What I Learned While Living in Vancouver

I've always envisioned myself as the sum of two starkly contrasting parts. On the one hand, I am a body that exists on this physical plain. On the other hand, I am a spirit, & something less tangible than biology, that can't quite be quantified. While my body is firmly rooted in living a life that is subject to the rules of physics, biology & reality, my spiritual self exists elsewhere, in a world of fanciful dreaming. 

It is my dreaming spirit that has lead me to flit about the world as a discoverer, ever searching & ever consumed by wanderlust. It is my restless heart that guides me as I seek out newness & adventure. I am so grateful for my discoverer's spirit & the places it has lead me. It has taken my body to new destinations, to see exciting vistas & has taken me on a journey that, had I been filled with a different love & a different spirit, I never would have experienced.

The most beautiful, & rewarding, of those experiences has been the opportunity that restlessness has provided me to get to know & understand myself. No journey has provided me with a better vantage point from which to take in that much needed birds-eye-view of myself, than the six years I spent living in Vancouver.

5 Profound Things I learned While Living in Vancouver

I am a prairie girl at heart. I was born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, & spent most of my life living in Calgary, Alberta. While I loved the wilderness of Fort McMurray, Calgary never quite fit. For some reason, Calgary always induced a sense of claustrophobia for me & a feeling of limits. Limitations have never sat well with me, so I left.

Vancouver was never a city I saw myself falling in love with. There were a number of reasons I actively didn't want to go there - not the least of which was that an ex-boyfriend had followed through on our plans to move there & I wanted to stay as far away from him as possible. Still, I found myself in need of a get away, & two of my friends had recently moved to Vancouver, so I went to visit.

I don't know if it's the air in Vancouver, the mountains, or what it is...actually, that's not true. I know exactly what it was that got me hooked. It was the sea wall. It was the endless kilometres of walking, sandwiched between city & ocean, then forest & ocean, that felt like coming up for air. The feeling was so profound I promised myself I would end up relocating to Vancouver & three months later, that's exactly what I did. 

My initial meeting with the city was heavy with profundity, & that sense of profoundness & wonder only deepened as I got better acquainted with the city & the people who lived there. Still, I did not anticipate the mark that Vancouver would leave on my heart & the profound life lessons the city would teach me.

Vancouver Taught me About Nature

For a long time, Vancouver has been touted as the "no-fun city". I guess this label is mostly in reference to the city's nightlife, & to be honest, I can't speak to these claims at all, though if you find yourself walking down Granville on any night of the week, it looks like there are a lot of people having a lot of fun.

For me though, the six years I spent in Vancouver were TONS OF FUN. As a nature & adventure lover, Vancouver gave me access to every natural element I desired. From endless bike lanes, to some of the most amazing hikes I've ever been on, Vancouver has it all.

On a perfect day, you could spend your morning hiking in the mountains, your afternoon paddling a stand-up-paddle board across the ocean, & your evening playing beach volleyball as the sun sets over the ocean. Then, of course, you head to your favourite patio to enjoy dinner & drinks with friends.

If you're looking for recommendations, I suggest Local, in Kitsilano. It has good food & a huge patio. As a bonus, everyone in Kits seems to have a dog, so you'll get to pet a lot of them as they walk by with their owners.

Vancouver Taught me to Care About the Environment

I don't want to imply that Calgarians hate the environment, but...they must. I've never been anywhere else that has so much urban sprawl, & residents so insistent on driving the most fuel INefficient vehicles they can find. 

Going through school, we were taught about global warming, the danger of pollution, etc. etc. We were told to reduce, reuse & recycle &, to tell you the truth, I thought I was reducing, reusing & recycling. That is, until I moved to Vancouver & found out that I am actually a drain on the planet.

Living in Vancouver, it felt like everywhere I turned, there were conservationists & activists pushing for sustainability. It might sounds like I'm complaining, but, in reality, I'm so grateful for the increased awareness that rubbed off on me while living in Vancouver.

Vancouver Taught me That Tolerance Does Exist

Sometimes, staying up-to-date with current affairs gets me down. In the current political climate, it seems like everything you read is filled with judgemental vitriol & stories of disrespect & intolerance. Reading too much about politics & the atrocities that humans inflict upon one another can be a little too much to bear & it leaves me feeling hopeless.

Living in Vancouver, however, it always felt like it didn't matter who you are. It never mattered what your sexual orientation is, what colour your skin is, what gender you are, how much money you make...all that seemed to matter was how enjoyable you were to be around. This feeling of tolerance always fills me with hope.

Vancouver Taught me That Scraping to By Can be Thriving

It's hard to get a job in Vancouver. It really, really is. Rent in Vancouver is astronomical & the reality is, you're probably never going to be able to afford to buy a place in the city. All of this means that being able to afford to live in Vancouver is difficult.

Throughout my entire time in Vancouver, I was underemployed. Over the six years that I lived in the city, there were times when I needed to work two jobs & half of my income would still go towards rent. It was a struggle. Between rent, bills & needing to eat, finances were tight & saving up money for a rainy day wasn't an option. Still, we were happy.

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Living in Vancouver, we had friends, we had patches of grass to lay in when it was sunny out, we had ocean to sit next to in silence, & we had some of the most beautiful vantage points to park & watch the sun go down each night in spectacular explosions of pinks, purples, blues & oranges. What we had was enough &, as the Buddhist proverb goes, enough is a feast.

Vancouver Taught me That Talking to Stranger Can be Magical

I am shy. I am really, REALLY shy. I am so shy, for most of my life, I dreamt of living in isolation in Antarctica, specifically so I wouldn't have to face the discomfort & terror or speaking to other humans. Penguins, I'm confident I'd get along well with them & would always come up with the perfect thing to say. Humans...not so much.

Moving to a new city, however, necessitated I seek out friendship & that meant talking to strangers & in talking to strangers, I met some freaking incredible people. Living in Vancouver, can seem isolating. If you ever spend time with people who live in Vancouver,  they'll probably tell you that it's hard to meet people. The truth is, you've just got to put yourself "out there".

In my fumbling to make friends, I put an ad up on Craigslist, looking for a team to play beach volleyball with. I received a number of replies & ended up playing on two different teams which lead to friendships with two of my favourite humans in the world. I haven't asked them if I could mention them here, so I won't name any names. We'll just call them Unicorn & Bruce Lee (because calling them K & C just isn't as fun).

Unicorn was the captain of my Tuesday night team & became one of the most influential people in my life. Though she told me she worked in finance, & she drove me home in a Path Finder, Unicorn ended up being the most empathetic, accepting & enlightened person I know. Never have I felt myself being more stretched & expanded, than when I was having conversations with Unicorn.

Then there was Bruce Lee. He's obviously not THE Bruce Lee, but he did quote Bruce Lee when giving me a pep talk during volleyball. "Be water, my friend"...of course, he plagiarised this advice, but it still resonates with me, as does the copious amounts of advice & wisdom he imbued upon me.

While there are countless other Vancouverites who have left their mark on me, it is Unicorn & Bruce Lee that taught me to come out of my stupid shell to experience, not only the place, but the people as well.

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About The Author - Britten Thompson

Britten in the creator of The Essential Life, certified aromatherapist & a lover of cats, basketball, her boyfriend & the colour green. 

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