By Michelle Annette Tremblay
What if one day you woke up and didn’t recognize your life?
You grew up typically Canadian: hiking, canoeing and fishing with your family, exploring the great outdoors and sleeping under the stars. But now you find yourself sitting in gridlock traffic, en route to a job you hate, to pay for an over-priced, cookie-cutter house that you don’t even enjoy?
For Andrew Twigg, the answer was a complete 180.
“I left the city, and radically changed my life,” says Twigg, owner and operator of Cruising Canoes, located in beautiful Hastings County.
The young entrepreneur is part of two growing trends: not only did he leave the city to settle in a more rural area – a movement that has steadily been on the rise – but he also walked away from his secure full-time job to run his business and live by his personal values. It’s a shift that’s being seen all over the country. As the economy has changed over the last 15 years, more and more people are choosing meaningful self-employment over a traditional 9-5 job.
Now instead of spending his days in a fluorescent-lit office, Twigg runs all manner of outdoor adventures and expeditions. He leads canoe trips, winter camping weekends, night-time snow-shoeing hikes, kids’ wilderness expeditions, and more. He’s outside all the time, doing what he loves, sharing it with others, and making a living at it.
“I started out with backcountry canoe trips to Algonquin Park,” explains the adventurer. “This is the heart of the business. Nothing gives me more joy than seeing people come and accomplish an epic journey with me.” Over time though, Cruising Canoes grew to offer more variety in its expeditions. It even teamed up with other businesses in Hastings County.
“We started up the pint and paddle, which is exactly what it sounds like,” says Twigg. “We go for a paddle and then we go for a pint as a group. It’s a great opportunity to get out and be both social and active.” Similar expeditions, including an outing followed by a tour of Potter Settlement Winery, or a meal at a local restaurant have also been popular, and beneficial for all businesses involved.
“There are lots of business opportunities here in Hastings County for someone with a creative mind,” asserts Twigg. “And it’s certainly cheaper in terms of real estate!”
The affordable real estate is just one of many factors attracting entrepreneurs to Hastings County. Its proximity to both Ottawa and Toronto is another: it’s far enough away to be free of gridlock, market saturation, smog, and congestion, but close enough that people can easily hop on the 401 when they need to get to the city.
“I love it here,” says Twigg. “The landscape, it feels like my backyard. And I love the flexibility of being able to make my hours and be my own boss. It doesn’t happen overnight, but my business has grown each year. My next big thing on the calendar is a New Year’s winter camping trip. It’s going to be a blast. It sells out every year.”
If you’re ready to explore the great outdoors with Cruising Canoes, check out their website at www.CruisingCanoes.ca for upcoming expeditions and events, and be sure to follow them on facebook for updates.
If you’re dreaming of moving out of the city, too, be sure to check out other I Left the City Stories, profiling people just like you, who followed their dreams out of the city and into Hastings County.