Martha Fallon – Vancouver

1.Where in the world are you currently?
Vancouver, British Columbia

2.How long have you lived there for?
2 years, 3 months

3.Is this your first time living away from Ireland?
Yes, except for a J1 to San Francisco in 2012!

4.What’s your favourite place you have ever travelled to and why?
I think it has to be the Yukon Territory, Canada. We travelled up there last October with hopes to see the Northern Lights – which amazingly we did see! We also took a road-trip to Alaska and the whole experience was just incredible, absolutely freezing, but incredible.

5.Why did you leave Ireland initially?
I worked in the tourism industry in Ireland for awhile and spent my days encouraging people to experience living and working abroad but had never done so myself. I decided it was time to experience it for myself and after some extensive research settled on Vancouver as being the ideal spot for me, it’s the perfect mix of city life and the great outdoors. But without the extreme temperature and weather changes.

6.What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about moving abroad or heading off travelling for an extended period (after the pandemic is over), but is nervous to do so?
I think planning is key. Especially when the pandemic is over, it’s going to be important to look into the economies and job opportunities of where you are looking to go. Look into the healthcare and make sure to have travel insurance. Also, to be clear about what it is you want out of a trip or a move, decide if it is to benefit your career, benefit you personally, just for the experience or just for fun! Moving abroad is always a big step to take, have enough money saved to see you through at least the first three months, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Utilize the Irish community in whatever area you are planning to go to (trust me, there is always an Irish community, and they are always happy to help). No matter what happens, a big trip or a big move will teach you something.

7.What are some major differences you’ve noticed between your where you are now, and Ireland?
Vancouver is extremely multi-cultural and I think it has made Vancouverites more accepting and open-minded. They are mostly true to the Canadian stereotype of everyone being extremely nice and accommodating. Sometimes I have to force myself to remember that my Irish sarcasm or ‘insulting you because I like you’ phrases can be a bit lost in translation, and everyone is too nice to comment.

There is also a much stronger focus on health and exercise. Everyone here is super outdoors-y and with the surrounding scenery it’s easy to see why. Everyone I have encountered here is into hiking, skiing, running or camping anything to have them outdoors and keeping them fit! It’s a nice outlook and has reminded me that there are other ways to have fun apart from the pub, but bare in mind Vancouver gets about the same amount of rain as Ireland does!

Of course, as any Irish person abroad will say, the food. As a culturally diverse city there is no end to the options and types of cuisine available, but sometimes you just can’t beat a chipper! It’s also a lot more expensive for groceries here than in Ireland, and it’s never the same quality. I miss Irish cheese on a daily basis.

8.What is the best thing about living in a new place, in your opinion?
The possibilities! Not having family and friends already established here has forced me to meet new people (and actually re-connect with Irish friends we didn’t know were here before moving) and try new things. By not having favorite places or go-to’s you end up exploring a lot more. Before the pandemic happened we would try to go somewhere new every weekend, be it a new restaurant and a new town – big fan of road trips in BC! I’m looking forward to being able to do that again when all this is over.

9.How has coronavirus affected the city you are currently in? What measures have been brought in there?
As with most other cities there have been a lot of changes in Vancouver. They don’t appear to be as extreme as measures taken at home in Ireland. All large gatherings were cancelled, skiresorts closed earlier in the season, all non-essential workers have been working from home since the week of March 16th. BC closed all national parks and campgrounds. Shops, restaurants and bars have been closed for weeks, except for take-out and delivery services. I live near the beach, and the city have closed off a lane of the road to open it for bikes, so in turn the bike lanes can be used for more space between walkers and runners. There are also fines in place for being in cars or close proximity to people who do not live in your household. Facemasks have never been that uncommon in Vancouver but are daily occurrences now.

10.How has the coronavirus and what’s currently happening in the world affected you? Has it had a direct impact on any aspect of your life in particular?
Thankfully, my job has always had the ability to work from home, so the transition has been pretty smooth and I’m lucky to still have a job, functioning as usual. Just before everything shut down, I received approval of my Permanent Residency application. But with the US borders being shut, I’m not able to flagpole to activate it yet. I know it will work out and the Immigration Canada are working on way around this, but I was so close to having it all finalized, it was a bit of a disappointed to have it put on hold.

11.Have you thought about going back to Ireland in light of what’s happening?
Honestly, not really. It’s hard being away from family and I’d love to be able to be with them during such a scary time. But Ireland seemed to be in worse off position than Vancouver, here I know my job and apartment are safe, at least for now and if I were to uproot and move home I would face unemployment and so much uncertainty.

12.How do you find being away from home in times like these? Are you worried about loved one’s back in Ireland? There are definitely days where I wish I was in the comfort of my childhood house. I’m an only child and super close to my parents, I’m always worried about them! But I’m in touch with them daily (the Whatsapp memes are endless) and thankfully no-one has any major health issues and everyone is taking the safety measures seriously.

13.Do you think that living away has better equipped you to deal with social distancing in any way? For example, most people are now keeping in touch via virtual means like Zoom/Google Hangouts, were you already doing this with your loved one’s in Ireland?
Yes, I do most of my communicating over messages and Facetime anyway so that hasn’t changed too much. If anything, working from home has made connecting easier with the time difference! It’s hard to not be as social with friend and colleagues here that I’m used to seeing every day. And there are definitely more work Google Hangout calls than necessary!

14.Did the coronavirus affect any upcoming trips home or other trips that you had planned?
There were no trips home planned, but other plans have been disrupted. We were due to fly to New York to meet family as a kind of half-way point, in April that had to be cancelled. I also had one of my best friends coming to visit me in May that has also been cancelled. We had plans for a Canada Road trip with family from Ireland and from Toronto in July that also now looks unlikely.

15.What have you been doing to cope in this stressful time? Some people focus on being productive, others binge watch Netflix, what is your coping mechanism?
A combination of productivity and Netflix Binges! I’ve been getting through some tasks I’ve been putting off in the apartment for awhile, as well as committing to daily workouts. But I do watch a lot of Netflix and listen to a lot of true Crime Podcasts to distract myself in the evenings.

16.Do you think there is any silver lining to what is currently happening in the world? I think it will make people appreciate the smaller things, family and security and not put some much importance on outside factors. People have shown great kindness and hopefully that lasts. I hope it also brings to light that we need to be more aware of our footprint as humans and take action on Climate Change. But we need to realize that we can’t go ‘back to normal’, as normal wasn’t working and we need to adapt with the lessons we hopefully learn from this pandemic.

17.Do you have any plans to move back to Ireland at any point in the future?
Not in the next few years. Permanent Residency has just been approved and I can foresee us staying in Vancouver 2 or 3 more years. Ireland will always be home, and one day we will move back.

18.Do you think that Ireland will benefit in the future from all this emigration it’s been experiencing?
Hopefully it will lead to more accepting and open-mindedness. Most Irish people abroad still consider Ireland home and visit regularly and carry their new experiences with them. They also act as great brand ambassadors all around the world. I think, for those who emigrate but then return, the workforce will benefit from international experience.

Please feel free to share anything else that you think might help other Irish people who are living abroad at this time.
Make the most of living abroad, even through isolation. If you have the ability to say put, do, this is all temporary. But do what is best for your well being! Communicate with friends and family where you are and at home as much as possible and try to stay positive.

Disclaimer: All images in this post belong to Martha Fallon