"Nothing beats a Vancouver sunset."
Owen co-hosts the Great Escape Pod podcast. Tales of Brits (mostly) living in a foreign land. Along with Ryan and Mark, Owen usually gets to ask the questions. This time, it was Owen's turn to spill the beans.
"Some fantastic questions Mark, forced me to have a really nice reflection about the journey so far."
Owen had immediately ingratiated himself to me and, I accepted the compliment in that very British "Oh, it's nothing really." kind of way.
An obvious start for me was to ask what brought him to Canada and Vancouver.
"I’d lived in Toronto for around five years and wanted a change of scenery. The city of Toronto is amazing but too much! Vancouver is much more my scene, more nature-oriented. It’s truly been a dream being in such close proximity to the mountains, and a massive range of gorgeous cycle routes."
Owen has been out of the UK for around seven years and, I wondered if Vancouver was now the place to be for keeps.
"I want to move about more, I’ll stay in Canada for sure, but I’d like to go more rural, get out of the city altogether. I was born in the countryside, and miss the quiet. I want to wear double denim and eat bear jerky. Maybe own a truck?"
I have to point out; Owen spoke to me after Covid lockdown so he might regret making the double-denim comment. Or, maybe Canada has really got under his skin. Time will tell.
One of the frequent comments I've heard about relocating is the difficulty in building new friendships and connections. It's helpful knowing someone here, and Owen is one of the luckier people I've spoken to when it came to having a ready-made social circle.
"I knew a good pal Julian from Toronto, it was awesome having a pal here already who was well established. I instantly joined a footy team with him and it expanded my circle. I still hang out/play footy with a lot of the same crowd now. Very thankful to have already had connections here. My partner also has a sister and a brother-in-law of mine out here who we get along great with. They’d fairly recently made the move east-to-west, so it’s been great experiencing BC with people also new to it!"
Getting established also means getting work. However, Owen brought his work with him from Toronto, making the transition a lot smoother.
"I work in Sales for a Toronto based company. I was doing the remote thing way before COVID kicked off, which gave me a head start on coping with my own thoughts! I know that’s been a big adjustment for a lot of people. I spend my days calling people and pitching advertising plans."
Over these Brits in Vancouver chats, I've come across a real mix of work stories from bringing work from the UK (or Toronto) to complete career changes. It's one of the joys of emigrating; a chance to maintain the career path or reinvent oneself.
I wanted to know more about what Owen gets up to when he's not pitching advertising plans.
"I cycle & run three or four times a week, I have to get out and do something, it helps me reset. I love playing football, hiking, skiing, fishing, camping – Anything outdoors I’m into! I also love going down to the seafront with my Mrs at the end of a long day and watching the sun go down! Nothing beats a Vancouver sunset."
So really, just another Vancouver convert!
What about being on the west coast? Although I've not visited Toronto, I've been told the pace of life there is far faster than Vancouver. Was there a noticeable change of pace for Owen?
"I didn’t expect to be this relaxed. Vancouver really calmed me down as a person! There’s something in the air."
Seems that it's a yes, then.
There's usually a difficulty in being overseas and I wanted to know what that was for Owen (life isn't all plain-sailing).
"Being 8 hours away from the Family in England is tough, and presents some challenges. My sister lives in Ontario and just had a kid, I do miss being able to see them. COVID and travel being tampered definitely make the world seem a little bigger."
And, as Owen mentioned, the challenges increased with a pandemic.
"It’s been tough at times being so far away from home, worrying about the family. My nans home got a couple of cases, which caused some real concern. You definitely notice the distance from home when things like this happen, but I’m thankful my family are in Rural England, where things aren't as bad on the whole."
In some ways, we're fortunate to emigrate out of choice. Many others are forced to leave their homelands in search of stability and a fresh start. Having said that, even though people I've spoken to made a positive choice to move, it hasn't been any easier to leave family and friends behind.
It seemed a good time to ask Owen about what else he misses.
"I miss Lucazade Orange, McCoy’s Salt and Vinegar and watching rugby with my old man! I do miss Yorkshire too; and the people. I love home, I just have a new one now."
Would Owen consider heading back to Yorkshire?
"I don’t think it will happen, Canada is my home now!”
I thought it was a good time to ask about what Owen would have brought with him if he could have fitted it into a suitcase. I was blindsided by his response.
"Greek Town in Toronto.
I love Greek food, the Greek food is good in Vancouver, but there are a few spots in Toronto that blew me away."
Didn't see that coming! Maybe it's a sign that Owen is now a fully paid-up expatriate, wherever he ends up.
To finish off, I asked for Owen's advice to the would-be immigrant to Vancouver.
"Don’t question it, do it, prepare to be absolutely torn apart rent wise, but it will all be worth it."
I think he nailed it!
Owen, thank you for being such a great sport. The portrait session was a lot of fun and, with the poses you struck, I'm sure you've got a future in modelling for retro-clothing catalogues.
Welcome to the Tardis. Enjoy the journey.
You’ll find more images from Brits in Vancouver on my photography site.
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