It was 7pm and we had officially arrived in Vancouver. Since it was mid-December when we arrived it had already gotten quite dark out. Yet, here we were in the ‘big city’, navigating our way through our new streets while allowing our new life to set in.
Instead of feeling that evening dread, we were met with excitement and a new found sense of adventure. As the night went on, the city remained vibrant. Neon signs glimmered down Granville and people stumbled in and out of different bars along the busy street.
The city was bustling…and that is certainly one of the things that we love most about it out here. No matter what day it is or what time it is there’s always something going on. It allows you to live a life ‘out of the norm’ (ie. not within the constraints of a 9-5pm job) and be completely okay with it.
Before moving out here, one of the things I remember most about my life in Ontario was my distain for Mondays. Sunday would roll around, we would race off to Costco, stock up for the week like we were preparing for a great storm and then suddenly around supper time the dread would sink in. Like clock work, the realization that in a few hours we would be back to slamming our snooze button before dragging ourselves from our comfy bed to race off to a job that we really didn’t like (obviously, this feeling stopped when I decided to stay-at-home with Hadley, but for Shawn it was still a regular occurrence).
But, out here, it was different. Watching the people walk along the streets and wandering the waterfront, it finally sunk in…we were now living the life we had wanted. We were taking the time to enjoy the moments instead of accumulating new things. This was it, we had arrived.
Now, I don’t know if it was the Universe’s way of laughing at us, but one by one things started to derail. Looking back, we had to assume that it was coming our way. I mean, we just travelled across the country, gallivanting around Canada and the United States with our barely 1.5 year old daughter with nothing going wrong. I mean absolutely nothing (aside from one bad hotel experience) not a single thing went wrong on our road trip. It was as smooth sailing as it could possibly get.
As we searched through our GPS to locate the address that our landlord gave to us, we found ourselves driving the unknown streets of Vancouver feeling quite hopeless. She had given our condo keys to her friend as she was travelling to Toronto for business. We found the location on our GPS, however, upon getting there we realized that there was no condo building in sight.
Shawn frantically raced in and out of businesses and shops hoping to find someone who could point us in the right direction. Each quest leading him back to the car looking even more discouraged than the last stop. Everyone kept telling us we were ‘at’ the right address, while also confirming there was definitely no condo building around.
I remember the overwhelming surge of anxiety that forced its way throughout my body. At this point Hadley had given up on the road trip and was screaming frantically. We tried calling our landlord to no avail (since she was on an airplane without cell service). We drove around thinking, did we get duped? Are we those suckers who drove across country after giving first month’s rent only to find out there was no condo waiting for us at all?
Yes, we went into full crisis mode. After doing two loops around Stanley Park, I decided to play around with the address she gave us, just to see if maybe the street was slightly off. And, after nearly two hours, voila, there it was. The condo we were looking for. Shawn raced to the new location, hit the buzzer and suddenly our keys were in his hands.
After unloading the car, we sat on our air mattress looking around at our empty condo feeling the most relief we had ever felt. Even though we only had an air mattress, 2 towels, a few toiletries and some water, it felt like home. We listened as people wandered by our window, noticing how loud the streets actually were. Traffic and partying people never seemed to slow down. But, the sounds quickly became white noise. We were informed to park in the visitors area with a note stating our landlord would be providing us with our parking slot tomorrow and that we had just moved in.
Uh-Ho…After a good nights rest, we went down to the parking garage only to find that our car was gone. I guess the note we left with our landlord’s instructions weren’t sufficient and the condo board decided to tow our vehicle. Strike 2 for the Bechtloffs.
Then came the furniture debacle. Our furniture which was promised to have arrived by this point had somehow hit ‘bad’ weather and was going to be delayed by at least another week. So, here we were sitting on our air mattress, sans car wondering how we were going to make due living like this, with a toddler for at least another week.
We decided to turn our luck around. We finally got through to our landlord who informed us she would ensure we were reimbursed for the tow and the cab fare to retrieve our vehicle. So, off Shawn went to collect our vehicle and then on we went to IKEA. We stocked our cupboards with the basic necessities and we began to unpack some of our clothes. We wandered the city and instantly fell in love with it, despite the less than perfect start.
Breathing a temporary sigh of relief, we wandered into a company hoping to set up our car insurance. We were informed that we needed to go get an inspection completed since our vehicle was coming from Ontario. They gave us a brochure for a place they recommended and off we went. We giddily drove 30 minutes away, loving all of the new scenery along the way.
We already decided that we would run over to Starbucks, get a coffee and snack and hurry back to pick up our vehicle. We knew it couldn’t take long considering our car was a 2014 model and was previously serviced before leaving Ontario.
The worker showed up almost 20 minutes late for opening the shop (we should have just drove away at this point). But, we waited, watched him unload his car and greet his also late employees as they staggered in.
They hoisted up our vehicle and advised it should be quick since it was a newer model. So, off we went and patiently counted the minutes waiting for his phone call. After 1.5 hours, we decided we’d make our way back to the shop. We pushed our way into the reception area and noticed that our vehicle was still hoisted up. The owner quickly ran over to inform us that our vehicle didn’t pass the inspection and that we needed new brakes, new this and new that, but that he was going to give us a very good rate to make all of the fixes. 20% off here and 20% off there. Then came the real kicker…he proceeded to advise us that if we didn’t get the items fixed then and there he was going to upload our information to some ‘registry’ and we would be unable to drive our vehicle.
Here is where the alarms starting going off. First off, any time you’re trying to tell me that you’re giving me a really good deal, always makes me leery of what you’re actually doing. He was as sleazy as they could come. Needless to say, we argued for a few minutes before we requested our car be brought down and that we were going to take it to a different shop.
He again advised us against that and that we would be wasting another $70-$100 to have it re-inspected only to be told we would need all of these items fixed. He was way to thirsty for the business, so we happily left and went to Canadian Tire. This was when we learned once again that you get what you pay for.
Canadian Tire examined our vehicle and laughed when we showed them the slip of ‘fixable items’ given from the last guy. We were notified that our vehicle was perfectly fine and did not need new brakes, new tires, yada, yada, yada. We were also informed that there was no ‘registry’ for him to upload such information about our car.
I felt very discouraged at this point. I truly felt like we had finally found this amazing waterfront city with cascading mountain views and it was turning against us. I remember crying and saying, ‘maybe we’re just not cut out for the big city.’
Thankfully, Shawn reassured me that we found our condo keys, our furniture was on it’s way, our car was retrieved from the impound lot and that our vehicle really didn’t need anything to pass the inspection.
And he was right. Our furniture arrived (nearly 30 days late) on December 24th and we made it work. By Christmas morning we were waking up to a furnished condo and a new adventure.