Almost Fearless

Why I Travel: Chasing Vancouver

The view from my room in Aegina, Greece




It was chilly in Greece when we arrived, the last week of April. Walking the cobblestone lanes, scarf tied around my neck, holding my husband’s hand, cheeks rosy from the brisk pace and the pleasant feeling of breathing cold air. It’s sunny and beautiful, and we walk like this for a few hours, breaking to order coffee with milk at a cafe on the harbor. We talk about the sailboat we want to buy, the length and style it’ll be, how we’ll learn to sail in Cape Town or perhaps somewhere else. The baby is sleeping in his stroller and I think, “I love this man.”

It was a moment in Greece that was so similar to a moment in 2002 that it connected the intervening years like a single silver note threaded through everything we have done since.

It was the day before Valentine’s Day 2002 and my husband knew that I knew that he was going to propose. I had, after all, helped him pick out the ring — at that point we were already like a married couple — and now with the most cliched proposal date of all time approaching, he had to act quick. On February 13th, 2002, he cleaned the house, bought a bottle of wine and asked me to marry him. I said yes immediately, I didn’t want to worry him by teasing it out. That weekend we drove from our apartment in Seattle up to Vancouver, BC for the first time. It was unseasonably sunny and briskly cold like Greece was now and we spent an entire four-day weekend walking around, glowing, giddy, dropping into cafes and feeling like we were in Europe, in love and traveling.

There’s a memory from that weekend that has cut through all the clutter and hazy impressions of my mind and stands out in clarity. The sun breaks through the clouds and is blinding. Everything is washed out in the bright light. We cross the street, half-seeing, a car jerks towards us and we jump up onto the curb. We’re laughing. Or smiling. Or I just feel very happy and we collapse into oversized leather chairs, by the window and order cafe lattes that are delivered in giant yellow mugs. I don’t know what we talked about, but it was my small introduction to traveling outside the US, seeing a city that looked like Europe and spending a few days dedicated to maintaining the buzz of endorphins from walking, caffeine, Vitamin D, the joy of seeing a new place and the simple happiness of experiencing it with the person you love.

I’m trying to describe this single sensation, it’s called happiness, but one that’s so profound and easy, that I feel like it needs further description. Perhaps it doesn’t. I was happy. It felt really good.

Since then, we got married (October of 2003), we traveled from Seattle to Texas to Boston for various career moves (mine) and in 2008, I quit my job at a big company, in order to become a writer at the ripe old age of 31. We’ve traveled to many places, but it’s always those Vancouver moments that stand out for me: riding a vespa in Bermuda, hiking the waterfalls in Jamaica, getting drunk on really good tequila in Cozumel, our entire time in Madrid, apple picking season in Vermont, surfing in Costa Rica, semi-serious house hunting in Granada, walking to the doctor to find out if I was pregnant in Guatemala, getting pregnant in New England, driving to the Yukon through the Canadian Rockies, giving birth to Cole, the Colombian waitress who sat with us through our meal and talked softly to our son in Spanish, surviving Burning Man, riding a moto in Thailand, driving through the rice paddies in Bali, dipping in the Ganges in India, and now, walking on a briskly cold morning in Greece, pushing our son in his lime green stroller and talking about the future.

It doesn’t happen everywhere. It comes and it goes. A new place, some physical act — walking or driving or surfing — plus natural beauty and just the right mood and we’re blissed out. We’re drunk on it. And in our own way, my husband Drew and I, we’re total addicts.

We have sacrificed stability, normalcy, friends, family, belongings, money, careers and so much more to get it. It’s the A+ moments, the great weekend, the amazing lunch, the intense conversation and instead of waiting for it to find us we run around the world, searching it out.

It was only now, in 2011, over nine years later from that original moment, that I realized it. We’ve been chasing Vancouver.

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • I love that your beatiful post on happiness highlights 2 of the 3 places in the world that are home to me – Aegina Island, and Vancouver. I lived on Aegina for almost a year, and it was so full of those moments that you describe – where everything is just magic. And, a few years after that moved to Vancouver, where I live now. To be honest, Vanouver has never clicked with me the way that Aegina did, and those moments are rare and treasured, but I love to read how others experience the city that I love to disdain, but will defend endlessly if an outsider dares to critique.

