07 February 2009
With only eight weeks left before the Gentrys reclaim their condo, our minds are shifting from letting things percolate to making a decision soon about moving permanently. I’m not sure of the best way to make what feels like a rather life-defining decision, but we’ve been talking intermittently about discrete pieces of the puzzle, in hopes that will somehow help gel a complete picture. Some thoughts settled include:
§ We've established some momentum in cultivating contacts, both social and employment, so that argues for moving as swiftly as possible, if we decide to move here. It won’t take long for new acquaintances and potential employers to forget about us if we slip off their radar for several months.
§ I think we both feel ready to live in a much smaller community than the Twin Cities. I would add I’m ready--in fact I always have been--not to live in a suburb with its inherent dependence on the car to accomplish anything and constantly (from May to September in Roseville) roaring gas-powered lawnmowers. (My first thought after reading about the infrastructure focus of the latest economic stimulus measure was 'great--that'll screw up traffic in the Twin Cities for the next decade.') Of course many wonderful smaller communities exist in the U.S.; I can think of none, however, that come close to rivaling Nanaimo’s rare combination of setting, charm, affordability, opportunity, and climate.
§ The likelihood of either one of us getting decent jobs in the Twin Cities seems low for the foreseeable future. I could get on at FamilyMeans if they need a counselor, but Laurie’s prospects are probably more directly tied to the near catastrophic general economic conditions. Though Canada’s economy seems now to be heading sharply downward as well, the banking system is solid. And we have made progress on finding paid employment here.
§ Speaking for myself, there’s a feeling of isolation here, which partly I like, but does have a downside. Traveling between Nanaimo and most of the U.S. is an all-day, somewhat complex project, and costly. I think if we moved here I’d expect no visits from family and friends--at least not more than one at most from the more adventurous and well-heeled--and, realistically, we may have to accept that our visiting trips might be less frequent. That’s a big negative, in my mind.
§ Of course there are important elements about our Twin Cities life we’d miss. Friends, naturally, but also the metro’s stellar bike path system, generally beautiful weather for half the year, our porch (not to be underestimated), ice fishing’s availability, Minnesota Public Radio, lakes, cheap beer. On the other hand, there’s much about the U.S., which I needn’t go into here, I’d be greatly relieved to be away from.
§ In my opinion, the U.S.’ health insurance system stinks so badly, particularly for us, that its deficiencies alone are nearly enough reason to live in another country. We would both like to work part-time, which typically means no health insurance benefit. So we buy insurance, and the premium jumps 10-15% annually even while the insurer cuts back on coverage. Health insurance and out-of-pocket healthcare costs are about double our second largest family expense, though we’re both mostly healthy. I resent bitterly that either one of us should feel compelled to work full time just to get a health insurance benefit. And even doing that would not be a solution. If either one us became seriously ill, we’d be trapped in the full-time job because no insurer would then sell us health insurance directly. Or, worse, if we became too ill to work (or were laid off), we'd have no choice but to pay exorbitant Cobra premiums just at the time our income were dramatically reduced and we needed health insurance most. (This is precisely the reason health issues are the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.) Canada’s healthcare system is far from perfect, but in my opinion it’s much better, especially for us, than the U.S. system, which I’d characterize as inhumane, unsustainable, and grotesque. For those who ignorantly dismiss Canada’s system as “socialism": Compared to the U.S., Canada achieves better health outcomes, by virtually every measurement, while spending half per capita nationally on healthcare. What else matters?
§ Mainly in Laurie’s mind, there’s a question of whether we can adequately support ourselves here. High-paying jobs are rare at best, and the cost of living may, overall, be higher. (We're still crunching numbers on that question.) It seems many people get by cobbling together a patchwork of part-time and often temporary endeavors. We’re unaccustomed to this mind-set about paid employment, but many locals seem almost to revel in the creative challenge of figuring a way financially to live in “paradise,” as they call it.Meanwhile winter seems already over, as periods of sunshine have grown noticeably the past couple of weeks and temperatures are routinely in the high 40s.