Going Back to a Simpler Life is Not a Step Backward

July 27, 2015


There’s a lot of change happening in my life, right now. Four weeks ago, I left the full-time job I’d had for three years to become a full-time freelancer, and I’m very happy to say it’s been a successful start. I’m still trying to get into a groove of managing multiple clients and projects (as a planner, the lack of routine drives me crazy sometimes). But I’ve genuinely enjoyed everything I’ve worked on, so far, and the feelings I wake up with every day serve as a reminder that I made the right decision. It’s the most challenging blessing I could’ve asked for, at this stage in my life.

When I decided to quit my job, back in June, there was another decision I was toying with… and that’s where I wanted to live. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’ve moved many times over the years. In 2012, I left my hometown of Victoria, BC and moved to Toronto for work. I stayed there for a little less than a year, before I asked if I could move to Vancouver and work remotely. And I’ve spent the last two years in Greater Vancouver, and have loved so many things about being there… but it’s never felt like my forever home.

See, around the same time that I decluttered that last 10-15% of my belongings, and realized I’d been buying certain things (like clothes, books and furniture) because I thought “grown-up” or “successful” Cait needed them, I quietly started to question some of the other decisions I’d made for that same reason. The one big decision that stood out most was where I “had” to live – because I’d been telling myself for years that I had to leave my hometown for this, that or the other reason, and then that I had to live in Toronto or Vancouver for certain reasons, too.

Why I “Had” to Leave Victoria

I have a degree in Communications, and spent the first five years of my career working for the provincial government, so I used to think I would start at an entry-level position and work my way up to eventually become a Communications Manager or Director. Of course, the government had other plans when they implemented (and seem to still have, all these years later) a hiring freeze, and it became near impossible to move up and around within the organization. At that point, I convinced myself I had to move away, in order to have the career I wanted.

It got to the point where I was constantly looking at job boards, searching for something in Toronto and daydreaming about escaping Victoria. With a population of 350,000+, it’s not exactly a small town, but there is typically only 1-2 degrees of separation from everyone you meet, so it can feel small and seem like there isn’t enough to do. I told myself I had to leave if I wanted to do/see more. So, when I got a job offer from a company in Toronto, I quit my job with the government, packed up my stuff and put it in storage, booked a plane ticket and flew out 19 days later. I couldn’t seem to leave fast enough.

Why I “Had” to Stay in Toronto

I loved my first few months in Toronto, but the longer I was there, the more I realized that I wasn’t meant to live a big city lifestyle. Sure, I was starting the career I’d wanted, but I found the lifestyle in Toronto to be “work hard, play harder” and it was something I couldn’t keep up with. I didn’t mind working 9-10 hour days, compared to the 7.5 hours I had worked in the government, because I liked what I was working on and the people I worked with. What I couldn’t deal with was the “play harder” part. I didn’t want to spend my weekends partying (especially because this is when I decided to quit drinking)… I wanted to spend them outdoors, hiking and exploring.

I tossed and turned for a month, thinking about the situation I was in and how I could change it. At first, I convinced myself that I had to stay in Toronto, because that’s where I’d continue to get the most opportunities through my blog, as well as further advance my career. However, I knew I wouldn’t be happy in the city long-term, but I also wasn’t prepared to go back to Victoria. I decided the next best thing would be to move to Vancouver – a big city where I could still work hard and eventually advance my career, as well as spend my weekends outdoors. I asked my boss, at the time, if I could move and work remotely, she said “yes” and I was on a plane back to BC two months later.

Why I “Had” to Stay in Vancouver

While I only loved the first few months of being in Toronto, I truly loved the full two years I lived in Greater Vancouver. Sure, I grew to hate the traffic (and certainly won’t miss that), but I loved all the neighbourhoods, the beaches, the trails and the mountains. I made friends with people for reasons as simple as that we seemed to share similar interests as seen through our Instagram accounts, and I eventually made more (and more genuine) connections with journalists and companies I could potentially freelance for than I did in Toronto. It wasn’t work hard, play harder – it was work and have fun. (And Port Moody is truly the most beautiful – and still somewhat affordable – suburb over there.)

There were always times when friends in Victoria would ask when I was going to move back. “I can’t,” I’d reply. “Whenever I decide to make a career move, there will be no jobs for me in Victoria, so I have to say in Vancouver.” I’d also had some really neat interview opportunities with television news and radio shows, and even got to be part of a CBC Radio documentary, all of which I thought would come to an end if I left the big city. Deep down, I always knew I’d go back to Victoria eventually… I just wasn’t sure when or how I would make it happen – until I reached the point where I knew I had to, so I could live the life I truly wanted.

Why I Wanted to Move Back to Victoria

Throughout the past year, I’ve been seriously questioning what I want my life to look like. I couldn’t have predicted that getting rid of 70% of my stuff and completing a yearlong shopping ban would have had such a drastic impact on me, but it made me realize that I’d spent a lot of time and money creating a life that didn’t make me happy and, since then, I’ve been trying to figure out how to create a life that does. Living on less, so I can travel more and still save for my future was a good start but, as time went on, being in a big city just felt wrong… like it was taking more energy to try and have fun there than I was getting back from doing those “fun” things.

As I began to discover the concept of simple (or slow) living, and eventually defined it in my own terms, I realized I could never be totally satisfied as long as I lived anywhere other than Victoria. See, my definition of a simple life (as of today) is one that includes three things: doing what I love, spending time with the people I love and being part of a community. I thought I had to leave Victoria so I could go climb a corporate ladder somewhere, but that kind of job would never make me happy (and now I’m a freelancer, so I can live anywhere). I’ve always known my relationships were important to me, and worked hard to maintain them all even after I moved away, but realized I care more about being in the same city as the people I love than taking advantage of whatever a big city could offer me. And that 1-2 degrees of separation I mentioned hating when I was younger? Now, I love how connected this city is.

But deciding to move back to my hometown still wasn’t easy, because my biggest concern about “going back” was exactly that – that it would be a step backward, somehow. After years of convincing myself there was nothing left for me here career-wise, I was worried that I would fail at freelancing and be stuck in a city where there might be no jobs for me. And there’s also just this weird stigma around the concept of going back to a city you’ve left… like you’ve failed to make a life for yourself elsewhere, or something. In reality, I’m just choosing a simpler life – one with potentially less income and fewer opportunities (locally), but filled with more laughter, connections, and memories to be made in the most beautiful place on this planet.

I suppose I did have to leave Victoria, so I could gain all of this experience and eventually discover what I want my life to look like. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my last job, my time in Toronto and Vancouver, and some of the opportunities I’ve had as a result of this blog. So, I don’t regret any of the moves I’ve made… I just feel more at peace with this one, because I’m not running down this elusive career path I thought I had to take, in order to be happy. This time, I’m moving because I already have my dream job and now I can take it wherever I want… which is here, where I can choose how much work I want to take on and spend all my spare time with the people I love. <3

Have you ever thought about slowing down your pace of life and/or moving to a smaller city? What’s stopping you?

  • Ilse July 27, 2015 at 4:24 am

    Yay you!
    Drinking my coffee in my corporate office, planning my freelance future reading your blog.

    To you all of this might seem natural but to many, who are still at the beginning of a similar journey, you give us a bit of light in the tunnel we just began walking. Good for you, girl!

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 8:52 am

      Thanks, Ilse. Hope you’re enjoying your morning coffee :)

  • Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents July 27, 2015 at 4:32 am

    Like you, I moved to a big city for my career. I think after I reach financial independence I might stick around. The cultural amenities here very much fit what I want. Though the idea of moving somewhere “slower” and being more restful appeals to me too.

