A decade ago, Neil Fletcher and Louise Dumayne were city folks. And not just in any old city, but one of the biggest and busiest in the world — London, U.K.
Fletcher was working for a large telecoms company, and Dumayne was working as an actor. They had a good life but decided to chuck it all.
"We were looking for a change," Fletcher recalled.
They found it. In fact, they found something that arguably couldn't be further removed from their London life — a remote, off-grid cabin in the Yukon wilderness.
Eight years into their new life, they're not looking back.
"Oh yeah, we're here. We're here for the long term," Fletcher said.
They may have seemed unlikely candidates for a life of hard work in the northern bush. Fletcher says they had no real skills or knowledge of bush living. But it was Dumayne's love of the North that spurred them on.
"I have to say, hats off to my wife. I was pretty reluctant," he said.
"You know, I had the corporate job with stock options and I had a great salary and I used to get great perks from there, and I had a pretty responsible job with a pretty sizeable budget."
Dumayne had been to Alaska before on dog sledding trips, and when Fletcher joined her one year they met a homesteader and dog musher who invited them to stay and help out.
That's where it started. They'd move around a bit before eventually finding their own place to call home, about 70 kilometres downriver from Dawson City, Yukon. There is no road access, only boat or snowmachine (or dog sled).
"Suddenly here I am. I got in the middle of nowhere and with no applicable skills," Fletcher said.
"Knowing how to work a computer and function in a large corporation doesn't really prepare you very well for life in the Yukon."
They started a blog to chronicle their challenges and adventures. There are stories and pictures of them building, hauling water, boating to town, or making jam.
"There is no big dream. We are just muddling along, much the same as we did in London but with different furniture and more chances to die," Dumayne wrote on the blog.
Fletcher still manages to do some consulting work, remotely. They've got an internet connection at their cabin and they'll often make trips into Dawson or Whitehorse for meetings.
Lately, Fletcher has been working with a program that aims to help local businesses adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's been fantastic. It's been a great experience to be able to combine both things — so, wilderness living and working as a consultant," Fletcher said.
He admits there have been times when he wonders what he's doing. He recalled a time last winter when they got their snowmachines stuck in some overflow on the river. It was about –20 C, and they spent hours trying to get free.
"Suddenly, as I stood over my knees in freezing slush, I'm thinking, 'and I gave up my my nice cozy warm office and stock options,'" Fletcher laughed.
"I think that's the thing — you get the experience at the time, and then you have all these fantastic memories."
Fletcher considers himself lucky. He realizes he could have stayed put in London and continued to build a successful career, but decided to take a chance instead.
"It's hard to make a change sometimes in your life, but if you do it, I think very rarely do you regret it," he said.
"It's one thing going on a holiday, but that holiday comes to an end. And then you go back to your normal life. If you make a move like this, you get to live the lifestyle."