five negatives and five positives of living in a remote region

Everything in life is a trade-off. 

Everything has pros and cons, advantages and pitfalls, clouds and silver linings. I honestly can't think of anything this rule doesn't apply to, including the Big Life Choices that are the most obvious and clear to us.

This post has an additional disclaimer, more like a geographical quirk. 

Aerial views really emphasize remoteness.

Although we live in what most people would consider a small town -- population approximately 4,200 -- Port Hardy is actually a regional hub. The next-largest town clocks in at population 2,500. The other communities in the region have populations of less than 500, many in double-digits.

Because it's a hub, Port Hardy has more services than many towns of its size -- primary healthcare, a hospital, a few restaurants, a café, a large supermarket that is open every day (and serves the entire region), more than one hardware store, two hair salons. There's an airport!

But the northern end of Vancouver Island -- the "north island" -- is considered remote. Each small community is at least a 30-minute drive to any other. Many communities are accessible only by water or dirt roads. 

Five negatives of living in a remote region

1. There is a shortage of practitioners. If you're in a larger town, there may be one chiropractor, one dentist, one physiotherapist, one massage therapist. They are very busy! 

In Port Hardy, we have primary health care and an emergency room. For appointments with specialists, we drive three hours each way. 

2. There are very few restaurants. 

Unless you know the area, regional maps can be misleading.
Some places on this map are tiny, isolated communities.

3. Gas and groceries are more expensive -- although not nearly as bad as advertised.

4. Travel is expensive and time-consuming. 

Although Port Hardy has an airport, commercial flights are only connectors to Vancouver; they are infrequent and expensive. Connecting to Vancouver by car and ferry is extremely time-consuming and also expensive. This means that travel, other than road trips, takes an additional day on either end and can easily cost an additional $500 per person.

5. There is very little diversity. 

For the most part, people in our area are either white, of European descent, or Indigenous. Non-indigenous brown people are so rare as to stand out. 

Some things that could be negatives, but aren't:

1. The dearth of shopping choices. I don't think I could have lived here pre-internet. For me, being able to have anything delivered makes this area livable. 

2. Conservative politics, which one often finds in small towns. In our area, most jobs are union, and most people vote NDP. There are conservatives here -- and this area has had Conservative MPs in the past -- but a leftist viewpoint is not odd or marginalized.  

3. There is "nothing to do". See below.

Five good things about living in a remote region

1. Affordable real estate if you earn a middle-class salary. 

There is a serious housing crisis here -- a principal reason it's so difficult to attract practitioners to the area. But if you can find the right place for sale -- which may mean living in temporary housing while waiting for a house to go on the market -- the housing prices are insanely low, compared to large metropolitan areas.

2. It is beautiful. Nature is everywhere -- mountains, water, forest, wildlife.

3. It is quiet

The quiet is not just aural; it is visually quiet. One of the things that constantly irritated me living in suburban sprawl (in the Toronto area) was visual pollution -- being surrounded by crushes of parking lots, fast-food restaurants, advertising, logos, strip malls. Everything just looked so ugly and noisy. 

4. It is slow. No one is in a rush. 

5. There's nothing to do. 

Of course there is plenty to do outdoors! But having spent my adult life in areas where there were seemingly limitless cultural options, I always felt a certain amount of pressure to partake in some portion of them. Having nothing to do is heavenly. I enjoy my cozy pastimes with zero guilt or pressure.  

* * * *

I loved living in New York City, despite the challenges. I always felt that NYC's challenges made its strengths possible. 

I love living in Port Hardy in much the same way. The challenges enable the strengths. If the area was more accessible, it wouldn't be so peaceful and undeveloped. 


M@ said...

You're making it sound very tempting! Especially having seen it up close myself. I wonder how big the market for good pasta is in PH? ;)

James Redekop said...

The "small town" comment reminds me of something a friend from Prince George told me:

The fact that Prince George is the third largest city in British Columbia tells you that there are only two large cities in British Columbia.

laura k said...

M@: Interesting that you read this and find it tempting...! You might just as easily find it off-putting. Hmmm...

James: With respect to Prince George, Nanaimo is the 3rd largest city in BC -- population 90K. Your friend needs to update his material. :)

James Redekop said...

Well, he did tell that to me something like 25 years ago.

But the joke still works if you substitute "Nanaimo" for "Prince George".

laura k said...

Indeed! :)

allan said...

I was surprised to see that yesterday I drove back from Campbell River (the "big" city to the south, pop. 35,000) in "only" 2:20, not the usual 2:45-3:00. I was not speeding, not trying to get home as fast as possible. But I also had no dogs to stop for.

Laura is right. If it was less of a haul to CR, then our town would be more built up and more populated. The longer distance is a good trade-off.

At first, the time and money to get to Vancouver doesn't seem like much of an issue. How often would that come up anyway? Though it was cheaper, having a fun weekend in the city would be more do-able.

laura k said...

If it were cheaper or we were much richer, we might do an extended weekend in Vancouver once in a while, probably timed with some live music. As it stands now, we could do it, but then our budget for longer-distance travel would shrink.

Spending while there
Dog care

laura k said...

Coming back to this post a full year later, I now know that a weekend getaway in Victoria is wonderful, and doesn't require airfare. Of course, these days gas for the 8 hour drive each way is no small expense! But still more accessible than Vancouver.