Go with the jet stream, not against it
My wife, Gina, and I recently relocated to Halifax from Calgary. I, an Alberta native, and my wife, a 6 year resident, had freshly exchanged vows and found ourselves at a culmination. Many might agree that marriage brings on that all-important “talk” after the cake is cut and the thank-you cards are sent – what is our next move? At the point our discussion took place, I did not fathom that “move” would eventually turn out to be quite so literal. An opportunity presented itself for my wife to transfer with her employer and relocate to Halifax. Being a former Haligonain, she was thrilled at the fortuity. A Saint Mary’s University alumni, she could be considered part of the “brain drain” from Atlantic Canada – a local student who completes their education here, but upon graduation moves out West seeking fortune. A professional salesperson, she carefully honed her pitch and presentation, concentrating on the key wow-factors that would sway her new husband to pull up stakes and move 5000km across the country. Long story short – it worked. (Her career is in sales for good reason) What did I know about Halifax or Atlantic Canada at the time? Very little. In fact, one day and one night in 2008 was the extent of my experience with the area. Had I packed a travel bag at the moment of decision, it may have, jokingly, contained a fog horn and a sou’wester. Many Western Canadians, and I was among them, need to learn there is life east of Toronto. Travelers are more inclined to take an all-inebriation (all inclusive) excursion to Mexico than explore the Atlantic side of their own country. Sadly, the reality is that after flights, accommodation, and meals, the latter is the more expensive option. The decision to leave Calgary was not an overly difficult one, for a multitude of reasons. This biggest, perhaps, simply being a change. Driving to work each day in my tin coffin I would occasionally dream of a slow seaside saunter to the office. Navigating the suburban sprawl of Calgary’s surrounding cookie-cutter communities the thought of a smaller, more intimate locale sounded inviting – as did Nova Scotia’s real estate market. Purchasing a single family home in Calgary requires nothing short of a trust fund. (Admittedly an exaggeration, but in reality it typically requires a double income, a non-blemished credit rating, and some diligent saving for a few years). For the time being we have settled in downtown’s south end and couldn’t be happier. Coming from a land-locked mountain/prairie region, being 400m from the ocean is fascinating to me - I look out on the harbour activity like a 6-year-old watching the Santa Claus parade go by. Former excuses such as “it’s a long drive”, “there won’t be any parking” and “a taxi will be $50.00” are left behind, as with our proximity we have been granted access to feel the pulse of Halifax on foot. We enjoy experiencing the delectable downtown restaurants, farmers market, attending events, and pursuing networking opportunities. The feeling of being an active and contributing member of the community is exhilarating and fills a void I previously did not recognize existed. A large factor in our swift decision to move was to ensure basic needs were met – one of the most important being gainful employment for myself. I had researched Halifax businesses in my industry (website design, development, and marketing) and sent out a handful of unsolicited resumes. To my great surprise…I actually received responses. Not that I didn’t think my skills or experience warranted a response, I just simply did not expect one (or the multiple ones I ultimately ended up receiving). My opinion was if it’s not posted, it’s not available – boy was I wrong. The truth is quite the opposite: there are a large amount of opportunities for young professionals in Halifax; you just need to show some initiative. Not only was I able to quickly secure employment with a successful local business in my industry, but said business was also listed in the Top 30 Employers in Atlantic Canada, has a gentleman at the helm who was recently honoured as one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEO’s, and was recently announced as a finalist for Business of the Year in the Chamber of Commerce Business Awards for 2011. This is a testament to the opportunities available in Halifax, if one simply cares to go looking. I thoroughly enjoy my new position and it has allowed me to engage with many companies and contacts thriving in the local business community. So what are the overall results, you ask? I can honestly say I have achieved a work-life balance in Halifax that was unheard of in Calgary. The “slower pace of life” stereotype of Atlantic Canada certainly has some truth to it, in a positive way – it allows time to really relate with others and enjoy conversations, and the warmth of the people here takes the edge off the Nor’easter’s. When I get asked if I have noticed any glaring differences; I respond that my rose-coloured glasses have anti-glare lenses. Some of my Calgarian cohorts say things like “wait for the winter” and “enjoy the 15% HST!” but to them I say if the only drawback to this lifestyle is paying 10% more on a warm and rainproof jacket, then it’s money well spent. Much more time and involvement needs to happen before I can legitimately call myself a Haligonian, but I truly look forward to that day. And perhaps, with enough good fortune, even becoming Halifamous.