At times, Vancouver seems to be all about the natural environment. I met Lissy for her photoshoot in Gastown. I really appreciated that Lissy wanted to steer clear of the tourist parts of the area and we ended up in Blood Alley for a far more urban shoot.
It’s been three years since Lissy moved here from the UK, having visited multiple times before then. “I first came to Vancouver in 2014 as part of a tour group I was travelling with. We were camping around America (33 States) in 64 days and part of the trip came into a BC and Alberta. That trip I came to Vancouver for one day and fell in love with it.”
What really struck me with Lissy was how definite she was that this was the place to be. Others I’ve met as part of the project are open to more travel whereas Lissy was very clear about her place here. “I can truly say I feel at home here more than any other place I have travelled. I finally felt that I belonged somewhere and the people got me.” It seems that past wanderlust has been rewarded with a sense of peace and place. Being at home is one thing, yet finding work here can be quite a challenge. I wanted to know more about Lissy’s approach. “I decided that if I was moving to Van that I would change my career from working in the Film and TV industry to becoming a Massage Therapist. I got a student visa and enrolled in an intense 20 month program at VCMT – the course basically took up most of my time over the last 2 years. Now I am working as an RMT (Registered Massage Therapist) which I love. I love helping people who are in need of some relief from stress or an injury, it is so rewarding.” This was a very different approach to other expats I’d met. Having said that, I’ve certainly heard of others changing direction, however, it tended to be out of necessity rather than choice, so it was refreshing to find someone that completely embraced the life change.
I was curious about how else Lissy spent her time. “I love volunteering. One of my favourite places to volunteer is at the Folk Festival. I have worked there for the last 3 years met some amazing people along the way, I love the sense of community there is there year after year. My other interest is Music. I love going to see live bands whether at a local bar or at the stadium, there really is a diverse music scene here in Van if you know where to look for it.” Needless to say, the natural environment did surface. “Of course living in Van I love being outside. Running or biking the seawall, Snowshoeing, hiking, kayaking, camping anything really although I still need to learn to ski!!“ Everyone I’ve met so far as part of this project has appreciated the diversity of people, culture, environment and activities that Vancouver offers and I’d count myself in on that too.
Breaking in to the local social scene was something that had proven difficult for others and it seems that having an in really helps the relocation process. In Lissy’s case, she knew a old school friend that was here and that helped immensely as Lissy was introduced to others and had a ready-built group of friends when she permanently moved over. This certainly seems to have helped the settling process and it’s something I’d have appreciated when I moved over with my family back on 2007.
A new country can invariable bring a level of culture shock or at least getting used to differences. I asked Lissy about what she had experienced and what she’d like to have brought with her from the UK. Her responses hammered home the need to thoroughly prepare for a relocation “I was well prepared, and nothing really shocked me.” The old adage of ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ sprang to mind. Even though I’ve come across an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit with everyone I’ve met, they’ve all completed their homework and have been ready for at least the significant changes. Lissy added “Come for an exploratory vacation. Look at how much things are going to cost, where you want to live, check out areas, see if there is a demand for your profession. Van is expensive make sure you can afford to live here and have time and money to enjoy what it has to offer.“
As I mentioned above, there are always some things that are missed (other than family and friends) and, Lissy is no different. When I ask about these things I get an insight in to people’s real interests in life “My massive CD collection (5 huge storage boxes of rare and interesting music especially those I can’t get on streaming platforms). My family’s artwork. Marks and Spencer’s, the banking system, the ease of setting up a self-employed business, The Tate Galleries.” With a past career in the film and TV sector it’s not really surprising to find the arts and creativity being firmly part of Lissy’s life.
As a final question, I asked whether Lissy would return to the UK. “Only for vacations. Vancouver and Canada are my home now” and that says it all. Some of us are simply born in a place that doesn’t suit us as we grow and explore life more. It’s our own responsibility to find somewhere we call home whether it’s around the corner from where we’re born, of on the other side of the world.
Lissy, thank you for sharing your Brits in Vancouver story. It was a pleasure to meet you and sense your joy of life in somewhere you’re happy to call home. Welcome to the TARDIS, welcome to Adventures in Time and Place.
You’ll find more images from Brits in Vancouver on my photography site.