Canada: My Introduction

Twenty four hours. From my front door in Sligo, on Ireland’s Atlantic west coast, to Vancouver, in the Pacific forests of Canada. A relatively long time to be travelling, but a remarkably short period to find yourself transplanted into a new life.

I’ve come to Vancouver to take up a research position at the University of British Columbia, looking at the relationships between the atmosphere and the planet’s snow and ice cover. I’ve decided to start a blog to keep family and friends updated on life here, and to give  some information on the work I’m involved in, for those who may be interested. This opening post is just to get the ball rolling, and give a brief synopsis of the story so far.

In reality, my first two months in Canada have mostly involved all the excitement of endless application forms, house hunting, university registration, bank and phone account set ups, navigating cryptic public transport maps, getting lost in supermarkets, getting lost in translation, and incidents of general isolated wandering. This is combined with getting to grips with new courses, teaching, and getting a research project off the ground. So instead of having to read about that, here are some pictures of my initial weekend adventures!

My first trip outside of Vancouver was a hike to Lake Garibaldi, a large, currently frozen alpine lake, surrounded by glaciated mountains. The drive to the lake is almost as spectacular as the hike itself, taking the scenic ‘Sea-to-Sky’ highway from Vancouver to Squamish, which winds along the coast between lush, brooding temperate rainforest of Douglas fir, and the snowcapped Coast range.

On the move on the Sea-to-Sky highway
Approaching Lake Garibaldi
Lengthening shadows on Lake Garibaldi
Lengthening shadows on Lake Garibaldi


The city of Vancouver is incredibly diverse, with over half of the population having a first language other than English (very excited about trying as many different foods as possible). There is a thriving Chinese community, accounting for  at least 20% of its population. The end of January saw the arrival of the year of the horse, and I was fortunate enough to take part in some of the Chinese New Year festivities.

Launching lanterns during the Chinese New Year festival,
Lighting up the wishes for the year
Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset
Trying the chicken feet at Chinese New Year breakfast


For my next wander, I did as the Canadians do, and strapped on a pair of snowshoes in search of Elfin lakes. The location lived up to its name, with stunning scenery, and enchanted animals (see image).

Snowshoeing to Elfin Lakes
Some friendly locals on route
Heading west on the return from Elfin Lakes


Following the unusual occurrence of snowfall in urban Vancouver, I found myself bricklaying, like many Irish migrants before me. Granted these were bricks of snow, as a Chinese man, a Kenyan man, a Malaysian woman, and an Irish man attempted to build an igloo; insert own punch line here. The world is a small place.

United Nations Igloo building


The world is a small place. British Columbia is enormous. Canada is incomprehensible. Being so tied up with getting started in a new country and position, I’ve only just made the lightest of scratches on its surface. I am eager and excited to see as much as this country has to offer. I expect that you could be born and raised here, and still not see a fraction of it. But I’m willing to give it a go.

Downhill skiing above Vancouver
Backcountry skiing in Red Heather (I’m assuming it’s a summer name)
Backcountry in bear country

6 thoughts on “Canada: My Introduction”

  1. Very impressive photos Noel, a real Nat Geographic quality to the whole blog. Really enjoyed it.

  2. Great post – I am Canadian myself (the other side though in Ontario)…but have been living in the UK for many many years. reading this makes me want to go back…

    1. Thanks for taking time to read this, James. I’m really enjoying getting to know your country. Haven’t made it east yet, but looking forward to visiting it; all recommendations welcome!

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