Vancouver: I Love You, But I'm Leaving

This is my first piece on my decision to leave my hometown of Vancouver and head for Victoria, off the coast, the southernmost point of Vancouver Island. (Vancouver is on the Mainland, not on the island that bears its name. No, that’s not confusing at all. God.)
Because it’s the first time I’m letting the cat out of the bag, there’s a lot of simmering anger in me. I feel I’ve been forced to this decision by a city that has become a place where much of the 99% can barely get by. Like so often is the case, my anger’s finally making me act, and I’m picking up my first moving boxes this weekend.
As time evolves, I’ll look at this shift in my life with a more tempered, mellow view, but today I’m embracing the anger and the Dark Side for this posting.

The Breaking Point

It’s quittin’ time, Henry.
Gettin’ while the gettin’s good.
Hasta la sayonara. Change of address. Forwarding my mail.
All this and more, soon. Outta Vancouver, man. Into the fray. I’m a goner, Ma.
Some might think I’m crazy. “HEY, leaving the most liveable city in the WORLD? Are you NUTS?”
No, man. I’m just real fuckin’ broke, and real fuckin’ tired. File me under “Can’t give a shit anymore.”
For two years, I’ve been growing weary of Vancouver life. I’ll always love this town. It’s my home, but it’s now become my burden.
I didn’t come on some vacation, fall in love, and move. I’m not some foreign investor who’s decided to throw his wad at the town. I’m not some keenie who thought the Vancouver future was so bright, they came packin’ shades for life in a rainforest.
No. I was BORN here. This is my HOME.
Urban Undone
Most “born” Vancouverites I know — they’re really, really chill, down-to-earth people. The transplants? Depends. Many, not so much. It’s messing up the mix, and what was once a really laidback city often feels pretentious, overpriced, and pretty shallow. Maybe I work downtown too much.
I’ve been employed in the heart of Yaletown off and on for 12 years. Love the office I work in, hate the neighbourhood.
Every day, I show up to a job where I barely scrape by because it’s not a lucrative industry but it’s a great office, and I work in a neighbourhood where I find Ferraris parked, toy dogs, and plenty of ridiculously plastic people. Seriously, I think a Yaletown shop should open offering the service of extracting people’s heads from their asses. If one more asshole with an umbrella walks under an awning hugging the building in a rainstorm, I’m gonna slap someone.
After work a couple weeks ago, I went out for a BEER in the hood and had to pay $9.50. Before tip. For a SLEEVE, not a PINT. Metric THIS, baby. I don’t know what fairy godparent pays your tab, but I can’t do $10 not-a-pints. I buy a bottle of wine for that, for crying out loud, and at least that can put me out of my misery if I drink it fast enough. Let’s get real here. I fuckin’ hate Yaletown.
The class divide? I WORK inside it. While I’m so over it, I’m totally not, because it’s in my face daily.
But not for long.
When I grew up, Vancouver had under a half-million people. It was some quaint pint-sized version of Seattle-meets-San Francisco, but we liked it.
Now? It’s some gleaming pearl in the world and everyone wants to live here. Thanks, Hollywood people.
The average Vancouver-city home now sells for 11x the average family’s income. Compared to that income, Vancouver’s property values are a ridiculous 56% higher than NYC, & even stacks up 31% higher than the great city of London, England. It’s a bitch-slap to renters, too, because we have to absorb both land and tax costs, but we’re also the people least likely to afford to do so, leading to people having roommates as they’re pushing 40 and beyond now. Then there’s the lack of new rental opportunities because developers only care to sell, not rent. No one has a long-game in the providing-homes-business anymore.
Add to that the fucking ongoing three-plus-year recession and that most small biz has frozen wages for most of that time, if not longer, and renting in Vancouver is a real conundrum.

