The Beauty of Your Own Backyard

Having the privilege of growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia was not something I appreciated until I went traveling. I visited the beaches as a child and teenager. I skied the local mountains in the winter, and did short hikes in the summer. For a sprawling and ever-growing metropolis, Vancouver still has an ample amount of parks and green spaces to enjoy. Still, my eyes coasted over the familiar vistas and I cared less and less about visiting those natural spaces.

Leaving for two and a half years certainly changed the way that I looked at the rest of the world, but it also changed the way that I view my home. Australia was full of unfamiliar plants, animals and landscapes. The year I spent there was a study in living in a semi-tropical, or just plain tropical, climate. During the height of winter the locals in Yamba were wearing long pants and jackets. I still walked around in my short denim shorts and a t-shirt. It’s a Canadian thing.

The surf at Angourie Back Beach in Australia.

Arriving in New Zealand didn’t feel like home. Not at first. I loved every minute there but it wasn’t until I arrived in Queenstown, on the South Island, that I was instantly and painfully reminded of Canada. Australia doesn’t have very many mountains, especially not where I was. The Remarkables Mountain Range dominates the skyline in Queenstown, echoing the North Shore Mountains that rise above Vancouver.

Even if wasn’t running out of cash and was pretty desperately in need of a new job, I probably would have stayed in Queenstown. It called to me. The cobbled brick streets and mountain lodge style architecture reminded me of Whistler. There were enough restaurants in the small village that I was more of less guaranteed to get work as a chef. My usual requirement for living (the ocean) wasn’t around, but the enormity of Lake Wakatipu allowed me to pretend it was.

The moon rising over the Remarkables with Lake Wakatipu in early evening shadow below. This was more or less the view from my house.

Turns out I was right. Within a day of arriving I had an interview and a trial shift set up. By the end of the week I was hired and moving into a room just outside of the village. I lived in Queenstown for just over a year. The seasons were similar to the ones back home, if at the opposite times of year. A lot of backpackers chose Queenstown to live so there were plenty of people in the same situation as me to make friends with. Anytime I felt homesick I walked along the edge of the lake, went for a hike up the mountains, or just sat and basked in their beauty.

Now, back at home in beautiful Vancouver, I see the rest of the world around me. On hot summer days at the beach I close my eyes and see Australia. The waves rise four feet higher like lines of green sea glass, before they crash down onto the shore. Sometimes I look at the North Shore Mountains and, instead of Grouse and Seymour, I see the snowy peaks of the Remarkables. I am grateful for my time away. It was what opened my eyes to the landscapes right here in BC. More adventures await, I am positive, both home and away, scenery both familiar and fantastic. Just have to keep my eyes and ears open, and they will find me.

The Lion’s Gate Bridge and the North Shore from Lighthouse Point in Stanley Park, Vancouver.

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