For Calgary-based, world-class explorer and adventurer Laval St. Germain, home is where the heart is.
“I could be on the other side of the planet, living in an apartment in Hong Kong or a tent in Kenya, but as long as I am with my family, I am at home,” he said, just days before he was set to depart on his latest adventure to the South Pole in support of the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
St. Germain left Calgary on Nov. 10 for a 52-day solo trek across Antarctica to the South Pole, followed by a climb to the top of the continent’s highest peak, Mount Vinson. It’s the final portion of what is known as the Explorers Grand Slam – reaching the North Pole and South Pole, and summiting the highest peaks on all seven continents. St. Germain has done them all and more.
“I just love doing this kind of stuff,” he said. “I really enjoy going to these remote places, the challenge of these big psychological, psychosocial and physical adventures.”
So it’s no wonder that his first home purchase had to be close to nature, just metres from bike paths, forests and natural space. As a new pilot with a young family, he purchased his first home in Kimberley, B.C., in the mid-1990s.
“It was a tiny house – a beautiful little place, with a giant yard and a greenhouse,” he said. “We would load up the kids on the back of the bikes and in 50 metres we would be on all of these beautiful trails in the midst of the mountains.”
The couple chose Kimberley because the real estate prices at the time were inexpensive (the couple paid $80,000), the location was gorgeous, and the city sat halfway between Vancouver and Calgary, the two centres St. Germain commuted to regularly.
“It was a tiny house – a beautiful little place, with a giant yard and a greenhouse.”
“We fixed up the home so beautifully – it had this steep, pitched, alpine roof and a wood-burning fireplace,” said St. Germain. “It was such a great place to come home to, but I was really never there because I was always commuting.”
Since he was rarely there to enjoy their Kimberley home, St. Germain and his family eventually made the move to Calgary, settling in the southwest community of Somerset, where they lived for 11 years.
However, St. Germain says the family’s most life-altering home purchase wasn’t their first, nor their first Calgary home. It was the purchase that moved the family from Calgary’s suburbs to the inner city in 2007.
“I was up in the Northwest Territories flying when my wife called me to tell me she had put in an offer on a home in Mount Royal,” said St. Germain. “It changed our lives. It got us out of the car and onto our feet and onto our bikes, and the kids could walk to school.”
He adds that much like summiting a daunting mountain, making the move to the inner city had the family stepping out of their comfort zone.
“It was a real stretch for us financially, but it was well worth it,” he said.
“The lifestyle improvement has been incredible. Now we can walk to get a glass of wine or to go grocery shopping or to the bank. It’s amazing.”