Austrian shares experiences living in the Canadian outback

By Thomas HochwarterWinters with temperatures as low as minus
50 degrees centigrade. Not a soul within 20 kilometres. And the
occasional brown bear ogling through the kitchen window.A
situation which might be regarded as a perfect nightmare – or the
perfect plot for an adventure movie – by most. But for Austrian Manuela
Zeitlhofer, it is just the way of life she has always dreamed of.Speaking to Austrian Independent, the 42-year-old explains what made her settle in northern Canada five years ago.Zeitlhofer
decided to leave Austria to move into a small wooden house in the
Canadian outback just eight kilometres away from the border to Alaska
as she felt that “Austria is a nice country but it just wasn’t the
place to be for me.”Zeitlhofer said: “I grew up in
Pabneukirchen, a small town in Upper Austria. I don’t know when I
developed the wish to leave Austria, but what I always disliked about
the country was that it is so densely populated.”I found it
difficult to accept the fact you see something man-made everywhere you
look or things that humans have had an impact on – even in the
mountains, when you hear planes or the sound of a chainsaw.”Zeitlhofer
came to Canada for the first time in 2000 to take a two-month summer
holiday before she returned the next year with a work visa. Now she
lives there as a “permanent resident”, and she already requested
Canadian citizenship.Zeitlhofer said she has found what she was
always dreaming of in the wilderness of northern Canada. Together with
her partner, 54-year-old Canadian Gaetan Beaudet, she resides in a
self-built wooden house, with the next community around 20 kilometres
away.Zeitlhofer said most people were amazed and unable to imagine how living this way was possible.She
admitted: “Gaetan and me sometimes talk about all the things that can
happen. We need to be extremely careful – less with animals since we
know how they react and what not to do when coming face to face with
one. But rather when we climb around on the scaffolding or work with
the chainsaw.”I almost injured myself with the angle-grinder when we built our new house this summer.”Zeitlhofer
and her partner were forced to leave her home of many years after a
historic weather chaos flooded it up to the first floor.”That
was a real challenge,” she said, explaining: “It was the worst flood in
400 years and a real emergency situation for two days. It took us the
whole summer to clean up and build a new house. I never spent a thought
on giving up the life I am living now, but these weeks weren’t easy.”Zeitlhofer
said she wanted to settle down “as far north as possible” in the
country: “It wasn’t a spontaneous decision to do so but it came in
several steps. I really wanted to do it, but I had to discover the
country first. So I travelled around with the Greyhound bus.”It
was always my desire to live in the outback because everything is
fenced and regulated in the south of Canada too. I discovered Dawson
and liked the area.”Zeitlhofer and her partner – who have no
plans to have children but consider to take foster children some day –
live 120 kilometres downstream from Dawson City, a 1,300-soul town in
the Yukon territory, with another small community 20 kilometres from
their house.Speaking about communication and connections, she
explained: “It takes a helicopter an hour to arrive at our house in an
emergency. We got satellite internet but some small hills around our
house sometimes cause the connection to break up. We got satellite
telephone too and a quite reliable one-direction radio connection to
contact authorities.”We got a jeep and a boat, but both are
unusable when there are degrees of minus 50 and the river freezes over.
We stay at our house from the middle of October until December.”We
recently returned from picking up our supplies for winter at a
warehouse in Dawson. We always e-mail them what we need a few weeks in
advance and then pick up our stuff. This time around, we went home with
2,700 dollars worth of food!”In the summertime, we go there around every one and a half months to buy this and that.”Zeitlhofer
said she did not look back with hard feelings to her “old life” in
Austria where she worked at a social service agency in Austria after
graduating studying sociology.”I am not claiming to be any
better. I just did what makes me happy. If someone says he or she is
happy living in New York City, that’s fine – I wouldn’t be. It seems to
me not everyone knows what he or she really wants. People should really
do what they dream of as I did. Many people seem unhappy to me.”I
feel more humanity here, also when I deal with authorities which was
difficult in Austria. Elsewhere, you just try to fight your way in the
supermarket. I love the mentality up in the north here. People here
seem to take care of each other.”Zeitlhofer said she visited Austria – where her parents, grandparents and two sisters live – around every one and a half years.”I
miss my family, of course – occasions like having breakfast or dinner
together,” she said, only to add, laughing: “And I miss some certain
sweets you can only get in Austria.”Zeitlhofer said her parents and sisters visited now and again.”They
then complain a bit about the fact I am little up to date about what is
going on in Austria. I only occasionally sometimes read online
newspapers to follow the Austrian news,” she admitted.Zeitlhofer
said she made her living these days producing bags and other things
with leather which then go on sale at a store in Dawson City, adding
she was also living on reserve assets.”I used to teach grade 7
to 9 children at a small school in Dawson, and I am currently attending
courses over the internet as you have to constantly update your Yukon
teaching certificates. I might start teaching again as I miss my
class,” she said, adding she was currently working on a book with
photographs which will go on sale online soon. Zeitlhofer explained she
had the idea since she received so much positive feedback from people
reading her blog especially regarding the pictures.Zeitlhofer dismissed claims life in what many people might describe as the “Middle of Nowhere” ever got boring.She
said: “We often see all kinds of animals when going for a walk – but
also from our house. Meeting bears is incredible! Now and then, one is
looking through the kitchen window.”We need to be careful
storing all food properly as they are attracted by the smell. Making
unusual noises like clanging with metal cans helps scaring them off.
Whistling is not advisable though!”There are many wolves, bears
and moose living in our area. Porcupines however might pose the biggest
threat as their needles get stuck everywhere in the flesh of our dog
Lance if he bites one of them,” she explained.Zeitlhofer said
their dog is not just a reliable companion but also a great support
when going out hunting. “He helps me during the hunting season. He
traces animals and leads me to them by pointing his nose into the
direction,” she said, adding Gaetan and her hunt one moose per year,
not more, when the season was on.Zeitlhofer said she does not regret a minute of living in the Yukon territory.”I
met Gaetan four years ago on a canoe trip. It was quite romantic and
still is. I wanted to gain a foothold in an unknown environment and
this has worked out pretty well. You should never say never, but I can
rule out ever taking on an office job,” she said, laughing, adding that
the number of visitors is set to increase soon. “We just finished a
small, furnished guest house which also features a kitchen,” she
revealed.- – -Manuela Zeitlhofer shares her experiences in her two online blogs, an English and a German version:>>>>