Small Town Life

The Best and the Worst of Moving to a New Town

I grew up in Prince George, what I was told was a "small northern town" in our province on British Columbia. It's population hovers around 80,000. It has a few malls, many parks, a ski hill, multiple bridges and stoplights. It has a Costco, people. PG isn't a small town, like I was told.


Nearly six months ago, we moved to Powell River, BC, on the Sunshine Coast. It's a really lovely little town of 13,000 people, while the district surrounding it (including Lund, Texada Island etc) brings it up for around 20,000. I know it's not the smallest town (or district), but much smaller than I am used to. There are five traffic lights in town. That's it. I love it for so many reasons, but for some reason, the fact that I can count it's city traffic lights on my one hand is extra special. 


It's the little things that count, right? And Powell River is a little place to be, but it packs a pretty awesome punch. So far, here are our favourite aspects of being here:


  • Driving time is low. All of our frequent stops are 2-4 minutes drives. We sometimes grumble when people say they are "south of town" because we have to drive for 12 whole minutes to get there. Crazy, right? Matt just texted me to meet him at the plumbing store, and I texted back "be there in 3 minutes". And I was there in 3 minutes. What. The. Heck. Not to mention, we rarely drive faster than 60km/h as well. Needless to say, in our little car, a tank of gas lasts us an entire month. Not bad.
  • The view: from nearly everywhere in town, the view is amazing. Our storage unit had an especially good view for a huge warehouse with peoples junk. The ocean is almost always in sight, and if it's not the ocean, its a craggy mountain, or a lake or a winding forest path with hundred year old trees that reach for the sky. There are times when we're driving to the store and I'm just shouting in the car "just look at that VIEW!". We've been told by people who have lived here for much longer that you never do get sick of it. Amazing. 
  • Community culture: no joke, there is something happening nearly every weekend. Big things, like world class musical festivals that call people from all over the planet, or logger sports, bike races, or a choir festival that knocks your socks off. The city rallies behind these big events, hanging posters in there shop windows and everyone seems to be a part of the fun. And there is often a free component to these big events held in the park for everyone to enjoy.
  • Parking is a thing of the past: I remember asking someone if you had to pay for parking at the hospital, and they giggled at me saying "you don't pay for parking anywhere". Wow. I think there is a lot of accessibility to places, so lots of folks walk (we try to, for every big gathering at the park) or cycle, but there is honestly decent parking in around where you need to be. The hustle and the bustle is somewhat non-existent. People don't feel rushed, they are just going about their day, it doesn't feel like a race.

Of course, there is always the other side. There is always a downside, and though I would say we are still somewhat in a honeymoon-phase of moving here, there have been some distinct cons of living in a smaller community. The biggest/most noticeable have been:


  • Rainy weather spots to play. It's glorious and sunny these days, but come the fall and winter, the kids don't have many options to play indoors other than at home and the library. I'm not sure what I am dreaming of, but something like a rock climbing wall, or an indoor gym area for kids to wiggle and get their sillies out during those rainy days. The mall really doesn't get many folks excited (side note: you don't move to Powell River for the shopping), and its a pretty quick walk.
  • Groceries: they seem more expensive and every so often a ferry gets delayed by weather and then that one store is entirely out of milk (or God forbid, my cream-o!). Again, it's rare, but its a possibility. Also, there aren't the big stores that have the super deals like Costco or Superstore, so you just get what you get from Save-on, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Quality Foods and some other smaller, locally owned grocers. I have no complaints on the quality of produce that comes in (we ate such terrible produce in the Caribbean, this all seems glorious over here!), but for the best deal sometimes you have to shop around, which I suppose, is sound logic no matter where you live.
  • Getting out of here: there is always a ferry if you want to leave with your car, though there are flight options now, though only to Vancouver. We personally don't get out of town much (who would want to leave?!), but it is one more thing to plan for. Even, as we dream of future trips, say, the price to fly out of the Vancouver airport might be cheap, but we have to account for extra time (off work?) to get there with the ferries or a fight. So that cheap flight out of YVR just got more expensive. But that is all part of being at the end of the highway. We can deal. We like the one ferry over to Comox, on Vancouver island. We can visit our family over there and stock up at Home Depot or Costco if we really need to. 
  • Theatre is cute but we get the leftover movies: once all of the world has watched the top movies of the year, they eventually get sent over our way and we sometimes get them in our one screen theatre. It's a magical little piece of history, but don't ever expect to see the new Avengers movie on opening weekend. It still hasn't come our way, but I am hoping I'll catch it when it does eventually get over here.

In reality, none of these things irk me enough to pack up and go. This is a really decent place to survive. I really thought I would be needing big things from places like Costco or even London Drugs, but you find that you just don't. All the things you think you needed, you just don't.

It's a nice feeling. Life is really simple here. Our stress level has been pretty low. Matt has had some steep learning curve days with his new job, but he's come out of it on top. We've met so many people who have done something similar to us, years ago, leaving the big city (or lots of people from all over the world: Holland, South Africa, Britain) for a quieter life close to nature. We aren't the only crazy ones! We all just congregate here.


I'm not going to lie, though. There are days when I really miss my people. Like, really miss them. I am slowly making friends here, I really am. But it's slow. And now it's summer and everyones schedule is off and different. And gosh, making friends takes work. My introverted self tells me they should be calling me, but I know deep down that making new friends just takes work. But I know it will come, but I miss all my family and my friends some days. So many of them are having babies this month and next and I just break up inside feeling really far away these days, missing these big life moments. I know my people don't hold it against me, for leaving permanently, but I still sometimes feel a little miserable for disappearing. 

In short, it's not all roses and rainbows, but it's still pretty awesome. We wouldn't trade this life for anything, truly. I know as the years go by, we will fit in more and more and this will feel more like our home and all the nervous feelings of "fitting in" will fall away. 

There are so many reasons to look at moving to a smaller town. We aren't the first to have done it, and we won't be the last.


Have you ever considered seeking out a small town to live in? Would you ever? These adjustment periods are a little tough, but I feel very confident that the best is on it's way.