I’m from Vancouver, but I’ve lived in Toronto for the past five years (most of my adult life), so I consider myself a bit of a mix at this point.
I know Toronto roads, restaurants, shops and transit systems better than Vancouver ones, and sadly, I’ve started to develop a bit of a Toronto attitude. I never ever workout (save for bike commuting), I struggle to eat properly, and I’ve become an unapologetic recluse. I’m tired and busy like a lot of the population here, and though I know this isn’t my natural state, but I find it hard to snap myself out of the dreariness amidst all of the dirty concrete and cigarette butts.
But then I go home for Christmas holidays, or a summer visit, and a weight lifts off of me. It’s not that I love Toronto any less than Vancouver--they both have their perks--but I can’t deny that Vancouver instantly makes me feel healthier, and in turn, I start to look a little bit more, well, alive.
The air is different there, the water cleaner, and the people friendlier. For example, on our first day in the elevator of my parent’s condo building, my mom saw her neighbour from down the hall. They greeted each other with a warm hello and a smile, and then launched into a conversation about their latest yoga classes, the new barre method workout, walks they’d been on lately; in the past week these two middle aged women had done more working out than I had in the past year.
I am probably making a vast generalization, but people in Vancouver just seem to have different priorities. Business and work still matters, but building one’s career doesn’t seem quite as important there as it does here. The city is smaller, and in turn, the number of stressed, exhausted, unhappy people seems to be a bit smaller.
As a result, people look beautiful; they are happy and healthy, so why shouldn’t they glow? I’m not saying Vancouver is a utopia of perfection and perfect people, but I do think everyone living anywhere could learn a thing or two from the healthy Vancouver lifestyle.
Case in point, these fine looking folks:
Feeling inspired by how gorgeous and alive they all look? OK, I mean, I only presented you with two photos of three women, which isn’t exactly sound evidence, but I couldn't just go creepily taking pictures of random people, now could I?
You'll just have to trust me on this one: almost everyone looks healthy and glowing. Their secrets are more simple than you think--common sense, even--but when I really think about it, I don’t currently utilize any of them in my real life. In case you’re in the same boat as me, I thought they were worth sharing.
1. They eat consciously.
Organic food stores are everywhere in Vancouver, and they’re not small. In fact, I’d say it's just as easy (if not easier) to find an organic grocery store over a normal one.
The local food movement is extremely strong, juice trucks drive around the city streets, and imports from warm places like California travel a much smaller distance than they do to reach people out East, so food is fresher.
There are a ton of community gardens and rooftop gardening projects, some of which provide fresh local produce to grocery stores in the downtown area. Junk food still exists, of course, but healthy, ethically sourced food is just as readily available.
Lesson: Eat as well as you can, whenever you can. Eat fresh greens daily, and avoid processed foods. You don't need to cut out junk, but balance will keep you looking awake and alive (instead of looking like a run down corporate climber who lives on instant breakfast and coffee and never sleeps).
2. They are so close to the Nicest Spa Ever.
This isn't actually in Vancouver and not everyone from Vancouver goes there, but I just couldn’t leave it out because it was so awesome.
For Emmett’s birthday, I took him to the Scandinave Spa in Whistler (a two-hour drive from downtown Van) for a day of rest and relaxation. The experience was incredible--like “am I dreaming” unreal incredible. I’ve been to water circuit spas and similar getups in Toronto and abroad, but none compare to this magical retreat.
The spa is outdoors on the mountainside overlooking a valley, and includes camp fires you can sit around in your robes, a wood burning log cabin sauna, gorgeous solariums with wooden lounge chairs and huge windows, horribly cold plunge pools with glacier water from the mountain pouring into them, etc. In short, it’s sort of body treatment heaven, and my skin felt SO good when I left.
Lesson: Visit your local water circuit spa once and awhile; it will work wonders for your skin, circulation, and mind. If your city/town/place of living doesn’t have a water circuit spa, or the price is too steep (which is the case for me most of the time), take lovely hot baths with dead sea salt and lavender oil, and then cold plunge in your shower directly after. It’s not exactly the same, but light some nice candles, play nature sounds, and pretend.
3. They do actual exercise.
In Toronto, the sport of choice is probably bike commuting and/or the occasional bought of weightlifting, but in Vancouver everyone has a sport or exercise routine that they do not to get somewhere, but to be healthy and feel good.
Yoga studios can be found on almost every single street, and if indoor sweating isn't your thing, the nearby mountains provide endless summer and winter sporting options. I did an hour and a half hot yoga class with my mom in a 40-degree Celsius (about 104 fahrenheit) room with no windows while visiting and I nearly died (my vision went black, like, 10 times), but after I had showered and chugged some water afterwards I felt good. Really good. My skin was glowing and radiant, and every part of my body felt stronger.
Turns out looking fit and healthy is as simple as just being fit and healthy.
Lesson: No matter where you live and what your budget is, find a workout routine that works for you and stick to it. Sweating once in a while really helps remove toxins from your body, clear your pores, and give your mind a fresh start.
4. They drink a ton of fresh water.
The tap water that pours from the taps of Vancouver is so fresh and clean, you'd think it came right from bottle of Evian. The nearby glaciers provide some of the most pristine, clean tap water in the world, and you can really taste the difference.
Vancouverites love their water. Nearly everyone has a cute little water bottle that they carry with them everywhere they go, and maintained, working water fountains are plentiful around downtown. A lot of Vancouver dwellers also have water filtration systems, some of which have fancy mineral rocks in them for added health benefits. It’s so widespread that even my grandpa has one.
Lesson: Filter your tap water and drink a lot of it! If you can't afford a fancy system (like me), settle for a Brita or something similar. Carry a water bottle everywhere with you and fill it up wherever you go.
5. They're friendly and kind.
When I get old and grey, the one thing I hope to avoid is big, deep frown lines. I'm happy to be as wrinkled as a raisin, but don't let me have a reminder of all the dreary grumpy days I've had etched into my face. I want to smile far more than I frown over the course of my life, and the people of Vancouver seem to share this desire.
People smile more, and more importantly, they're just nice to one another! Neighbours talk and lend each other things, and elevators are seldom silent. As a beyond awkward introvert, this is a tough adjustment for me, but I'll admit it is nice to not hate every other human so much all the time.
Lesson: Be nicer to yourself and others, even if you hate the world and want to be alone in bed all the time, like me. Smile more, and do things that make you happy.
6. They live near the ocean.
Something about the ocean just seems to bring a nice calm to people. The waves create a pulse, if you will, ensuring that everyone near it keeps breathing in time.
Every time I find myself near the ocean, I feel more grounded, and my problems shrink to small little bits of sand when compared to the roaring ferocity of the water all around me. It gives me perspective, and it forces me to breathe, adapting a slower, more natural pulse.
Oops, am I getting a bit too new age-y here? Let's just sum it up: I'm a mermaid and the ocean makes me feel calm and safe and better (and makes my hair perfect). This relaxation (and good hair day happiness) translates to my face, and I look better.
Lesson: Buy a bottle of the amazing Davines Sea Salt Spray, scrub your body with Lush Ocean Salt Cleanser weekly, and breathe! Deeply, thoughtfully, and more. Listen to ocean sounds every night and breathe with the waves until you fall asleep. You can even get the ocean free on YouTube now, so you have no excuse not to.