When Sal and I first went OTG, we knew that we were a little ahead of the inevitable-soon-to-start-curve. Getting out was not a popular concept with any of my peers and contemporaries back then when I was 55/56. But anyone ‘could see the writing on the wall, I thought. It had to happen.’ I was just going to be amongst the first of the GREAT EXODUS.

In fact, the idea was not a particularly popular one even with Sal! She’s always up for an adventure and so was totally onside with the latest quirky venture but only because, in her heart, she thought that this was just a phase and, within a few years, we’d go back to being normal. Of course, now 18 years later, she is totally onside for the long haul and thinks in her heart that “this is the new normal and I like it!”

To be fair, I was always surprised in the early days to come across some guy in a shop or a store or in a scrap yard (I used to hang out there) and, when told of my plans, would express total understanding and support. He’d go on to claim the same dream and desire but lament the tentacles and umbilicals that kept him in place. Those encounters just reinforced my belief that the great exodus from the city was coming eventually. Maybe not soon, but definitely within ten or so years. I figured the baby-boomers alone would lead the way when they got tired and fed up with the rat race and that was likely to happen ten years after me.

It did not.

There was a short-lived period about ten years ago when recreational property ballooned in value which sort of indicated a renewed interest but that mini real estate boom waned. Property assessments dropped. The GREAT EXODUS had stalled at the starting line. Still, it did mark the beginning of an exodus trickle and a new rural stay-at-homeness for young people that kept the OTG population the same and even growing a smidge. By the time we had been here almost twenty years, the population of our island had gone from 60 to maybe 66 or 70. Hardly a boom but still growth and the demographics changed, too. We had a few more young people.

Mind you, time marches on and, in a community with almost 50% of the adults over 70, there is a looming attrition rate. To stay at 66 or 70, we need a young family to come every year. And, so far, that seems to be happening but nothing like a wave. This is just replacement community growth.

The main reason cited from younger people was ‘lack of work’. Translation: lack of PAID work. There is plenty of work just in building your own house. property and keeping your boat afloat. That is a full time job. Trust me. And there is always seasonal summertime work to build a small bank account to get through the winter months. But no one out here gets rich who ain’t already. A young person has to have modest dreams and goals to consider OTG.

Or, better put: they used to…..

Yep. Things are changing a bit….not a whole lot. Not much. But a bit. For instance, we had a whole lot of skilled carpenters out here but just about all of them are 70+ now. The lone working handyman-carpenter-for-hire we have who is still reliable is 60. But he’s now looking to stay off the roof, not lift heavy beams and generally trying to survive into older age these days. Luckily a newer, younger carpenter has moved up but so far, most of his work is still in town so he is not yet committed to ‘being’ a local carpenter here. But he will. That was why he came here in the first place. That exact same story played out last year with our lone plumber (now retired pretty much) with a local young man who just got his ticket….and so it goes. We seem to find a replacement for each retiring tradesman/woman but it is – once again – just replacement, not growth.

And therein lies the punchline: there is now more new work out here. Paid work. Now that everyone is getting old, they do not do it all for themselves anymore. The greatly individualistic, independent, learning-on-the-go homesteading adventurer is getting on and looking to pay for younger help. If ever there was a weird niche but growing job market, it is here. And it will be growing for a while still.

Put another way: for the last forty years home-care was NOT A THING out here. If anyone needed a bit of temporary home care, they had a friend or a relative or maybe even a WWOOF’er help out. But, today, Sal and I volunteer to run a small home care program for the over 70’s because they can’t help each other as much any more. They need more help. Some of their friends and relatives have passed and they are too old to host WWOOFers much anymore.

It is so weird to me that, as my OTG community changes with age, so does the local job market. So does the local real estate market. So does everything and yet, and yet, the population numbers have barely changed at all.

11 thoughts on “Expectations

  1. Are you offering me a job? I”m not a very good carpenter, but I”m an electrician, I know plumbing too. I won”t get on a roof cause I’m afraidof heights.
    Main reason why we don’t get out is family and maybe not wealthy enough to survive without regular income.
    Like you said, there is maybe a way to overcome the money issue, but that still leaves family (mainly children and grandchildren. For us, we would like be on the other side of the world, not a ferry ride away
    I could easily live without all the rest here, I know for sure I would be happier out there then over here


    • Money is an issue but maybe not as much as you think. It really helps NOT to have a mortgage or any debt but the equity one has in an urban first world home is usually enough to pay for an OTG home outright. Then you need two good boats, your vehicle, solar and such. Folks spend what they spend but, today, $Can40-50K a year is more than enough for a family of four if you have no debts and education for the kids is handled. Mind you, you can and likely will want to go on trips, visit home and that sort of thing so a fixed sum is hard to estimate. There are folks out here who do it all with less than $30K a year and others who shoulder bigger burdens and burn through $100K or more. The only comfort I can give you is that something modest will suffice and life out here is a lot more ‘outdoors’ kinds of activities, not restaurants and concerts. Probably the best elementary school (K to 7) I have ever seen is the one out here.