    Good luck with the move!

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 8:54 am

      Thanks, Taylor! And there’s nothing saying you can’t move at any stage in your life and retirement. I’d probably move again one day, if the right reason came along… but I don’t think the big city will ever be for me. Love to visit them (as made evident in all my travels)! But don’t love to live there. :)

  • Maud Cross July 27, 2015 at 5:00 am

    Well done on such big life decisions! It took me 15 years of travelling, waitressing, snowboarding, sleeping in dodgy apartments, immigration and emigration, boring work and stressful corporate work to realise what I truly love to do: teaching at the University where I did my degree and PhD. I am now back in my home area, living 20 miles out of the city in beautiful countryside, and loving my work.
    I came across your blog as I am currently going through a process of deciding what is actually important in my life and how best to sort out my finances/budget accordingly. I began a 6 month shopping ban last week, and I am hoping I can stick to it. Thank you for the constant inspiration!

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 8:55 am

      I’ve always wanted to teach, in some capacity, Maud – so that sounds just lovely! And congrats on starting your shopping ban! Write down your rules, put them on the fridge and just remind yourself what you’re working towards. :)

  • Rob July 27, 2015 at 5:03 am

    “Have you ever thought about slowing down your pace of life and/or moving to a smaller city? ”

    Hi Cait!
    Yes to the slowing down the pace of life but no to the moving to a smaller city/town. I’ve always been the big city kind of guy, with all it’s amenities and potential, first growing up in Montreal and later moving to Toronto, where I eventually retired a little while ago. Slowing down the pace of life? Definitely. Some years back, when I was in upper management and our kids were toddlers, I realized that I was slowly burning myself out with the stress and long hours at work and it wasn’t fair to my family so I changed jobs, not careers mind you, and left the management ranks for the consultant / specialist ranks. It worked out fine which just goes to prove the truth in Clint Eastwood’s famous saying in the movie Dirty Harry, “A man has to know his limitations”. It appears that you have eventually found your true lifestyle as did I back then.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 8:56 am

      I didn’t know that you changed jobs – that’s interesting, Rob, and also inspiring! I think too many of us are focused on moving up up up in the ranks (and salary ranges), and we don’t spend enough time looking at what that is actually doing to ourselves or the people around us. Glad it all worked out… that’s something for me to remember. :)

      • Rob July 27, 2015 at 1:15 pm

        Actually Cait, over the course of my 45 IT career I changed employers 12 times – the longest being with my last employer where I was there 17 years before retirement. All were full time positions but things change in anyone’s career over the years – layoffs, moving on for more $$$, various other reasons. The average time in a job these days is less than 5 years. One has to be adaptable to change and the lack of job security. Gone are the days where most people worked most of their lives for one employer.

  • Elizabeth July 27, 2015 at 5:10 am

    It’s funny, I’m actually looking to move to a bigger city (probably Toronto!) now, so I’m kind of in the opposite situation to you. When I graduated, I was forced to find a job in my hometown because my boyfriend, who is British, looked for jobs all over Canada and managed to secure a job in my hometown so we had to stick around for his work permit. So I stayed, even though I always thought I’d move away after graduation (I completed work terms in Montreal and overseas during my degree and have always loved to travel)!

    Fast forward to 2.5 years later, we love living here and have great friends and family but we are looking to move on to something else. Not necessarily to more fast-paced careers that help us climb the corporate ladder, but we are looking to move somewhere different and try something new. I’m glad my boyfriend has had the opportunity to see where I’m from, but we’re ready to move on. I have had a few friends move away for/since university and my adventurous spirit is getting the best of me!

    One interesting thing I realized the other day is that when I was unemployed for 9 months after I graduated (except for short contracts), I didn’t once think about freelancing or doing anything other than finding a company that would hire me! It’s crazy, really, because now I know that you can design your own career and don’t need to rely on other people to create opportunities for you, but it didn’t even cross my mind at the time! I probably would have been a lot less frustrated at the time had I realized that!

    Anyway, good luck with your move and your freelancing! I haven’t been to Victoria but one of my best friends grew up there so I’ve always wanted to go – it sounds like a great place!

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 9:01 am

      I will say, I love Toronto for so many reasons, Elizabeth! When I quit my job, I was extra sad because I knew it meant I’d probably only go there once/year now versus 4-6 times/year like I’d been doing for work. So I think it’s great that you’re considering moving there! There are certainly a lot of opportunities. I didn’t mention this in the post, but I also think if I’d been sober longer (and more comfortable with it) then maybe I would’ve eventually found some different groups of friends to hangout and do outdoorsy things with. Although… the winters… nope, I’m a west coast girl for life, haha. Anyway, if your adventurous spirit is calling for a big change, I think you have to embrace it and go for it! :)

  • Neita July 27, 2015 at 5:30 am

    Thank you for sharing all the thoughts and decisions you made in the past few years re career, lifestyle, and where to live! Sometimes people make it seem so easy to just make major changes; it’s refreshing to read how it really happens.

    “Have you ever thought about slowing down your pace of life and/or moving to a smaller city? What’s stopping you?” –
    Yes, I’m taking a corporate buy-out at early-early retirement age in order to slow down my pace of life. (I hope to cobble together some part-time work doing what I love in order to cover the cost of health care.)

    I confronted the question of where to live several months ago. In my circle, it’s a “given” that when you retire, you move somewhere else. One of the first questions people ask me when they find out I’m leaving is “Where are you moving to?” For most of my life, I just assumed I would move somewhere else when I retired.

    When I started thinking about making the decision as to where to live, and I listed all the experiences I want to have in the next phase of my life, I realized it’s all here – right where I am! That made me stop and consider many of the assumptions I have about retirement.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 9:03 am

      In some ways, all the moves have been easy… I was sold on the idea and just made it happen. But it’s taken a few years for me to realize I was chasing a dream that wouldn’t actually make me happy. Lesson learned, right! And I made some great friends along the way, so no harm done. And moving away when you retire sounds silly to me… so I think you’re making the right decision! If everything you love is already around you, stay put – and just travel, when you get the urge to go on an adventure. :)

  • Courtney July 27, 2015 at 5:34 am

    I’ve been going through this exact same transition over the past six months. I’m from a much smaller town (less than 30,000 people) where jobs are leaving and there really isn’t much there anymore. I couldn’t wait to get out. I worked overseas for a few years, and when I came back to the U.S. I moved to Chicago for more job opportunities and more culture (museums, theaters, restaurants, people from around the world, etc.) What I came to realize, though, is that I was spending a lot of weekends leaving the city to visit my family. The huge number of restaurants and theaters turned out not to matter as much, either, because I rarely eat out, and show tickets are so expensive (“cheap” seats can start at $80) that I hardly ever go. I now work remotely, so location isn’t an issue.

    Like you, though, the idea of going back to my hometown felt like a failure. I knew I wanted to be closer to family, and that I wanted a slower and more affordable lifestyle that the city couldn’t offer me, but after being so desperate to get away, going back made me feel like I couldn’t make it out in the “real” world. I’m still struggling with those feelings, but am making the move back next month. I’ll be giving up some things, like my amazing book club, but will also gain a lot more. As a bonus, season tickets to the local theater are less than $50, so I’ll finally get to see more shows like I wanted when I moved to Chicago. :)

    Good luck with your move back, and know that you’re definitely not alone!

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 9:06 am

      Wow, it sounds like we are in the exact same boat right now, Courtney! Thank you so much for sharing your journey with me – and anyone reading. It sounds like you’re still a little unsure about the move (I was too, when I got on the ferry with all my stuff), but just remember this… the only constant in life is change. If you’re unhappy in a couple years, you can move to wherever you want! For now, remember all the reasons WHY you’re moving home and think about them every morning when you wake up.

