What do high-speed internet and a beautifully maintained Victorian-era Bed and Breakfast have in common? Well, they represent the beginning and end of a story that sees one young, Toronto-based couple make the decision to relocate to Windsor, Nova Scotia.
Sefan Palios and Marty Butler’s story debuts in early 2020, entirely by happenstance or perhaps a little nudge from fate – if you believe in such things.
“It started with two emails that I received in one day.” says Stefan.
The first came from a friend and included a photo of a beautiful property another friend had just bought in Nova Scotia. The second came from his mother and contained a link to an article about a castle that was for sale in the province. Referencing Stefan’s love of historical architecture, she said “Now you don’t have to move to Europe. You can have a castle in Nova Scotia instead!”
While she was joking, of course, a seed had been planted and Stefan soon found himself researching properties for sale – of the non-castle variety. In the course of his searching, he stumbled upon an article that detailed the investment the Nova Scotian government had made into digital infrastructure, with a commitment to have 99% of homes and businesses on high-speed internet by 2023.
“And I thought, OK. That actually makes this move possible.” Why was that the clincher? It’s because Stefan is an entrepreneur who runs his business remotely, online. “It demonstrated to me that this place, this government, sees the importance of digital infrastructure, so that was huge for me.”
For Marty, a Registered Nurse, was also pleased by the career opportunities Nova Scotia represented. The high quality healthcare centres and the research projects being conducted allowed him to envision a career path with numerous options and opportunities to advance.
Of course, life is about much more than work. Both Marty and Stefan are from small towns in agricultural areas of Ontario so they weren’t sure Toronto condo living was right for them long-term.
“When we began looking at Nova Scotia, we saw there was another option. That we could have our careers progress, but also have the kind of lifestyle we dreamed about,” says Marty.” “We liked how Nova Scotia offered everything that we are either priced out of or is just generally unavailable in Ontario.”
“It meant that we don’t have to choose between only (career) progress in Ontario or only adventure in Nova Scotia. We could have progress and adventure in Nova Scotia, whereas, in Ontario, our budget wouldn’t stretch far enough for much adventure,” adds Stefan.
Choosing a Homebase
When it came time to choose where in Nova Scotia they would settle, the two took a very analytical approach.
Stefan says, “What we did first was talk a lot about the kind of life we wanted. And then carefully considered if Nova Scotia would be able to provide that life. We wanted to live in a fully-functional town with all amenities. We wanted to be somewhere that was a destination so that travelers would come through. And we wanted to be an hour from the city and an airport. Of course, Marty also had to consider locations of hospitals for his work.”
Windsor ticked all their boxes, so they began to go deeper on their research. They found videos on YouTube of people who had driven through the town.The looked around on Google Street View. They read local news publications and followed local Twitter accounts. So when they began looking at properties, they felt confident they had a good sense of the town as well as the house.
“We found this property that was just beautiful. An old Victorian whose previous owners had done an amazing job of maintaining its historical elements. But because they operated it as a B&B, they had also upgraded certain things, like the bathrooms, so it was also completely ready for modern living.” said Stefan.
And how did Stefan and Marty manage their purchase in another province in the time of COVID-19? With excellent on-the-ground help. They name their realtor, a friend, and the previous owners of their property as being critical to facilitating everything they needed, from live digital tours, to sourcing a fantastic home inspector, and more. And after talking to friends and family, they came to realize that purchasing a home sight unseen isn’t all that unusual afterall. In fact, it was not uncommon for people to have done so with vacation properties.
A Future Space for Digital Nomads?
Stefan and Marty did not purchase the B&B business itself – only the property. Their intention in the near future is to have only friends and family stay while they do some minor renovations, and more importantly – settle into their new lives in Nova Scotia.
However, Stefan notes, “Looking forward, maybe we also have a business opportunity here. We would love to be a homebase for digital nomads from around the world.”
What’s a digital nomad? They are folks who can fulfill 100% of their work remotely and choose to do so from multiple locations around the world. For many of us, a travel writer is what comes to mind when we think of digital nomads, but in fact there are countless people in varied industries who aren’t tethered to one place.
Building A New Life
While they won’t be officially calling Nova Scotia home until late June, the two have already begun building a network of friends in addition to those who helped with their purchase.
“Once we had made the decision, we began to uncover connections to Nova Scotia and existing relationships that sort of grew once they became aware of our move. We even found out that two different couples from Ontario had also moved to Nova Scotia during the pandemic,” says Stefan.
With their move-in date fast approaching, both are getting more excited by the day, saying they plan to tick all the experiences for which Nova Scotia is famous off their bucket list.
“I want to hike in Cape Breton, explore the Annapolis Valley, especially the wineries, and I am fascinated by this Pumpkin Regatta that happens in Windsor. We can’t wait to see that,” says Marty.
And there you have it. The story of a young couple who, through a series of serendipitous events, good research, and the commitment to making their dream lifestyle a reality will soon be moving into their new home in Windsor, Nova Scotia.