Newfoundlove: Canada’s Best Kept Secret

By: Wayne Parsons

I used to have a love/hate relationship with Canada’s easternmost province. You see, I spent the better part of three decades on the rock, growing up as a lad into young adulthood.

As I grew older, my mind wandered as I dreamt of bigger and better things that I thought my birth province couldn’t provide. I was yearning to leave the island to explore the world – to better myself and take advantage of opportunities that would come my way.

I left Newfoundland behind in the mid-nineties, not looking back as I moved to Vancouver. I saw what they had and I wanted a piece for myself. Great weather, and well-paying jobs were reasons enough to move. The climate was a big one for me. They say that the weather can shape people. Well, that’s a true enough statement, as I was already moulded into a miserable person because of Newfoundland’s bad weather.

At that time, Newfoundland and Labrador was known as a have-not province, while the rest of the country was flourishing. Even through the height of the off-shore cod fishery, Newfoundlanders were a neglected lot. The 80s and early 90s weren’t kind to us Newfoundlanders. We didn’t have the swagger of larger cities like Toronto or Montreal. We had our quaint little St. John’s, which was our closest resemblance to an urban landscape. We watched as Vancouverites greeted blossoms in February, while we knew that winter could stretch into the May long weekend. Life seemed unfair at times.

As a child, I often wondered why we couldn’t have nice things like I saw on American television. I remember my Mom mail ordering clothes and toys that we couldn’t get locally. We felt like we were always in a struggle to be like the people on TV. But it wasn’t real. Americans knew how to flaunt excess and that only made us jealous of what we could have.

A valid tourism industry hardly existed either. As a young fella skateboarding around town, I rarely met outsiders. Unless they were foreign off-shore fishermen from other countries, real tourists were a rarity. 

It wasn’t until later in my forties that I rediscovered my birth province. I booked a month long vacation with my wife and daughter with the plan to travel throughout the island. This time I was a tourist, not a resident. We drove to each corner of the island, seeing things I’d never bothered to see when I lived here. I reconnected with old friends and realized the importance of lifelong relationships. That trip ignited a newfound love of my homeland, one that I hadn’t had since I was a child. I realized there was real beauty here, not only in its landscape but in its people.

My wife and I fell in love with this island so much that we decided to buy a house a year later. We purchased a vacation home in a quaint town Heart’s Delight-Islington. We packed up our pickup truck and drove across the country to stake claim to our new home. After a week of travelling, we arrived with a welcoming west-facing oceanview and the best sunset I’ve ever seen. 

Our original plan was to stay for four months, then drive back before the winter season. That four months turned into seven, and we didn’t want to leave. Our love of the island grew as we took our time to dive deep into what she had to offer. Sipping coffee while we stared at Trinity Bay every single morning has a way of swaying your opinion. 

Returning to this island paradise has given me a greater appreciation for life here. The scenery, landscape, solitude, and people. My God the people. What wonderful, generous, sincere, and kind people call this place home. Yes, there are good people everywhere who will do anything for you, but Newfoundlanders have something extra. There’s a warmth and an openness to let strangers into their lives that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Need something? Go knock on someone’s door. Just feel the need to chat? Well, they can do that too. There’s a good chance they’ll also clothe and feed you, regardless of your position in life. Their brutal honesty will keep your ego in check while showing you love and respect. 

The natural beauty of the province is unique, the savagery and power of our coastal shorelines,  mesmerizing. 

But the best part is that living next to the sea is attainable here. In most of the developed world, only the wealthy or lucky can afford these luxuries. After spending 25 years in Vancouver, they know what they have and they pay millions for that view. I can confidently say that some Newfoundlanders take this freedom for granted, but not in a bad way. They know the sea is not reserved for the fortunate.

My wife and I are bi-coastal. We own houses on both coasts. We are experts on living on both sides of the country. We can, with confidence, say that there are very few shortcomings to life in Newfoundland and Labrador. Yes, the job market isn’t quite as robust as the west, but it’s also far less expensive to live in the east. The weather has gotten substantially better than it was when I was a kid. Now, St. John’s is Vancouver-like most of the year. In my experience, small-town life in British Columbia is not that enticing. Many towns offer little other than the freedom of movement. 

In Newfoundland and Labrador, small towns are generally warm and inviting, offering quaint shops and abundant character. Newfoundland has a rich arts and culture scene, especially robust in St. John’s. You’ll find a deep European influence, with strong ties to the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal.

I’ve been hearing rumours of more people relocating to the east coast from out west. Most feel they are being priced out of home ownership. If you look at what Newfoundland offers, it’s similar to life in the west. The slower pace and affordability are major draws to get people to come here. Your lifestyle doesn’t change much – you can still do the same things. Sure, we might get a bit more snow, depending on where you live, but frigid temperatures are virtually non-existent like they are in the rest of Canada, save for southwestern British Columbia.

I think it’s time to discover what you’ve been missing. 

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