“The access to true wilderness. There are areas nearby which are a multi-day strenuous hike away, not accessible by road or boat.”
Another Brit in Vancouver, another location. I met with Ellie at Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver.
Ellie moved to Vancouver just over five years ago for possibly the most unusual reason; “Mostly to play Ultimate Frisbee at a higher level – bit unusual I know! The sport started in North America and so the level of competition here is just a step above.” I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting that as a response. I asked “How did you know that Vancouver was the place to be?”. Ellie’s response, “I didn’t and still don’t. But no decision needs to be forever. A lot of my friends raved about Vancouver even though most had never been. The city is on top of their marketing!”, which I found so refreshing. The idea of being open to exploration fitted perfectly with the TARDIS theme for the project, Ellie was in this time and place, enjoying the experience.
“Who did you know here before moving?” I asked. “No-one at all. However the Ultimate Frisbee community is incredibly friendly and welcoming so I knew I’d meet people easily.” I was left musing that having a ready made community to join could make the relocation easier. When I arrived with my family in 2007, we were in the same position of knowing no-one and found it hard (especially as more introverted types) to build relationships. My guess is that some newcomers, and it doesn’t matter where they come from, will gravitate to seeking out their default national community if they don’t have access to an alternative group like Ellie tapped in to.
An Active Life
It didn’t take long before the natural environment in this area surfaced. I was exploring Ellie’s interests outside of Ultimate and work (Sustainability Consultant), she mentioned “I love exploring nature and challenging myself.” Adding to that “The access to true wilderness; there are areas nearby which are a multi-day strenuous hike away, not accessible by road or boat.” Due to an injury, Ellie is no longer playing Ultimate (she even represented Canada) but is able to run, ski, climb and swim and loves spending time in Lynn Valley. Swimming turned out to be something that Ellie did not expect to be doing as frequently as she does, “the rivers and lakes are so inviting in the summer.”
When asking about other surprises I was a little taken-aback by her comments; “Initially it was the litter and homelessness – Vancouver had been built up so much as an ‘ideal’ city that I was shocked that it can be pretty dirty.” Unfortunately homelessness is a reality for many, not just in Vancouver. I’m a believer that on the whole. people do not choose to be homeless. The local problem is well documented (just do a search on ‘homelessness in Vancouver’ for a variety of links to articles and news reports) yet being confronted by the issue is a reminder that we (humankind) can do better for vulnerable people. As for litter, I have to agree that over the last two-three years I seem to be noticing more litter on the streets. There can obviously be multiple reasons for this, street cleaning down, more people discarding stuff, social values changing, yet whatever the reason, I’m still not sure the streets are as grubby as some I’ve seen in the UK in the past. Maybe the City has set such high standards for itself that even a little deviation from ‘ideal’ becomes very noticeable.
As part of this project I’ll always ask about what’s missed other than family and friends. Ellie mentioned “the train and bike network. Definitely the self deprecating sarcastic humour.” Two very diverse observations and I’m in agreement on both. Let’s face it, the UK train networks so not enjoy the best of reputations, but they do exist. Outside of Skytrain, the only options are tourist-focussed trains to Whistler and the Rockies or the Cascades line to Seattle and beyond. I took the train to Seattle a couple of years ago and even though the journey offered up amazing views, it was a slow, slow ride. I’ve also travelled on trains across Europe (Berlin, Torino) and the high speed networks such as TGV, Thalys, and ICE provided a far superior experience. Having said that, with a population roughly half that of the UK covering an area multiple times more ( map courtesy of My Life Elsewhere ) I can appreciate running a service that doesn’t lose money is likely very difficult. Humour, oh yes, I get that completely. It must be in the genes.
My final question to Ellie was asking for tips for potential emigrants. “Think about how much time / money / carbon emissions you will commit to for going home for visits. Most jobs only give you three weeks off a year (two when you first start) – will you use at least a week of that to go home each year?” And that’s a great thought. People react differently to relocating, some needing to reconnect with people and places from their country of origin; others more comfortable with letting the old country go. Before taking the signifiant step of emigration, even if it’s only for a couple of years on a work permit, think carefully about what you’re leaving behind.
Thanks Ellie for being a great Brit in Vancouver. Keep exploring and enjoy your life on the west coast.