The New Commute

the commute and Aerial Panoramic view of Horseshoe Bay with Ferry leaving the terminal. Taken in Howe Sound, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Selling your urban B.C. home doesn’t mean abandoning your city life: a tale of two commuters shows you can still save by making a smaller city your new home.

A Tale of Two Commutes
Kelowna to North Vancouver, monthly
• Transportation: Driving, four hours and $150 in gas (return). Flying, $200 (return)
• On the ground: $20 (transit) to $100 (car-share or taxi) per week
• Accommodations: $800 (average $200/night for four nights in North Vancouver)
• Meals: $250 and up/person, five days
• Housings: $2,500 to $5,000 monthly on mortgage
• SAVINGS of $14,000 to $44,000/year

Jurgen Watts moved with his family of four from North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley to the Kelowna neighbourhood of Kettle Valley in 2016, and he hasn’t looked back. From his home office window, he sees Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park, where he bikes and hikes. “It’s phenomenal,” Watts says of his family’s new life. “There are a lot of people in the neighbourhood who did what we did; it’s an instant community here.”

With the move, the global digital marketing manager for Arc’Teryx Equipment swapped his daily city commute for one week per month in his company’s North Vancouver headquarters. So far, the set-up is working well, with the lower cost of living in the Okanagan easily offsetting Watts’s costs of commuting.

There are multiple options when it comes to travelling between Kelowna and Vancouver. WestJet and Air Canada have Kelowna flights that take just under an hour, as well as direct flights to Calgary and Edmonton, and connections to international flights for business or leisure travel.

For frequent fliers, from YVR the Canada Line is a 30-minute ride to downtown Vancouver, for around $8 (and provides SeaBus access to the North Shore, a 12-minute crossing).

For his work trips, Watts usually opts to drive; that way, he has a vehicle in the city and can bring his skis or mountain bike. He leaves home by 5 a.m. to be at work by 9 a.m. He stays with friends or family (thanking them with Okanagan wine or a restaurant dinner) or at one of North Vancouver’s few hotels.

Even budgeting a four-night hotel stay each month, he still comes out way ahead. There’s a dramatic reduction in mortgage payments, and his wife now works from home, too, meaning no after-school care or other workday expenses. “For the three weeks [a month] I’m home, I don’t have to drive anywhere,” Watts says. “I’m not going for coffee every day; I have a wicked espresso machine at home.” Leaving the city has alleviated other, less-tangible costs to the family: “Our previous life was so hectic and stressful,” Watts says. “There are so many bonuses to being here. It’s an adaptation to your life, but overall it’s super positive.” Then there is the fact that as they get older, commuting will likely lessen.

Salt Spring Island to Vancouver, monthly
• Transportation: Ferry, up to four hours total (from Tsawwassen, via Swartz Bay), $150 for an automobile or $20–$40 for foot passengers (return). Flying: 20-minute floatplane, from $225 (return)
• On the ground: $20 (transit) to $100 (car-share or taxi) per week
• Accommodations: $600–$800 for downtown AirBnB studio or one-bedroom condo
• Meals: $250 and up/person, five days
• Housing: $2,500 to $5,000 monthly savings on mortgage
• SAVINGS of $14,000 to $44,000/year

Karin Mizgala and her husband left Vancouver for Salt Spring Island, making a conscious decision not to wait until retirement. “We love being outside of the city,” says the co-founder and CEO of Money Coaches Canada. “We need that peace and quiet and connection to nature. It’s our refuge.”

“What I personally enjoy when I commute by ferry or plane is that it gives me some quiet time to work, meditate and catch up on my reading.”

No stranger to commuting, Mizgala says that people considering a similar move should take into account all of the related expenses. However, she notes that as she has adjusted to life on a Gulf Island, she has managed to find ways to reduce the number of work trips she needs to make to the city, while clustering meetings with other city-related appointments and errands. She notes that the wear and tear on a vehicle with a monthly commute is less compared to a daily drive, and that there are other positives associated with travelling back and forth to the city for work.

“What I personally enjoy when I commute by ferry or plane is that it gives me some quiet time to work, meditate, and catch up on my reading,” Mizgala says. “I also know of people who use the time to listen to audio books either for work or enjoyment when they commute by car.”

By Gail Johnson