Where the 30% Can Afford to Play

Like this brilliant Vancouver Magazine article reports, I know more and more people in their 30s and 40s looking for second jobs, but most of them are secretly thinking there’s got to be a better life where we don’t need to work 60-hour weeks to be stuck in traffic only to pay exorbitant prices as premiums for the location — be it in dining, rent, clothing, or whatever. (Or $10 draught sleeves of local beer.)
This will always be my home, but I wish to hell so many people hadn’t found out about it, because I’m REALLY not digging the company.
Every day, I’m tired, I’m annoyed, I’m broke, and I’m left wondering when I’m gonna bloody stop feeling like this.
And then I realized: I’m not. It won’t stop.
It’s not me, Vancouver. It’s you.
For all your positives, there’s all these downsides that no one wants to talk about.
You’ve got a lot of people who don’t smile on streets, who look like they’ve been slapped if you say “hello” (if they look at you at all). You’re expensive. Your traffic is often at a crawl. You’re filled with “scenes.” And, because you’re so expensive, everyone’s so primed to get by and get ahead that socializing seems more about business than making friends.
God, you’re SO expensive.
I just can’t pay the price anymore, not literally or figuratively. It’s eating at my soul.
I have a Virginia Woolf quote on a memento at home. It says: “If you are losing your leisure, look out, for you may be losing your soul.” One day recently, I dusted it, read it, and I realized I’m absolutely losing my soul.
While I love Vancouver’s setting and its diversity, the truth is, I’ve seen far too much of the same for 37 years. The newness here all looks the same — glass and concrete. I need a more soulful newness, and Victoria’s close yet far… and looking to me very much like what Vancouver was 30 years ago.
Making the Working-from-Home Switch
In this town, I’m an unlucky girl who landed a serious back injury and is struggling to get by. On top of my full-time week, I’m rehabbing an injury, and even though I live inside of city limits, the 10km I travel to downtown takes me about 40 minutes each way, and when you factor in all my appointments, getting around, and more, it’s adding up to a crazy 15-20 hours a week I’m spending on transit. It’s soul-sucking.
Right now, I can’t work from home because I hate my home, since my landlord has dreams of achieving “slumlord” status. To rent a new place in a better neighbourhood, I’m looking at a 50-60% rent increase, and nothing in this city remains for what I pay now. There’s co-op housing, which would be affordable, but it needs a 5-year commitment, and the idea of committing to this city another five years has churned my stomach of late.
I have no interest in being in this craptastic apartment all day every day. My at-home workstation sucks, and I’ve fallen out of love with my apartment since the cockroach episode of ’08-’10. My desk is too high. At the real office, I’m simply at my desk too long. I hate leaving work and returning because my days are long enough as-is, given my back-injury needs, so I generally work straight through my days. It’s not ideal, but it gets my day over faster, and me home sooner.
In the end, I spend lots of weekends keeping to myself to recharge and house-clean, because I’m too weary after work with my wonky body to be doing that crap on work nights. It’s an unsatisfying and even depressing balance that’s the only thing I can make work for city-life these days. It keeps me antisocial, and I hate that my life has become this. I don’t hate people, I’d like to see them, but I also need a certain amount of time to myself, and that’s how it’s achieved in long-term injury rehab when one’s stuck in the urban rat-race.
Moving to Victoria, my rent’ll be about the same price but my home and neighbourhood should be better, and possibly with utilities included, lowering my expenses. I’ll be close to the downtown core AND the ocean, less than 20 blocks from each, and could ditch a bus-pass in favour of walking 80% of the time — great for my body. I can work from home and keep my antisocialness to a practical level, then escape to see the world because I’ll be living in the mix, not stuck on the inconvenient busing-to-every-place outskirts like I am now. I could write in cafes with my soon-to-be Boxing-Day-Special laptop, work out more regularly, keep my work-seated hours to smaller chunks for better back health, and maybe, just maybe, have more fun.
The discipline required to work from home will be hard, but the soul-suckingness required to work in the heart of Vancouver is a far higher price to pay than the task of making myself become disciplined.

Quality of Life

Vancouver Island is almost self-contained. As a foodie, this is kind of awesome, because so much is grown and produced there, and the profit margin is much higher for vendors to use sustainable practices and sell close to home. I’ve been checking out grocery prices, and finding that locally-raised unmedicated chicken sells at prices lower than mass market meats here on the Mainland do.
All things considered, for me, moving for “quality of life” makes a lot of sense. I’ll be able to balance the demands of working for a living along with the living I’ve not seemed to get around to doing a lot of over the last couple of years. I’m imagining a Steff who likes to walk and explore, who feels relaxed enough to finally focus on reading and writing again, who’s out rediscovering her love for photography, eating less processed food and taking the time to cook healthily at home. I’m imagining a Steff I used to be, a Steff whose soul got lost a while ago.
And then there are the pubs. Real British pubs. Fan-fucking-tastic. Maybe they don’t charge $9.50 a sleeve. (Motherfuckers!)
Being the heart of a ferry system for both the province of BC and an outcropping of the Washington State ferries, Victoria offers far different weekend-traveller options that include crazy rainforests, other islands, and Canada’s only surfing spots, and other great haunts, all for far cheaper than Mainland travel spots.
Will I stay there forever? Unlikely. Stay for five years? I think so.