  • Debt Hater July 27, 2015 at 6:16 am

    There’s nothing wrong with slowing down and taking time to enjoy the outdoors and your relationships if that is what is important to you. I think it’s good to get the other experiences too, and I bet living in Toronto and then Vancouver at the time was totally worth it. Plus if you hadn’t had those experiences it might not have led you back to Victoria like you said.

    I also wouldn’t worry about Victoria being a “small” place, with a population of over 300,000 that’s a huge city compared to any place I’ve ever lived, haha!

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 9:08 am

      Hehe, yea, I realize Victoria isn’t small… it just seems like it, when you’re from here. You can meet someone new and within 5-10 minutes figure out that you know their sister or your friend dated their brother – that type of thing. Anyway, the bonus is I have no reason to hide from anything of that – I just need to embrace it! I know a lot of great people here, and am excited to meet/connect with more. :)

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach July 27, 2015 at 6:18 am

    All. The. Time. What’s stopping me is how I would make income, plus my love for the beach, beach volleyball, the weather, and my good friends here in LA. Oh gee if it wasn’t for that., :) But other things about LA I can’t stand. Many things. Anyway, it sounds like you made the right move for yourself and I hope you’ve very happy back in Victoria. Still kicking myself I never went there when I lived in Seattle.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 9:10 am

      I’d probably have the same concerns, if I were you, because I feel like you have a really strong network there. For me, I had a few great friends in Toronto and Vancouver, but I never had a group of friends I knew I’d see weekly or could ask to drive me to the airport – those types of things, you know? I have all of that and more here… and you can come up anytime you like! I’d love to have you. :)

  • Katie July 27, 2015 at 6:32 am

    I quit my big girl job and moved back to my hometown, and into my parents house, and worked for my parents 3 years ago and loved it! It was such a good decision. Now my parents have sold their business and I’m in the process of getting a job and moving to Minneapolis (I live in a small town in Northern MN) and while I’m excited for the big city life, I am going to miss the small town living. But who knows? Maybe I’ll find a way to move back in the future?

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 9:11 am

      Yep, you never know! If I’ve learned anything about moving it’s that we are in control and can go wherever we want, whenever we want. It’s a bit exhausting… but you’re in control. For now, I say enjoy Minneapolis (I have some great friends there!) and be open to whatever it may hold for you. :)

  • Alyssa @ Generation YRA July 27, 2015 at 6:50 am


    More fulfilling days is certainly true! What’s humorous is that I live in the second largest city in the state of Oregon, but it has way more of a small town feel than most places. While people from my graduating class moved to bigger & flashier cities like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, etc. for work endeavors, I decided to take the route of staying in state where my family is. I would never trade any of the moments of being at each Birthday, year of my new niece’s growth, holidays and the like for any high-end clubs, entertainment, or city-living that somewhere else could offer – maybe I’m just an old soul :). Moving back to where your loved ones are will probably forge even more new career/freelancing paths and provide opportunities that big cities could not give. In life I feel like there’s always this constant struggle to have to push forward & chase the life you want – but you make a very important point here, you can live the fulfilling life you want anywhere you choose, at any time. :)

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 9:14 am

      Ahhh yes, you’re speaking to my heart, girl. I’m an unofficial auntie to all my friends’ kids and they were definitely part of the reason I wanted to come back one day… I love watching them grow up, watching them play, making them laugh and just seeing them embrace the world we live in. The big city can’t fill me with the same joy I get from hearing “Auntie Caitlin! Let’s play!”. Just another comment/reason I’m glad you and I met online. :)

  • L July 27, 2015 at 7:03 am

    I moved from a St.John’s to Ottawa over 10 years ago for university and I ended up staying. I do miss the slow/simple pace of things at home but Ottawa is a “big” small town and I’ve grown to love it.

    In the end there are no mistakes in life just choices that give you the experience to shape who you are. What is the wright decision today might not be next year but these are things you cannot plan for. Good luck with your new adventure!

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 9:15 am

      I’ve heard Ottawa is pretty similar to Victoria, especially because they are both government towns. I’d love to visit one day! Glad to hear you love it there. :)

  • Susan July 27, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I went from St. John’s, NL to Melbourne, Australia to Grand Falls-Windsor, NL (total population of 11,000 if you want to visit somewhere small ;)) and it’s be an interesting experience. My next move will be back to Australia or hopefully Vancouver or Ottawa. I’m ready for another move and I want to live somewhere that more to offer than the Atlantic Provinces – beautiful though they may be. I’m dying for a 24/7 lifestyle that cannot be sated in a town where everyone eats by 5:00 PM. I completely understand the appeal and may 10 years from now, I’ll change my mind but I think everyone needs to leave their comfort zone at least once to make sure you know that the decision is the one that is best for you.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 9:18 am

      I would have to agree with that, Susan! And your reference to the 5pm dinner made me laugh… I remember it was like that here when I grew up, but that’s because we all had things going on after school and in the evenings, so we needed to get dinner out of the way first. I hated it, though! Now, life is a little more casual… eat when you’re hungry, etc. But maybe that’s just here. I’ve heard the Atlantic provinces are more traditional, in some senses, and you could speak to that better than I. Anyway, my vote is for Vancouver. It’s stunning. :)

  • Pira July 27, 2015 at 7:56 am

    Thanks for sharing! The hubs and I are still at somewhat of a crossroad as to where we want our ‘forever home’ to be. For me its Toronto, for him its Vancouver where he went to school. At the moment we’re in Ottawa, but we’re liking that too. So glad you were able to figure out where you need to be through your years of adventure and big city living!

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 9:25 am

      Thanks, Pira! I always try to remember that “forever” is a long time… I have no idea what the future will hold, but I know this is where I want to be for now. As long as you’re happy now, that’s what counts. :)

  • JH July 27, 2015 at 8:03 am

    I grew up in small towns (Powell River and Port Alberni) and have no desire to live in places that small ever again. I have loved living in really big cities (Toronto, London, Paris and New York), and not because it seemed like the “right thing to do”, and live in one now.

    Over the years, however, I have made decisions to slow down the pace of my life. This is an area where I felt some pressure (at times) to do what was expected – either because it was viewed as socially acceptable or because I didn’t want to let down my colleagues, who were working as hard as I was. As a freshly minted lawyer, I thought I “had to” work in a prestigious, fast-paced law firm and spend most of my waking hours there. (Seriously, I worked 7 days a week, most 12+ hours a day, almost every week for a couple of years.) I loved my job, so it made it easier (almost too easy) to work those hours. But I was losing myself.

    I made the first major change in my work-life balance around the time that my sister (who also was burning the candle at both ends, working hard and taking care of a child at home) fell asleep at the wheel on the way home from a night shift. She walked away from the accident, but I realized that the people I loved could leave my life at any time, and I wanted to spend more time with them – and more time doing what I loved. Within a year or so, I switched to a government job with shorter (and more regular) hours, and I started to enrich my life outside work. Since that time, I’ve sometimes scaled up my hours for a good reason (great job opportunity, a crisis at work, opportunities for advancement) and just as often I’ve scaled them down for good reason. One thing I’ve learned is that the choices you make about work-life balance aren’t forever, and downscaling your job can be reversed (if you want to).

