Recently I had my 9 year anniversary here in Victoria, BC. It feels like yesterday when I more or less tossed a coin between calling Vancouver or Victoria home. Victoria won, obviously. Over the last 9 years I’ve had 7 apartments, 6 jobs, 2 serious boyfriends (and quite a few non-serious ones). I’ve found my favourite places to eat, to walk, to run and to hike. I’ve gotten hobbies and figured out my passions. I’ve learned a lot about who I want to surround myself with and who I want to be. And I’ve learned the following 9 things too.
1. If you can handle the lifestyle, you can really make the service industry work for you. Three out of my six jobs in Victoria were waitressing positions, including the three years I spent working at a microbrew pub downtown. I made a lot of money. I took as many vacation days as I wanted and paid for everything in cash. I slept until 10am every morning and spent my days at the lake or riding my bike. I met the best people in the world and they became my closest friends. I also drank too much and stayed up too late. My dinner was regularly french fries wrapped in bread and dipped in salad dressing. I put up with all sorts of attitude from rude and entitled customers. And my job didn’t fulfil me in any way. Ultimately the lifestyle just wasn’t for me. My hat goes off to those who can make the service industry lifestyle work though, you’re stronger than I am and probably richer and having a bit more fun.
2. Nepotism rules. Whether it’s in the service industry or private sector, it seems like the only way to get hired somewhere great is to know someone. Fortunately everyone knows everyone here, so that isn’t too hard. I’m convinced I landed my dream job because I knew people who knew my National Director. Pro tip: be kind, bite your tongue, don’t burn bridges. Your career could depend on it.
3. Chick-toria is a state of mind. There are all sorts of statistics on how many more women live here than men, but I really think that’s just because women live so much longer. When it comes to the 20-40 demographic, I don’t buy it. When I was 24 and super attracted to writers/musicians/photographers who lived on boats/living rooms/pseudo-slums there was no shortage of men for me to date, I had a new love interest every two weeks. It’s when I started to want someone who would be there at 7 when he told me who would be there at 7, someone who had a drivers licence, someone who didn’t fall into a moody hibernation the last 10 days of every month because he was worried about making rent, that’s when things got a bit more challenging. It all depends on what you’re after.
4. Brunch, Take Out, Sushi and Fancy is what you eat. Ask anyone in town for a recommendation for a great brunch place, some quick and easy take out, delicious sushi or a fancy place to celebrate and you’ll receive no shortage of recommendations. There are so many great places! But where does one go for a healthy, delicious meal in the $10-$15 price range? Ferris’ and Breakwater Bistro are my two places, but where else? If you ask me, Victoria seriously lacks in the fun and healthy and mid-range price restaurant niche. Or maybe I’m just out of the loop. If you know a great place like this, I’d love to hear about it!
5. You can’t let the rain get you down. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing, and if it’s your thing, well, Victoria is going to be hard unless you can find an effective way to cope. It’s gray here a lot. It rains here a lot. It’s the Pacific Northwest. You can’t let the gray get you down. I’ve found it works best to just ignore it–run, walk, and hike through the gloom as if it wasn’t there. Other people have their own coping mechanisms–indoor hobbies, sunny vacations, vitamins, whatever works. And let’s be honest, the weather has been pretty great so far this year (knock on wood!).
6. Life if better when you fall in love with an outdoor activity. For many it’s surfing, but for me it’s hiking and trail running. I went on my first hike–Mount Doug–when I was 24. It almost killed me. By 27 I had hiked the Juan de Fuca and Strathcona Park and Mount Doug was something I ran before work and hardly broke a sweat. I found one of my loves living here in Victoria and the number of amazing hiking trails within a 40 minutes drive have made it almost impossible to leave. For me life got instantly better here when I started taking advantage of the beauty the land.
7. Vancouver is not that close. Unless you’re rich, which I’m not. My extended family lives in North Vancouver and every holiday they invite me “over for dinner”. It literally takes 5.5 hours to get from my house in downtown Victoria to my Grandma’s in Lynn Valley. It’s really hard just to “come over for dinner”. All those visions of me hopping on a quick ferry over to Vancouver were squashed pretty quickly, as soon as I learned the reality of ferry waits, traffic and public transit.
8. Life here is hard. Everybody knows your business. Dating can be a challenge. It can be hard to find a job and when you do the salary will never be as high as what you’d make on the mainland. I’ve lost a lot of great friends to the mainland because they wanted to pursue their careers, meet someone or just be anonymous and they felt that like that was really hard here in Victoria and they were all kind of right.
9. But it’s also really easy. Remember when the number one problem here was too many adorable bunnies? Plus ocean. Old Growth forests. Mountains. Flowers in February. And a somewhat vibrant downtown. Life is good.