Owner of Kinship Creative
Salt Lake City, Utah to Bow, Washington
Jen Wakeland and her family were seeking a slower pace of life, room to grow, and a community not centered around religion, when beginning their search for a rural town to settle in. After many years living in Salt Lake City, they felt overwhelmed by the insatiable growth, tight social circles and were ready to find a home with a little land, away from the traffic and grind, where they could plant permanent roots.
"The neck break pace of growth in SLC, it was becoming very unsustainable for us to purchase property in our area, this coupled with our desire to stretch our legs and try living elsewhere motivated us in our move."
The family of four traveled around the U.S. to find a place that felt like home. On their final visit to the Pacific Northwest, a chance encounter at a farmer's market with a memorable muffin ultimately led them to the small communities of Edison/Bow, Washington.
"We traveled to New England, North Carolina, Ohio to before taking one last trip to Bellingham, Washington in hopes of finding that elusive place to call home. We were on the last day of our trip and had felt like we struck out, while Bellingham is an amazing city, it is indeed a city and not quite what we were looking for. We went to a Farmer’s Market while on our trip and purchased pumpkin muffins from a great small business named Bread Farm, which is located in the next town over in Edison. We thought we would take a drive there and purchase a few more muffins since we were all craving them. We took the scenic route thankfully, which is Chucakanut Drive, and found that paradise was opening up the closer we came to the Bow/Edison area. It was love at first sight. We are pretty big risk takers and in hindsight, I don’t think we did quite as much research as we could have, but after several years of traveling around, we felt good about it."
The Winter-Wakeland family bought a white Midcentury farmhouse with some good condition outbuildings and threw themselves into country life. Although they couldn't imagine ever returning to city life again, they do wish they would've spent a little more time researching before buying their property. They learned "the hard way" that their property is located in a flood zone after heavy rains flooded the first floor of their home. Jen's main advice for people wanting to leave the city is to do your research and really know what they are getting into ahead of time. She dissuades people from jumping into homeownership.
"We rushed it a bit since we like to take risks and found ourselves being duped quite a few times on things. Like when our home was completely flooded and we woke up to our goats in neck high water, looking into the “flood zone” would have been handy. We did some research but I would suggest having a 50% plan on knowing your must have necessities, like great internet, schools, shopping, amenities, and then the rest of my advice is to just let it unfold organically. I live by this 50/50 rule, which in my opinion keeps things lively."
For work Jen brought her consulting businesses Kinship Creative with her and began reaching out to local and regional businesses to see if she could expand her customer base beyond what she had built in Salt Lake City. Even with this outreach, her professional life has changed significantly since moving.
"My professional life has changed quite a bit since the networking is much more sparse and you have to make a real effort to seek out opportunities or make them yourself. It’s been a cobbling of friends, hosting parties to make introductions, etc. Also, my professional life now resides on Skype, Slack and Asana. I don’t have the office space anymore, so we do everything remotely except when I travel for my once a month, week long, work trip."
Work aside, Jen biggest appreciation of country life are the constant challenges they navigate together as a family.
"The challenges strengthen our character. I can’t just quit or get disinterested, I have to work on it and work on it until I find the missing puzzle. The opportunity to have our horses is a highlight for me, wow does it challenge me, I literally just came in from a two hour “attempt” at loading our pony that still insists on me finding the key to working with her. There is no way in the city life we had that we could have had this type of intimate relationship with animals. We see them every day, we watch them change from season-to-season, we care for them, and build a bond."
Looking back on her journey, Jen couldn't be more grateful for that chance encounter with a delicious muffin that led her family through the community Bow, Washington. They are building a life that feels much richer, more fulfilling and less stressful than their lives in the city.
Thank you Jen Wakeland for sharing your inspiring story of leaving city life and rural entrepreneurship with us!
JEN WAKELAND'S FULL INTERVIEW
What are some common misperceptions about life in the country? What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities?
