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Why Vancouver? Why You?

Thank you to all entrants. Please visit the semifinalist page to view the top ten essays as determined by our panel and the public voting. Click here to view the top ten

Moving to the Big Smoke

By Shari Van Spronsen

My daughter asks my husband Ivan: What kind of money would you need to earn in order to get you to live in Vancouver? My husband replies wild-eyed but convinced: About $200,000.

The next day he was offered that amount for a job in Surrey. But he would have to move from Dawson Creek, a small town in Northern BC that generally thought very little of Vancouver as it was deemed gang-infested and tree-hugger infested and just full of narcissistic folks who ignored anybody outside of the Lower Mainland (beyond Hope). And the timing of that question was off. Ivan’s briefcase, camera, and phone had just been stolen out of his truck during a trip to the Guilford Mall.

A couple of years later we moved to Vancouver Island in search of a different experience than our insular teeny town could offer us. We settled into what we felt was paradise: Comox, “Place of Plenty”. It was a small town spitting distance from the beach and every kind of culture you could imagine. It was small town life but with an edge.

But, like all things miraculous, our love affair with Comox dissipated slightly and when a new job was offered to Ivan in Langley we decided to take it. I was in a Masters program that could transfer to Vancouver and the thrill of doing something different enticed us out of our blissful slumber in Comox.

Off to Langley we went, not realizing the culture shock we would experience and the isolation that led us to call our new neighbourhood a place where culture goes to die. After the first flush of exploring our new hometown, we settled into a time of exile and languished every weekend with nothing to do.

So, we began to commute to Vancouver four or five days a week for friends, music, dining, theatre, my work and school, and countless other things we were interested in and had to experience. We braved the crossing of the Port Mann Bridge when it was undergoing construction. There were one-to-two hour delays in the wee hours after dinners in Gastown; I timed my 9:00am meetings on Main Street for 7:30 departures. We lost a lot of sleep, gas money, and humour as we waited for traffic to clear and lanes to open but we were determined to experience all that Vancouver had to offer.

After the first year in Langley, we talked about putting our house up for sale. After the second year of exile, we hired a real estate agent. After the third year we were desperate for a change. I had been working downtown for a year by then and was thriving on the energy and possibilities that the city offered.

Thankfully, our house sold and Langley was discarded easily as our search for a new place to live took precedence. Well, we had not been idle in the years of waiting for the sale and we had researched a lot about the city before moving into the city. Housing costs, demographics, the distance required for our commutes, and a myriad of variables presented themselves. And then it became obvious to both of us: there were two concepts that had to be represented: we would not be consumers but contributors to our new neighbourhood; and, we wanted to be able to able to be involved in our friends lives on a regular basis. Our home would have to accommodate 10-15 people at a time for gatherings, cocktail parties, and all sorts of hospitality and it would need to be comfortable and welcoming in a smaller footprint than we were used to.

We found a place that fit those requirements and could not be happier. My husband does not make the $200,000 a year that he originally stated was necessary to consider a Vancouver residency. We take transit and walk everywhere when we possibly can. We live beside a diverse population who are not all tree-huggers and transients, although we have great relationships with those folk and many others.

We love to partake of all the Vancouver festivals and music and fine dining and cocktail bars but we also work hard in our neighbourhood to beautify our streets and support the people in the building where our home is located. We have more friends and people in our house than we have ever had in our married life and we couldn’t be more thankful to be a part of so many people’s lives. And we couldn’t be more surprised to find ourselves living here in the Big Smoke and enjoying it to the full!

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