go west, young man

Go west, life is peaceful there, go west, lots of open air, go west, to begin life anew, go west, this is what we'll do. ~ Village People, Song Entitled Go West

Whenever folks from back home ask my parents what I am up to one of their usual replies is "she's out west".  There are many parents on the east coast that have this type of reply when asked about their children.  There has been a great number of young east coasters leaving the comforts and familiarity of the east coast and heading west for a number of years now.  A quick glance at my east coast facebook friends reveals that approximately 25% have left the east coast and have gone west.  Why do so many east coasters do this?  Why do they choose to leave their family and their friends for the western part of Canada?  Generally it boils down to two reasons.  Work and love.  The east coast has the highest unemployment rates in Canada whereas the western part of Canada has the lowest unemployment rates.  Salaries generally are higher in the west and there is stronger job stability.  Many young people in the east hear about the boom on the oil rigs, the excitement of living in the west, and decide to pick up and head west to check it out, searching for long term financial freedom.  Others take job transfers to ensure they will continue to have a good paying job.  They have dreams of secure long term employment with good wages.  Others move for love - following their partner who is leaving to chase their employment dreams and to experience the go west phenonmenon. 

Some get west and realize it is not all it is cracked up to be.  They hate the work, the cost of housing is high compared to the east coast, they miss home too much and eventually they head back east where it is familiar and safe.  Yet others reap the benefits of secure employment and settle in for the long haul, marrying, buying a house, raising children, and essentially make the west their new home, while at the same time holding tightly to their east coast roots. 

There is something that unites all of us from the east that go west.  We have a special bond and we are a proud bunch.  We love to talk about home.  Sometimes you meet a fellow east coaster in the west and you just look in their eyes and immediately know they understand the sacrifices and reasons why you are west.  They understand what it is that you miss about home and why you are always dreaming about your next vacation back east.  They understand how sad you feel to be missing your family and friends.  They know why it is important for visitors from home to bring you treats from the east coast when they visit - fresh seafood, pepperoni, donairs, Larsens hot dogs, etc.  They get why celebrating Alexander Keith's birthday is fun - a brewmaster so great they made him mayor!  They know how to throw a great east coast kitchen party, and don't mind singing a round of Farewell to Nova Scotia or Barrett's Privateers when tossing back a few drinks.  They understand your east coast accent and sayings perfectly.  There is an immediate connection, an automatic conversation starter, and it usually brings out the east coast pride and friendly attitude in full force.  It is always a happy moment to trade memories and stories about back east.

Some people are even cashing in and making their employment based around the great influx of east coasters to the west.  For instance, The Atlantic Trap and Gill is a bar/restaurant designed around the idea of "where east coast meets the west coast" and brings traditional east coast food and music to all the easterners who have gone west, giving them a slice of home right in Alberta.  Another example is Maritime Lobster Express which is a web based business who will ship various east coast products and food to you in the west, bringing a little piece of home right to your doorstep.

East coasters that go west are strong people and deserve respect.  We know all too well what we have left behind and miss it dearly, yet stay in the west working hard towards a secure future regardless of our intense feelings of homesickness.  So to all you east coasters who have gone west: I raise my glass to toast you and say "sociable!".