Canadian City Comforts

Last week I found myself travelling on a bus again, this time heading North into Canada after a lovely time with my partner in the state of Washington. I’ve travelled with this bus company so many times this year that I was given the ride for free, as a loyalty reward. (Yeah, that amounts to roughly three cinnamon buns, or a six-pack of beer—a small but nonetheless welcome win for a student traveller).


My chest was heavy from another farewell, another stuffed suitcase, and another imminent border crossing. I only have a short time left in Vancouver, six weeks or so, and I know I need to lift this heaviness if I am to enjoy the remaining time. And dammit, I would really like this last hoorah to be a “hoorah!” Gazing out the window at the dying light I set about making a mental list of things I know I can find comfort in while travelling here in Vancouver. Here it is:


1. Leonard Cohen. When I first arrived here, I listened to Leonard Cohen on repeat, especially at night while trying to sleep. Funnily enough I did not make the “listening to a Canadian-songwriter while in Canada” link, at least not consciously! In hindsight it was clearly a Freudian slip. Regardless, it is perfectly apt that Cohen has animated so many of my Canadian memories. His music makes me cry but there is something like a sincere hug delivered in it—a certain empathy translated by it. Let the Cohen marathon begin!

2. “The Northern Lights.” There is a patch of lights at the top of one of the mountains that shadow the city from the Northern horizon. I assume the lights are either Cypress Ski Resort or Grouse Mountain; either way it is lovely to know that if I look North at night I will see that sign of life sparkling. I am a sucker for city lights at night. They give my solidarity company and make me feel connected in a mobile world.

3. The tulips. At last, the sunshine is out and Vancouver is bursting with bulbs that make one’s heart sing.


Wreck Beach


4. The #9 from the menu at my local Pan Asian Restaurant. A heart-warming bowl of beef pho served by friendly staff, back-dropped by terrible R’n’B club music, and costing a lean $6.50.

5. Shiatsu. Since the start of the year I have been having regular shiatsu therapy. It is my new favourite thing. I actually sleep soundly for a few nights after I have a session (no small miracle in my world), and I return home feeling nurtured, relaxed and happy. The therapist is a beautiful Czech-Canadian with a face you know must belong to a woman who has lived a long life, but that shines so warmly you have no way of telling how young, old or otherwise she is. She has the body of a jiu jitsu competitor and a wit as dry as my own. Her compassion is in no way contrived and I feel sincerely lucky to have crossed her ethereal path.

6. Those crows. Every afternoon, a little before sunset, a murder of crows makes its way from West to East across the city. By murder I mean: hundreds upon hundreds of crows. Every evening, like clockwork. If I’m having a bad day I try and watch those crows fly over. I like that I can count on them to show up every day, and watching their routine flight reminds me that there are bigger things happening on this planet than the stresses of my today.

7. Enjoying a giant coffee and a book in the sunny window of Liberty Cafe, Main Street.

8. A jigsaw puzzle—started at my previous Vancouver sharehouse and left there to be finished. Better hop to it if I am to make those pieces fit before I depart…

9. Art exhibitions. It’s always great to lose yourself in someone else’s creative world. This time I am going to choose to lose  myself in the latest exhibition at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), UBC: Safar/Voyage, a collection of works by Arab, Iranian and Turkish artists. While I’m at it, I might stroll down the wooden stair-trail hiding behind the museum. Last year I found the trail quite accidentally and followed it all the way down to discover this:




10. Swimming. I started swimming at my local pool soon after arriving in Vancouver. I have had a fear of swimming laps for most of my adult life, not because of the pee or athlete’s foot, but because I grew up in a country town and we had our swimming lessons in the ocean. We would swim laps between two small jetties. I was a strong swimmer, but there were no ropes or lanes or swimming caps where we swam… only salt water, seaweed and spray bottles of vinegar for the jelly-fish stings! I was terrified I would not understand the etiquette and get publicly shamed via the scolding of a fit, greying version of Thorpey. Turns out, it really isn’t so terrifying at all and thus far I have not been scolded. And being reunited with my love for swimming has been so rejuvenating. It’s not nearly as good as swimming in the ocean, but I love being in water, any water, and having to focus on my stroke and breathing allows me to switch off from all else. I haven’t swam since I moved into my new neighbourhood a few months ago, but it is indeed time to again do so.


Oh, the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone …

Oh, I hope you run into them, you who’ve been travelling so long…

(Leonard Cohen)