Living the Vancouver Life

Moving is quite a big part of my life- having lived in many different countries in my 31 years – I feel I have become quite adept at packing my life up and starting afresh somewhere new.

The best part of three years spent living in Spain, extended trips in India and Asia, the UK, Europe, South America and my most recent stint living in Zanzibar for three months – has all led me quite fluidly to probably the ‘biggest move’ yet – crossing the waters to Canada.

A standard question here is “What brought you to Canada?” – I never quite know what to say to that, because I’m not sure I can pin point it to any one reason of motive.

I have a vague memory from the day I received my Leaving Cert results and saying that when “I was ready to move somewhere long term I would go to Canada“.  During my university years in Galway I spent a summer working as a tour guide in Galway city and my first two attendees were two guys from Vancouver – who I still meet up with now. Later that summer I met a couple from Vancouver Island who told me about the incredible nature there and that I need to visit someday. That is the thing when you travel or meet other travelers, you always find out about a new place that sticks in your mind – the world is so exponentially big that the list of destinations to visit never ends.

Having spent the past few years more or less based in Ireland, I was becoming quite comfortable with planting roots somewhere, and being around family and friends. I was pretty content to stay put and settle back to the homeland. I particularly loved being back at home, around Tuam and Barnaderg – getting to teach yoga ; which I have been practicing and studying for almost seven years and that was the main purpose for the many months I have spent in my beloved India. It really is nice to start to appreciate where you are from, the community as well as exploring parts of Ireland I had never been in my life.

So what brought me to Canada? I still don’t know but over a casual conversation with a friend, she mentioned that she was going to apply for a working visa in Canada – and without a second thought I said I wanted to apply also. I got approved and I received the visa on the day that I had just taken a three month yoga teaching position in Zanzibar!

A year later, I had packed up my life and was ready to make the move across the shores. I decided to try Vancouver, the little I knew about it appealed to me. Lots of beautiful nature, outdoor lifestyle, nice summers and different seasons (it is known to have lots of Galway style rain – but I am okay with that!) – not the extreme cold winters you can have in many parts of Canada – I am not a cold weather fan; however I am excited about trying out my new ski gear for my first ever ski season!

With the outdoor and active lifestyle, the arts and the movie scene here (lots of movies and Netflix shows are filmed here) and the west coast living, I felt that there would be some exciting work opportunities here for me.

21 km snowy hike up mt.Frosty in Manning Park

Having a friend when I arrived was a real gift! You don’t really appreciate how helpful it is until you are in a new city, unfamiliar with the area and not knowing where to start and it can be overwhelming – no matter how many times you have gone through this type of move. I spent 6 weeks living with my friends while I searched for work, looked for a home and explored this new city that I was going to be calling home. It is a rollercoaster for sure, you wonder if you have made the right choice, sending out CV’s to every type of job you can imagine and even looking for a room in a city that has a housing issue not dissimilar to many Irish cities – it can take its toll at times. But you have your moments, you cry, you freak out and you want to run back home – but you keep going.

The great thing is there are so many others who have gone through the same situation here and there is a wonderful community that has built up around that. Specifically a great Irish community. 

In Whistler village with Jamie and Sarah Burke

I’ve had people from other countries express how lovely they find the way Irish people look out for each other, whether we are strangers or not. It is a nice feeling and you do appreciate that support, even if you just know that it is there in the background. There is a huge community living here, some for many years – some in their first year or two; like myself. It is great to be able to reach out when you have any doubts or questions and to always have someone willing to offer their advice or suggestions – be it through online groups or at meetups that happen around the city.

The view in front of my house in the Westend.

I love any city that is multicultural, that has many different people from all walks of life and all over the world. Vancouver has that. I love to learn about the history and the way of life in places that I am in, there is always so much to learn and so much you don’t know about many countries. Learning about the history here in Vancouver, learning about the indigenous and native communities, and how the city of Vancouver has become what it is today and the effects that has had on these communities – and I am continuing to learn about this.

Winter hike in Squamish

I have been here almost eleven months and I still feel like I have just arrived, but one thing I felt from day one was: I am very much at home. It is always hard to be so far away from everyone, your family and your friends. There can be moments where you would love to be able click your fingers and have a few days with those who you love. It reminds you to be grateful for the times you get to spend with them! It also gives you an insight into the challenges and the other aspects of moving far away-and helps to consider how this can be for those who are displaced and forced to leave their homes. It reminds me how important it is to feel welcome and feel safe, not just from your own community but from the many communities within which you are living. It reminds you to be respectful to the places you are in and to acknowledge the privileges we have (that many do not!).