    There have been similar events in the past few decades that have served as signposts along the way to a better work-life balance. More recently, the deaths of my mother and my aunt just after they and their husbands retired have reminded me that it’s important to save and spend smartly. I don’t want to spend so much money on unimportant things and experiences that my husband and I have to wait until our late 60s to retire. At the same time, I don’t want to restrict my spending so much now that we can’t enjoy experiences that enrich our lives now (and that might not be practicable to pursue when we’re older). For example, we take fairly expensive, adventure vacations every 2 years or so (Borneo in 2014, Galapagos Islands planned in 2016), and I have spent a fair bit on a fine arts photography program in the last year. Those expenses enrich the life we’ve chosen. But we can cut out a fair bit of meaningless expenditure in other categories (clothes, takeout food, read-em-once-and-forget-’em thrillers, restaurant meals etc). So I’m working on significantly cutting down the meaningless expenses, so that we can enjoy the meaningful ones and still manage to retire in our early 60s (and maybe cut back to less than 100% even earlier than that).

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:09 am

      Oh yes, PR and PA are small! (So small that if I told you a few names of friends I have from there, I’m sure you’d know them, haha.) I can understand wanting to move away from that. (PS – HOW did you get to live in NYC, London and Paris!? I’d love to go to NYC for a few months… 1 week isn’t enough time there.)
      Thanks for sharing some of your stories here, JH. I actually remember feeling the same way after my own car accident, two years ago – that it was time to slow life down and do more of what matters. If the driver had hit me 1/2 a second earlier, I would’ve been in big trouble… It shouldn’t take a scary event or tragedy for us to figure out what matters most, but that’s often the case. I’m glad to hear your sister was ok, but am so unbelievably sorry to hear about your mom and aunt. Sending you a huge virtual hug… and it sounds like you and your husband have figured out exactly what you value, and are happy to cut out the rest to make it happen. I’m all for spending money on travel. Have an amazing time on your next adventure. :)

      • JH July 27, 2015 at 11:24 am

        I forgot to mention that I also lived in Vancouver and Victoria (I started at U Vic and then transferred to UBC) before moving on to Toronto, New York, etc.

        I got to live in New York, London and Paris for work-related reasons. The moves didn’t always turn out quite the way I expected. For example, I hated my first experience living in NYC in the early 90s because the work hours were insane and I didn’t like the work I did, and I moved to London with a boyfriend on a working sabbatical in 2001 – and we broke up a month after we got there. But that year alone in London gave me a chance to explore some new work experiences (international policy issues in my field) as well as some really enjoyable hobbies (studying French and Spanish – with language holidays in France and Spain!). Those experiences and hobbies helped me retool my career (I got a full-time job in international affairs when I moved back to Toronto, and then 3 years later I got to move to Paris to work for an international organization, where I needed a working knowledge of French).

        I’m enjoying NYC this time around a lot more, in part because I’ve adjusted my work-life balance to accommodate interests outside work (photography and volunteer work with animal rescue groups).

  • Stephanie July 27, 2015 at 8:13 am

    I’ve only left my city to go to college (in a small town in farm country) but I moved back right after. Born and raised in Chicago, and my parents are still here, so we’ll never leave. 3rd largest city in the US can get overwhelming, but I’m used to the city living. Being in the tiny town for college was fun, but I couldn’t live it! I think it’s all what you’re used to. And being in the same city as the people you love, definitely. I like being by my parents (I’m an only child, we’re tight.) I still dream of tiny houses though ;)
    Did you move home? Or did you find an apartment to rent?

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:20 am

      I like being near my parents, too, so I get that! Our family is extremely close. Maybe I can build and setup a tiny house in their backyard. :P

  • Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore July 27, 2015 at 8:18 am

    I’m already in a small place – 7,000 population – and am contemplating moving somewhere different and possibly bigger. I guess I’m a little on the opposite side of your post here, but it’s mostly because it’s extremely hard to be single in a town of 7,000. There’s nothing to do and no one to meet.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Now THAT is small… and a legit reason to want to go elsewhere. I will support a move, if you make one!

  • Stephen July 27, 2015 at 8:19 am

    I hear ya on the “Had” to move. I moved from NS to AB for my career. Now that I’m getting to a certain point I’m wondering if I can move back and maintain a reasonable career.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:21 am

      What’s stopping you? :)

  • Mackenzie July 27, 2015 at 8:27 am

    I am not a “big city” person either; I was raised in the suburbs and can’t imagine anything else :) I am glad that you are happy Cait, because that’s really all that matters in life. Being happy, being with our friends and family and enjoying all that life has to offer :)

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:21 am

      Thanks, Mackenzie. Excited to hear about your upcoming move, too!

  • Catherine July 27, 2015 at 8:50 am

    Sometimes it takes leaving to realize what you have. For me i love the idea of moving- i love Halifax but love the opportunities other places in Canada hold for both mike and i- but ive known from a very young age that living somewhere surrounded by friends and family is more important than how much income you earn. So yeah we could both be doing “better” professionally elsewhere but money isn’t everything and i wouldn’t (couldn’t) trade the friends and family I’m surrounded with daily for anything.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:22 am

      Yes, that seems to be a common issue in Atlantic provinces… not enough opportunities. And it’s not even just about the money (because it’s a bit cheaper to live there than here) but the types of things you could do, right? But it’s pretty cool you figured out at an early age that it’s more important to be surrounded by the people you love. I’m extremely grateful I took care of all my relationships here, while I was away, so I could come back to the people that make me smile and laugh the hardest. :)

      • catherine July 29, 2015 at 6:21 pm

        re: opportunities here- there are a lot in certain niches in atlantic Canada. I think we get a bad rap because the rest of the world only hears about people leaving. Mike and I are fortunate to have jobs that allow us to work quite literally anywhere. If there was a position available (and I wrote/passed the provincial jurisprudence exam), I could work from the tiniest of towns in northern Manitoba to the busiest cities in the country, the issue for me isn’t getting a job in my field, it’s wages. I can’t really argue with what I currently make, it’s totally fair and within average hr rate, but I know it would be near double in, say, Calgary and my cost of living wouldn’t be double so in the end we’d both be better off financially BUT it’s not worth it :)

  • kaila July 27, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Way to go Kate! I’ve been following your journey and this post makes me so happy for you. You are truly an inspiration – following your heart and living the life that works for you. Have fun on your next adventure. I’ll be reading along to see how it goes :)

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:23 am

      Thanks, Kaila. :)

  • Heather @ Simply Save July 27, 2015 at 10:01 am

    I think the biggest thing that holds me back from simplifying my life is all the “shoulds.” Especially in my 20s everyone (society) seems to have an idea of what I “should” be doing. I’m getting a lot better at blocking that out and doing what I want, even if it’s against the norm.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:24 am

      I’m working on another post (it’s a little short but sweet) about how to handle the criticism that comes from living a countercultural life… this was the push I needed to finish it! Glad to hear you’re doing what’s best for you. :)

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods July 27, 2015 at 10:06 am

    Per usual, I find myself nodding in agreement with everything you wrote ;). I similarly have moved around a lot to advance my (and Mr. FW’s) career and it’s incredibly refreshing to know that our next move to the homestead will be based on what we actually want to do–not on what we think we ‘should’ be doing. It took us awhile to come to the realization that we’re over the urban life, but it’s really liberating to embrace it. I’m so happy for you in this new journey you’re on and so glad to hear that the freelancing life is suiting you so well!

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:26 am

      Thanks, lady! And I have to say, you guys are a constant source of inspiration for me. It’s not always easy to do what’s best for you – and not worry about what others will think – but it always works out, when you do. :)

  • Emma Lincoln July 27, 2015 at 10:07 am

    Beautifully put :) Such a good reminder that you should always be guided by what’s important to you NOW, not what was important 5 years ago, or what you imagine will be important 5 years from now.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:27 am

      Yes! The only thing we have right now is the present. Do what makes you happy today, and every day should be a happy one. :)

  • Jill D July 27, 2015 at 10:10 am

    I am in awe of your ability to challenge “received wisdom” — even when it’s your own!

