After making it through the Canadian border, I headed towards Vancouver.
I couldn’t check into my Airbnb until 5:00 pm and I was hungry so I stopped at a Dairy Queen for something to eat. It was in downtown West Vancouver, close to my Airbnb. It seems Dairy Queen is very popular in Canada – they’re everywhere and people eat the warm food, in addition to the ice cream.
On the menu board, there was something called poutine. I asked the young guy at the register what that was. He said, “You’re not from here, are you?” I said I was American and had never heard of poutine. He described it as french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. They have poutine eateries, which is their specialty, but he said Dairy Queen has one of the best poutines around, compared to places like McDonalds. As intriguing as the poutine sounded, it seemed heavy and like a big bowl of fat.
I ordered a burger and fries (I know, not much better) and forgot I did not have Canadian money. I used my Chase Sapphire card, which has zero foreign transaction fees. I asked what their money was called, and the guy said, “dollars”. “Oh, that’s interesting. So it’s just the Canadian dollar.” I replied.
I used a money conversion app on my phone to see the difference and thankfully, the U.S. dollar was stronger than the Canadian dollar. For every $1 U.S. dollar, it was around $1.30 Canadian, so my money stretched a little further. It was really nice when I’d look at my credit card and see the amount I was actually charged in U.S. dollars was always slightly less than what I was charged in Canadian dollars. The higher the price, the larger the difference. If I was charged $75 Canadian dollars, it would actually only cost me around $57 U.S. dollars. This was a nice change from traveling to Europe, where the U.S. dollar has always been much weaker than the pound and the euro (when I’ve visited).
I ordered the meal, which came with a soda (they call it pop). I don’t usually drink soda, but decided to get one that day. The guy behind the register proudly told me their soda doesn’t have any high fructose corn syrup like the U.S. soda has.
I sat down at the high counter that looked out the window, near the registers. The guy who took my order started talking to me. Then another employee came over to talk as well. The first guy was the supervisor, slightly overweight, in his late 20s with light brown hair. The 2nd guy was in his mid-20s, skinny with brown hair.
We talked about the differences in the U.S. and Canada with healthcare, politics, and the housing problems. The guys thought banning straws was ridiculous and a small battle to be fought. They described Vancouver as being in a crisis with affordable housing, and the government wasn’t doing anything to stop it. They said the reason it’s become unaffordable was because of foreign investments in the housing market, mostly from the Chinese.
The supervisor was very passionate about this topic. He pointed out that every city needs workers at places like Dairy Queen, and managers of those places. The employee level jobs at these establishments were good jobs for people in college and high school. But he pointed out that they also need managers and if managers (and employees) can’t afford to live in a city, they will move. There will be nobody left to do those jobs. That’s why it’s a crisis.
We also discussed guns because they had the impression that the U.S. loves guns and nobody in Canada has a gun. It was interesting because the supervisor said he has a friend whose dad lives in an old mill town in the U.S. that has gone down hill because the jobs disappeared. The man sleeps with a gun under his pillow because of the crime level. The supervisor told the story and said, “I understand why he has a gun there; it’s not safe in the U.S.”
I told the guys that they should be careful of the impressions they get on the news. Yes, there is crime in the U.S., and some cities are unsafe. However, most places in the U.S. are safe and you don’t need to sleep with a gun under your pillow. It was eye-opening to see how impressions of countries are made by watching the news.
The guys also told me how Vancouver has become the second Hollywood where movies and shows are filmed regularly. This is because the city is tax friendly, has relatively good weather, and now has a lot of skilled workers in the film industry living there.
The conversation with the guys was fun and interesting. They seemed to enjoy talking to an American and discussing the differences in our countries.
It was now 5:00 pm and I was able to check into my Airbnb. You might recall from a previous post that when I searched for an Airbnb days earlier, I found some pretty crazy places – like a couch in someone’s living room. I got lucky and found a room available in a 9-bedroom mansion on the side of a mountain in West Vancouver for about $52 (U.S.) a night.
I drove up the mountain and parked my car in one of the three spaces available in the small driveway. I followed the instructions to get inside since the owner doesn’t live there and rents out all of the rooms.
The house was large, with a spiral staircase, but had a very minimal look inside. The furniture was very basic and there weren’t any decorations. I climbed up the spiral staircase to the 2nd floor and found my room. My room came with a shared bathroom, which was directly next to my bedroom.
There was no air conditioning and there happened to be a heat wave. I opened the window for some air and discovered there was not a screen. “That’s strange, Seattle didn’t have a screen either”, I thought. I also opened the sliding door, which opened to a small private patio to the backyard. Again, no screen door.
The room had a bed that was low to the ground, two night stands, and basic desk. There was not a TV in the room, which I was getting very used to.
I walked around the house and discovered the dining room and kitchen, both which had amazing views out their giant windows to the ocean down below. The top floor had more bedrooms and another spiral staircase leading up there.
As I was unloading my car, a couple in their early 30s pulled up in hiking clothing. They were staying in the suite that had a separate entrance. They asked me if I could let them inside the main house because they hadn’t been able to see it yet (they were only provided instructions for entering their suite). I let them in and they were in awe of the view.
I got settled into my room and then walked to the kitchen to get some water. In the dining room, I noticed a large, creepy-looking spider handing in the window. I hate spiders, but there was something fascinating about this spider. I thought it was strange that my previous Airbnb in Seattle had a spider web with a spider in the window. As you’ll see in future posts, this would be the start of having a spider in almost every single place I would stay.
I retreated back to my room and hoped a spider would not crawl through my open window. I could handle the random flying bug making its way inside. I searched for things to do in Vancouver and booked a bike tour for the next day. I was excited to be in Canada as this felt like the real start of my adventure – unknown territory.
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Post Edited By: Misty Kosek