Mt .Frosty adventures

The other aspect of my experience here is seeing all the little threads of life come together. When you move to a new place where you are pretty much unknown and a sort of blank slate – you can really shape out the life you have been working towards- if you are happy to work hard for it. It isn’t easy, you have to put yourself out there and the old cliché that ‘when one door closes, another opens’ is certainly true and you have to be ready to just dust yourself off and keep going.

I have spent the past few years – since graduating from NUIG – following my passions for writing, travel and yoga and any sort of physical activity that gets me out in nature. I’ve worked on my blog – which has always been more of a personal project that I enjoy and which encourages me to engage and meet with people around the world who are making positive changes and impact on their environment (www.yogafootsteps.com). As an English degree graduate, writing and reading has always been what I loved most at school, and is always what I am happiest doing.

After spending my first few months here working in some downtown yoga studios I have landed a job that I absolutely adore. There were a lot of emails and cover letters and daily searching – then I came across a posting and contacted them straight away. The next day I was having coffee with the owner talking about his recent trip to Ireland and discussing travel and the outdoors – and next thing I knew I was offered the job! I spend my days organising cycling and hiking trips for active travelers in Canada, Europe (including 7 – 10 days of cycling and walking around the west of Ireland (including Galway and my beloved Connemara!). I love getting feedback and photos from our Canadian / American cyclers telling us how much they loved Ireland and the people.) Other trips include places like California, Costa Rica and our sister company have trips to Japan, Vietnam, Chile and many more wonderful parts of the world. I get to write and research travel, to be around cyclists. I got to join a couple of trips in British Columbia over the summer – one was a 160km cycle and camping weekend from Princeton to Hope along the Kettle Valley Railway trail – a decommissioned railway track which is now a recreational cycle / walking trail. I also got to teach yoga and write about our mountain biking weekend on the stunning Sunshine Coast.

So- here I am, very happy and content with my life in Canada. I have my mam with me at the moment and it is a very nice feeling to show her around the city that I love so much.

It is nice to see how life unfolds and going with the opportunities that arise. I always talk about the positive impact that my Barnaderg school experience had on me- I still remember the encouragement from our teacher (Mr.Cassidy) to explore different interests; he let me study German, typing skills (Mavis Beacon anyone?!), reading ‘Lord of the Flies’ and other books on Friday afternoons, playing chess, the ‘fact cards’ and the wonderful memories I have of the group project I was part of; where we learned about the archaeology and old historical sites in the Killererin parish. (I loved the ‘Golden Mile’ walk over the past year, it is great and I would love to see more visitors enjoy it!)

There was a nice sense of things coming full circle, when a few months before moving here I took the bus to Galway and found myself sitting next to Mr. Cassidy (Sylvester- but I still find Mr.Cassidy comes out!). I spoke about my recent trip to Zanzibar and he told me about his time teaching in Africa, and we just chatted in general – and it was really nice. It is funny how life is and when you cross paths with people who were a part of your journey and the things that remain in your memory. You do remember how people make you feel, you remember the way someone helped and encouraged you.

It is all these seemingly normal, perhaps at the time seemingly insignificant moments that can really shape life for you. You find yourself becoming more aware of this when you are somewhat out of your comfort zone, relying on the kindness and generosity of others and you are more attuned to the impact of how someone makes you feel – especially at times when you are vulnerable (like when you move to a new continent.)

The reminder and sense of community that I associate with Ireland, with Barnaderg, is something that you carry with you and something you cherish when the place you live gets a bit bigger and your community gets a bit smaller.

I feel very content in my life here, I speak regularly about this sense of not wanting to be anywhere else – which apart from my time in India – is quite a rare feeling for me, because I do like to move a lot. I feel very happy to stay here for as long as I can, I feel very present and each month that passes by you start to see and understand a new layer to your surroundings. That is something that can be missing when you move from place to place a lot, it can be nice to feel settled and grounded and it really is true that when the time and the place is right, you will know. All the hard times and the not knowing and the going against what you feel you should do and going towards what you feel you are meant to do – it is all worth it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.