My family moved to the Yukon when I was a kid, in the ’80’s. We camped and hiked and I loved it. When I was in my early 20’s I tried to leave. I lived in Toronto, of all places, for almost two years with my then boyfriend, now husband, who also grew up in Whitehorse. To say we had culture shock is to put it mildly. In any case, we ran home to Whitehorse and never thought about moving out of the Yukon again.
Now that we have kids, I’m so happy I live here. Small schools where they know my kids. So much access to nature and mountains and lots of places to camp. We camp, hike and do all those outdoor things I loved when I was a kid. We live on two acres out of town, so it’s been great. So why do I feel like it’s time to move into the city?
We are called “bush” people here, because we live in the bush, obviously. That’s what Yukoners call living out of town in the woods. There are lots of bush people living here, it’s the Yukon, but there are definitely various degrees of bushi-ness. Here are the three major levels of bush, but there are many other levels in between. It’s not all black and white and there are definitely grey areas on the bush spectrum.
There’s the bush person who is “full bush”, which means no running water, wood stove heat, no power. These are the people who you can find filling their blue water jugs outside of Canadian Tire and usually have lots of facial hair. Perhaps they are slightly less full bush and have solar panels or a generator for lights and the odd CBC show. This is how my husband grew up. His family had a farm up on the Fish Lake Road, not far out of Whitehorse, but definitely off the grid. They were actually one of the last families to squat in the Yukon in the ‘80’s. Squatters are not allowed in the Yukon anymore, although people still come here and try. I think that full bush people are the stereotype of Yukoner that is perpetrated in movies and TV shows. I know my own relatives in Ontario think I have polar bears roaming through my yard, but I tell them it’s only the black bears!
There is the next level of bush, let’s call it “mid-bush”, which I think we currently are. We have power, oil furnace, but we are on water delivery, which allows me to wash my clothes, dishes and floors, but does not allow me to have daily giant baths. This is good for the environment, I think, as well as a teaching tool to make the kids appreciate water or lack thereof. The unfortunate byproduct of this is that the kids never flush the toilet, ever, and leads me to believe that they probably aren’t doing this at school either.
The next level of bush living is “high bush” living. These are the folks who have marble counter tops, Jacuzzis in the bathroom, large “cabins” that could grace the cover of Log Home Living magazine. Sometimes there’s even enough room for the helicopter pad. Do not get me wrong; I don’t begrudge these bush dwellers their lovely homes at all. It’s just the top level of bush living. I would do it, if I had the money, but at this point, I am mostly just sick of driving.
Which leads to my point. I want to move into town. After 15 years in the bush, I’m done. I want to run the taps when I’m brushing my teeth, despite the environmental fallout. I want giant baths, garbage pick-up and sidewalks the kids can skateboard/scooter on, as compared to a gravel driveway, which sufficed to say, is not conducive to cool tricks. The kids are always complaining about not having any other kids to play with and we even worked out a budget. It turns out we are spending more living out of town than in town, even accounting for extra taxes and such. Totally mind blowing as part of the reason we moved out of town was for cheaper rent/mortgage.
I remember people telling me that when the kids got older, we might want to move into town. And I remember thinking that I would never move into town. We were living the dream, why do people even live in the Yukon? For this! For star filled winter nights and northern lights with no light pollution. For neighbours who don’t live right on top of you. For the ability to pee on a tree in your driveway and not one person calls bylaw (not me, of course!). And yet, here we are. It’s time to move and it’s bittersweet. I had both the babies in this house. We got married on this piece of land and I’ve actually never had another mortgage. But the benefits of moving outweigh the benefits of staying. We’ll have more time with the kids, without the hour long commute every day. I won’t have to worry if the car breaks down at -40 and no one drives by on the highway. It will be good. I just hope town is ready for some real bush people. I hope we don’t stand out too much.Maybe the kids will learn to flush. Ah, the future!