    Part of the minimalist journey has to be shedding the internal thoughts of “have to”, “everyone says that”, “I must”, “I should”, and the dreadful “What will everyone think?” It’s much more useful to ask yourself: “Says who?”

    I made the decisions you have made but about fifteen years later than you. Left a lucrative big city, big law firm partnership to move 2,000 miles across the country to be with (a re-assembled) family, now in a semi-rural village of fewer than 10,000 but adjacent to a larger city. Working for myself and my clients, not for the adulation of others.

    I don’t regret it, and you won’t, either.

    P.S.: Found you through the link on Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:28 am

      Your comment gave me even more hope that this is the right decision, Jill. So glad you found me through Joshua. :)

  • Our Next Life July 27, 2015 at 10:15 am

    Relating to this post so much… we felt like we “had” to live in big cities for our careers, but also somehow to prove something (that we were “better” than people we grew up with? that we were cool?). It took about a year after we moved to the mountains to finally rid ourselves of that thinking, and now we can hardly imagine going back. Of course we won’t miss the same stuff you won’t miss — traffic, expensive restaurants — but we also just love our slower, simpler life. And you’re hardly in a small town, so you’re for sure still getting lots of city flavor every day. We travel for work a ton, so we do wonder if we’ll miss the city after people aren’t paying us to travel to cities all the time, after we quit in a few years. But we’re feeling pretty optimistic that we won’t regret a thing. Plus, you can always go back! You’ve moved plenty of times, enough to know that you haven’t cut off any options. If you regret the decision, just reverse it. But good for you for being willing to take several big leaps in a row!

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:31 am

      “Good for me” but I will admit that I’m freaking exhausted. Change is so draining! One minute, you’re running on adrenaline, so excited for what’s next… then, you crash – hard. This week, I’m going to try and relax a bit, while starting to create the routine I want here – one that’s filled with some work, some hiking and some time by the water.
      The beautiful thing about your early retirement is that, if and when you miss the cities, you guys can just plan trips to them! (But you’re right – I won’t miss expensive restaurants either!)

  • Shari July 27, 2015 at 10:24 am

    After spending 3 years in Japan, I came home and immediately settled back into Victoria (I’m from Nanaimo but did my BA in Vic). Even after I met my fiance (who lived in Chilliwack) and lost my job to outsourcing, I still refused to leave. You just have to know yourself and I know that I love the lifestyle of being an island girl. I could have a better career somewhere else but I don’t care. Maybe we might leave at some point for work, but in the end, I will end up back here. Or maybe move to Sooke… smaller might be better.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:33 am

      High five from one island girl to another. (It’s tattooed on me, haha, so I should’ve known I would’ve come back eventually.) And yea, Sooke is beautiful… if I had to commute, I don’t know if I’d want to be out there, but it offers so much of the lifestyle I want! :)

  • Isabelle July 27, 2015 at 10:31 am

    About 10 years ago I moved from my hometown (Gatineau) to Montreal for school. I ended up ditching college, got a job and started looking at houses. But I felt so miserable there! I am not a party girl and I don’t make friends easily (shy/introvert). So after a year I came back to Gatineau and I’ve been here ever since. No regrets.
    As for the slowing down part, life took care of it for me in the form of job cuts. I was already working reduced hours (30h/week) and got my hours cut to 19h/week. I was not happy about it at first (less money). But now that I have been working only mornings (8h-11h45) for the past 18 months I just LOVE it!!!! I have 2 toddler’s, so all the boring stuff is being done by me in the afternoons (cleaning, appointments, grocery, dishes, meals prep., etc) and we can relax and spend family time at night. Hubby is also more relaxed, since the main tasks are taken care of. And I have 3 full hours of quiet ME time everyday, since the kids are at daycare in the afternoon and hubby at work. Love it, love it !!! I never want to work full-time if we can afford it. Quality of life trumps money for me (as long as we don’t struggle financially, of course).

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 10:35 am

      “Quality of life trumps money for me.” <- If we all felt this way, I think the world would be a much happier place. I'm right there with you, though. I'd rather make just enough to live + save and be happy, than to hustle and be miserable. Your life sounds lovely, Isabelle. :)

  • Amanda @ My Life, I Guess July 27, 2015 at 11:46 am

    You hit on SO MANY of the reasons that I currently live in a small city, and don’t want to live in a big one. Yes, it’s a ginormous pain to not be able to find a “career” job here, but I’d rather babysit for $12 an hour and have a 5 minute commute and an affordable house payment (one day!) opposed to making $20+ an hour, having an hour+ commute, and barely be able to pay my rent.
    Just this afternoon I had to run errands that took me into the city center, and I was so full of rage and had zero patience almost instantly. I was reminded as to why I rarely venture more than a few blocks from my house. And there’s less than 5% of the population of Toronto here. I couldn’t even imagine!
    My life still isn’t as simple as I want it to be, but part of these errands today involved bringing a truck full of crap I had but never used to donate. Largely inspired by you, of course :)

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      That’s exciting, Amanda! I’m guessing it felt pretty good to get rid of that stuff :)

  • Jill July 27, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I couldn’t wait to move away from home when I was younger but now that I’ve lived 2 states away from most of my family and friends for 10+ years, I’m getting inklings that it may be time for me to move back! Funny I had the exact same reservations as you. That moving back would somehow be a step back. Now I’m not so sure. We’ll see where life takes me :) loved this post on your journey ‘home’.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 5:58 pm

      Thanks, Jill – and never be scared to move. Life is too short to not do something because of what anyone else might think… you have to do what will make you happy. :)

  • Jacob MacLean July 27, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    This is so inspiring. It’s amazing to read this from someone who’s gone through some very similar things I had; growing up on Vancouver Island…moving away because I felt I ‘had’ to and realizing what I ‘thought’ I had to do…was not what I actually wanted. It didn’t even make me happy. Moving back from the big city in Alberta to my hometown has given me such amazing perspective and happiness. Was it easy quitting a big corporation and cushy paying job? No. But the result is worth it and I would never regret it.

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 5:59 pm

      Good for you, Jacob! How long were you away for? (Also, loved seeing your pics of Hornby Island! I used to go every summer… miss it so much! Must go back soon.)

  • Nicki July 27, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    Cait! YAY! Reading this put a huge smile on my face and also brought tears to my eyes. That is exactly what life is all about. I’ve always said New York City isn’t my “forever home” and reading this made the pull for Colorado, where my parents now live, that much stronger. (Plus I spent the weekend camping/hiking with my boyfriend a few hours’ drive outside of NYC and in Colorado that is literally accessible in 30 minutes or less!)

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      Aww YAY! Have you made any getaway strategies yet? ;)

  • Melanie July 27, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Cait, I am new to reading your blog and am excited for you in what you have ahead! I can relate to your situation completely. Living in Calgary in 1999 with debt to the max, 3 kids in elementary school, and trying to keep “up” (with nobody, really) my husband and I made the move back to his home town in small town Saskatchewan for the next 15 years. We paid cash for an 1100 sq ft bungalow with the equity from the sale of our home in Calgary. We lived there with our children until they all graduated from high school. We started a small business in the oilfield sector and lived relatively stress-free. That is of course until the 3 elementary school children became teenagers! I’m getting to the point – which is that it was not a step backward. We had our challenges, but the step we made has allowed us some lovely freedoms then and now. We have returned to Calgary because that is a better situation for us at this time. The business in Saskatchewan gained success and we sold it with a profit. The kids have moved on and we like the airport here so we can visit them and travel easily. All the best to you!

