For the past two and a half months I went on a whirlwind adventure starting in Mexico with my family and then making my way through Asia with some friends, to finally come home last week looking every bit the haggard dirty hippie backpacker in my beat up Birkenstocks and elephant print harem pants (I will add in my defense that I think I cleaned up pretty well for my convocation the following morning). After all that travelling, despite having loved my time exploring different cultures and eating my way through numerous cities, I can’t help but feel an immense sense of appreciation for being able to call Vancouver my home.
Maybe I’m a little biased, coming back just as summer is beginning when the city is at its most beautiful, but I can’t help but feel lighter and more relaxed being back. No more touts and sketchy tuk tuk drivers, hooray! Travelling gave me an incredibly deep gratefulness for the wealth and abundance that we enjoy in Vancouver, and Canada as a whole. As cheesy as it sounds, travelling truly does open your eyes and is incredibly transformative. While I don’t think I had any cataclysmic moments that made me want to reassess my life path and renounce all my worldly possessions, the experience certainly helped me better understand myself and my values. I’m planning on sharing pictures and stories from my adventures over the upcoming weeks once I get settled back into life and have some time to sort through the ten million photos I’ve taken, but until then here are some quick thoughts from me as to why I feel so lucky to live in a developed country/the city of Vancouver specifically:
1. The availability of clean drinking water (and other environmental goods). Good heavens, I don’t even want to think about the amount of money I spent on buying bottles of water each day. We are so incredibly lucky to live in a place where clean water is available in abundance straight from the tap. And to have the air quality we do, as well as the mountains, forests, and oceans at our doorstep (jeez I could be a Beautiful BC commercial).
2. Political stability/the ability to trust authorities/democracy. All these ideas sort of go hand in hand. In a few cities I was explicitly warned to stay away from authorities because they couldn’t be trusted to help, and felt somewhat uneasy in several others because of the volatile political situations at hand. I don’t think any country can thrive in the face of corruption and a merry go round of leadership.
3. Female safety. I can’t think of a better phrase for this, but what I mean by this is the freedom I have in Vancouver and North America to wear whatever I want, go wherever I want whenever I want (within reason) and not be stared at or feel that my personal safety is under threat. I hated having to wear long sleeves and pants in 40 degree heat with 95% humidity for fear of being sexually harassed otherwise (and still often was anyways).
4. Infrastructure development. Going to SE Asia around the start of monsoon season meant that I found myself caught in a number of, literally, monsoons. I live in Vancouver; it’s not like I’m not used to the rain. But here, there’s something called drainage so rain will, well, drain from the sidewalks. In Asia oftentimes I found myself walking on dirt clay roads that turned into gushing torrents of muddy clay water. Not fun. Also on the note of infrastructure, as much as Translink can ruin my day I am so grateful for the amazing connectivity Vancouver public transit provides in comparison to many world class cities. And our pothole free roads. Praise pothole free roads.
5. Wealth. This sounds terrible, but it is so true that money can buy happiness to a certain extent (I think research shows it’s around $70k per annum). I feel incredibly fortunate to grow up in a society where childhood education is mandated without regards to gender. Where social mobility is possible, and progressive taxation exists to help. I saw so many painfully young mothers with multiple children, and too many bar girls to count. It made me incredibly sad and thankful at the same time to be born into relative wealth. In developed countries we forget too often amidst our outrage at being the 99%, that in a global context we are truly in the top 1% of the world. Healthcare, sanitation, education, electricity, clean water, food to the point where obesity and lifestyle diseases are becoming ever prevalent… While I certainly will continue to chase my metaphorical cheese in this rat race, it was humbling to recognize how lucky I was to be born into such affluence.
Whoops, didn’t mean to end on such a sober thought. But at the same time, it’s something to reflect on.
Ok, fun stories and pictures next time, promise!