Leaving My Dream City (West Coast Girl, Pt 24)

I wanted to leave Vancouver as gently as possible. I enjoyed the city and the surrounding nature trails to the best of my ability. I took a moment to take in everything I was doing or seeing, knowing how much I’d miss it when I was gone. I’ll tell you – it was really hard to leave.

There was once a time that I didn’t think I’d ever leave the west coast – I’d only ever visit Ontario to see family. Vancouver will always be the city of my dreams. I don’t think there’s anywhere in this world that is quite like it. I found my healing there and I also found genuine contentment there. For me, that was really important – to get to the Pacific Ocean and watch a golden sunset and make a life there. My dream was to write on the west coast and enjoy city life and nature in equal amounts. You know, I did make a wonderful life in Vancouver. It was everything I could have hoped for and it gave me everything I needed.

Where else can you find rainy forest trails, the ocean, beaches, a big city, and mountains all in one place?

The thing is, family was so far away and I missed them. It’s not that I didn’t miss them in my earlier days of living in Vancouver, but I was really starting to feel the distance from them over the last couple of years. I had to find a happy medium where I could see my family more while still enjoy the west coast – and visiting once per year wasn’t enough. My parents are still fit and healthy – now is the time to enjoy as many moments with them as I can. My sister is the closest person to me and always will be. I have cousins who grew up with me who will always love me and they will always be happy to see me.

As wonderful as my Vancouver life was for me as a creative introvert, the people element was missing. I have met some amazing people in my dream city. Maybe even one of them will reappear in my life down the road, but I had to take a look at the reality. I was very much alone there. There’s nothing wrong with living more of a solitary life – in fact, I really needed a lot of space and time to create and thrive. I couldn’t have fully spread my wings without that time alone far away on the west coast. Once I was able to achieve those things in full measure, I realized it was time to move closer to those who would always choose me no matter what. My family.

Much like Sansa and Arya Stark in Game Of Thrones, it was time for me to go home. I’d learned and experienced everything I needed to out west so I could move closer to home as the person I worked so hard to be. I’d seen countless ocean sunsets, I’d hiked up mountains, explored temperate rainforests, seen live concerts, met interesting people, and sailed on a ferry to some of the islands off the coast. I’d lived a wonderful adventure and even built a solid routine that supported my mental health.

The moment had finally come. “I’m Sara Flower Kjeldsen from Ontario and I’m going home.” There was a time where I thought I would never say that. While I always related more to Sansa’s journey, there’s a little bit of Arya in me, too.

I unfortunately caught a cold a few days before I was set to leave Vancouver. I felt bad that I wasn’t well enough to do everything I wanted to do before leaving, but then I reminded myself how much I enjoyed it to the best of my ability for the entire time I lived there. The things that I missed doing are the things I could do when I returned there for a long weekend in the future. Of course, I visited English Bay one last time on a lovely sunny evening. I stood there taking in the sight, the scent, the feelings.

Yes, I loved it there and yes, I would miss it, but I could feel it giving me permission to go. It was okay to let the west coast go if it meant being closer to family. I took one last look at the sea – it was once my reason to live. It called to me long before I ever set foot in Western Canada. It went from being my reason to live to being one of the reasons why I thrived.

I also took a walk in one of my favourite areas – Lynn Valley. It’s always so beautiful there when it rains.

On my last night, I decided to take the sky train at sunset. I thought back to one of the things that impressed me the most about Vancouver when I first arrived. Besides the sunsets at the sea, it was the sky train. So I went from Main Street station all the way to Surrey Central and back – enjoying the sight of the gorgeous sunset’s golden skies as I looked upon the area from the window.

Leaving is always hard even when you know it’s the right time. Living in Vancouver was genuinely magical for me. It’s where I found long term contentment and I was so happy for most of my time there – I really did shine my brightest in the city of my dreams. It began as a reason to live, a cause to fight for – then it transformed into a haven of peace and creativity.

“I can’t believe it’s really over,” I kept saying, staring out the window and trying to stay in the moment.

I breathed in the fresh, damp air I always loved. I looked upon the beautiful skyline and watched as airplanes flew in and out of the city. Once I was new to Vancouver. I was so happy to start new and build a happy life. I did it. I reached so many dreams while living in my dream city. It’s never easy to leave a place you love.

My window gave me the perfect view of Vancouver. While the room itself wasn’t as nice as some of my other ones, it was such a blessing that I could see the skyline whenever I wanted to.

I did a lot of research on where I should move to next. I needed something that had some similarities to Vancouver – a sea, a downtown core with cafes, nature trails. I decided on a city then booked everything to get there. I didn’t have the heart to fly out of Vancouver – it would have been too jarring. I took the bus from Vancouver to Banff so I could slowly leave the area. The highway from Vancouver to Banff is very scenic and is a treat for anyone who loves looking at mountains. Psychologically, the bus also felt like the right choice because every time I’d ever taken a bus out of Vancouver, it was to go visit another place for a longer period of time before coming back.

It was wonderful seeing Banff again after a few years. I spent the night there at a lovely hotel then went for a walk to the Bow Falls in the morning. A gust of wind brought some clouds and snow over the area as I returned to the little town from my short hike. I got some tea from the Starbucks then went back to the hotel to get my bags.