The Last Word (For Now)

Sure, it’s a drastic — and considering I have to pay to move my belongings by weight on the ferries, expensive — move. And it seems surreal to be so excited (yet still sad) to be leaving, knowing all these organizations claim Vancouver is the most liveable city in the world, something that makes my jaw drop every time I hear it.

Vancouver Island in the distance, from UBC's Fraser Outlook.

Maybe it used to be, but with bad civic policies leading to exorbitant and insane real estate prices, the day-to-day here remains out-of-reach for most of the 99%.
A lot of us single folk in our 30s and 40s, who are tired of barely getting by, let alone not getting ahead, can assure you these ranking folk are misreading their data. Very unscientifically, about one in three people I talk to who are in my age range have considered leaving Vancouver, and their options are still open. Most people I know dine out less, have less time for leisure activities, and are feeling more stress than ever. At this rate, soon, this town will only consist of white-collar workers and upper-management, unless expensive rental conundrums are solved, and fast.
I can either cough up the 50-60% more for rent now for the delusion of living the good life while killing myself to make my ends meet, or I can admit I’ve lost the battle, but that the battle’s no longer worth the fight, pick up, and leave. And leaving brings a quieter, simpler, closer, more convenient, healthier lifestyle, for the same price as I pay now, or maybe less.
Hmm. Yeah. Doesn’t sound like such a tough choice now, huh? So, 10 more weeks, then.
It’s a drastic change, but my gut says a great one. Buckle up. This’ll be a fun ride.


I’ll definitely be blogging about everything coming down my pipes — from moving ideas, planning, to the simmering excitement of not knowing where I’ll be or what’s gonna happen, for the next three months of my life. Yep. 2012’s gonna be a good’un. I just need to remember to stop and breathe a few times between now and March.

31 thoughts on “Vancouver: I Love You, But I'm Leaving

  1. Stephen

    Good luck with the move Steff, I think you’ll like Victoria. I spent a couple months there a few years back and enjoyed it. As much as I like the view of the mountains and the somewhat decent temperatures that are experienced in Vancouver, I always knew it was an overpriced dreamplace and that it had become somewhat of a cliquish place, it’s a nice place to visit, but I couldn’t afford to live there and wouldn’t want to try living there.

  2. Anabelle

    I’m starting to believe it was a mistake moving here. I should have gone back to Victoria, even with all the couple issues this would have brought up.
    Sure, I’m having a great time over here, but in the end, I can’t handle the thought of never owning a home. Even buying a house in the heart of Montréal is more affordable than a condo on the outskirts of Burnaby (or worse, Surrey or Langley!) People are rude. Things are expensive, especially transit.
    So yeah, I feel you. Maybe I’ll see you soon in Vic…

  3. Geoff

    Good stuff, Steff.
    I was born here (Well, New West) and my family moved to the Interior when I was in grade 8. I can’t really remember what growing up in Vancouver was like. When I moved back here in 2001, I found Vancouver was an amazing opportunity. Admittedly, I had to take a pay-cut to begin to forage my career here, but I eventually worked my way back up.
    I know what you mean about stagnant wages, for sure. The reality is that in the 10 years I’ve been here, my annual wage has really only increased by $10,000. Put another way, since being a young man and hacking out a career here, I’ve only actually added $1,000 per year to my net worth, which, put another way, basically means I’ve worked my bag off for 10 years to pay for 10 years of annual hockey league fees.
    Now I’m sad.
    But I’m not being forced to move. I wish you all the best.

  4. Rick

    Moving to Victoria drastic change? All a matter of perspective, really.
    I remember how moving to Vancouver from the Sunshine Coast was a big step — leaving home to live on my own for the first time. After graduating from, UBC, though, I got fed up with the slow pace of career development and limited prospects here. I decided I wanted to go where the opportunities were. I quit my job and moved to Hong Kong.
    While moving to Hong Kong may seem drastic, I actually made a very smooth transition that was easier than when I first moved to Vancouver. I prepared for the culture shock, found a decent-paying job that enabled me to afford the high cost of living, and quickly made some good friends.
    I was in Hong Kong for almost seven years. The experience made me realize that I didn’t identify home with a physical place but a state of mind. That is, home is where I found satisfaction in my work, social life, and physical surroundings. If that is absent, it means it is time to move on, search for a new place to put down roots. And while this may seem, on the face of it, to be a nomadic existence, I haven’t actually moved that often. My moves are calculated, not spur of the moment decisions. Nevertheless, I don’t like to tie myself down with something like a house. I always want to keep open the possibility of going somewhere else if my heart is no longer into where I reside.
    Good luck with your move. I hope you find what you’re looking for.

