The five reasons I left Vancouver

Addendum (June 30, 2015) — Since I wrote this post I have moved back to the beautiful city of Vancouver, and I wrote about the reasons why.

Vancouver is nice to visit, but I don’t want to live there.

I’m not going to slam Vancouver. It’s no one’s fault but my own that I didn’t like living there, it has nothing to do with the city itself, not that I can tell. I quite like it and, given other circumstances, I’m sure I could happily live there. In fact, ever since I moved to Victoria over six years ago, I really wanted to be in Vancouver. For years before that I had set my sights on the west coast, and it was always Vancouver I wanted to land. To me it seemed big, exciting, diverse. Things happen there.

Then last summer, and I got a promotion in my job, which made it impractical for me to keep commuting from Victoria for meetings. My daughter graduated from high school and entered post-secondary education. I set her up in a home stay situation and bought a lovely condo in Marpole.

So why would I want to leave? Here, in ascending order of importance, are my reasons:

1. It’s a pain in the ass to commute to work

  • 35 minutes by air from Victoria harbour to Vancouver harbour
  • 35 minutes by bus/Canada Line from my Marpole condo to the downtown office

Marine Drive Canada Line Station, VancouverBoth are equally unpleasant, but I had to do the latter every day. Now that I’m back in Victoria I can keep it to once every month or six weeks. Of note, however, is that the reason I can keep travel down now is because I was actually in Vancouver for eight months. There’s nothing like establishing face-to-face relationships in order to make it easier to carry on with web conferencing, Skype, conference calls, instant messaging, etc.

I admit, public transit is good and compared to many places in the world it’s fantastically clean and efficient and cheap. Ask anyone from Los Angeles or Mexico City or even Toronto. However after six months of being crammed into a bus or skytrain for at least an hour a day to get to and from work, I’d had enough. I don’t know how people do it. I asked my colleague who lives in White Rock how he does it and, from what he said, I gather a one-and-a-half-hour ride each way (more than 2x as long as my commute) is the “price of admission” for living in a home and a community he loves.

Me? I lived in Marpole. A conservative enclave in south Vancouver. I have a nice condo and I made a point of getting to know my neighbours, but it’s not a neighbourhood I saw myself getting attached to. I walked everywhere when I lived in Fairfield in Victoria: to the gym, to work, to get groceries and fresh organic produce, coffee shops, Cook Street Village. My best friends lived not far from me. I was a bike ride away from Skeptic in the Pub nights in James Bay.

2. No running routes near my place in Marpole

It was all streets, all the time on my mid-week runs. I could run the bridges over the Fraser River, or out to Fraser River Park and back (5k) but it’s all pavement. I felt claustrophobic in Vancouver. I missed Beacon Hill Park, and Dallas Road, and the “Seven Sisters” hills in Fairfield.

Running in Stanley ParkI thought I’d be getting to the North Shore more often to explore the trails. Nope. Anyone who knows me knows how much I dislike driving. To get to those enticing trails on the north shore I’d have to drive through downtown, across the Lion’s Gate Bridge and up to the mountains, which are packed with snow in the higher elevations much of the year. Great for skiers, not so great for trail runners. In Victoria, I jump in my car to be at Elk/Beaver Lake, Finlayson or Gowland Tod park within 20 minutes; a little longer for East Sooke Park, and it’s mostly countryside, not urban traffic.

3. Incessant gloom

Victoria gets twice as much sun as Vancouver. I didn’t realize how much that would affect me until I experienced it. It sucks, and that’s all there is to say about it. You live in Vancouver? You know exactly what I’m talking about.

4. Proximity to friends

Although I make friends easily, in Vancouver it was a PITA (see #1 above) to get anywhere to meet people. I realized I have a great life in Victoria, I have a network of friends and acquaintances built up over the years. I can walk downtown and meet people I know. I don’t feel like a stranger here, whereas I felt isolated in Vancouver.

5. I want to be there for my daughter, and my son

MaryI saved the most important reason for last. Even though she is a grown-up now, I missed my youngest child like crazy. She has no plans to leave Victoria. She’s found a place she loves, a young man she loves, and she’s staying here to get her education, work, raise a family eventually. She’s more grounded, she takes after her father that way. Her older brother, my son, is moving to Victoria this summer.

Given that my older daughter and her family, including my grandson, are probably stuck in Regina, I want to keep in contact with as much of my family as possible. They’re all I have. I lost touch with my own parents from an early age and after just a few months in Vancouver I had some soul-searching to do, and realized I can’t let that happen to my relationship with my own children. If two of them are in Victoria, then that’s where I’ll be. I can’t be much help with my daughter and grandson in Regina, but I can be for my two children who are on the west coast.

A note about real estate prices, which was not in a factor:

  • Selling price of my Regina 2-bedroom condo in 2006: $87,000
  • Asking price* of my 1-bedroom condo in Vancouver: $315,000

Let me tell you, my income is considerably more than it was in Saskatchewan, but not THAT much more. I am lucky to have good tenants and the ability to ride out the dip in real estate values that’s coming, but it still causes me a bit of anxiety. So even though housing is usually the first thing about Vancouver people complain about, it’s not my biggest complaint. It is a beautiful city, a desireable place to live and it’s hemmed in by mountains. You can expect it’s going to have world-class real estate prices. And yes, I realize I’m a little older and a little more financially stable than younger people who complain about the cost of housing.

Vancouver just is not my kind of place.

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*Note: I didn’t get that price, that’s why I rented it out.

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