  2. Wim.
    You might surprise yourself with your undiscovered carpentry skills.
    And an electrician living in a remote community is worth their weight in gold.
    Everything runs on electricity…..especially solar and wind power….and finicky funiculars……


  3. Thank for your positive thoughts and insights! I have some basic carpentry skills, I could build a house I guess (and being OTG maybe has the advantage that not a lot of people will notice if somethings are not as perfect as they should be).
    And I am a kind of “autodidact”, I am not afraid to take on new things (I once took out my car’s engine to repair the gearbox – never did that but a good manual and a lot of Youtube movies got it going again)
    So basically, I think I have the skills that would keep us alive, and probably some skills that could be beneficial to the community (do skills like being able to BBQ and socialise a bit count?)
    I think the real exodus never came (and probably will never come) because too many people cherish the “comfort” of the cities, untill it blows up I guess


    • Wim, if Sal and I can do it, you can. We knew nothing when we started and only a bit more now.
      There are no building rules and inspectors out here which is irrelevant anyway because everyone builds stronger than code. And all those codes and rules are for the insurance companies and you can’t get insurance when you live OTG. So, good or bad, so long as it stands up and keeps in the heat, you are good.


  4. So as I sit here with Sadie chasing squirrels? On my lap, sipping wine I think back to what brought me here. I found a good woman, we had 3 boys, I started my own business as the going rate of $20.00 per hr 35 years ago will not feed, cloth, and allow to buy, build a home. We forged on, kids were raised, homes built and sold. My timing was mostly wrong so I did not make it to Tycoon status. Finally decided to get out, went for a boat trip and stopped here for some prawns and it all clicked into place. (Mostly) I would have come way long ago if I had only known. The grindstone does not allow a lot of free time and I so understand the hesitation of many to bow out of the rat race, as everyone knows that if your nose is being ground hard you might win! May I suggest that the population constant is related to the “fringe” level. Seems to be fairly consistent through time. Most are happy as they can be within the knowledge of their place in society, change is scary, unknown is scary. We as a people don’t do well with scary and unknown, some(the fringe) can adjust and thrive but it seems that we die off at about the same ratio.
    Maybe a recruitment/educational drive as knowledge is power!


    • The grindstone accomplishes what it was intended for – to grind you down. Those who stay there with little nubs for noses get money but no nose. The best way to get money and keep your nose is to win it or inherit it. Second best: learn to live with as little of the damn stuff as possible.


  5. My experience on these islands is that everyone, young and old alike, seem to have too much money. Well, at least, none are motivated by money in the slightest. You can offer work, offering to pay whatever price they ask, but no takers. No one has a least bit of interest in work.

    And that seems to be reinforced by the oft repeated phrase of the “rat race”. It would seem that to do any paid work is to succumb to the siren call of the rat race. So it is studiously avoided.


    • I would like to refute that point of view but, well, it takes too much effort. Too much like work.
      You are mostly right, tho. The old do not have the energy, the young either do not have the motivation or are too busy carving a homestead out of the forest. Money is definitely not a motivator. It is, however, still needed and so young and old will still do some things to get money. Sometimes. The task will maybe be undertaken but at their own pace and and the mere mention of a schedule or an estimate or even an expectation is a clear sign the employer is ‘one of those’ and will be avoided like the plague. “Seriously? You want an estimate?! I do not do estimates. It just all depends.” “OK. Depends on what?” “What! Now you want me to foretell the future?! I am not a fortune teller, either! I do not think this going to work out. “


      • Well, the whole point to OTG is NOT having to participate in any rat race. So it makes sense not to give a timeframe nor an estimate of costs I guess. My skills as electrician might come in handy


        • Yep. They will. But much less so than in a busy suburb. One of my neighbours only has 12v lighting and supplements that with gas lamps. Most keep their electricity needs minimal ’cause they have to make it themselves. And some will pay you with a salmon instead of money. The best use of your expertise is when it is transferred to direct current installations, mini-hydro, solar, alternators, outboard motors and the like.


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