  5. Amanda

    I grew up in the Interior and, although things were a bit slower, it was nice. The rent was low — my first apartment cost $550 a month — but the job opportunities were minimal, unless you were into construction or logging. The husband and I moved here because high-tech jobs are plentiful and the wages are incredible in comparison to everywhere else in the province.
    I love Vancouver. I really do. I’ve always loved it here. When I came here as a kid, it was always glittering and beautiful. I knew that when I had the opportunity to move, it would be to Vancouver.
    After almost four years of living here, it’s starting to wear thin. I can’t afford a place to live in Vancouver proper because the rent is too high. Our move to Kerrisdale was necessary for Gabriel but the rent is too steep for what we’re getting. (And what we’re getting is no heat and a cranky landlord.) So we’re moving back to the ‘burbs.
    I can’t help but think that things might be easier if we moved to Victoria. I toyed with it before Mike and I got married — friends are there and Mike’s family lives in Nanaimo — but we decided on Vancouver because of the jobs. Now? I don’t know. I don’t want to move back to Kamloops. I’m not interested in living in Surrey or Langley. I want to live in Kerrisdale because it’s beautiful and the schools are great. But I know that I won’t be able to; if I don’t magically win the lottery, I’ll never be able to afford anything more than rent in ‘burbs.
    I look forward to seeing your posts on your move to Victoria. Maybe we’ll join you.

  6. Tzaddi

    My husband and I moved to the Sunshine Coast because greater Vancouver had lost it’s charm. The traffic alone is enough to drive you bonkers.
    There’s things we miss for sure though: great Chinese food, easy take-out (almost) whenever you want it, big hardware stores, jobs. I don’t miss those jobs myself as a self-employed designer, but I’m mindful of the people who have had to leave for opportunities. Our community has one of the most aged populations in the country.
    Hopefully Victoria is big-yet-small enough for you to have all the aspects you are looking for. Good luck with the move!

  7. raincoaster

    I know how hard it was to make this decision, and I know it’s the right one at the right time. That spiritual exhaustion you describe is exactly why I got out for the time I did, and if I weren’t in a co-op, I’d not have returned.
    You’re going to love Victoria, and I already love having another reason to visit!

  8. ecstaticist

    I think you’ll fit in just fine. Why 20 blocks though? That’s a long way in Victoria. What kind of place do you want? I lived in a swell loft on Herald St which is in Chinatown and very close to everything you could ever want. Fun place. Nice ‘hood. 1000 for a loft with brick and beam.
    Victoria does not have any real British pubs. The only one I know on the island is the Black Crow up by Nanaimo. The rest are just like the pubs you’ll find in Vancouver except the pints/sleeves are 65% the cost. Swans on Tuesdays: $3.75 pints. Real pints. I shit you not. Victoria is much more of a beer town though. A lot more beer is drunk here per capita.
    Anyway, I’ll be happy to show you around some time.

  9. Erin

    Congrats on your decision. You’ve already linked the article that my partner and I were interviewed for, so won’t go into my own opinions on the matter. But I wanted to say congrats on having the guts to do it!

  10. nancy aka moneycoach

    wow. what an indictment! And I share a lot of your opinions. I moved for a different set of reasons, but can tell you I have found Yellowknife *much* easier on me than Vancouver was — easier to get ahead (!), commutes? what commutes? and definitely not plastic or shallow (parkas are the great social equalizer). Having said that, I’m falling in love with Vancouver all over again when I return for visits. And Yellowknife has also had its decided down sides, not least being the downsides of the thermometer! I hope Victoria shows you some serious love, Steff. It’s a courageous act of extreme self-care!

