The humble town of Okotoks has a population of around 29,000. It’s a suburb located to the south of Calgary, and if there was ever any doubt, it’s no longer a town in the middle of nowhere.
Its convenience, in fact, can’t be denied. From the very edge of south Calgary to the very edge of north Okotoks is only about six minutes on the highway. Yes, I timed it. My mom makes the commute almost daily.
The suburb is just as flat and open as Calgary if not more so, and slightly higher in elevation besides. If you’re used to mountains, you will not notice the hills unless you let yourself acclimate to the environment for a while.
Head westward on the 549, though, and you will soon be met with vast rolling hills leading into the Rockies. From Okotoks, you can get a good view of the mountains to the west as well as to the south towards Waterton.
Characteristic of southern Alberta, Okotoks can be very windy. But Waterton and surrounding area (Fort Macleod, Lethbridge, etc.) are far more prone to gusts of wind.
Like Calgary, Okotoks is sunny most of the time. Even when it’s cloudy, the clouds seem to pass over relatively quickly. That said, we are basically talking about mountain elevation, so snowstorms, hail, heavy fog, and more, are all par for the course. Winters in Okotoks can be very cold indeed, but summers can be very pleasant, and even hot.
I am most familiar with the southwestern end of Okotoks, but my favorite part is the northeastern end, as there is far more vegetation overall.
Food wise, Okotoks used to be reliable only for the occasional decent Italian, Indian, Japanese, pub, or pizza place. Today, there are far more options for bubble tea, Korean, Indian fusion, donairs, and more. When I discovered that, it made me feel like the town had come a long way.
Of course, you can still find all your standards – McDonald’s, A&W, KFC, Wendy’s, Tim Horton’s, Dairy Queen, Boston Pizza, and so on. The occasional hot dog or slice of pizza at Costco is not a total loss, either.
If you’re going to eat at a pub, though, The George Traditional House is the place to be, with a good mix of standard pub fair, fusion, and Indian dishes.
In terms of nightlife, Okotoks either doesn’t have one, or is mostly limited to small, tame gatherings at Boston Pizza or The George. Most places shut down early, especially on a weekday. Better head into Calgary if you’re looking for more of a heartbeat, but even there, your options will be limited.
No matter how you cut it, you will only be able to find certain creature comforts and conveniences in Calgary. That said, more is being added to Okotoks all the time.
Speaking of Calgary, though, the drive into the city from Okotoks is remarkable. I mean, it is flat and wide open – uncomfortably so – but the panoramic view of the city from the top of the hill on highway 2 is noteworthy, and it’s a thing of marvel at night, too.
While it may be another 10 to 20 years off, I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that the Calgary city limits will extend to swallow up Okotoks, especially if both cities continue growing at the rate they have been.
I always saw it in the movies and thought to myself, “that can’t possibly be practical.”
My concept of hotels, motels, and inns in general has been that they’re just as expensive, if not more expensive, than Airbnbs. Which is a little ironic, because one of the selling propositions of Airbnbs used to be that they were cheaper than hotels. Check the prices now. At least in Canada, they’re practically the same if not pricier at times.
In my search for a temporary home, I stumbled across an extended stay rate at a motel in Penticton, BC, which I found to be just as reasonable – if not more reasonable – than renting an apartment. And, as of yesterday, this is where I now reside. Not for the long term, I don’t think, but at least for the next 30 to 70 days or so (at which point I might be looking for a similar arrangement in another city).
Motel living is not bad. It’s not perfect. There’s no workspace to speak of, they could have done a much better job of sound treating, and it’s obscenely bright in the morning (fortunately, I managed to hang a blackout curtain in front of the window by the bed without using any tools or nails). But I know you could do a lot worse. After all, the room has a couch, bed, fridge, stove, microwave, sink, bathroom, heating, and even an air conditioner. The fact that I’m not forced to eat out every day is a major plus.
At least temporarily, I’m also closer to a couple of friends I might not otherwise have the chance to visit.
Penticton isn’t much bigger than Okotoks, AB, but it appears to have some decent food options, and all the basic amenities one could ask for.
Although I don’t have much of a choice right now, I intend to keep embracing the spirit of adventure as I seek out a more permanent place to call home.
There are traditions you enjoy and those you don’t.
I’ve been living nomadically since June, and that has basically meant I’ve been surfing from couch to hotel to Airbnb for nearly seven months.
Today, I left yet another Airbnb, in Calgary, behind. A month was supposed to be a long time – certainly longer than some of my stays. Time enough to contemplate my next steps. And, while I’ve figured out a few things, I certainly wouldn’t say I can see miles ahead yet, especially in terms of work and income.
Either way, when I’m between couches, hotels, or Airbnbs, I usually find myself sitting at a Starbucks doing my work until it’s time to check in at my next destination. For a long time, I’ve enjoyed doing some of my work from a Starbucks or Tim Horton’s. I’ve even tried to work it in into my schedule at times, because I see a noticeable boost in energy or productivity.
But this is a tradition, it seems, that’s growing a little stale.
It could be because I don’t enjoy leaving one place for another. Not that I don’t like travel. It’s just that, at this point, waking up, packing up, cleaning up, and departing to another destination is becoming rote.
It could be because the novel is always more interesting than the ordinary.
It could also be because I’ve been under the weather since Monday, so even though I’m lucid enough to produce good work, I’d much rather be laying in bed than coaching, writing, attending meetings, or otherwise engaging in my leadership program. It could be that I’m simply not finding joy in what would otherwise be a welcome change of scenery. Flues have a way of doing that to you.
For the next month or so, I’ll be lodging in Okotoks at my parent’s.
Today, I suggested to my parents that we create a new tradition where we go to the mountains for Christmas. They seemed open to the idea.
But I digress. More and more I’m hearing the urging to find a more stable living situation, even if it’s not entirely permanent. There will be a more permanent home in my future, I just don’t think it’s going to be in the immediate future. I think it will show up around May or June 2023. And I have some idea of what I’m going to be doing in the meantime.
But what I’m getting at is that even though they say, “the grass is greener on the other side,” the more you venture out and try things, the more you realize the messiness of life maintains the license to intrude whenever and wherever it wants, even if that “whenever and wherever” is some permutation of your dream life.
I’ve heard wealthy people say money is not all its cracked up to be. I’ve heard famous people say it gets old. In a way, I think I get what they mean. It’s about traditions. And while we tend to think of traditions as annual getaways or visits to places emblazoned on our memories, traditions are playing out at a micro level too. It’s worth paying attention to the micro traditions you have in your life, because as they say, success is hidden in your daily habits.