Against all odds, I’ve found happiness in Calgary

I fall in love with places so much these days; I don’t know how any of you take me seriously.

I never understood Alberta’s economical amazingness until having spent the last few weeks here in Calgary. While the rest of the world deals with lack of jobs, unstable careers and questionable futures, Alberta is the place to go when you need to make a name for yourself. Like my friend Chris said, “If you can’t make it in Calgary, you can’t make it anywhere.”

For the most part, half of Canada frowns upon this lifestyle. Sure, it’s bit of a rat race. The streets of Calgary are jammed with SUVs and Ford 1-50s. People toss around dollar bills like nothin’. Everything is all corporate. It’s the exact opposite of every city I’ve ever loved (St. John’s and Montreal, especially), and somehow I’ve fallen hard.

Why?

1. Most people here aren’t from here. I’ve been visiting for just over two weeks, and I’ve made more friends in that short timeframe than anywhere else. East coasters tend to stick together, but we’re all young 20-somethings trying to find our way, and so meeting people and making new friends is insanely easy. I’ve NEVER shown up at a house party before where I’ve been welcomed instantly, and with great hospitality. Followed by a dance party to Oppa Gangnam Style. Of course.

2. The food scene. Holy cow. 30+ food trucks (Cheezy Bizness is still the best), Vietnamese galore, gourmet-style pizzas at Cilantro…I was pretty surprised. I still haven’t had Prairie Oysters.

3. The nightlife. I’ve partied harder these past two weeks than I have all year. Hard to believe, I know. But here’s proof.

And it’s not all just suits and white collars. Matt and I randomly walked into a hipster bar on Wednesday, to find a Ping-Pong tournament on the go. The announcer saw us standing by the door with horrified expressions, and told us to “stop staring at us like wild animals” and join the party. We did.

4. It’s not actually as expensive to live here as people say it is. My friend was renting a bachelor pad in Mission (about 20 minutes from downtown) for $800/month, pretty much what I can expect to pay in St. John’s. Most restaurants and bars have drink specials, and except for specialty brews, I’ve paid $6 at most for any pint. None of the bars I visited had cover charge, either.

5. It’s one hell of an active city. When you’re an hour away from the Rockies and surrounded by green-space (like the Bow River), you have no excuses for being lazy. Especially with so many fit, good-looking men around. Mrrow.

My experience here might have been entirely different if I weren’t so surrounded by amazing people. I’ve been crashing with two of my best friends, Matt and Laura, and they’ve shown me the most incredible hospitality. I spent the weekend in Edmonton with two other best friends, Ashley and Jessica, with whom I danced my face off until the wee hours of the morning.

Met the amazing duo of Hecktic Travels while in the city!

If I’m being honest, my life in St. John’s feels stagnant these days. I still love that city beyond all others, but damn, so much has changed. My friends have moved on to big careers. My remaining friends have coupled up into serious relationships and adulthood. I’ve been unhappy, and feeling left behind.

I miss my insane social life. I miss my best friends. I miss the possibility of dating someone – ANYONE. And while I’m SO happy with my career decisions and my current location independence, I’ve been struggling like hell financially. That’s why I’m considering moving back here after Christmas for contract work, to get back on my feet.

Can I do it without getting sucked back into corporate? Can I maintain a life between Alberta, Newfoundland, and the rest of the world? Can I maintain my freedom? Who knows. I need Newfoundland and the ocean to clear my head.

  • October 08 2012

    Hopefully you’ll find your way! But I’m sure you gonna kick asses!

  • October 08 2012

    I only spent a couple days in Calgary but sounds like I didn`t give it enough of a chance. But can you stand the winter, it`s going to be cold!

    • October 08 2012

      Yup, I had vowed never to spend another winter in Canada, so we’ll see! Lol. Wish I had taken up skiing or something.

  • October 08 2012

    Calgary never interested me until I kept meeting so many lovely Calgarians during my travels around Europe. Considering my best friend lives in Toronto I have decided to spend the summer ’13 working my way across Canada. it’s great to hear someone else has had a positive experience in the city.

    • October 08 2012

      I’ve met some lovely Calgarians as well! Oh you’re going to love the trip…will you be in Eastern Canada at all?

  • October 08 2012
    Dalene

    True story: When I was 13, I spent almost a week in Calgary at baseball provincials. My cool older cousin was going to school there at the time, and one night he took me out for dinner and showed me some of the awesome spots in the city. He even took me cruising up and down 11th Ave, when at the time it was known as “Electric Avenue”. It was a whole street of very cool bars and was absolutely buzzing with activity. I decided then and there (predicting my partying future), that Calgary was the place I NEEDED to be. When all my friends from northern Alberta went to school in Edmonton, I kept moving south.

    I got sucked into it and stayed for 15+ years. What may seem like shiny goodness and fun at the start quickly turns you into a vamp looking for the newest Coach purse and a nicer car, because your neighbour got both of them. It’s a tough cycle to break. And we finally did, and could NEVER go back.

    Stay clear, sweet friend!

    Oh, and Electric Avenue is no longer. It’s just a bunch of dumpy bars. Blerg.

