The Globe and Mail — Scores of city-dwelling Canadians daydream about ditching it all for a quieter, simpler country life. In an ongoing series, The Globe talks to ex-urbanites who actually got out of town – for good.
Melanie Hawco: I had been to Greece before I met Adrian, my husband, and we’ve travelled here every year for the past four years. It’s just amazing. All of Greece is beautiful, but Crete, it’s an island with a lot of rocks and natural beauty. It has a lot of similarities with Cape Breton, where I grew up. The first time I came here with Adrian, as I was leaving, it hit me emotionally: I was really tied to this island. We moved here two months ago.
I had lived in Toronto for seven years. I have my business degree and had worked in social work in Cape Breton. In Toronto, the job market just kind of geared me towards working with the adult population to teach financial literacy. But it was extremely stressful. Adrian worked at the same restaurant as my brother. That’s how we met. We both share a love of travel, so immediately we started talking about travelling the world.
We’ve been married for three years. Now we live in a little village just outside the city of Heraklion. The village has only 150 people. We’re in the mountains. The view from our balcony is unbelievable. It’s all farmland.
My daughter is turning 13 soon, so the change for her is a little more difficult. But she’s getting along great, too. In September she’s enrolled in an English-speaking school. The baby is almost two.
We own property on a mountain close to us. We have 30 acres of farmland that has lemons and walnuts and other produce on it. We just started a cooking school and in September we are going to be farmers. Everything is taking longer than we thought it would. It’s a good lesson to have patience.
We had one run of the cooking school that is out of our village. It’s really amazing. In Toronto, I hardly ever saw my husband. We worked separate hours. But here, we’re working together. Adrian is an amazing chef.
Personally, my stress level is completely lower. We’re starting up a new business and a new life so of course there is going to be stress. But when I look around I see the beauty of the place I want to be. Last night I was walking the baby and there was a wedding party in a little square in our village. I could hear the music and I was looking up at the stars.
Our daily routine involves a lot of work setting up the business. We get up, my son eats his four bowls of cereal and right now there’s a lot of shopping and preparing – getting the tables and chairs and cutlery for the cooking school. The beauty of it is, we always have our bathing suits in the car so after shopping we go to the beach and jump in the sea. We always make sure we have at least half an hour to jump in the water.
We’re paying way less rent for our house here than we paid in Toronto. We have a balcony in the back and a wood-fired oven that we’re learning to use.
I’m really excited about September. I’m not nervous at all, which I think comes when you really feel like you’re in your place and living your dream.
As told to Dave McGinn