    • Cait Flanders July 27, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      Wow, sounds like quite an adventure for you and your family, Melanie! But you’ve followed the paths to whatever situations made the most sense for you all and that is admirable. :)

  • Devan July 27, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Congrats Cait! It take a lot of courage to really listen to your heart and do what’s right for you! I’m constantly striving to remove the concept of “have to” from my thinking. As you said, we often get ourselves locked into these assumptions about what we “have to” do or say or feel in a certain context, when all that really does is blind us to all the viable options that are actually out there. I have been fortunate to build a career working for several non-profits whose missions I support and believe in. Over the years, I’ve build up my experience and skills, gradually moving up to higher positions with more responsibility, and now I’m at the point where the logical next step would be for me to seek a senior leadership position, as an executive director or similar. But when I was recently presented with the opportunity to take that step, it just didn’t feel right for me. My colleagues who are in those kinds of leadership positions are basically on call 24/7, can never really take a real (e-mail free) vacation, are always thinking of work, etc. I realized that although I love my job, I don’t love it that much. I work very hard and am proud of what I do, but I don’t want my job (any job) to rule my life. A higher salary and a fancier job title are not worth giving up the freedom and flexibility I currently have to pursue my hobbies, passions and side hustles. Now that I’ve realized I have no desire to move further up the traditional ladder in my field, it’s suddenly opened my eyes to all these other things I could possibly pursue. I’m not quitting my job or making any big changes right now, but it’s like I’ve had these blinders on all these years, moving along a certain path towards my “career goals” (whatever that means), but now instead of just looking down that path, I’m looking all around me and thinking of ways I might create the career and the life I truly want – not the one I “have to” have!

    • Cait Flanders July 29, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      What a great story, Devan. You prioritized what mattered most to you, rather than followed what “should’ve” made the most sense, and that’s admirable! We could all learn a lesson from that. :)

  • Bridget July 27, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    I love big cities <3 I've actually been coming more to terms with that lately… as my friends settle their life outside the core and head for suburbia, my fiance & I have had a lot of conversations about whether that's a compromise we should make. We could get a bigger house, we could move to a community that has restaurants and stores, I can work from home and we can make sure to stay close to the train line so he can commute… but we just can't do it. We want to live in the heart of the city, even if it means less space (we like that) and more noise (we're not even bothered by that).

    Of course, I am of the "work hard, play harder" tribe, as you know. I'm not cut out for small town living, and that's ok. It brings a lot of criticisms because people say we're throwing money away on the high cost of living and say we "can't raise kids in a condo" etc. I honestly think some people interpret our refusal to buy a house in suburbia as a refusal to grow up.

    You just gotta do you.

    • Cait Flanders July 29, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      Ha, refusal to grow up… right, that makes sense, for you. ;)
      I think it’s great that you guys know exactly what you want and are doing what feels best. Life is too short to do anything less, my friend!

  • Nathan Atkinson July 27, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Sounds like a fun journey! My wife and I have had some similar experiences (minus moving around a bunch) with figuring out what we want the next 2-3 years to look like. We decided (with a little help from your blog) to move into a basement apartment instead of buying a house and pay off all of our debt ($25k) before making any other major changes (house, kids, moving, new jobs, etc.)

    Thanks for the shared experiences!

    • Cait Flanders July 29, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      Wow, that’s a big – but exciting – decision, Nathan! Have you already moved? Setup a timeline for when you’d like to pay off the debt? My guess is, because you’ve made it a priority, you’ll do it faster than you think. :)

  • Kate @ Cashville Skyline July 27, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Cheers, Cait! Look how far you’ve come! I’m working toward location independence too. It’s one of the reasons I transitioned into digital marketing and started freelancing more. I’ve gotta get back to see my family in Boston more often. And for more than just a weekend every few months.

    • Cait Flanders July 29, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      Yes, you must! I loved that area. :)

  • Ashley H July 27, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    I really enjoyed reading all of this post and skimming them comments too. Like other readers from the east coast – I sometimes struggle with some of the lack of opportunities here. St. John’s is a beautiful city (albeit with crappy weather sometimes). We have a lot for a small city – culture, great restaurants, and outdoors. But most of all, I have the best network of friends and family that I could ever ask for – I occasionally think about this and my heart feels like it’s going to burst with happiness. But there’s a part of me that adores travelling and especially to big cities – I love how there are so many things to do! (I also love really reliable public transit systems – but I digress.) Sometimes my husband and I feel like packing it up and moving to a big city – hey it’s challenging to get teaching positions anywhere in Canada unless you go up north! (And there’s no way I’m cut out for rural – did it before and would never do it again.) We would love a big city – right in the heart of one too. But I know that instead of spending money on my passion for travelling the world, I would spend it visiting all the wonderful people I know in Newfoundland. It can be frustrating that two completely opposite desires for living situations reside in my heart. My husband and I currently have a plan to save money to live in a big city for a year in about 5 years or so. Perhaps only through living in a big city will I truly get my answer – I suspect that I’ll want to live with the people I love though. For now, the plan is to stay put in Mount Pearl (a neighbouring city to St. John’s), putting myself out there as a substitute teacher, and enjoying the culture, fresh air, and people that my location has to offer. I wish you all the joy in the world with your move home. I visited Vancouver Island last summer and it is beautiful. I also love that your attitude isn’t that a place is forever – we can have roots without permanently staying in a place! Life has lots of surprises and who knows where we will live later on!

    • Cait Flanders July 29, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      I love this comment, Ashley, because I hadn’t even thought to mention travel in all of this… I LOVE going to big cities, too! Maybe that’s why I thought I’d love to live in one!? Turns out, I just love the buzz/excitement for a short period of time, haha… and then I want to be on a mountain. ;) So maybe you and I can both enjoy our smaller cities and escape to the big ones – versus the other way around! (And no, nothing is forever… change is constant and it’s better to be open to what life holds than avoid it! Life is too short.)

  • Patricia July 27, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    I had to leave home to find home. Which was right back where I started. Twenty years later.

    • Cait Flanders July 29, 2015 at 10:23 pm


  • Allison July 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Cait! I’m so happy to have found your blog. My husband and I just quit our jobs, sold our home, and in two days we’re moving with our two little kids from suburbia to Vermont for a slower pace, more time outdoors, and a smaller community where we can have the types of connections you mention above. At the same time, we’re going to continue decluttering and getting our financial house in order – I’ll be checking out posts on those topics too. It can be hard to simplify when the cultural tide pulls in the opposite direction – (aaah! what will our friends think! we must be crazy! are we?) It’s s a leap of faith! I wish you the best of luck.

    • Cait Flanders July 29, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Wow, I’m wishing you guys the same luck, Allison! That’s a huge and very exciting move! Please come back and let us know how you’re doing. :)

  • NZ Muse July 27, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    I really, really, don’t want to. I love everything about my city. But occasionally I think about it…. because of the cost of living. I don’t even know if it would work out as I don’t know what kind of job I would have outside of Auckland and I know I wouldn’t enjoy it as much.

    • Cait Flanders July 29, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Then you shouldn’t! Think about it this way: what’s the point in moving somewhere cheaper if there’s less work!?

  • Nadia July 27, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Good on you on doing what’s best for you. I moved from a small town (7,000) people to the city Edmonton. I know that I would not move back to my small hometown. Everybody knows everybody and there really aren’t the opportunities there for me. Not to say I wouldn’t live in a smaller town because hopefully in the future (not anytime soon) me and the boyfriend will be living out in the Okanagan. The majority of our families live their and it’s such a beautiful area. But for the moment I’m content to live in Edmonton. There’s so much to do but it doesn’t feel overwhelming if that makes sense?

