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West Coast Junkie

Roxanne Rivard Theriault
Ursel Barwinski

A few years ago, an unexpected need for nature and wilderness took a hold of me, redirecting all my plans to one specific place: The West Coast. Vancouver seemed like the perfect destination at the time and the only thing I had to do to start this new life was to buy a plane ticket and forget any fears I might be feeling.

I’ve always known that I had a strange love affair with this city, one that will torment me for a lifetime, but it was only when walking in those dark alleys at night that I came to the realization that I was fascinated by Vancouver. Every street was filled with memories while the buildings reminded me stories of better days. The mountains were part of my daily scenery and the smiles of strangers were filling up my days with joy. I knew that every single day, the city was opening itself more and more to me, showing me one of its beauties, one of its secrets.

It’s easy to see the bad of it: the rough neighborhoods, the over usage of drugs, the homelessness. It’s easy to be afraid of it, especially—to avoid walking anywhere near those neighborhoods that your mom warned you about. But maybe we should stop being afraid and start taking it all in instead: the bad, the good and the in-between. As one of my friends once told me, “it is important to walk in those neighborhoods and not to be afraid. Witnessing the pain and the terrible situations of these people remind us that it is a part of our city. We call this city our home but we are afraid to accept it fully. It sucks, but it is our daily reminder of how lucky we are and that some people need our help, too. The world isn’t just about us”. I would be lying if I said that I walk around those neighborhoods often—I don’t. But when I do, I try to remember that we need to embrace it all and if we are not happy with the bad part of the city, it is in our power to make it better. And this is only a small part of what Vancouver really is.

Vancouver is learning how to love the rain and how to accept all those lost umbrellas you will probably never find again. It is enjoying days at the beach in swimsuit when you are in the middle of the city. It is the diverse bars and restaurants selection that allow you to spend good times with your mates or make you meet free-spirited travelers. It is British Columbia wine and craft beer. It is 30-minute bus ride to go hike a new mountain and beautiful moments spent in the wilderness, without cellphone connections. It is hugging trees and not really understanding why.

We all define Vancouver in our own ways. To me, it became home. Maybe Ursel, the photographer behind those beautiful shots, felt the same way. Maybe she didn’t. And it doesn’t matter, because no matter what you find in Vancouver, we know this city is the perfect balance between nature and buildings, between achieving your goals and getting out of your comfort zone. And truly, that’s the only thing that matters.

Continue reading about the West Coast of Canada:
This is Tofino.

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