There’s a lot out there in this big beautiful world, places to see, people to meet, experiences to try, foods to taste. So why on earth, would anyone want to return to their tiny hometown in rural Ontario? I’ve asked myself the same question.
I was raised in Haliburton, Ontario. With a population of a little over 17,000 around the county, one high school, and more lakes than anyone can really properly count, you would think the community shares a multitude of parallels with any other small town across Canada. So why did I come back? What does Haliburton have that I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else?
After growing up here, I went off to get a post-secondary education in Ottawa and then St. John’s, Newfoundland. I’ve backpacked South America, worked in Halifax for two years, picked fruit and sipped wine in British Columbia, held down a corporate position in Toronto, and driven across Canada not once, but twice.
Throughout all this I learned one thing: there is no place like Haliburton.
I moved back to Haliburton to attend the Fleming School of Art and Design, which ironically enough, was located less than a five-minute walk from my home. I traded in subway rides and traffic-jams for a casual hike through the forest every morning; a compromise I was not upset about. Beginning the digital image design program marked the start of my new-found love for Haliburton.
The school itself – nestled into the forest and overlooking Head Lake – offered a series of artistically driven programs, from blacksmithing to integrated design and everything in between. Filling these classes were individuals from Newfoundland to British Columbia, all diverse and multi-talented, yet these students all shared one common ground: they all chose Haliburton.
I often asked fellow students how they enjoyed Haliburton, and the answers were consistently unanimous: they loved it. They all agreed, it was unlike anywhere else they had ever been. The arts fuel people’s creativity and spirit, and I’ve learned that having an entire school dedicated to fulfilling these passions in a supportive and welcoming context, is rare.
Attending the hidden gem of Haliburton School of Art and Design inspired me to further discover the community I grew up in, and often took for granted. Upon exploration, I discovered that Haliburton essentially had everything I needed to simply be happy – a goal many strive for yet it is not easily attained.
I could get an amazing vanilla latte and a series of other tasty treats at Baked and Battered, or sushi from Hankook E Korean Cuisine. If I wanted to grab a drink with a friend, we could meet up at McKecks Tap & Grill, and drink locally brewed beers from Boshkung Brewing Co. You could attend a yoga class at Blue Sky Yoga Studio, or check out our Farmers Market in the park. There are hiking trails, beaches, brewery tours, workshops, and more art studios than I have ever seen.
Haliburton supports artistic development, it sustains local and progressive entrepreneurs, it offers activities for people of all ages. It has an unrivalled sense of community support, all while consistently staying wild and beautiful. It is a place to reconnect with nature, and realign yourself with whatever is important to you.
So why did I come back to Haliburton? You could say I came back for the geographical beauty, the new foods, the educational opportunities, the sense of tight-knit community and support, the right balance of nature and development to feed my soul and spirit, yet all of these reasons lead towards one common theme and belief I have learned: that Haliburton Ontario, is unlike anywhere else in this world.