Returning to Vancouver and real life

This article is well overdue. In fact I haven’t written or posted anything for nearly a month. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I been chipping away at this article about my return to Vancouver for weeks, trying to sum up how I felt about being here again. But despite being asked the question over and over, I didn’t have an answer.

I left Vancouver in May 2012. Now I’m back. Living in the same apartment. Working the same jobs. Catching up with the same friends. Wearing the same Lululemon rain jacket. People joke it must feel like I never left and they don’t know how right they are. The differences between my life two years ago and now are hard to identify.

I’ve slipped back into city life alarmingly easily. After relishing the quiet in England’s Lake District for a year, I wondered if I’d enjoy living in Vancouver again. But it’s hard to dislike this place. The supermarkets are open past 7pm and the buses run all the time. Ok so it’s the small things I missed while living in the country.

Davie St crossing

But in all seriousness, Vancouver is a pretty spectacular city.

I hadn’t forgotten how much I love Canada, but it’s been nice to be reminded anyway. Everyone is just so darn friendly here. I think they even top the Irish on that front. Vancouverites are so delightful it’s as if the city water supply is laced with Prozac. Maybe it’s all the yoga. Oh yeah, everybody does yoga here. And recycles. And rides bikes. And is either vegetarian, vegan, organic or gluten and/or dairy free. That’s a mild generalisation, but you can’t swing an almond milk chai latte without hitting someone dressed in lycra! But after almost six months of constant travel and more than one day where a packet of chocolate biscuits constituted breakfast (and sometimes lunch too), I’m welcoming the healthy influences. I’ve even met a dog on a gluten free diet!

Kayaks on English Bay

I also hadn’t forgotten how beautiful this city is. I have walked so much lately just because I love being outside. Sure there’s the regular scent of marijuana as you walk along quiet, residential streets, but hey, some people think that’s charming. I’m lucky to live right on the water so I regularly wake up to views a little something like this:

Vancouver in the cloud

Vancouver in the sun

Yeah. I know.

But readjusting to life in Vancouver has involved more than getting used to sleeping with bright lights outside my bedroom window.

Coming back to Canada wasn’t so much a decision as the most sensible option once my UK visa ended. When I left Canada I had a year in the UK ahead of me so returning to Vancouver wasn’t something I was thinking about. But once I started planning my most recent trip, it became clear that I’d need to get back to work pretty damn quickly after it was over. After such a busy 2013, my bank balance wasn’t the happiest. It had been my intention to be working before Christmas but then Portugal happened…and then Finland happened. Rather than waste time sorting out visas for unfamiliar countries or trying to settle in a new city, it seemed logical to return to a place I already knew: Australia or Canada.

And so here I am.

In the weeks before I came back to Canada I went through so many different emotions. One day in England I began to get super excited about coming back. My flight couldn’t have been soon enough. Then other days I’d think about what coming back meant: returning to work, routine, familiar faces. Coming back to “reality” after travel is always hard, but this time it felt even harder.

For the last two and a half years I’ve constantly sought out new and challenging experiences, not just when I’m travelling but also when I’m not. But returning to Vancouver went against that trend and that was hard to come to terms with. This time I wasn’t moving to a small village in the middle of a national park, I was returning to a life I’d already lived. That felt like going backwards and it wasn’t a situation I was comfortable with.

English Bay from Burrard Bridge

My first few days back in Vancouver were strange. The quip “same, same, but different” seems appropriate. I ran around the city researching cell phone plans, sorting out my social insurance number, opening a bank account – just as I did two and a half years ago. Yet this time it was easier. My bank still had me on file – I just had to update my phone number! That kind of familiarity has been disheartening.

No longer travelling AND living somewhere I’d already been was a double blow.

I also struggled with getting some structure back into my life. Grocery shopping for a week? Ridiculously challenging after living from day to day for almost six months.

The whole ordeal put me in a bit of a slump for a few weeks.  Actually, you should be happy I didn’t post anything for a while. I was acting like a bit of a brat.

But the grown up in me (she appears occasionally) eventually reasoned I had two options: accepting I had made a conscious decision to come back to Vancouver and make the most of it; or quit my bitching and move somewhere I’ve never heard of..

So three weeks in I’ve finally come to terms with where I am, both in location and life. Having an income for the first time in almost half a year certainly helped soften the decision. As has the outdoor hot tub with sea and mountain views on the second floor of my apartment building. And the really long list of new cafes and restaurants my friends have told me I need to try now I’m back. (I’m writing this from my new favourite: a gluten free cafe in Kitsilano called Culprit.)

Perhaps this whole not-travelling thing might not be so bad after all.

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