Ice covers the winding Snoqualmie Pass in the early winter months, granting only the riskiest of travellers access over the 3,022 foot elevated summit and through to Seattle’s downtown core. The area is part of the Cascade Range of the State of Washington where snow-capped mountains tower over the surrounding cities.
Danielle Chabassol and Mat Dubé are among those trying to get through. The Canadian couple drove their used, 2002 Ford E-150 from their hometown of Ottawa, Canada through the dangerous Chicago rush hour traffic, past Mount Rushmore and by the wide open prairies to get there. At the pass, weather reports warning drivers of threatening conditions cut through the radio. But, rushed to arrive at the house they would be house sitting for over the next five months, they decided to tighten their seat belts and drive on.
Since deciding to sell their house three years ago, road trips and house sitting gigs have become their lifestyle — and they blame it on their mortgage-phobia.
Dubé and Chabassol caught a bad case of mortgage-phobia about six months after buying an affordable house in the suburbs of Ottawa. Like many young couples, they felt they only had two choices in life, to rent or to buy. After years of renting, investing their money into a house sounded like a good idea. They met with mortgage brokers and toyed with mortgage calculators until they believed they could pay the same amount they were paying in rent each month towards a mortgage.
Dubé and Chabassol started having second thoughts about six months after buying a house in the suburbs of Ottawa.
A hike in property taxes along with the piling-up of other hidden costs made the couple extremely stressed. “We started to feel pressure to make more money,” Chabassol said. They both got better paying jobs and saw their friends and family less because of the long hours and exhausting commutes. “We were basically just working,” Dubé said.
“It just felt awful being locked into something for 35 years and just picturing that we can never take more than two weeks off… We can’t get away from this,” Chabassol said.
Chris Beswick is a mortgage advisor for Scotia Bank and advises a lot of Generation Y couples, like Chabassol and Dubé, on a daily basis. Fifteen years in the mortgage business has taught him to always try and keep couples under their maximum spending budget, to make room for hidden expenses. “The last thing the banks want and the government wants are people to lose their house because of rates, or because they can’t afford it,” Beswick said.
Dubé and Chabassol didn’t have an advisor but they did meet with brokers from different banks during their search. In the end it was the commitment to the large financial burden that cracked their love affair with their house. “For us at the time I guess we just thought let’s take a risk and not be like everyone and get rid of our house,” Dubé said.
Their van is a place where they can travel anywhere and still bring a piece of home with them. After their last road trip from British Columbia to Ottawa to visit family there were nights the couple would leave the house they were staying at to hang out or sleep in the van because if felt natural to be in that space.
“For us at the time I guess we just thought let’s take a risk and not be like everyone and get rid of our house,” Dubé said.
It’s also a very low-cost way of living — their bed is their couch, their fridge is a cooler and their kitchen is a camper stove on a pop-up shelf inside the passenger door. At night they close the window blinds that Chabassol made herself and work off the energy stored from the solar panels Dubé installed on the roof. There aren’t any bills, they don’t wear the most fashionable clothes and they rarely splurge in restaurants. But happiness radiates their faces like innocent convicts on liberation day when they talk about ditching their white collar lives for something more rugged and soul defining — even if that means eating tomato sandwiches for weeks at a time.
It’s also a very low-cost way of living — their bed is their couch, their fridge is a cooler and their kitchen is a camper stove on a pop-up shelf inside the passenger door.
At night they close the window blinds that Chabassol made herself and work off the energy stored from the solar panels Dubé installed on the roof.
They’re currently freelancing, Dubé as an artist and Chabassol as a writer while simultaneously running their blog, Exploring Alternatives, and making videos for their YouTube channel. “It’s a really cool way to travel and to spread good news to people who are stressed out and maybe don’t know about alternatives,” Chabassol said.
Happiness radiates their faces like innocent convicts on liberation day when they talk about ditching their white collar lives for something more rugged and soul defining.
“It’s a really cool way to travel and to spread good news to people who are stressed out and maybe don’t know about alternatives,” Chabassol said.
When they’re not working they’re looking for new places to travel to, and new houses to house sit. Using the three sites, Caretaker Gazette, House Carers and Mind My House, they look through a map of the world and decided where they will go next. This time they’re heading to the southern states of America to escape the ice and snow that threatened them in Snoqualmie.
This article originally appeared on The Plaid Zebra and is republished here with permission.