First, but not the last, post on our transition to small town life from the city.
Win for small town living: movies here are cheap. There’s one movie theatre in our town and with a 2 for 1 coupon from the paper it’s only $4 to see a movie on a Saturday night. Add in that our sitter is $8/hr here (yeah for having a niece and nephew that babysit!) vs. the $16-$20/hr in Vancouver ($20/hr has been calculated as a livable wage in Vancouver), and date night is half off compared to the city. One of the reasons we moved here was for a lower cost of living and that’s proving true in many areas.
That’s not the only difference with movie night though. In true city mouse fashion we made a faux pas buying our tickets. We were nearby visiting the library (it’s beyond expectations good) in the afternoon and we thought we should pick up tickets in advance of the show that evening. This would be a common thing to do in the city – swing by and get tickets the day before or in the afternoon so you could assure you got a seat and could avoid all the long line ups that evening. Well, my husband really confused the cashier at the movie theatre. Apparently no one ever buys tickets in advance and their ticket system – they use those numbered draw tickets you get for 50/50 draws and such – wasn’t set up for it. He returned from the ticket buying with half of one of those 50/50 tickets and was told that if there was any confusion that evening we were to say ____’s name (the local movie theatre owner/operator) and that it was okay. That one half of a ticket was entry for both of us to that night’s show. After we went to the show that evening our city assumptions were even more obvious to us. The theatre was surprisingly large and a healthy turn out for a Saturday night movie here is a few dozen people. My brother had a good laugh at us and our “advance ticket”.
It’s slow and quiet here and so far we are loving it. I miss some things about the city, really mostly people right now, but I do not miss the noise from the number 17 bus that went by my bedroom window every twenty minutes. Of course, the number 17 was also incredibly useful to us, it took us over the Cambie bridge in a few minutes for doctor’s appointments and errands. As I continue to remind myself, no place is perfect.
Also, no place is without its wonderful surprises. The biggest initial surprise for me here: how cyclist and pedestrian friendly this town is. To step back a bit, before we moved I wondered how much we would cycle here as there are very few cycling paths, no protected cycling lanes and outside of the downtown area and the main road, there are very few sidewalks. With my city cycling eyes I doubted we could cycle easily here with the lack of infrastructure. In Vancouver I rarely cycled on roadways myself and wouldn’t allow my eight year old to ride in vehicle traffic: drivers were aggressive, didn’t give cyclists any space. And I was concerned about walking here, our favourite form of transportation, with the limited sidewalks. In Vancouver we practiced defensive pedestrianism, making eye contact with drivers, standing in the middle of the crosswalk with my arms out wide as my children crossed to assure drivers that weren’t looking over the hood of their car would either see me or, worst case, hit me and not them. I knew we would bike and walk in this small town I just expected to have to teach my kids an extra level of vigilance to protect them from vehicles.
Well, I made a dumb assumption. In Vancouver the focus seems to be on infrastructure to encourage active transportation. And I thought you could really only have active transportation with separated bike lanes, sidewalks and walking and cycle paths. What I have seen since moving to a small town is that less traffic and, SO IMPORTANT, drivers that are aware of pedestrians and cyclists, share the road with them and take ownership for their safety, creates safe active transportation options too. The first week here we rode bikes to school and daycare drop off every morning and afternoon. Everyday Chris and I commented on how drivers gave us so much room, slowed down or even stopped to let our young cyclist get ahead. Drivers waved at us, smiled at us and really saw us in a way that I did not experience living in a city. We’ve put more miles on our Yuba Mundo cargo bike since we got here than we did all summer. I’m even thinking about winterizing it….
The experience of cycling and walking in this small town has been such a wonderful surprise. I’ve guessed that the responsive and aware drivers here must be due to the fact that it’s so small, everyone knows everyone. They see people on the roadway and not only feel a responsibility to keep them safe but they may want to slow down, roll the window down, and say hi. Also, people aren’t in a rush here. It really takes no time at all to get places so there’s no need to speed. There’s no sidewalks so everyone really has to share the road. And, another win for this town, there are lots of people out walking and cycling. We aren’t alone. The healthy amount of non-drivers on the road makes it safer for everyone. Drivers aren’t surprised at the pack of kids walking home from school, the senior on his e-bike or the new young cyclist that’s taking up the whole road so the driver takes less than a minute out of his or her day and waits to pass.
Hopefully more nice surprises in store for us as we face our first ‘real’ winter. Snow in the forecast, winter boots are ready and kids are excited for snow angels and making snowpeople!
Has anyone else experienced this same culture – culture shock? I’d love to hear from anyone that has done the small town to big city or reverse.