From Banff, I took the airporter shuttle to Calgary. This is where the reality hit me with a full force. In the same way I began my new journey out west by driving into the mountains, I’d be ending it by driving out of the mountains on the same highway. It was poetic and heart-breaking. I’m so happy that I was lucky enough to have experienced such a wonderful decade exploring beautiful places while creating.

@sarakjeldsen1

It’s sad to leave, but I’m so happy it happened. ❤️ Onto the next volume of my life. #roadtrip #mountains #traveltiktok #newchapter

♬ Stop Crying Your Heart Out – Oasis

Much like the beginning of my journey out west, “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” by Oasis played in my mind. The song is so fitting for bittersweet moments of leaving a place and starting new. I played the song as the bus drove out of the Greater Vancouver area and again as the other bus drove out of Banff. My heart hurt each time I listened to it. My journey out west was really over. While it was the right time for me to go, it was still sad.

I flew out of Calgary to Mississauga then spent the night at a hotel in Mississauga so that I wouldn’t have to navigate the GTA late at night in the dark. The next morning, I checked out and made my way toward my new home – and a new chapter of my life.

Butterflies filled my stomach. It wasn’t the same light-hearted, refreshing feeling of starting over that I had when moving to Vancouver. This was different. I was making a conscious decision to do the right thing and it meant leaving a place I loved. It’s hard to leave a life that you built behind, knowing that a new life closer to family would be better for everyone in the long run. Some people may not be able to relate to this, but for me, coming back after 10 years of being away is the right thing to do. Every one of my senses was screaming at me to move closer to family and I had to listen.

The trip across Canada was a lot of fun. I’m glad I took the long way through B.C. and the Bow Valley then sped things up once I got to Calgary. As sad as I was to leave my old life behind, I was also a little anxious to get the new volume started.

I booked an Air BNB room for a month, saw a sunset on my first night there, got a new job within 3 days, then visited my parents for the long weekend. It worked out almost seamlessly. It was wonderful to surprise my parents and sister with my return. The relaxed days with my mom and dad were wonderful. When they dropped me off in my new much closer city, I already missed them. My sister and I then planned a visit for the following weekend. I’m happy to be back.

As far as dream cities go, this new one is lovely in its own way. It’s understated in the sense that many people don’t write or blog about it as being Instagram-worthy or a great travel destination, yet there’s so many gems to be found. I have a new sea – the beaches here are lovely. I can still see my seaside sunsets and there are many nature trails to be explored. There’s something about those freshwater inland seas (The Great Lakes) found in Ontario.

Family is closer. I think this is the kind of place where I can plant some roots. I can always visit the west coast when I feel it calling for me, but for now it is allowing me to rest easy and enjoy my new home. There’s so much beauty to be found here. As I was telling my parents recently, the great thing about Ontario is that it also rains here.

While I will miss being so close to the west coast sunsets and the gorgeous temperate rainforests, I can take the lifestyle that I built in Vancouver and apply it to my new life closer to home. Ending my writing journey at the same time as my out west journey feels the best for me. It’s been a wonderful ten years. I wrote my heart out and now I’d like to try something new. There’s nothing to be sad about. I’m ready for a change. I don’t want to be one of those people who keeps doing the same thing and never tries new challenges.

The writer must die so the woman can live on. In the same way that a Phoenix rises from the ashes to live again, I will move on from the life I have lost to begin a new one and find another art to pursue.

Do not mourn the loss of an era. My journey out west as a writer was the most wonderful journey I could have ever hoped to take. Not everyone gets to live their dream to the degree that I have and I’m so grateful.

As I finish writing this chapter and this amazing journey, I look forward to the new adventures my next 10 years will bring. One of my strengths is that I don’t fear the unknown – I embrace it.

My wish for you, dear reader, is to follow your dreams and to never let them go until you’ve been able to live them.

The End

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11 comments

  1. There are signs of the end of the phase, you have growth more than the city.
    Stay true to your purpose. Be careful, dont get hooked by any “false” memory , from the city or family. I researched that the inner cause of inmigration is silent violence.(couple/family)
    We must change “free from”, to ” free to” Barnetche psy suggests.
    When i was in Vancity, was thanks to the Italian Cultural Centre and my cousin, that i gained a group of structure, a tribe.
    With FEW loyal people you could feel acompanied to solve the challenges.
    Align yourself to the people and space that makes you better, and leave behind the bitter/evil people.

    • I could see that being a big reason for immigration. That’s very true – you need to be aware of reality rather than romanticizing one place or another.
      Yes that’s true. You definitely need to build a little tribe who is loyal but also wants to support you where it matters.
      And you’re right, leaving behind evil people is key.
      Thanks for your comment. 😊❤️

  2. I can see it’s been an amazing time for you and there’s a little envy in me at how bravely you live and don’t fear the future. I hope whatever comes next is the most amazing next chapter for you 🙂

  3. Such a beautiful ending to this series. Can I ask where in Ontario you decided to settle? No worries if you don’t want to share- I am just curious 🙂

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