Muskoka Moments - A Love Rooted In Muskoka

Article by Kelly Haywood

I’m always reminded after spending time away from Muskoka, hanging out with city folk, that even though I wasn’t born and raised in Muskoka, I sometimes talk like I was. I am a local in my heart and I want to contribute to my community in every way I can.

As I drive the winding roads of Muskoka, surrounded by towering trees and beautiful lakes and rivers, I can't help but feel a sense of profound contentment. It's been 24 years since I first arrived here, but the love I have for this place has only grown deeper with time.

My journey to this idyllic haven began with a love story – one that changed the course of my life forever. We fell in love amidst the juxtaposition of my chaotic urban life and her peaceful small-town life. As our relationship blossomed, so did the realization that the frequent three-and-a-half-hour drives back and forth to Ottawa were less than ideal.

And so, with my heart full of love, hope and excitement, I decided to leave behind the hustle and bustle of city living and seek refuge in the tranquility of my partner Jackie’s home in Lake of Bays, on Rebecca Lake.

As I arrived in my new hometown for the first time, I remember feeling a sense of awe at the natural beauty that surrounded me. It was like stepping into a painting – a world untouched by time or turmoil.

Very quickly, however, I realized moving to Muskoka would become one of the most challenging and humbling experiences of my life. After leaving behind a high-paying and prestigious job in the city, I had envisioned a smooth transition into a new chapter filled with opportunities and success. Reality hit me hard as I struggled to find employment in our tight-knit community. Job openings were scarce or only offered weekend or night shifts, and competition was fierce.

As the days turned into weeks and then months, the strain began to weigh heavily on me. It was difficult to accept I might need to take a step back in my career and settle for a minimum-wage job just to make ends meet. Over time, I worked extremely hard and then took a risky leap of faith and resigned from a decent full-time job to accept a maternity leave at the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce.  Twenty years later, I resigned from this position to accept a budding opportunity with the Huntsville Municipal Accommodation Tax Association (MAT).

During my tenure with the Chamber of Commerce, I always kept the difficulties of my employment-seeking experiences top of mind and made it my mission to focus on the challenges and opportunities in this community.

In my new role for the local MAT organization, focusing on shoulder seasons is paramount, as it allows us to maximize the utilization of our resources and infrastructure throughout the year. By strategically promoting our destination during these magnificent but off-peak periods, we can attract a different demographic of travellers who appreciate quieter surroundings and a more authentic experience.

For me, giving back to our community became a way of life, a way to express gratitude for all the love and kindness I had received since my arrival.

In this small town, surrounded by nature and embraced by good people – and now almost my entire family – I have found a sense of belonging I had never known before. I found solace and joy in the simple pleasures of rural living – the smell of the fresh air, the sound of birdsong in the morning and the sight of neighbours waving as they passed by.

As I reflect on the past 24 years, I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude for the life I have built here – a life filled with love, purpose and a deep connection to our community. And though the journey has not always been easy, I wouldn't change a single moment of it for anything in the world.

For in this small town, amidst the beauty of nature and the warmth of its people, I have found my true home – a place where my heart is at peace, and my soul is forever rooted in the soil of Muskoka.