  • Beautifully written! And what a worthy city to chase! I’m from Seattle as well and have traveled quite a bit and lived in a good number of places (though nothing like you guys of course) but to this day Vancouver is still my favorite city in the world to live in!

  • Two of my favorites that I, too, will forever be chasing…Greece and Vancouver. IMO, two of the most beautiful places in the world. I don’t do drugs but I think this is what ‘chasing the high’ must be like…when you KNOW how good it can be and see fleeting moments of it from time to time…so you keep going just to feel it again. Cheers!

  • Beautiful post. Mine is a moment in Cassis when I was 16: sitting on the cliffs, looking out at the Mediterranean and just being in awe at how beautiful it was and how happy I was in that moment. Love that feeling, whenever and wherever I get it.

  • I am in Kuching Borneo on my adventure into the future that began about 5 weeks ago. I was thinking about that same feeling last week: about how close love and gratitude are in the way fill you up to the brim. Happiness: some combination of love, gratitude and a sense of possibility.

  • Aaaaaand …. that’s the best post I’ve read this month. Congratulations.

    Seriously blown away by this piece. It’s fantastic. I’m not sure whether it helps that I know you both and think you’re awesome – individually and collectively – but the article hit me in a number of ways.

    I think all of us travellers are chasing something, one way or another.

    Keep chasing Vancouver. The more you chase it, the more likely you are to regularly find it, and having that feeling regularly is quite probably the greatest thing you could ever do.

  • Dave’s right – us travellers are all chasing something. So great that you’ve been able to pinpoint and articulate what it is for you.

    Beautifully written.

    • Well the problem is that I’m chasing a moment I had in Vancouver 2002. That place doesn’t exist any more. If I showed up in BC right now, it wouldn’t be the same. I think part of it was the thrill of being in a new place, of doing something different, of not knowing. So perhaps I’ll never be able to stop… or maybe because I know what I’m looking for, I can find it without moving around so much. We’ll see!

      • That’s the beauty of it, always trying to re-live those moments. That’s why we travel, that’s why we talk about places we loved more then anything but we choose to go somewhere new instead of returning – to get that feeling, that initial ‘wow’ factor – and it’s always surprising when those moments appear and how they grab hold – one of the memories I love most is a moment in Laos that was totally unexpected and could never be repeated, you’ll have more Vancouvers, but that first to get you into the place you are now is something special….

  • I read a lot of blogs for work reasons, but this is the blog I read just for me. It makes me happy (even when you’re writing about Delhi belly). It’s a few minutes of pure escape, and this post is a beautiful example of that. I had to come out of “lurking” mode to just say thanks!

  • Magic. Just love this.

    To have something like that as your anchor – that’s strength indeed. We all have such moments – but it’s easy to forget them, for the colours to fade, and lose that unshakeable core of happiness. I’m digging into my childhood memories of Cyprus right now, and it’s like a kindled warmth, deep within me…

    I love that you’re so aware of your Vancouver. 🙂

  • I live in Ontario and have yet to visit Vancouver. I’ve been to Kamloops, B.C. to visit a friend but I was only in grade 5 and don’t remember much. The pictures, however, take me back.

    I hear Vancouver is expensive, but worth every penny. I love your idea of “chasing” Vancouver. Beautifully written!

  • I have been following your blog for a couple years now, having completed a rtw trip with my boyfriend last July 2010 and we have been living in Barcelona since.

    This post was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I can totally relate.


  • There is definitely something in the air up here in Vancouver. I think it has something to do with the combination of the ocean, mountains and clouds of marijuana smoke 🙂

  • I agree with Dave above, this is the best post I have read all month! Your writing is beautiful and you perfectly described your feelings in these moments.

    I especially loved your description of falling into the oversized leather chairs, because it sounds like a moment that I would love as well!

  • This is amazing. As I sit here in the NW near Seattle… I feel a little bit of myself in this post. Thank you.

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