Born in the 80s I feel like I had the best of both worlds. We grew up without technology and were free to roam the streets on our bicycles from a young age, yet we were still teenagers when the internet and cellphones made their appearance in the late 90s so we were quick to adapt. I must admit I miss the carefree days before we were so connected. When boys first had to speak to your mom on the landline before they could speak to you. When we cared more about our next backyard adventure than our selfie on Facebook. I could go on but will stop right there.
I was fortunate enough to grow up on a farm in my formative childhood years. Plenty of open space, a river right next to us, forests to explore, animals to tend to, endless adventures to be had with friends and sometimes even on my own. I would run out the door in the morning and only come back if I was hungry and my mom knew that I would be safe and sound. I loved the freedom and that is exactly what I want for my daughter. I truly appreciated the childhood I had despite the tragedy of losing my father when I was still young. At least I was able to get to know him and remember him. At least I know that I grew up alright without my dad so I know NM, my daughter, will okay. I am not going to lie, I feel it is some kind of cruel joke though. I still miss my father twenty one years later.
So fast forward almost thirty years and here I am on the brink of moving half way across the world to build a life where my daughter can be free and in that I hope to find my freedom again. A life free from anxiety and terrible fears. Leaving behind a place with mostly beautiful happy memories but also horrific tragic memories. Moving forward to something greater and bettter. A place where I can build my own happiness again and set an example for my daughter. A fresh start.
So the question begs why are we moving to Canada specifically? I have told this story many times. Too many so I have decided to write it down.
I spent nine incredible years with an incredible man. We explored South Africa and were fortunate enough to explore other countries and continents too. We went on adventure after adventure. We married and lived in the house of our dreams where our beautiful daughter was born. Starting a family was to be our biggest adventure yet.
Shortly after NM was born, we decided we wanted more from life. We didn’t want to run away from South Africa, instead we wanted a new adventure and to grow our family in a place we could live our purpose, or discover what that purpose may be. We conducted weeks worth of research regarding quality of life, environment, education, business opportunities, language and culture, and so much more. Eventually we compared our lists and on the top of both our lists was the Great White North aka Canada.
There were many other contenders like Holland and even Austria but the more we found out about Canada the more it seemed like an amazing place to venture into as we were approaching our 30s and growing our family. We loved what we had found out about the culture and the way of life. About the sense of community and beautiful landscapes. We built this dream in our hearts and in our minds of our kids running on the lawn of our little lake house with a backdrop of snowcapped mountains. We would trade our stress and anxieties for ‘first world problems’. We wanted to live simply and free. We knew it would be a challenge but it was one we were so excited for. We couldn’t wait.
Then, no words will ever describe the pain, my husband was killed. The only thing that enabled me to get through that first night and first week were three words. Canada. Lake house. I may have written it before but in case you did not know I was busy looking for flights for a vacation trip to Canada for us three when I received the worst phone call of my life. It was at the fore front of my mind. This dream of our lake house kept me distracted and helped me cope.
Three months later, at almost 5 months old, NM and I got on a plane and flew to America to stay with my best friend to try to heal. NM was an amazing travel companion. Whilst in Ohio I met some amazing people. The woman I Au Paired for many years ago introduced me to many people to aid me in building up a network which, more than two years later, has come in to play. More about that later. We traveled home just before Christmas and it was a trip that helped me deal with the loss and grief in more ways that one.
2016 was a blur. I won’t lie. I don’t remember much. I remember my beautiful daughter turning one and a number of childrens’ parties and meeting some incredible moms in the process who are still my mom group today. I did remember the lake house dream in Canada though and before I knew it NM and I had visas and in December that year we flew to Canada. Again she was an amazing travel companion. This time at 19 months old. We visited an old school friend and her family in Winnipeg and had a great time in the snow, learning about life in Canada. It seemed so natural. We ended up flying to Columbus, Ohio from Toronto in a twin prop plane. The tiniest international flight I had ever taken and rather nerve wrecking and cold.
Christmas came (did I mention how much I love Christmas in North America) and then New Years went by and on that Sunday I went to the Vineyard church in Cincinnati and it felt as if the Pastor was talking directly to me. I knew that I needed to move us to North America. The peace I felt on my heart was calming and serene. It was time to move forward. I returned home to South Africa and immediately checked if my Canadian application that I had started was still valid. Fortunately it was, but was set to expire in September 2017. I looked into potentially moving to the USA too but when it came down to it Canada was where God was leading me.
I submitted an application for Canada in May not expecting much and after tons, I mean tons, of paperwork, NM and I were accepted as permanent residents by October. It all happened so naturally that it had to be divine. My house had already been sold in September and I had made contact with family I never even knew I had in Calgary. My mother received a multiple entry visa to both Canada and the USA as she is most certainly joining us abroad. It was all coming together. My business was my only concern and finding the right person to take over fell in to place in January and we worked toward handing the business over in April.
2018 has been whirlwind of change. My mom and I packed up and sold the entire contents of just more than two households in two months. I packed up my car and a trailer and three generations of women and three dogs drove down to Ballito for holiday. I no longer owned a house or any furniture for that matter. I was still running my store but I was free from so much clutter. It was liberating. Watching my dogs running on the beach with my daughter was also a dream come true.
We returned back to Pretoria or rather Johannesburg and have been staying with wonderful friends conducting final preparations for our move. It has been exhausting but I cannot wait any more for our fresh start and new life.
In just over two weeks myself, my daughter and my mother fly out to move half way across the world. My newly discovered family are collecting us from the airport in Calgary. They have offered for us to stay with them and will assist us in getting started. I count my blessings for amazing people in my life yet again. The dogs will follow soon after at the beginning of June. They are flying in to Vancouver so we plan to rent an RV and take a scenic drive over the Rockies to collect them (they have to fly to Vancouver because Dr Gonzo is a brachycephalic aka flat nosed dog and there is no direct way to get him to Calgary). So I have decided to make an adventure and road trip out of it.
I hope to find the perfect spot to rent on the outskirts of Calgary so NM can experience the best of both worlds. Farm life at the fore front yet near enough to a large city for theatre and museums and festivals of all kinds. We have our eye on a few small towns. I know though that the right place will draw us in. God has lead me this far and I believe He will show me where we need to be.
Through all this my heart will never heal completely, truly embracing life has enabled me to move forward and grow stronger. I now have new dreams now and new hopes. I believe I can be happy again and I can teach my daughter in turn to make her own happiness. I cannot wait to be free again. The freedom I once felt galloping across a field on a horse as a child. The wind in my hair and adventure in front of me. The freedom to roam into the world and pursue my truth. Freedom from anxiety and unnatural fear that has weighed me down for too long. Freedom to raise my daughter the way I wanted to raise her. Freedom to love deeply and share my words with the world in faith.
I have new purpose and I have new dreams, however one remains the same. I will watch my daughter play on the grass. I will watch her run toward the water. I will smile my forever bittersweet smile as I watch her laugh joyful and free. I will thank my Father for leading me this far and for the adventure yet to come. I will breathe in the fresh air and be completely at peace, knowing that I am truly living and building a future despite the past. I will close my eyes and feel the wind on my face. And as I open my eyes and look up at the snow capped mountains I will whisper “Our dream came true” before I turn, a tear running down my cheek, and walk back into our lake house.