People aren’t slow in the country, they just live by a different set of ideas. There’s a live and let live sort of mentality that I think creates the ease. It took us a long time to break into the community since we are “newbies” to the area, but the people we do know are educated, interested, and take you under their wing. They are quick to give advice, assistance, and show you new traditions. I think it’s important to know, or understand, that the life you created before moving to the country won’t matter, your net worth, your name, reputation, etc. It’s not relevant to rural living. We know people who are COO’s of major corporations in Seattle but you would never know it when you first meet them, they are just your neighbor.
What do you love the most about living in this community?
The entire community is very active, family oriented, open minded and living in this slowed down manner. It’s sort of a “live and let live” kind of demeanor with a hefty scoop of community.
What was the hardest part about making the transition from city to small town? What challenges came later? The hardest part is the isolation for my children. We went from living in a massive planned HOA community that had a neighborhood park in our front yard, there were so many children and opportunities for our kids to make friends. Now we have to cobble together that community as our area is not heavily populated with young children. After two years we have found our people and our children are making friendships. Also, for me personally, while I craved the simple living, I did thrive a bit on the hustle and bustle at times with my business, and so having to learn to retrain my thought process and be more present has been challenging, something that hit me about 8 months into living here. I had to learn to see value in the different ways of doing business, the slower methods of communication, using checks again, and very slow internet! Have you been able to foster more friendships and meaningful relationships here or do you feel more isolated socially? Socially for the first year it was very isolating, as the second year went on, we found a bit of a rhythm but I have to consciously tell myself to get out. I’m an introvert and find that I can not leave home for five days in a row. When I need to get out, I go walk the pasture, hang out with the horses, play with the goats. It still feels so big to me so that feels like an outing, but I would say that the friends I am making here are so different and at ease that I do seem to be the anxious one and they all have helped me to settle in, relax, and enjoy a bit more. It’s so mellow in comparison. Do you feel like you have more creative opportunities in the country or less? That’s an interesting question, in a lot of ways less because of the smaller population and different mindset. But on the other hand, my home and the land we sit on creates VAST creative opportunities. From working with people like yourself, to collaborations on our move, to hosting events, photography, etc. Is there anything you miss about living in a more urban area? I do miss some of the fun new businesses that always were popping up in the city, here they are oldies but goodies. Honestly, really great restaurants are probably the thing I miss the most. Or a bit of shopping. :) Would you ever consider moving back to a city?
No! I really could not ever see that any more. I go to cities now and I appreciate them but I feel so out of my skin now. Did you have any experience raising animals or growing food prior to moving here? HA, no, none except having dogs and cats. What advice would you give to someone interested in growing their own food? Learn what grows well, lean on your neighbors to help you understand the cycles, and the soil. We are lucky here since the Skagit Valley is known for it’s great growing ability. We will be expanding our garden next year, and expanded our dahlias this past year to includes 60 plants which yielded a huge amount of flowers. We still have so much to learn. Do you notice a trend of young people wanting to leave city life behind? If yes, why do you think that is? Yes! Everyone always tells me I’m living their dream. I can’t help but thing the pendulum needs to swing back a bit the other way, to simple and less noisy living. I was always so frenetic in the city, even though it wasn’t a chaotic life, it just felt like it would never be quiet enough.
And even here, there is noise, cars driving by, gunshots during the duck/goose season, but it’s “quiet” and I can feel the stillness. I think people crave that, they don’t know how to get that and moving out of the intense energy to a smaller place provides so many opportunities to get back in touch with life and the cycles of nature. I honestly had forgotten what it felt like to see the stars. What are your future plans/goals for the coming year? I’d like to build out the structures a bit more, grow more food and adopt a few more animals. We are a bit of a sanctuary here, we foster animals for the local rescue, and adopt animals that are in need of a forever home. It’s my main goal for these 13 acres, this is our idea of country living, to have space to create cycles of life that teach us things we can’t learn in books, offices, or online.
SMALL BUSINESS QUESTIONS