If you read The Intentional Life: A Toronto Blueprint you know that I was… well… intentional about discovering our new city and settling in. It has been six months folks! Time for a little recap on all things house hunt, everyday life North of the Wall, finding my tribe and easing back into work!
House & Home
Over the summer, we lived in a rental house of two artists who spent the warmer months in their cottage up north. Between May and September, I spent every Friday afternoon with my realtor looking at houses. I was hellbent on buying. Even though the market was, and remains, inflated. For months, my very first instinct when I woke up in the morning was to grab my phone and scroll through the newest listings. Our price point painfully crept up at about the same rate of my expectations sinking. Over the course of the summer, I looked at over 60 houses. In mid September, a place in particularly poor shape (we’re talking mold, human hair (I hope!?), rotting wood panels, exposed wires and a kitchen ceiling about to collapse) broke the camel’s back. My realtor and I walked back to the car in utter silence and I caved: “Let’s look at condos.” Within three days he had found the perfect place for us: Large rooms, a complete window front facing south overlooking a park with a beautiful conservatory, with a view of Lake Ontario and CN Tower, two-sided wood-burning fireplace, sauna, pool, underground parking. I was - and am - ecstatic. The whole house hunt didn’t work out as I had planned but I am starting to think that maybe it was my plan that was the hold up.
Personal Life and Wellbeing
When we first got here, I was determined to try different gyms and not stick with the first best option. In our first neighborhood, I found out about Philosophy Fitness, a well run and affordable gym that offers small-group classes with top notch instructors, great equipment and a fantastic atmosphere. Leaving the St Clair West neighborhood meant that my days with Philosophy were numbered.
I tried F45 - a chain of gyms that offer 45-minute Tabata sessions. Not my cup of tea.
So I quickly moved on to Crossfit which I had always wanted to try and - no surprise here - I absolutely love it. Not only is it a great workout to build strength and endurance, but it is putting me back into a learning mindset. I am a beginner and I enjoy slowly building up my weights and working on my form.
Here’s a fun fact about Toronto: The police won’t come out for any theft of less than $5,000 value. How do I know that? My bike was stolen the one night I left it locked up outside our building. Up until then, I was biking whenever I was sans bébé. And let me tell you, it’s a different ballgame in a city this big! To its credit, Toronto has bike lanes on most major streets but unfortunately this still doesn’t guarantee safety. I am currently only riding to and from CrossFit which has me off the road by 6.45 a.m. before rush hour. I think more experience and figuring out the best routes will go a long way.
I am surprised by how few consignment stores I have come across up here. We were lucky to have a well stocked children consignment store in St Clair West (Twice as Nice) and I came across Little White Sneakers which focuses on upscale children’s wear. Other than that, I have found exactly one Salvation Army store and one equivalent called Young Street Mission. What’s the deal with the lack of consignment up here?
Things are looking much brighter on the food shopping side of things! We now live a mere 20-minute walk from St Lawrence market - an indoor food market with stalls selling foods from all corners of the world. We also have convenient access to a large Loblaws supermarket two blocks from us located in the Old Maple Leaf Gardens (a former arena for ice hockey games). In terms of coffee shops, I am still looking to find a place that is stroller-friendly, makes decent americano and is in walking distance. My discovery of patisseries, however, is going strong (Fleur du Jour all day long)! And on weekends, Evergreen Brickworks - which is a 45-minute walk - hosts a farmer’s market.
The amount of traffic, sirens and horns we hear all day long takes some getting used to. The more excited I am about having access to a park right across the street including a dog park and playground for different ages. Most importantly, however, it is the home to a conservatory from the nineteen-hundreds that has proven a great nature escape on grey and cold days (of which we had many in November). Besides, we are still fairly close to Toronto Island and can walk to Riverdale Farm - an actual little farm nestled near the Don River Valley Parkway.
People & Community
This might be my biggest lesson from the first six months in Canada: I underestimated the importance of finding your people.
Meeting people and making friends has always been a natural side-effect so I didn’t overthink it when we first arrived. Being self-employed and still somewhat on maternity leave, I obviously don’t have a job or office to go to. On top of that, we were on the road in the States or Europe almost a week each month since our move which hasn’t left me with too many opportunities to connect with like-minded people.
If you read Toronto’s Ecosystem for Social Innovation, you know that I have been meeting with ecosystem builders and entrepreneurs in the social impact space. To date, I have had coffee with over 20 individuals to hear their take on social innovation and entrepreneurship in Canada. And while grabbing coffee and talking shop is super fun, building friendships - for obvious reasons - takes more than that. And I’m determined to invest more time and energy in the new year (more to come on this).
I am lucky to have a great community of cool people at my Crossfit gym. And I met some - surprise! - German moms through baby swimming at our JCC, and a few more through the toddler hang-out at the German School of Toronto. So yes, making friends is work in progress.
I am not sure what my professional future in Toronto looks like. The last months have allowed me to explore the who is who in the Toronto impact space while spending lots of time with my daughter, house hunting and traveling. I love maternity leave. There, I said it.
I recently picked up some contract work with an organization that I really enjoy working with so I have started working about two days a week - spread across naps and playtime. It’s not an ideal solution but until the little one can start daycare at 18 months, we’ll find a way to muddle through.
So what’s next?
It is comforting to know that things a) take so much longer than I thought and b) pan out differently than expected. In the end of the day, the best we can do is be intentional about the places we choose to live in, the environment we create for ourselves and the people we surround ourselves with. And I think I’m getting most of these parts right, most of the time. For now, I plan no further than three months which means making it through our first Canadian winter. Somewhere in there, I hope to see family and friends, celebrate our daughter’s first birthday (my eyes just popped!), and continue to explore this city.
I am excited to see what Toronto has in store for us!
Observations from living the life of a Social Venturer