Now Or Never

Want to trade your desk job for a cabin in the woods? This guy did it

Norm Carlson used to work a desk job, but three and a half years ago he moved to a homestead on the Yukon River, more than 100 km downstream from Dawson City.
Norm Carlson lives on a homestead on the Yukon River in Northern Canada. (Submitted by Norm Carlson)

This encore Now or Never segment originally aired in May 2017.

Norm Carlson used to work a desk job, but three-and-a-half years ago he moved onto a homestead on the Yukon River, more than 100 km downstream from Dawson City.

Spending most of his time outdoors, Carlson chops firewood, hunts and fishes for his food and hauls water from the creek. He has no phone, but he does have an internet connection and a hot tub.

A moose peeks in Carlson's window. (Submitted by Norm Carlson)

"The other day I was in the hot tub and a lynx walked by," he said. "The lynx didn't see me, just walked by and I just sat there and watched him." 

For Carlson, now was the time to go into the wild, while he still has the strength and stamina to live alone in the wilderness. 

"I am married and my wife comes here as often as she can. But right now she's working in Inuvik so we are separated for a lot of the time."

The November view where Norm Carlson lives. (Submitted by Norm Carlson)

Carlson said his wife encouraged him to make the move, and thought it would be helpful for his health. Since setting up his homestead he's lost weight, gotten more fit and his blood pressure has come down. ​

"Even when it's 40 below, I spend at least two or three hours out every day or more in winter," he said. "I don't think it's healthy to stay indoors in the cabin ... so I do have to get outside to get a physical exertion. Because I find your mental well-being is much better after exerting yourself physically."

Norm Carlson showing off two burbot on a line. (Submitted by Norm Carlson)

Aside from the odd canoeist in the summer, Carlson doesn't see many other people, but hesitates to call this lifestyle a lonely one.

"When you're sitting in your cabin you might feel alone but when you get out and see rabbits running, you see squirrels, and right now the birds and all the animals around you, you see a bear, you don't feel alone anymore."