  11. Luke

    I was one of those ‘transplants’ to Vancouver – followed my girlfriend from university back to North Van where she grew up. I have to say that the image of Vancouver didn’t really live up to the reality, but having lived in 4 other provinces and a state in my life, that disconnect didn’t really bother me until it became obvious that I was never going to be able to get ahead in my work. So I moved to the Okanagan.
    What I find interesting, and what I would love to know your thoughts on this, is that it the location doesn’t really matter so much as the generation of people involved. The only generation you mention in your post is the 30-40-somethings who are just getting by and not getting ahead. I’m married (to my North Van girlfriend) with 2 kids in the Okanagan now but have yet to get that full-time salaried job. I have degrees and diplomas and certifications and all the expenses that came with it but very little in the way to show for it. Everyone I deal (and compete) with in the wine industry here is either much older than me (late 40’s-60’s) or much younger (mid-20’s). Have you been finding that is the case as well? I’m wondering what you think of that generational divide? When did Generation X start to disappear?
    My solution as been to start my own business and have been working a lot at home while also pursuing the elusive “salary.” Wherever your move takes you Steff, I sincerely hope that you continue your blog. Not everything has (or should have) a monetary value but the thoughts you present and the way you present them are priceless. Thank you.

  12. Lauren

    I am one of those who moved to Vancouver for the brightness and then stayed for the love of it. I agree that there are certain parts of the city (Yaletown being a big one that I avoid at all costs) that feel more like a movie set than a place to live and work. As one of my friends (and Yaletown resident) put it, his neighbours are obsessed with surface, and are going into debt to live the lifestyle everyone LOOKS like they have. Blech.
    I’m sorry we’ve moved in and mussed up the place for all the chill born-in-Vancouverites but I do think the point needs to be made that some of us stay here out of necessity. I was born the Prairies, and while they were beautiful, and I miss that simple and less superficial life, not having veiled and not-so-veiled racism, sexism, homophobia and suspicion of the arts being part of daily conversation and daily life takes such a huge weight off my heart. I can’t move back to a place where someone is burgled or something is shoplifted and assuming the culprit is First Nations with no witnesses or proof is simply par for the course. Having to fight through the cranky materialistic folks downtown just to run an errand is worth it to me.
    Though not forever. Right now I have a job, and a long commute, but I like to daydream on the bus and I’m okay with it. The unit I lived in sold, so I had to move, but I live with my partner now so I’m okay with it. I have a revulsion for “scenesters” of any kind, but I like my neighbourhood, so I’m okay with it.
    But not forever. Someday it either needs to get better or I need to go. I can’t conceive of ever raising a family in this environment. Farther west sounds good. You’ve taken a huge step and I’m sorry we never bumped into each other at any EastVanLove’s or something like that because I enjoy your blog but I have a lot of respect for your decision and I hope you can find a more fulfilling life because of it.

  13. Matt

    Not planning to talk you out of it or anything, but just felt like pointing out a couple of flaws in your logic (logic flaws, from a woman? perish the thought! :trollface:)
    First of all, there are plenty of places to get cheaper pints ALL OVER the Lower Mainland, including within Vancouver proper… by your own admission, though, you work in the middle of one of the “hippest, trendiest” (the quotes denote a snide tone), and correspondingly most expensive neighborhoods in town. $10 for a beer has nothing to do with the city, but with that particular establishment and the image they’re trying to create. You’ll have no problem finding $10 sleeves in Vic as well, if you choose your watering hole appropriately (those familiar with Family Guy will recognize the name “pLace”).
    You like having all these ferries nearby… but be prepared for the cost of those too! Some living expenses may be dropping… but others will go up, as will traveling expenses.
    Kinda reminds me, actually, of when a friend of mine moved to Calgary, and was amazed at the low price he paid for a fantastic house – much nicer than he could have got here for anything closer than Chilliwack, while being a 15-minute drive from downtown via a nice, wide-open freeway.
    And then he got a water bill. Wait, WATER BILL?? He’d never had one of those here!
    Then winter came along and the heating bills started coming in… and the electric bills for the A/C in the summer…
    On the whole, he didn’t regret the move, but he found the savings weren’t quite what he was expecting, once everything was tallied up.
    In any case, Victoria is a gorgeous city and I certainly wouldn’t mind living there myself… just saying, don’t expect it to be the quite the panacea you allude to in this blog.

    1. hjjjj

      Matt, what is with your sexist 1950’s “logic fail… and from a woman” comment ?! Go back to Madmen. Sheesh.

  14. A Scribe Called Steff Post author

    Matt, unlike your friend, it sounds like I know how to do research before moving to a place, and I don’t run on assumptions. I’ve looked up everything from places I can visit on the island, to local shop flyers, to coffee shop prices, rent, and more. I don’t do anything flippantly, so please don’t assume I’m some dreamer with no grasp of reality, and offer these little pearls on what to expect.
    Just because you people didn’t know I’ve been looking into this for six months doesn’t mean I haven’t been. But, gee, thanks for the wisdom. 😛
    Thanks for the awesome comments — lots of food for thought, and I’ll be incorporating much of it in the days and weeks to come, especially on this blog. Thanks!!