    • Cait Flanders July 29, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      I don’t think I’d move back to a pop. of 7,000 either, haha. I like small but… not that small! And yes, I can see why you’d feel that way about Edmonton – big but not overwhelming. It’s a good-sized city! It’s cool to have some future plans in the works, too, though. The Okanagan will be happy to have you, one day. :)

  • Anne July 27, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    Hi Cait!

    I am new to your blog and enjoy reading your posts very much! This one especially hit home for me (pun intended), since I am still living in the town in which I grew up. I just love being around my family. But I am still working on accepting this choice to stay which I have questioned so often. As you wrote, I always thought that staying would show “the world” that I would not “make it” elsewhere (which is, really, just BS…). I often found myself apologizing for the fact that I did not move away for long (besides a year abroad and some internships in big cities where I got along fine). So often I felt ashamed admitting that I love to be around my family and my friends. I guess for the sake of “flexibility” that the markets demand, this is a no-go. I am quite angry now that I put myself through so many completely unnecessary worries!

    Now, I am working very hard on re-phrasing my own thoughts: I am a successful woman who is lucky enough to be living near her family and friends. I might move to another (big) city eventually, if I wanted to, but at the moment I am actually very content with the choice I made.

    So thank you for your encouragement, and the best of luck for your new life in Victoria!

    • Cait Flanders July 30, 2015 at 6:58 am

      Rephrasing it is a great idea, Anne! Mine would be: I am a successful woman who is lucky enough to be able to work from home and live close to her family and friends. I’ve lived in two of the biggest cities in Canada, and love travelling to others, but I’d rather come home to this island than live anywhere else. <3

  • Maressa July 28, 2015 at 3:30 am

    I totally relate with you. I’m also pursuing a content life that fits who I am today, I am living a meaningful and peaceful life in California. I’m done with moving from one country to another and living in an airplane.
    It always makes me happy to know other people are finding joy in a simpler life.

    • Cait Flanders July 30, 2015 at 7:00 am

      Oh my gosh, don’t even get me started on planes, Maressa. ;) But seriously, I’m really *over* travelling right now… after doing so much over the past couple years, I’m ready to just spend some time at home. Love that you’re feeling the same way! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to put a few roots down and just enjoy what our city/area has to offer.

  • Ali @ Anything You Want July 28, 2015 at 4:08 am

    Great post (as always!). I would love to move to an area where I can have a simpler (less expensive!) life. At some point, this will probably happen. Right now isn’t the right time, mostly for career reasons. I guess that is partially an excuse, but I think everything in life has its time and now just isn’t it. But I do look forward to days of inexpensive housing and no traffic!

    • Cait Flanders July 30, 2015 at 7:01 am

      Nope, it’s not an excuse! I know being in Toronto and Vancouver helped me get to where I am now… I just don’t need to be there anymore. Your time will come! :)

  • Kariane July 28, 2015 at 6:07 am

    Fantastic! I’ve made similar choices as far as jobs and things, and I don’t regret it. I love how simplifying allows us to pinpoint what’s truly important to us. Then we can focus our lives on what brings us joy.

    Congratulations on the move! It sounds like a step forward to me. :-)

    • Cait Flanders July 30, 2015 at 7:01 am

      Thanks, Kariane. :)

  • Kristen July 28, 2015 at 7:04 am

    I am glad you have found the place that is home to you. I grew up in small town southern Ontario and knew this would not be my adult home. Even when I visit my parents (I am writing this comment from their deck), I know this is not my home. I moved to Ottawa almost 22 years ago for school and the area became the home I had been looking for. 3 years ago this weekend, my husband and I decided on a quieter life (I won’t say simpler because it isn’t always simpler) and moved to the country. It is what we want (99% of the time, there is the occasional moment where I miss being close to things). I have no intention of leaving the Ottawa area. I do think I will move back to the city in several decades (when I am old!). That being said I don’t know everything life has for me and maybe an opportunity will come and take me away. Time will tell.

    • Cait Flanders July 30, 2015 at 7:02 am

      I love how much can be taken from the words “time will tell” – it just goes to show that nothing is forever, and it’s important to be open to whatever is next. Sounds like you guys are happy where you are now, and that’s what counts, Kristen. :)

  • Shannon July 28, 2015 at 9:17 am

    I found your blog about a month ago randomly. I’ve been on the simple living/minimalism bandwagon since 2011, but never really felt the benefits I read about in blogs/always imagined of a simple lifestyle other than just space in my home. Also recently I have just been feeling like something is missing in my life.

    So now that I’ve basically read all of your archives in a months time, something just clicked and I truly feel like I have the clarity I’ve been looking for four years. It’s like somehow your posts were the missing piece to the puzzle.

    After reading all of your shopping ban/decluttering posts, last week I did my first real purge since my original attempts 3-4 years ago.. I truly thought I had nothing left to get rid of at this point.. Well basically an entire car load of donations later I was obviously wrong, and I feel like a new woman. I can’t even explain the clarity I feel.

    I have been debating moving back to the city I fell in love with when I moved there eleven years ago for college. I left there five years ago, thinking I’d outgrown it and needed a change to further my life/career. Since then I’ve gotten rid of probably at least 80% of my belongings, moved from place to place, lived in little studios and run down spaces, tried to figure my self out, lost and gained the same 30 pounds three times, and tried to create my perfect minimalist life. Turns out it’s not working and I miss my friends and my city. After 6 months of applications and not even a single interview, I received a call a month ago about a job I really wanted in that city I left. After several interviews, they want me, and last week I accepted the job offer. I’ve had very mixed emotions the past few days and couldn’t help but feeling like maybe I was taking a step back.. Or giving up.. But then once again you made a post that basically answered all the questions I’d been having..
    And I can’t thank you enough. You have truly changed my life with your words and thoughts.

    I decided yesterday to just do it, I gave my two weeks notice at my current job even though I don’t start the new one for almost a month. I am taking 9 days to myself to just drive, think, hike, and explore some places I’ve never been. Quitting my current (I’ve worked there over 11 years) job has truly made me see it was one of the things holding me back from really feeling like how I want to feel. It was crazy hours, no work life balance, unrealistic expectations, and constant chaos. I am so grateful that a new one fell into place right at the perfect time.

    When I return from my adventure and move back to my city, I am going to start a yearlong shopping ban. Once again I feel like you are my spirit animal, you’ve truly been a catalyst for this change in my life in the short time since I’ve discovered your words. My gratitude is endless. I know this was long but I had to share. Thank you. <3

    • Cait Flanders July 30, 2015 at 7:31 am

      I want to copy/paste this comment and keep it with me forever, Shannon. I am so so so glad that something clicked for you here – truly, you don’t know what that means to me. And now, I owe you a HUGE congrats! Congrats on the job, congrats on taking 9 days off to go on a road trip and congrats on making the move “home”. The only thing that really holds us back is fear… but when we remember that life is short, and we only have so many chances to do things that will make us happy, the doors just seem to start opening. I’m glad you’re walking through them, and can’t wait to hear how things are going in another month or so. :)

  • Amy July 28, 2015 at 10:26 am

    I’m also from Victoria and moved away to start my career (grad school.) I always swore up and down that I would move back as soon as grad school finished… but then I got a job here in Alberta, where the wages in healthcare are at least $10/hour more than they are at home. I have really been struggling with when I will move back, as the longer I’ve lived in Edmonton, the more connected to the vibrant community I’ve become. It’s hard to work these things out! At least while I’m still paying off my student loan, Edmonton makes sense because I can achieve that goal significantly faster than on the island. But this post gave me some food for thought, so thank you. :)

    • Cait Flanders July 30, 2015 at 7:47 am

      It’s really important to feel connected to a community, so if you feel that in Edmonton, I don’t see why you should leave! The island will always be here. :)

  • Annie July 28, 2015 at 10:43 am

    I had a similar experience ages ago, only I discovered that I really do like big city living and returned to NYC after a year away at school. Once I came back I never wanted to leave again. I had always dreamed of living and working in Manhattan and now I do. Like any city, NYC is what you choose to make of it. Sure it gets noisy sometimes, and you’d better walk quick or get out of the way during rush hour, but I love the access so so many cultural institutions and beautiful parks. It’s also easy to get around without the expense of a car. My husband and I agree that if we ever did decide to move it would be to another big city like Chicago.

