I’m living the introvert dream, in a cabin in the woods. It’s nothing like I expected, but everything I needed.
I like to call it a leap of faith gone sideways.
When my husband, then 8-year-old daughter, and I decided to pack up our big city life and move to a rural area in northern Canada, we had a clear vision of what we wanted our future to look like.
We’re introverts and we wanted privacy. Connection with nature. A cozy cabin to call our own. We also wanted community — a circle of close, like-minded friends, especially for our daughter (introverts value friendships too, you know, we just prefer quality over quantity). We’d chosen our specific location because we’d found an outdoor elementary school that seemed like a dream come true. Located on 270 acres of forest and lakefront, the program had less than 40 students! Serenity of nature and small class sizes? It sounded like perfection for our introverted kid.
To facilitate the move, my husband quit his dream job and joined me in freelancing, we sold a number of our personal belongings, and we stirred up sufficient controversy with several family members who staunchly believed the relocation to be a massive error in judgment. Undeniably, there was a lot at stake. But our hearts felt an inexplicable tug toward the forest and we were excited to see what would happen if we followed.
A Charmed Arrival… But Looks Can Be Deceiving
Our first few months of rural life were blissful. We left the city at its hottest and muggiest and arrived at our new home at the peak of summer break. We spent our days swimming, paddleboarding, and teaching our daughter how to dive off the dock of the lakefront cottage we’d rented for our first year.
Smugly, we watched our city friends post photos on social media of their brief vacations in cottage country, giving ourselves a hearty pat on the back in response. Our willingness to make a brave move meant that we now lived where we’d previously only been lucky enough to visit. For a brief moment, we languished in the luxury of living our vacation dreams with no end in sight.
Occasionally, I wondered whether the honeymoon period might end as the seasons changed. But, determined to make this move work, I drowned out the doubts by frequently reminding myself of the reasons we had relocated: privacy, community, cozy rural living… As long as we met these goals, it would all be worth it, right?
4 Ways Moving to the Middle of Nowhere Has Been a Challenge
1. Privacy? Not so much.
I suppose I should have started questioning whether we’d achieve our goal of privacy when the neighbors started dropping by unannounced, which was uncomfortable for us as introverts. They’d show up at our door, paddle or boat up to our dock, and even wander between the forested yard on either side sometimes just to talk (yikes — the true introvert nightmare).
Later came the never-ending stream of run-ins while running errands, most of them consisting of painful but innocuous small talk, though some proved slightly more unnerving.
“I know the best hiding places inside your house,” one local memorably remarked after lining up behind me at the grocery store. Though I’d never met her, the small town grapevine meant that everyone knew who we were and, evidently, where we lived.
2. Community? Not so fast.
While the insistence on small talk and unannounced drop-ins might imply that the locals were eager to befriend us, ironically, the opposite was true. I couldn’t escape the sense that most small talk was for the purpose of reconnaissance, and I often found myself feeling like a gorilla behind plate glass — though observed by human onlookers, we were a fascinating, but ultimately inferior, species with whom one best not get too close.
As my eyes adjusted to the landscape of our new community, a marked divide between the locals and the “city folks” emerged. We received an icy reception in the school parking lot, at swimming lessons, and during business networking events. I noticed a reticence regarding the sharing of local knowledge. Tips on issues — like snow removal and firewood — were kept close to the vest. (Put it this way: We learned the hard way that you need to ask specifically for dry wood). And more direct expressions of our exclusion became increasingly frequent as the months progressed. In the absence of like-minded friends, I found myself feeling unexpectedly lonelier than I’d anticipated.
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3. Cozy? No way.
As summer turned to fall turned to winter, we discovered that the house we rented was only equipped for three-season living — despite having been told it was a year-round home when we signed the lease. Without adequate insulation or an effective heat source, we shivered our way through an unseasonably cold Canadian winter.
When our lease ended, we purchased a cabin of our own and put the hard-won lessons we’d learned into practice. Set far back from the road (privacy at last!), it had brand new windows and doors (excellent for insulation), a wood stove, and a furnace. Things were looking up.
But then rain water seeped into our basement (the result of blocked eavestroughs). We lost our newly installed carpet, loads of furniture, and some family heirlooms, too.
Next, our well ran dry (yes, that can happen). We spent three weeks without running water (no toilets, laundry, or showers) and eventually had to shell out $15,000 to drill a new well and bring the house back to a liveable baseline.
The hits just kept coming…
4. Rock bottom? Sadly, yes.
As 2019 came to a close, we accepted the fact that even our daughter’s school program was nothing like what we’d been sold. The environment was emotionally toxic and our daughter was being bullied relentlessly. We pulled her out of the school following ongoing discussions with the administration that yielded no results.
By the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, I had reached my lowest point. It felt like we’d been sailing a small boat on a raging ocean, pelted by one wave after the next. The lack of privacy, insular community, the cold, the flood, the well, the school (now lack thereof)… I was gasping for air, but drowning in the frigid waters of regret.
Sifting Through the Wreckage and Finding the Treasure(s)
There’s an interesting thing that happens though when you hit a rock bottom in life — you get an eerie kind of clarity and a willingness to sift through the wreckage for salvageable parts. Perhaps because, truly, what else are you going to do?
As it turns out, a cabin in the woods is an ideal setting to ride out a global pandemic. Our natural introversion and circumstantial lack of friends proved to be a winning combo — when lockdowns hit, our lifestyle was largely unaffected. We went from spending our days alone in a cabin in the woods while others socialized, to spending our days alone in a cabin in the woods while others struggled to isolate.
Remote school programs became available. We enrolled our daughter in online learning and she began to thrive. She met other kids like her, many of whom were introverts with previous experience being bullied.
I allowed our journey to chisel away parts of myself that no longer fit. I left my role as a finance and tech copywriter to train as a mindfulness instructor and started delivering workshops to corporate audiences. I wrote and self-published my first book — based largely on the lessons I’d learned during the last four years.
Worried About Taking a Leap of Faith? Do It Anyway!
This is the thing about taking leaps of faith. The biggest thing that I’ve learned:
It doesn’t matter if your leap of faith “works out” according to plan. In this life, what matters is what we learn. (And we introverts love to learn!) When we lean into the mystery, when we explore our crazy ideas, when we take the time to grieve what we thought life would look like — and get curious about what actually is instead — we find magic that sustains us through the next leg of the journey.
I’m living the introvert dream, spending my days in a cabin in the woods. It’s nothing like I expected, but in many ways, it’s been absolutely everything I needed.
To learn more about Kyra’s corporate and 1:1 sessions, or to purchase her book, follow her on Instagram: @kyra_evans_writer.