  15. Matt

    If you’d done your research, you could have found a $5 pint easily enough, probably within a block of your $10 sleeve.
    Just sayin’

    1. A Scribe Called Steff Post author

      I can get a $3.75 pint 8 blocks from my house, but it doesn’t change the fact that I spend 15 hours a week in commute, living INSIDE city limits, and would need to spend 50-100% more a month to change that. You’re picking on one silly motif as if it’s an argument to stay. It’s not. I’m fucking sick of commuting. Period.

      1. Mel

        15 hours a week? That’s hideous! I live in Esquimalt, work downtown, and my commute would only approach 10 hours a week if I walked both ways.
        People out here bitch constantly about how expensive real-estate is, Vancouver’s prices must be absolutely horrifying if Victoria is cheap by comparison.
        Since I moved to Victoria seven years ago for college, I’ve toured most of the cheaper (read sketchier) neighborhoods out here. If you should happen to be interested in some random stranger’s opinions on where not to live (and one building that’s awesome), let me know 🙂

      2. Bob

        15 hours a week commuting inside city limits? I know people who work downtown and live in Aldergrove and spend less time commuting. Something doesn’t add up.

        1. A Scribe Called Steff Post author

          Between all the connections, walking to/from stops, waiting, et cetera, yeah, if I have a couple nights with plans and one day of travel on the weekend, usually more than 15 hours disappears on me.
          My commute to work, if my bus has no wait, if there’s no delay anywhere, it’s 40 minutes if PERFECT, and that includes the 10 minutes to/from stops. If I’ve got shitty connects and miss everything, then it can go up to 55-60 minutes, EACH way. And that’s if I don’t have to go to any appointments after work. Throw in something like rehab, and it’s a 2-3 hour day just to add a Kits trip on top of my commute to/from Marpole.
          I assure you, it adds up pretty good. I’d say my average week is about 12 hours in transit. At this time of year, with all the Christmas shit, probably pushing closer to 16-20. Been 7.5 since Monday, and last weekend had an additional 5 hours on top of my work week commute. So, yeah.
          Working from home in Victoria will put 10 hours, minimum, back into my life. Walking to stores and other things I don’t care about. The work commute gone? Great. Walkable shops and stuff? Well, then no busing will be needed at all, most weeks.

  16. Matt

    Steff, did you read the first ten words of my post? “Not planning to talk you out of it or anything…”
    You’ll also notice I closed with, “In any case, Victoria is a gorgeous city and I certainly wouldn’t mind living there myself…”
    I have no interest in talking you into staying… just pointing out that your “$10 sleeve” is a poor example of the high prices here. I could find outrageously high prices for just about anything, anywhere. I could find you $10 sleeves in Vic, if you wanted. Your choice to patronize an overpriced *establishment* is hardly an indicator of an overpriced *city*.

  17. francine

    Currently I live in Vancouver but my significant other lives in Victoria, so we have been taking turns going back and forth almost every weekend for the last 5 years. I also grew up in the suburbs of Vancouver, and lived in Victoria for 6 years after high school. I know both cities pretty well, and think both are great.
    I actually think rent for what you get is pretty similar, although to buy a house it is a bit cheaper in Victoria. And if you are looking in certain parts of Vancouver, the upper end extremes are far higher than anywhere in Victoria.
    Victoria does have a much more relaxed feeling, and yes, it is more walkable… but that is because it’s smaller! Commute times for the same distance are really not that different. When I lived in James Bay and commuted by bus to UVic 10km away, it took me 40 minutes. I think the difference is that in Victoria you can more easily find housing that is closer to downtown.
    As far as beer goes, sure there are a few bars in Victoria that have one type of beer on for ~$4 a few nights a week, but really the beer prices are pretty similar. A $9.50 beer in Yaletown is an anomaly for Vancouver, and there are lounges in Victoria where you could pay just as much. There are plenty of places in both cities where you can get a decent pint for $5. Victoria does have way more brew pubs and breweries compared to Vancouver.
    For groceries I actually think Vancouver is a million times better than Victoria, for both price and selection. You just have to shop at the local market/butcher/deli and avoid grocery stores. The options in Victoria do not even compare to what a single neighbourhood will have in Vancouver.
    If you care at all about going out to shows or the local music scene, that is another area where Vancouver has Victoria beat. Victoria does have a music scene, but it doesn’t compare. And the crowds in Victoria are often overwhelmingly excessively drunk undergrads, who are not there for the music.
    So I like both cities, there are pros and cons to both, and I think both are gorgeous (Vancouver has the ocean too you know), but if you want to live somewhere that strangers exchange pleasantries, than Victoria definitely wins on that one.