    (P.S. Thanks for the mention, and for taking time out for us to have some tubs of beer!) :)

    • October 08 2012

      I know, and trust me, your story has been at the back of my head since we met up! But I’m a Newfoundlander and we never stray from home for long. If the opportunity arises, I’ll take it. If it doesn’t, well, that’s life. ;)

      Electric Avenue huh? Now I have some Shaggy stuck in my head

  • October 08 2012

    I always find it interesting to hear an outsider’s perspective on Alberta, since I’ve lived here my entire life. In fact it’s pretty easy to take for granted the fact that being in Alberta does offer pretty decent economic stability compared to other areas of the country. I can’t speak specifically for Calgary, but I think if you find that the universe seems to be aligning itself for you to go back there then maybe you should give it a try. Stay for a bit, don’t get sucked into the rat race, and if you find yourself unhappy move onto something better. I’m sure things will work itself out, no matter where you end up.

    • October 11 2012

      That’s what I hope! I definitely don’t want to sign onto anything permanent, but I’d love some work experience.

      • October 12 2012

        just saw your notification on disqus. Not sure if you wanted to go back to your old job as a technical writer, but I’ll say if you did, even just temporarily, there’s lots of tech writing jobs in Calgary. I’m taking technical writing in school and we keep getting emails about job offers around Calgary, and Edmonton – so it’s out there if you wanted to go in that direction.

  • October 08 2012
    Gail Jansen-Kesslar

    I’m from Edmonton originally so Calgary was always seen as “the enemy.” while I would love the nearness of the mountains for both summer and winter activities, I don’t think I could take the unbearable commercialism and chase for the nicest of everything. As a writer, I just couldn’t keep up lifestyle wise. (sorry I didn’t mean to hit -15 stars but I’m on a touch screen and every time I try to make it positive it adds another negative star).

    • October 11 2012

      I could never do it long term, that’s for sure. But everyone I know out there isn’t on the quest for riches…merely a means of living until they can go home. It’s a pretty typical concept for east coasters!

  • October 09 2012
    camorose

    Sounds a lot like why I moved to NYC: I know it’s a rat race but there are OPPORTUNITIES. And cool people, and cool things to do. It’s a massive switch up from my beach bum lifestyle, but I’m loving it so far!

    • October 11 2012

      Yeah, ditto! Not being near the ocean freaks me out a bit. But it’s a good change.

  • October 10 2012
    Hogga

    Everyone always tells me to move west cause that’s where the action is…

  • October 10 2012

    I look forward to seeing you again in Calgary!! Nothing has to be forever.

    • October 11 2012

      Ditto! :) Can’t wait to come back! Even if it did snow there today…hehe

  • October 11 2012
    DFAakaMatt

    You don’t know, but you intend to find out: Reboot!

    The snow is actually giving the city some added character. Also people don’t stop with the biking (ahem cycling) and jogging to work when it’s below zero. City be cray.

  • October 17 2012
    creative nomad

    Have been thinking of moving to Canada… just no idea which city… now I have even more ideas in my head

    • October 25 2012

      Canadian cities are so diverse! They vary so much. If you let me know what you’re looking for, perhaps I can give you some ideas :)

  • October 24 2012

    Getting sucked back into corporate is not evil because it doesn’t have to be forever. Especially if it means you’ll be financially stable. I know this because I’m doing it (even if it is still in the travel industry). But how do I maintain my sanity? By doing all of the things I LOVE on the side. I’m so mo-fo busy, that I’m not wallowing about the friends who have neglected me because they’re busy focusing on their pinterest wedding boards or whatever…I have to be selective about going out and when I do go out, I make sure it’s a great time with the people I want to be with. Is it the healthiest way? I guess what I’m saying is that we all have to make sacrifices. It pains me to still be in debt and at home. I wish I was on the road but I know I’m on that path. P.S. West Jet is based in Calgary. So is Red Point Communications. Or what about Calgary Tourism? Find out what jobs work for you best without totally sacrificing your soul and realize that you always have a choice to leave or return to Newfoundland. You’ll be fine, love.

    • October 25 2012

      Good point, Natalie, and you still get so much freedom. :) Love it. I’ll be looking into West Jet for sure, as well as Calgary Tourism and Banff Tourism. I absolutely ADORE Banff, so living just 90 mins from town wouldn’t be so bad.

      And being busy is a good thing. Man, I was always a better writer when I worked 9-5. We need a Skype date soon!

  • October 24 2012

    And PS I had NO idea you were in Calgary until Ayngelina told me tonight. She was all “yeah, Candice is in love with Calgary!” So now I’m stalking your blog.

  • November 19 2012
    Paulo Rebêlo

    Hi there, Candice. I’ve just found this post through Google (looking for places to visit in Canada) and was actually wondering one thing: when you say that Calgary is a very corporate city, which sectors do you think are prevailing right now? Services in general? Telecom? Technology? I’m just curious, nothing serious. Your post made me want to visit the city, since I’m in Montreal for almost 2 months.

  • June 05 2014
    Mark

    Due to my job Ihave lived in many cities in North America and around the world – Calgary is easily the WORST of those cities and I find myself disagreeing with you on almost all of your points! I would say it was maybe “just me” except that in every other city bar none I felt much more welcome and a sense of fun than in Calgary. A city I would not recommend to anyone.

    • July 22 2016
      Mikal

      Mark I’m on the same page I’m Born and raised here I’m reading these posts thinking wtf these girls posting are the exception but I disagree with everything said here I would not recommend this city to my worst enemy plain and simple … Yikes run run run

      • July 27 2016
        Candice

        I’m sorry you feel that way! Time for a move? Plenty of my friends who live there love it to pieces. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose!

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