    • Cait Flanders July 30, 2015 at 7:47 am

      I love love love NYC, so I have no argument there!

  • Stacie July 28, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    Cait. It would be so cool for those of us to read your blog from the beginning to have an easier way to do it. Maybe there is one but I’m not sure how? I go to the very bottom, choose the month, the read bottom to top. Love all of your insights! It’s just a little tricky navigating.

    • Cait Flanders July 29, 2015 at 6:49 am

      There are buttons at the very bottom of each post (after the comments) where you can just click through to the previous/next post!

  • Will @ Phroogal July 29, 2015 at 8:27 am

    I think that’s awesome you have challenged where you should live. Most people just accept that where they are born is where they will die. I’ve been thinking a lot about moving to Mexico lately.

    • Cait Flanders July 30, 2015 at 7:48 am

      Neat! I hope you blog about it, if you do. :)

  • Kurt July 29, 2015 at 8:28 am

    As a 6-year resident of Nanaimo and American ex-pat, welcome back to paradise! :-)

    • Cait Flanders July 30, 2015 at 7:48 am

      Thanks, Kurt! It’s great to be back. :)

  • Dee @ Color Me Frugal July 31, 2015 at 6:46 am

    I think I’ve sort of followed a similar path to you; we’ve lived all over the country, in small cities and big cities, and we’ve recently set our sights on moving back “home.” Home for us isn’t the place where either of us grew up, but rather a place where we lived a decade ago and absolutely loved it. We are currently working hard to make this move happen by next summer, and keeping fingers crossed that all will go as we hope. Thanks for sharing!

  • mira July 31, 2015 at 7:42 am

    Dear Cait,

    I am almost twice your age and have lived the minimalist lifestyle most of my life and let me assure you that you are doing the right thing. We are living simply so that the rest of the world can simply live. The Universe will bless you as it has blessed me. With unnecessary belongings comes unnecessary emotions and people don’t realize that.

    In my opinion, going back to Victoria was a great move. Enjoy mom and dad while they are still around.

    The government job, however, I think was a good job. You should have stayed on because it would have been good pay, a stable job and lots of time and energy to do things you also enjoy like freelancing, family, hiking etc. Promotions would have come in time but until then lots of different assignments. But then you had to moved around to realize that. I hope you get your old government job back.

    As for men, if they don’t like your responsible, minimalist lifestyle, then they are irresponsible, immature souls and you don’t want to have them in your life. The right one will come. Good luck and did I mention, I love reading your posts. :-)

  • Bernie July 31, 2015 at 9:35 am

    I’m happy for you and your move Cait. You’ve experienced a lot in your 30 years but come to realize that home is where the heart is and inner peace is more satisfying than money or position. I thoroughly enjoyed your article but disagree with your view of Victoria being “the most beautiful place on this planet”. I think that place is Nelson, BC. We’re moving there (from AB) in 2016.

  • Amy@MoreTimeThanMoney August 1, 2015 at 3:40 am

    Go Cait. I moved back to my hometown three years ago for much the same reasons as you and have not looked back. I couldn’t live fast enough when I turned 18 and lived 4 much bigger, brighter cities before I moved back over fifteen years later. There is no place I would rather be but, like you, I only know that because of my time away.
    I know what you mean about the tendency to view moving back as a kind of failure – I think in your case you have clear vision of what success is to you and this decision is totally in line with it. Congratulations.

  • James Brown @ Financial Freedom Reverse August 3, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Congratulations with such great decision, Cait. I discovered your blog only today and really appreciate your frank-style post where you share your own experience, tips and life journey.

    I’ve always been looking for simplicity tips and am trying to make my life even more simple day by day. Because now I know that simplicity is not just a step back-ward, it’s a chance for lifetime happiness. I wish that happiness to everyone.

  • Laura J. Tong August 3, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    This is such a truly inspiring post Cait! I think you’ve absolutely nailed one of the biggest obstacles to creating the life we want, that of certain steps can feel like they’re taking us backwards when we think we have to be pushing on. Mark and I have lived in 16 different homes in 27 years, some abroad but when we looked at all those that were in the UK, it really pulled me up short to see that they were basically within 100 miles of each other! In my mind, we’d covered half of Britain over the years – not so. But for a while that felt like failure, lack of adventure, going backwards. Now we’re well along the route of simple living I can see entirely that we chose the places that suited our lives at that time – and we loved them all!
    I love the inspiring message you give Cait. Enjoy your move and creating your new life in Victoria.

  • allroundbetterme August 4, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Being a west coast girl myself, I totally get everything you are saying here… congrats on making the move back to Victoria.

  • Tre August 5, 2015 at 5:58 am

    I’m originally from Vancouver and can’t imagine moving back, even though I miss my family and friends. We’ve lived in several large U.S. cities before moving to a small town in New England. I love it here! We’re in a small town, but close to Boston and NYC.

  • Michelle August 5, 2015 at 8:14 am

    I grew up in a very small town (think less than 500). When I was in college, I moved to the suburbs, then back out to the country for a job, and then into the city. My story is kind of the opposite of you. Because of teaching shortages, I knew I would have to go back to my rural roots if I wanted to find a job in a school. But then I realized that living in an area that was completely unsatisfying for me wasn’t worth it. So I packed it up and moved to Chicago. Been here 6 years.

    Now my husband and I are talking about moving some place more rural. It’s really a cost of living thing. We want to slow our lives down now that I have a good sense of my business and my husband has enough experience in his field to be very desirable. It’s a choice to help us pay off debt, but it’s a hard one knowing that I am a city girl at heart. We’re not sure what is the right move for us. This post gave me a lot to think about.

  • Amanda August 9, 2015 at 4:42 am

    I moved back to my home town after being away for a decade. I was even living in a different county! Living abroad taught me the beauty of a simple life (cause you can’t for much in a tiny Korean apartment) but I got lost when I moved home. It took me a while to choose a new path. But I’m so glad I moved back home… Ive never had a community of support like I have now. And it’s nice to read that I’m not the only one who found peace in moving back :)

  • Linda August 17, 2015 at 4:00 am

    So glad I found your blog, and while reading it backwards, finding this post! You just put words to why I’m doing a similar move, though the city I’m leaving behind is Stockholm, the place I’m moving to is my small costal hometown. I have had such a hard time explaining myself, both to Stockholm natives, but even more the friends who left the small-town behind. But as you write, it’s not a move backwards, its towards more fulfilling!
    Now, when all my things are packed up, and we are moving soon, I’m tempted to approach the boxes the same way as you do, and only unbox what we need. So many good tips! I look forward to reading your blog both backwards and forward.

    When traveling I’ve visited both Toronto and Vancouver. Victoria and Tofino are still on the list for future visits in the Vancouver area. My father still talks about how lovely these places are, and he was there 20 years ago!