For two people who've been living in rental accommodations for most of the last decade and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, Chris and I spend a lot of time looking at real estate listings. It used to be something we'd do to keep in touch with the home prices in our neighbourhood of Acadia in southeast Calgary, but now we're looking for a place to unload all of the furniture and artwork that we couldn't bring with us to Saudi Arabia. It's not necessarily logical, but it hurt me to leave those things behind; the Vietnamese lacquer painting of the little boy and a water buffalo, the pink dollhouse bookcase, and oh my goodness, all those books.
The solution that Chris came up with sometime last summer, when I was pretty heartbroken about having to leave things behind and live in furnished accommodation, was something along the lines of, "We'll buy a condo in Edmonton and you can spend the entire summer every year surrounded by our familiar stuff!" and it sounded fantastic. Edmonton's my hometown, it's where my mom still lives, and my head began to fill with images of spending July and August in a condo by the University of Alberta. My kids would ride their scooters along the pathways on campus on their way to STEM-centric girl-empowerment summer camps, and on Saturdays we could saunter down to Old Strathcona to buy veggies at the farmer's market. This scenario kept me going for many, many weeks. I figured that I could manage to live in an isolated apartment in a country where I don't have freedom of movement for ten months if I could pop back into my Canada Life for the other two.
This bubble burst just after Halloween, if I remember correctly. Canadian Non-Residents technically can own property in Canada, confirmed our non-resident tax advisor, but we'd have to be able to convince the Revenue Canada folks that Edmonton is actually a vacation hot-spot akin to Ontario cottage country or Whistler or else be potentially subject to tax penalties. So ... scratch that idea. If we step foot in Edmonton during the school summer holidays, it will once again involve exceeding the recommended occupancy limit of my mom's house.
Thus, Chris and I have to look elsewhere for our home-away-from-home-away-from-home, and he was interested in hearing what spot outside of Canada's borders I'd be content to spend pretty much every summer and winter holiday. It wasn't hard at all to suggest London. We've spend a lot of time there, I can speak the language, and the public transportation is awesome. I had to stop championing the London vacation home concept when it became clear from my real estate searches that flat prices weren't dropping at the same speed as the kilometres outside of the city centre were increasing. Sigh.
The second-most popular location for Chris's real estate searches is Edmonton. The very same Edmonton mentioned and dismissed a couple of paragraphs ago. His reasoning is that the company he works for here has gone a bit overboard hiring ex-pats and just might decide to send them all home, so we might as well continue checking out what kinds of homes are on the market. (He found a cute one with a mudroom (!) last night).
The MLS listings that Chris peruses the most are for Austin, Texas. He spent a week there last fall, and became quite infatuated with the place. We're now thinking of spending our winter holidays there to see if maybe the kids and I can also fall a little in love with Austin. It's funny - Texas is one of those places I've said that I'm not really interested seeing. I said that about Asia. I said that about the Middle East. It's a good thing that I don't really mind being proven wrong.