When I first told my director at Red Hat that we were moving to Nova Scotia from North Carolina, her first reaction was “Dude, do you ever stay planted!!?”
It wasn’t an unreasonable question — since starting at Red Hat in 2015, she’d seen Jackie and I move four times! One evening we counted up how often Jackie’s moved in her life — the answer was 49! (I fell slightly short of that stellar achievement at a mere 35.) So moving is not a new thing to us.
What is it about Nova Scotia?
So what was the appeal? Certainly it wasn’t the possibility of being buried up to our butts in snow in February. We both have experience with cold snow-laden winters and we were moving to Nova Scotia with our eyes wide open.
But the great outdoors IS part of the appeal. We’d already visited Prince Edward Island twice and loved it, so the maritime provinces were already on our radar.
We’d also discovered Cape Breton’s Davey and Sky on YouTube. They routinely post picturesque videos of their Nova Scotia adventures and these helped sell us on living in this wild and wonderful place. Here’s just one of their video reels (watch it in full screen mode— you’ll be glad you did):
There were several other reasons that pointed us toward Nova Scotia:
- Nova Scotia has a significant artistic community and heavy summer tourist traffic (at least in a normal summer) and will be a good place for Jackie’s art business once she has her work permit.
- The medical system. Don’t get me wrong: the doctors in the US are fantastic and I owe my good health to a few of them. But the possibility of financial hardship due to illness in my fast-approaching senior years was enough to make us look north. The Canadian system isn’t perfect, but it beats bankruptcy.
- Between Covid and politics, things in the US were just getting a bit too crazy. I just didn’t feel safe there any more. Nova Scotia is more settled politically and people in general seem to take the threat of Covid infection more seriously than in other places.
What’s the plan for moving to Nova Scotia?
OK, lets get to the question that many people ask us: how did we travel to Canada when Covid concerns have closed the border with the USA? Quick answer: it’s because I am a dual citizen and it’s unconstitutional in Canada to keep a Canadian citizen from returning home (the same laws allow their spouse to come too).
When we arrived in January 2021, we had to go straight to quarantine — no side trips and no fraternizing with the locals — and isolate for 14 days. We had to submit data to the authorities every day and we DID get a visit from the local constabulary just to make sure we were following the regulations. The situation is changing all the time and, as I write this, cross-border restrictions are easing. It’s best to check on current regulations each time you go to cross the border.
One reason we could consider the move is that my employer, Red Hat, allows remote working.
I’ve been working remotely since 2017. My colleagues can be anywhere in the world: North or South America, Europe, and Australia to name a few. Meeting with them over video is no different whether you’re in the office or at home. So why not live where you want to if you can work from anywhere?
Since this was a personally-initiated move, we were paying for it ourselves. So it was up to us to manage it as efficiently and economically as we knew how — all that move experience gained through more than our 75 combined moves was going to come in handy! Key points in our efficiency plan:
- We had recently got completely out of debt and wanted to keep it that way. We committed to fund the move from our savings and not incur any more debt — but we’d have to be smart as possible with our spending.
- Given the extra paperwork and regulation involved in a cross-border move, we decided to take only the things that we really wanted to keep. And to enforce that decision, we rented a moving truck that only had a 20-foot box. Anything that didn’t fit, didn’t come with us.
- We decided to take our cars: the Subaru Forester and the Miata. We made sure that the US auto titles were in both our names before leaving. Whatever paperwork we had to do and whatever duty we had to pay would definitely be cheaper than buying new vehicles when we got to NS. Besides, we really like our cars…
- We’d be driving, not flying, which meant all our things (including two kitties) would travel with us — we’d only need to make the trip once, cross the border once, and stay in quarantine once.
We did anticipate some challenges:
- As we were getting organized to move, we watched carefully as the Nova Scotia housing market got very hot. Housing in some areas were selling for more than the asking price, often with multiple bidders. Would home prices still be affordable to us when we arrived or might we have to rent instead?
- Word on the street was that permanent residency (PR) applications were taking up to a year to be approved. Waiting to apply for Jackie’s PR till we were in Canada seemed counter-intuitive, but it also allowed us to concurrently apply for her work permit. (The work permit eventually took 10 months to arrive.)
- As mentioned above, we’d be driving. The plan was for me to drive the 20-foot U-Haul towing the Miata on a trailer. Jackie would drive the Subaru packed with the rest of our things and the two kitties, Mikey and Mango. We’d have to account for bio-breaks for us AND the kitties and find hotels that allowed pets and were secure enough for the vehicles — and since we were driving over the winter break/ Christmas holidays, we could only hope that we wouldn’t be greeted at our new home by a Canadian blizzard!
Our US house sold quickly. We’d already sold many of our possessions and packed the rest. And once we rolled down the driveway, our old life would fade away and there’d be no turning back…