“The whole reason for moving out here is to spend as much time in the wilderness as possible.”
It was a surprise when Olli asked for his portrait to be made in the studio rather than in the great outdoors. Having said that, I love working in the studio - it’s my domain, it’s where I feel I shine. That’s not what we’re here for though. Olli was kind enough to answer my call for Brits in Vancouver and was up for telling his story. I always want to know what my guest's motivation was for leaving behind familiarity and restarting life in another country. Olli’s response?
“I moved to Vancouver to escape the craziness of London and get back to the mountains.”
And, who can blame him? I can still vividly recall the drudgery of the commute and the constant dripping nose air quality from my days of working in London, before relocating. Good move, Olli!
Often, the people I chat to have travelled further afield than Europe before relocating to Canada’s stunning West Coast. Olli is no different and mentioned spending time in Japan. Whilst living in Japan, Olli shared a place with someone from Canada and, serendipity kicked in. Olli made contact with said Canadian and of course, he lived in Vancouver. The relocation came together, even more, when Olli discovered that a brother of a good friend was making the move here at a similar time. As others have mentioned, knowing someone here when moving over alone is a big win as it means one isn’t starting a social circle from scratch.
I asked Olli when he made the move.
“I’ve been here for nearly 2 years [a 2017 move] and plan on staying for a few more yet, although the PR process is a pretty arduous task. I feel very at home in Vancouver - being able to keep my career going and still being able to enjoy the beach and mountains in my free time is such a big draw.”
That outdoor lifestyle is a regular draw for many of the Brits I speak to and for Olli, it extends past the beaches and mountains. Here’s why.
“The whole reason for moving out here is to spend as much time in the wilderness as possible. I am a keen photographer myself so I’m constantly hunting for the next landscape/sunset to snap.”
A fellow photographer and, you should check out Olli’s Instagram feed. His landscapes are sumptuous.
There are plenty of positives to being in the Vancouver area, that’s a given, yet, most Brits I’ve spoken to also find confusing and rather annoying things about being here as well. Nowhere is perfect, although imperfect with mountains is a pretty good result. How about Olli’s observations?
“There are a number of things that don't quite make sense to me. For example the whole car insurance situation; but that's a whole conversation in itself. I also miss the British pub - it was a real shock not being able to stand and walk around with my full-sized pint. But it’s something you get used to after a while. “
“Any other difficulties?” I asked.
“The time difference from home. I'm very close with my family and the +8hr time difference makes it difficult to catch up. But we have established a routine so I can get some updates. Thank god for the internet! “
Olli’s point about the ease of communicating even with the time difference makes me reflect on how hard it must have been for other relocators within my lifetime, who were only able to write letters (remember those) or make absurdly expensive phone calls. I won’t even start to think about the earlier immigrants and colonists.
Back to the great outdoors. I discovered that Olli has a ski and snowboard qualification that he took in Fernie and this experience led to his dream of returning to the province to live. In fact, when asked about where else in Canada Olli might want to live, BC’s interior and the Island were his laces of choice. BC has certainly won Olli over and he doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
As I met Olli shortly after the province started to re-open into the strange world of living with the coronavirus I asked about his personal experience.
“My COVID story has been a pretty uneventful one. I have been one of the lucky ones who kept their job throughout the turmoil. When the outbreak first happened a lot of my friends decided to head back home which was pretty unsettling. I would be lying if I didn't consider heading back myself. But putting my hindsight hat on, I am very glad I decided to ride it out in Vancouver. “
Even as case numbers rise in BC I have to agree with Olli. BC, at the time of writing, did not succumb to the virus in anything like the numbers in the UK (even when data was normalised).
Bringing things back to a more positive place, I wondered if Olli had come across any film sets when in town. He mused on being an extra, something he’d love to do, so if anyone can help out, Olli is up for it.
Time to add to the collective consciousness of relocation advice. After two years here, this is what Olli has to offer.
“It's going to be the best decision you make. It’s quite a big leap at first but everyone has been super welcoming and there is a great community of expats. If getting out in the hills is your thing there are loads of groups to join too.”
So, stop procrastinating and deal with the what if’s. If relocation is something you’ve toyed with, what needs to happen to make it a reality?
Finally, the suitcase question. What would Olli have brought with him if he could have?
“I’d love to have packed the people (friends and family first). I miss the English sense of humour the most, the self-deprecation and sarcasm isn’t such a thing out here. I also really miss orange fizzy Lucozade. It's a craving that I just can't seem to shake, or quench! “
Which only goes to prove that we all have our quirks and foibles when it comes to things we miss. Some are given such as family and friends and some are personal like Lucozade.
Olli, you’ve been an absolute sport and great fun to photograph. Thank you for being part of the 'Brits in Vancouver' project. Welcome to the Tardis. Enjoy the journey.
You’ll find more images from Brits in Vancouver on my photography site.