94 Chevrolet extended cab, diesel truck with a canopy and a 16’ x 8’ cargo trailer. Not much room. Not much space to bring a lifetime of memories. No space for furniture. It was tough but necessary, and as part of the process, we realized that most things were just “stuff”. As hard as it was to let go, it was also liberating to separate what I want from what I need, and this was going to go a long way in our new life. We were also significantly reducing our income from about a $4,000 a month to $2,000… and then to about $1,000. We had to make this a success.
The day arrived for us to leave and there was a lot of hugging, crying and goodbyes. Not to mention the teens crying hard at the fence, my heart-broken daughter having to leave her boyfriend. It is difficult to see your child sad and I hoped I was doing the right thing. I just held the vision of my new home, land, animals and food and knew that if we were to survive, we needed to be strong.
Our trip took three weeks to the day and we stopped to visit some family and friends on the way. Most of our travel time was spent on breakdowns, mistakes, accidents and wishing we had known what would happen in advance so that we could have done something different. Who ever knows what will happen? We just rode the wave and tried to stay positive, keeping the goal in sight. The world might try to bring you down but when you know what you are doing is right, you can get there.
I am the only “driver” in our family and we were pulling 16,000 pounds of weight. It was a long trip and I loved it. I had always dreamed of driving across Canada and seeing the country. I looked for beauty wherever we went and although there were not many places I would have chosen to live, I could see why the people liked it there. I imagined myself as a pioneer in my covered wagon, travelling the terrain and was grateful for modern day technology and living in a safe place.
I was sad to cross the prairies and see empty fields. I remembered being a child and seeing rows of wheat and oats but the weather had destroyed much chance of a harvest that year and there were less farmers farming. Why farm when they could sell the land and get more than they would for growing food?
As I drove, I could envision the past, the First Nations people living in their villages, the buffalo roaming the land and the pioneers struggling to survive. I then came back to the present and saw myself. With the exception of knowing I might not see my family and friends again, I would be able to email, Skype and message them.
We crossed province after province and I saw how industry had destroyed agriculture. I cringed at seeing the great lakes polluted and habitats destroyed. I saw the moose fencing for hundreds of miles and wondered how the animals fared with all the cars and trucks on the highway. I listened to stories of “the stupid moose that hit me” or ran into traffic. How is the moose stupid? He is just doing what a moose does and is being pushed out of his environment.
I spent each day of our trip looking forward to my home, walls, land, dirt, soil, future compost, free range animals and no neighbours within visual sight. Yes, we made a huge commitment to a new life… getting there was a tremendous journey. Since arriving, I haven’t looked back or ever had second thoughts. We need the land, we need to grow food, be more sustainable in how we live, treat the environment well and hopefully leave a legacy that our children and grandchildren will carry forward. I wake up every day thankful for what I have and for the first time in my adult life, I feel that I have learned to be happy.
Sarah Sherman is a mother and wife who, after spending 41 years of her life in BC, sold everything she owns and drove 6,000 km across the country to homestead an organic farm in rural New Brunswick.