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Vancouver. What a pleasant surprise. Still!

I made my first over-night ‘stop-over’ in Vancouver 25 years ago. I had no idea about this city, what it had to offer, how beautiful it was and how it would change the direction of my life in such…well…life-changing ways.


I grew up in suburban Toronto, couldn’t wait to move downtown and be “Urban”. After 10 years of living in the city, I felt something was missing. I had no idea what. When I relocated here 18 years ago, I knew just as little about the city as when I saw my first west coast sunrise years before.


Vancouver is not what I expected it to be.” I mentioned to a new friend, also a recent immigrant to BC (seems just about everyone I met was from elsewhere).

“What did you expect it to be?” asked my new friend.

“I have no idea. But this wasn’t it,” was my reply.  


It’s true. If you ask anybody in Toronto or Montreal or Halifax, they will have a difficult time giving you more than a vague idea of whom and what Vancouver is.


Being from Toronto, I was used to the ‘hustle n bustle’ attitude of a city living in the shadow of the successful older brother (New York). I found it discouraging that one was constantly expected to work harder than everybody else, focus on work above all and, if you reached a certain level of success, you were allowed to enjoy a little bit of living.  


I have always’ lightly’ defined the difference between Vancouver and Toronto as such:


Thursday in Vancouver:


            “Hey Chuck, Monday’s a holiday. I’m taking Friday off and heading to the cottage for some long weekend fishing.”


            “Great Phil, catch one for me, will yah?”


Thursday in Toronto:


            “Hey Charles, Monday’s a holiday. I’m taking Friday off and heading to the cottage for some long weekend fishing.”



            “Uh Philip, we’ll see you here tomorrow or don’t bother coming back on Tuesday.”



After a couple of years in Vancouver, I realised that life was better spent working to live than living to work. The extra $$$ earned by working that much harder (read: 6-7 days per week) was not as valuable as earning memories that would last a lifetime (read: time spent with family, developing relationships, strengthening friendships, enjoying what the region has to offer).


Granted, you can’t have your evening stopped by a spectacular sunset in Toronto unless you’re sitting in Canoe Restaurant, 54 floors above-ground or you’re a Bay Street lawyer with a west facing corner office, working overtime in the ScotiaPlaza building.


Having said that, people would often ask me which city I preferred. Naturally, if I didn’t prefer to be in Vancouver, I would have moved back to Toronto.

However, one must not compare apple and oranges. I miss Toronto as much as I would miss Vancouver if I did not live here. My wife and I (yes, she’s a born and raised BC girl), felt raising a family in a more balanced environment was a good idea. I always joke that it sucks to be born in Vancouver. I mean really, where do you go in the world and say “Wow, you live in a fantastically beautiful place!” when you are born and raised here.


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