Ollie Kirwan & Shónagh Murphy – Vancouver

Anothe feature for Irish Abroad, this time it’s Ollie and Shónagh in Vancouver. I don’t know them but I follow them on Instagram and when I asked them to be featured, they graciously agreed. They also have a site (Backpackingcraic) that follows their amazing adventures, gives travel tips and more, check it out here.

1.Where in the world are you currently?

Vancouver, Canada

2.How long have you lived there for?

3 months (Jan 2020)

3. Is this your first time living away from Ireland?

No. Ollie – lived in Spain for 5 months. Shónagh – lived in USA for 4 months as part of college placement. Travelled SE Asia together for 6 months.

4. What’s your favourite place you have ever travelled to?

Xlendi Bay in Malta, so peaceful and quiet and a really simple way of life there.

5. Why did you leave Ireland initially?

To travel – bored of the monotony of life in Ireland and wanted to experience other parts and cultures of the world.

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?

There will always be a fear of the unknown and you will always make excuses not to go if you let yourself. When you travel to different countries you will find that most people you meet will be friendly and helpful. You will realize that you can’t always plan for every scenario (and that’s half the fun). Take normal precautions and do your research and you will be fine 😊

7.What are some major differences you’ve noticed between your where you are now, and Ireland?

Culturally Canada is a bit different to Ireland. The Canadian culture tends to encourage others a lot more than in Ireland and there isn’t the same begrudging nature that you sometimes get back home. Canadians although, usually quite friendly, can be much more direct about their feelings and will have no problem confronting someone if their food is not up to standard or if they are inconvenienced in some way! Personally, we feel like there are a lot more activities to enjoy in Canada. Hikes, skiing, kayaking, whale watching etc and the scenery here is unbelievable!

8.What is the best thing about living in a new place, in your opinion?

The novelty of having a new way of life, new activities to enjoy and a new outlook on things. Living abroad opens you up to new experiences, new cultures and new people but also makes you appreciate how special Ireland is. Ireland has a unique feeling that we haven’t ever experienced elsewhere (maybe it’s because it will always be home) but the characters, the craic and the devilment is uniquely Irish!

8.How has coronavirus affected the city you are currently in? What measures have been brought in there?

In terms of the pandemic, Vancouver is not on full lock down, social distancing measures have been implemented and offices, shops, restaurants, bars etc are closed but you can still leave the house!

9.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?

It has obviously affected all the travel plans that we had for this year and has really impacted our ability to enjoy all the great things that Vancouver and British Columbia has to offer. The pandemic has also resulted in one of us losing our job which has had an impact on our income. It has also changed how we shop for food and the need to better plan meals and the food we need to buy as we can’t just “pop” down to the shops like before.

10.Have you thought about going back to Ireland in light of what’s happening?

We did consider it for a fleeting moment but we decided that the virus was worse at home than it is here in Vancouver (the city has contained it pretty well so far). We also felt that Canada was better equipped to deal with this in terms of its infrastructure and that we would have more opportunity to get employment remotely while here. When the pandemic ultimately ends we also felt that Canada would bounce back quicker and so all of this convinced us that we are in the best place for the moment. We had also put a lot of work, effort and money into making the move so we didn’t want it all to be in vain.

11. How do you find being away from home in times like these? Are you worried about loved one’s back in Ireland?

Of course! We think everybody worries about the people that they love and care about. In a weird way, this pandemic has brought a lot of the world closer together. Personally, we are more thoughtful towards others and their circumstances and we are trying to be mindful of other people when going outside for example. We are trying to be as responsible as possible to ensure that any decisions we make will not have a knock on effect to someone else in the community.

12. 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?

Travelling and being on the road long term before the lockdown meant we were pretty used to keeping in contact with loved ones back home through WhatsApp. It is also part of the reason we set up our Instagram account – it was a way for our family and friends to see what we were up to each day and to know we were safe without us having to send 20 messages a day. It has definitely equipped us to being locked up in close proximity for an extended length of time too! Living in each other’s pockets like that can put a strain on a relationship but we had gone through the strain already when travelling!

13. Did the coronavirus affect any upcoming trips home or other trips that you had planned?  

YES! We had planned a lot of trips to the USA and South America, and a friend’s wedding in Italy this year that now need to be put off ☹ We are finding it difficult because we both have a huge sense of adventure and almost 4 months into our Vancouver life, we haven’t been able to explore.

14. 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?

We have been watching Netflix, doing Sporcle quizzes, learning languages, playing guitar, doing yoga, sunbathing in the back garden and keeping in touch with everyone on Instagram 😊

15. Do you think there is any silver lining to what is currently happening in the world?

We hope that it will give people more of an appreciation for the lives that we have and that it will encourage more kindness and respect in people (for each other and the planet).

16.Do you have any plans to move back to Ireland at any point in the future?

Ireland is definitely our home and we both feel very much Irish. We don’t have any immediate plans to return but we will go back at some point in the future.

Please feel free to share anything else that you think might help other Irish people who are living abroad at this time.

  • For anyone in North America, Instacart has been a game changer; it is a food delivery service. You can shop from multiple supermarkets and get it all delivered to your door, a huge help if you can’t leave the house!
  • Duo Lingo is great for learning languages and can make your days a bit more productive.
  • Try to do one thing a day that is a physical activity or that makes you think and use your brain (like a quiz or a crossword -especially if you are not working) to help keep you sane

 If anyone just wants a chat or to talk about anything then drop us a message on our Instagram page – We love to chat!

Their Instagram is backpackingcraic and I absolutely love following them. They are fun and witty and have amazing pictures and brilliant stories about their travels, check it out here.

Disclaimer: All pictures in this post belong to Ollie and Shónagh