Logging in to write this post today, I was shocked to see that my last update here was in October. At 20 days, that gap has probably been the longest hiatus on here ever. Fitting then, that this post will explain exactly why that happened! Read on to learn more about our relocation to North BC.

ending our road trip early

The truth is, the first few weeks post-travelling always seem to be a little all over the place. In our case, it was particularly disjointed as we decided to finish our Western Canada road trip a month earlier than planned. There were a number of reasons for this, the main one being money. We simply did not have enough funds to continue our road trip the way we wanted to, mainly due to a bad preceding winter season at Mount Washington (I earned less than a third of the amount I typically earned over previous ski seasons) and expenses in Northern Canada being far above our expectations. Money issues aside, ending the trip in mid-September felt like the right time anyway, for reasons I will go into another post.

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heading to the oilfields

With the decision to end the trip earlier made in late August, we then had to work out our next move. Since heading out in April, we had talked about many (many!) different ideas about where we should live or what we should do. While we loved our time on Vancouver Island, we both felt like we had been there a little too long. Two and a half years without any extended travel (i.e. longer than five days) was a bit too much for us. The solution? JR wanted to head to the oilfields.

Our non-Canadian readers may be surprised to learn that Canada is the sixth largest oil producing country in the world, which has created many very well paid (both skilled and unskilled) labour jobs in Northern BC and Alberta. Of course, this industry also comes with many environmental issues and implications, but we feel that this is difficult for us to condemn to a large extent while we still drive a gas guzzling vehicle and use a lot of petroleum made products (outdoor gear, laptops, clothing etc).

going separate ways

With JR working in the oilfields, we felt that we would be able make this travel/work balance more to our liking and also to gain some more financial security. Usually, oilfield workers have a rota system – typically 21 days working and then 7 days off. With this in mind, a lot of workers commute to and from their hometowns, from small BC communities to as far afield as Newfoundland! I had (and still don’t) absolutely no desire to work in the oilfield myself, so I had the choice of where to base ourselves in Canada. To cut a long story short, I chose Vancouver, mainly for the mild winter climate and job choice/availability.

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reunion in fort st john

So it makes total sense that I am writing this post from Fort St John, a town in Northern BC, where the average winter temperature is -15 Celsius and most jobs are either oil or service related. Go figure! To my defence, I did move to Vancouver for six weeks and experienced both the mild climate and job market. While I could have made myself a very nice life in Vancouver (really, I did enjoy my time there), I doubt I would have been able to save much money. And saving money for travel has always been one of my top priorities. The other priority in my life is, of course, Jean Robert.

work, work, work

Through a friend, JR found a job reasonably quickly in the oilfields, but unfortunately was not one with the rotation I had in mind. Working for a contractor, his first shift actually lasted 40 days. Yep, 40 days, non-stop work. This may sound like hell to a lot of people, yet JR enjoyed it. For the first time in years, he’s working outside and not cooking. Better still, he has evenings off. With that in mind, I moved to Fort St John, after a flying visit to Vancouver Island and a two-week sojourn to the UK.

a proper canadian winter

While it may have seemed like a strange choice to leave Vancouver for Fort St John (and trust me, I’ve had many people ask me if I’m nuts), I am happy with my decision. The idea of my first ‘proper’ winter in Canada (after three years!) is surprisingly exciting. This area didn’t leave the hugest impression on me when we drove through in late August, but a blanket of snow really does wonders. The busiest season for the oilfields is winter, and most staff are laid off in springtime. No long-term commitment and the summer off? Works for us! While Fort St John may not have the grandest scenery in BC or be the most cultured town around, we’re happy to be together in a new place with lots of winter adventure ahead of us!

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Gemma
Author

One half of a Canadian/British couple currently living in Penticton, British Columbia. Gemma is happiest with a paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.

8 Comments

  1. I hope all goes well in FSJ. We can share tips on our first proper Canadian winters! Great photos as always.

    Joe

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Thanks Joe! We can compare notes on Northern Lights sightings too! And we’re still hoping you’ll drive through one day….otherwise, we’ll meet you at Liard hotsprings.

  2. FJS may not be inspiring but there are some great spots you can get to even for a weekend. And being together makes up for a whole lot of other possible shortcomings. I hope that you have a great winter, though it’s forecast to be a particularly easy one for us.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hey Murray! You’re quite right, I’m looking forward to visiting Hudson’s Hope one day and a trip back up to Liard Hotsprings, to experience it in the winter. Do you have any favourite spots around here you could share? I’m also wondering what an ‘easy’ winter is since it is predicted to be -30 this weekend…sounds cold enough to me! 😉

      • I’m expecting -15-20 to be a “normal” day this winter. This -30 is just a blip (we’re getting it in Whitehorse, too).

        The new wind park at Dawson Creek is great in the winter. Liard Hot Springs of course, but the entire Stone Mountain – Muncho region is incredible. You can hike, snowshoe or cross-country ski forever. A bit further, but Tumbler Ridge is also worthy of a look or two.

        • Gemma
          Gemma Reply

          Are you getting a lot of snow too? It’s been snowing a lot over the last three days here.

          Tumbler Ridge is my next post so keep an eye out!

          • No, we have hardly any snow in Whitehorse – maybe 10 cm total, and there’s none forecast for the next week. The ski hill has their snow-maker going full blast.

  3. Pingback: Adapting to winter life in Northern BC | Off Track Travel

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