  18. Tessa

    As much as I love Vancouver, and as much as Vancouver will always be home (born and raised), I completely understand where you’re coming from. I did the same thing when I graduated college, moving to (of all places) Fort St. John in the northeast of the province. It was cold, dusty, middle-of-nowhere, everything closed early and there was nothing for kilometres around, and yet it was also very liberating. As much as I love this town, I feel like there’s such a class ceiling of sorts, like different communities and different incomes just don’t mix much despite the diversity, and I feel like no matter how long I’m here I’ll always be running on the same treadmill, always living underground, always moving around. It’s a bit much.
    I’ll be moving away again but I know I’ll be back, just like I eventually came back from FSJ. As much as I have issues with the Big Rainy, it’s still home. Still, I found I could really identify with your post and have to say thanks for sharing. It’s good to know you’re not the only one.

  19. Mark

    My wife and I have been mulling a move to Victoria for a year now. We own a condo in Vancouver that has increased a fair amount in value; selling would garner a price pretty close to what a Victoria house in a good neighbourhood, close to D/T would cost.
    We’ve done scouting trips. There is a lot to love about Vic, but a few things to be very wary of.
    – like your access to fresh fruit and veggie stores like we have all over Vancouver? Sometimes 2 or 3 choices per block? That doesn’t really exist in Victoria. Sure, there’s neighbourhood fruit and veggie places, but they are few and far between.
    – like your access to long independent business streets like Main, W.4th, Commercial, Granville, W.Broadway, Fraser, etc etc? Again, doesn’t really exist in Victoria. Most of the indie-business “strips” go for maybe a few blocks at best (there are a couple of exceptions – one or two stretch for maybe six blocks).
    – Like the hidden gems Vancouver offers up, like a back-of-the-building charcuterie that sells mainly to restaurants, but will do walk up sales? Or the little whole-milk (unpasturized) guy who sells from his own cows every Friday and Saturday from an unmarked door in the Drive area? Sure, they may very well exist in Vic; but I have a lot of local friends in Vic, and they can’t come up with anything like this when asked.
    – Like culture? As in Bard on the Beach, Arts Club, Stanley, etc? Or how about huge name ticket concerts? SoL in Vic. Well, there are some arts companies in Vic, but it is going to be a bit of a shock in quality vs. what Vancouver offers.
    – Like access to big box stores when you need them? I don’t know if Vic has a costco, but I know they don’t have an Ikea. Some may consider this a good thing.
    You really have to factor that ferry into your living budget, unless you have it in you to go islander 100%; A lot of my friends that have moved there find it tough, and sometimes are spending $300 or more a month on ferry trips.
    Vic’s great; we could have a nice full lot, double car garage, 2500sq ft home for what our condo’s worth here in Vancouver, or something a bit smaller for a primo location. But that’s more of a family move than a hip, urban single (or urban couple) move.
    If you do go, two best bars in Vic, hands down: Clive Lounge and Veneto (at a hotel next to City Hall). 😉 Not cheap, but cheap compared to Van’s best bars 😀

  20. Mike

    We moved to Victoria from Vancouver in 2006. It was for different reasons, but I was feeling all the same stuff you mention in this post. For me, it was mostly the realization that I’d never live in a place I owned in Vancouver at the rate things were going.
    After renting here for less than 2 years we bought a place. It’s a 2 bedroom condo and the living costs are now around $1500/mo including the mortgage, building fees, and enough savings to buy the occasional dishwasher or what have you. That’s not rent, that’s my own place, near Quadra and Hillside, which is about a 20 minute walk from my office in an old brick and beam building similar to the one I used to work at in Gastown. No miniature dogs and Ferraris, just the occaisional tour bus.
    If you are like me, you’ll miss your friends, but will keep in touch and make new ones, and otherwise, won’t look back.
    Good luck with the move!

