There are perks to small-town living that even the slickest of city dwellers know: a slower pace of life, friendly neighbours and a lack of gridlock, to name just a few.
But ample career opportunities? That’s unlikely to make the list.
Tristan Jahnke-Carrier and Beth Hampson might not have made the move to Bralorne in 2020 for their burgeoning careers, but two years later, both are surprised to look back at the way it all unfolded.
The twentysomethings first met on a summer day while boating on the picturesque Gun Lake. Tristan’s father owned a home there and he had mostly been a weekend warrior.
But after finishing an electrical apprenticeship—and travelling Vietnam—the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I had nothing to come back to in Vancouver. I said, ‘What better time to hang out at Gun Lake?’ It turned out to be more than that,” he said.
Bridge River Valley had been in dire need of an electrician, he quickly learned. At first, he picked up a few jobs—mostly non-urgent issues residents had been putting off for years.
“Then my name got out there,” he said. “There hasn’t been an electrician up here for at least a decade, from what I’ve heard. I started getting more and more jobs, bigger jobs. This summer I’m going to be crazy busy.”
His company, Bridge River Valley Electrical, is now his full-time job. A goal that might have taken years in a big city became a reality thanks to the opportunity available in a small town.
“You’d think in a small town like this, there isn’t much electrical work, but, for example, right now I have probably close to 20 jobs,” he added.
Beth’s career trajectory was different, but also due in equal part to her ambition and unique new home. The Winnipegger had been travelling in Australia and was due to return to Canada when the pandemic changed her plans.
“I decided it was time for a change,” she said.
Her aunt, Sally Bird, owns the Bralorne Pub and, since she was a little girl who visited Bralorne in the summer, Beth had dreamed of living in the area. “When COVID hit, I had no other excuse,” she said.
Initially, she and her friend Amber planned to live there for two months. “I was working in the pub and COVID was going to end, theoretically,” she said. “But we fell in love with the place. We had no idea we would still be here.”
Career-wise, Beth became head cook at the pub. “It was the first time I had ever done that. That was a crazy opportunity to try something new.”
But after settling into the community, she noticed a new opportunity to contribute in a meaningful—and sometimes life-or-death—way.
“I realized there was a huge need for paramedics in the valley,” she said.
She decided to do something about it and registered for a paramedic course.
“I wouldn’t have done that in the city,” she explained. “It’s crazy to be a paramedic starting out in your own town. No one does that. It’s a huge opportunity to be given that.”
Local paramedics might serve a small area, but they’re arguably even more vital than their city counterparts. The nearest medical centre, after all, is nearly three hours away in Lillooet.
“You also know quite a few people you get called for,” Beth said. “That’s an added challenge, but it’s a challenge I knew walking into it would happen.”
On top of working in that role five days a month, she also recently started a job as sales and reservations coordinator for Tyax Adventures. “It’s a really good opportunity,” she said.
It’s not just their careers that have taken unexpected turns since living in the valley. Both Tristan and Beth appreciate the diverse range of locals they’ve befriended—people they might not have crossed paths with in a city.
They’re exceedingly polite as they choose their words, but the message is straightforward: if you’re in your early or mid-20s in a city, you’re not very likely to befriend someone in their 40s, 50s and beyond.
“Say we’re in Vancouver and we’re walking down Granville Street and I see an older woman—there are a thousand people like that you’d see in a day,” Tristan said. “Up here, if I see an older woman out walking, I’m going to strike up a conversation. There are younger people up here—several our age exactly, but we love hanging out with older people too.”
There might not be any nightclubs or trendy new restaurants, but Beth has also found life in Bralorne to be a boon to her social life.
“I’m busier with friends than I was in a city—dinner parties or just hanging out,” she said.
Needless to say, while the couple might have travel plans on the horizon, they have no plans to leave the area anytime soon.
“This is definitely somewhere I’d like to put down some roots,” Beth said. “It’s somewhere I could see myself long term as a home base.”