Written by Janet Davies
Erin Lachance is a Real Estate agent with Century 21 Lanthorn, and is a part-time bartender at The Drake Devonshire Hotel in Wellington, too. It’s a time-honoured County thing to have more than one string to your bow. Her wife Megan Marie Gates is a yoga teacher and a sound healing practitioner, running sessions in and around the region, including weekend yoga at The Drake. The hip hotel was an important part of their journey to Prince Edward County.
“I’ve worked for the Drake for 11 years,” Erin explains. “When I heard their plans for a County hotel I thought I’d check it out. I only knew about Sandbanks and the beaches here, but I grew up in a small town of 1,500 near Ottawa – come to think of it, it had a mushroom plant too.” The more she learned about The County the more she liked it, and with the advantage of a ready-made job at The Drake, she made the move.
“As a queer woman, I want to live where I feel safe,” she says candidly. “Almost anywhere in Canada is safe, but I haven’t always felt comfortable.” She has mixed memories of growing up in a small rural town, but says, “I heard The County had always been very welcoming, a lot of artists and musicians. Our community is a very diverse one!” Ask her now how she feels about it and she says seriously, “after years in the city, which I enjoyed, I feel like I’m integrated back into a real community, the kind of community where neighbours come over to help dig out your driveway.”
In her real estate work, she meets a lot of people from Toronto looking for a new life in the country. “So many want to just look in Wellington because that’s the place they’ve read about. But there are LOTS of other amazing places to explore: Milford and Waupoos and Picton and Demorestville and Ameliasburgh and Cherry Valley.”
Bartending at The Drake Devonshire, she hears a lot of opinions, concerns, and discussions about the rapid renaissance of The County and gladly dives into conversations. “I’m aware of what some newcomers feel and what some of the locals think,” she says. “I feel a kinship with long time County people because I grew up in a place a little like this. And I know how city people feel, too.” Her current clients include retirees looking for a simple life, others looking to buy a hotel, young people wanting to start small farms, and the inevitable investors who want to jump into a rising market. She’s keeping busy. “Honestly one thing I noticed was that most, not all, but most of the real estate agents were moving towards retirement in The County. I saw a niche for myself, still in my thirties and knowledgeable about the market. I worked for Royal LePage in Toronto where the property market is a zoo, a lot of money to be made. But I’ve learned so much more here about property issues, land use, zoning, and planning, geography… and wind turbines!”
When Megan Maire Gates met Erin, she was working full-time teaching classes at five different yoga studios in Toronto. “We met a month before Erin moved to The County,” she recalls. “Bad timing in some ways, but I was also looking to get out of the city and get back into nature and a slower life. Until I met Erin, I had never even heard about Prince Edward County.” A month later she visited Erin in her new home and was completely convinced of its magic. “I’d never felt anywhere so magical in Canada,” she says. “I’ve gypsied all around, from the prairies to the west coast and then out east. But just the drive from Belleville was the most magical feeling. It was late spring and the land was so beautiful.” Her visits turned into regular weekends, then longer stays until she knew she wanted to live here. “I left teaching in Toronto and moved here full time in June 2016. How was the winter in The County? I was raised in Saskatchewan, I can totally handle it.” Erin chimes in, “At least it’s real winter here, not just ugly brown slush like in the city!”
Megan Marie began building … or rebuilding … her business long before she finally pulled up stakes and moved to The County. “I teach classes in Belleville, in Frankford and Stirling, in Warkworth and Kingston,” she says. “From The County I can move between these places so easily. Here I have access to a lot more small communities where amazing things are happening and have made wonderful connections through yoga and sound. When you are living in the city, you sort of get stuck there and have a hard time reaching out to those smaller towns. Isn’t that strange?”
Megan and Erin were married last summer on their property. “It was a Hippie Hoedown!” laughs Erin. “Our wedding made us realize just how many people we’ve met. Dan from Rosehall Run supplied our toast bubbly, Amanda from Black Sheep Cannery did the food. We’ve still got people bugging us for her veggie burger recipe. It truly does feel like we’re living the dream. Most days anyway!”
It’s hard work; holding down two jobs for Erin, promoting and offering her Sound and Movement classes around the region for Megan Marie. But they worked hard in Toronto, too. “What do we want?” Erin ponders the question. “Well, we’re surrounded by a lot of the things we want: a two-acre property, the countryside, the lifestyle. It’s crazy to think that a couple of years ago I was at Dundas and Gladstone, in a small apartment, spending a lot more money, wondering what in the world to do with myself.”
Oddly enough, they don’t want a bigger place. In fact they want a smaller place: A tiny house. After a recent backpacking adventure, they returned home and were dismayed by all the unnecessary stuff they possess. “Our plan is to buy some land and build a tiny house,” says Erin. “Best of both worlds. Just us and the dogs and some land. There are a lot of people looking for the same kind of thing. Things are changing all over Canada. People’s ideas are changing, and planning departments are coming onboard. We were very influenced by a documentary called Minimalism, it’s on Netflix. Really interesting! Watch it if you can.”
One thing Megan Marie wants, in addition to the tiny house dream, is a place to call her own for Sound and Movement retreats. Nothing fancy, but one special place to share what she loves. “I spent years packing up and moving from place to place to teach. It would be heaven to have my own space, to be settled and welcome people to come to get away from their everyday.”
There is a lot to work for and a lot to do. “It will come,” says Erin with her easy smile. “Our generation is so damned impatient. We want everything NOW. But we’re young, and we have time.” Asked what they like best about The County, Megan says, “All the artists and studios and galleries. The chance to see performances and exhibitions. So many creative people here, it gets my artist heart going, to be able to just drop into a studio and see someone making those fabulous wooden bowls!” Erin chimes in, “We love exploring this island. Driving down dirt roads, losing hub caps! Going cross country from Cressy to East Lake, it’s such a big place. I love that.”
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