  21. Scott

    My family moved away from Van about a year ago. It turned out to be a fantastic decision, way more time to hang out with the family and friends, people are friendlier. I miss friends in van, but it’s easy to go for a visit and every time I do I’m reminded that Vancouver is a place I never want to live again.
    Good luck with your move and you might consider using this as an oppourtunity to get rid of anything you dont love. We moved very little and just bought stuff as we needed it.

  22. kat

    Hey this post is going around on facebook so I had a read.
    I also moved away from Vancouver, 5 years ago, to the UK, partly for the adventure, partly for the opportunities that 55 million people crammed into a tiny island can offer, and it hasn’t let me down. I really miss certain things about Vancouver, but overall as time goes on, I really don’t feel a part of it or ‘get’ it. I have a lot of issues with the city but none of them are really what you’ve posted here, which I find interesting. I just have a few comments on your post…
    1) I have a best friend who recently moved out of Victoria with the exact same complaints you have about Vancouver. High cost of living, very limited job market, scenesters. I s’pose the only relief was that she lived in downtown Victoria, though she works outside of Victoria so had I think an hour commute.
    2) There are $10 pints in Victoria and $3 pints in Vancouver. There’s nonsense everywhere. Your eyes would bleed at the thought of what a pint can cost in London!
    3) There are no British pubs in Victoria and there are no British pubs in Vancouver. Really, trust me. There are pubs – great! They aren’t British, for a gajillion and four reasons, chief among them being that they don’t need to have knock off pubs. Personally, I love Victoria and would love to live there, except for the weird, clueless, faux British thing they try to do and fail at. It’s a shame about that, because it detracts from a really fantastic city.
    One of my complaints about Vancouver is actually that there is no class “divide”. There’s only a money divide. Vancouver isn’t generally a place of elegance, dignity, grace, or class. It’s a place of new money buying new money things, like flashy cars and boob jobs. It’s tasteless and the main aspiration seems to be to own any kind of house. There’s no concept of “posh” or class or anything really worth aspiring to. I think that’s socially what bothers me, if that makes sense.
    The lack of values means that the planning & development are crap. The ALR is being steadily eroded for more endless blocks of beige condos and mega houses on postage stamp lawns. There’s no interest in housing for renters, and the beautiful ramshackle former hippie communities like Kits are not-so-slowly being turned into…more beige townhouses…just so that more people can feel like they own something. Nobody who lives there has any real attachment to the city because they’ve lived there five minutes, so they’re happy to mow down anything of consequence and the collective memory has become very very short.
    The shopping is absolutely awful (that’s Canada in general though), It’s incredibly isolated. I hate bikram yoga. It’s insanely superficial. There are miles and miles of endless beige suburbs. Nobody stands up to the big companies and says the phones are too expensive, the internet is too expensive, no I’m not joining a gym contract, and no you’re not raising my gas bills. And people on the local news are way too chirpy.
    But damn I love the mountains, jogging on the beach at dawn, my friends and family, the scenes, the subcultures. I miss Wreck Beach, Mexican food, white people sushi, cheap and flexible transportation, gulf islands at my disposal, hiking on a Sunday afternoon, going to the lakes in the summer, hiking in warm green forests in the winter, thunder & lightning, “real” rain, and sketchy bars on the downtown east side. I just need to be rich to be able to enjoy it, and that makes me sad.
    Good luck with your move (and sorry for the long comment – your post gave me lots to mull over).

  23. Walter Was Here....

    Pleasant surprise that I found your writing!
    That’s right do call a spade a spade! Thank you for that Steff. It is indeed VERY refreshing.
    We too will be moving, children in all. I have waited for this day for all the ten years I have lived in over priced Vancouver. My wife has FINNALLY seen the light. Over the years living here, some people have really made me angry. They make it sound like there is “something” wrong with you that you are not accepeting this place called Vancouver. I have lived in other cities and in an other country before. Come on folks it is called experience. No there is nothing wrong with you too Steff. The BIG GREED that has eaten up your old city/ home is slowly pushing you out of here. Now you have accepted it!
    I really do feel sorry for the, what I call “the originals”. The originals are the people who were born and raised in Vancouver, and especially remember the years before 1986. Before the great hord of people from all over that came to Vancouver to loot, and rape it for their pleasure.
    It will not be a problem for me to move out of here for I lived in many places before….. But my hart does go out to you Steff and other originals who have lost there home/ city to the great ugly masses that have come and devoured it away.
    Best of all luck with you life change Steff. We feel that you are in fact doing the right thing!!!!

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