When I was laid off in 2010, I immediately sought refuge in Nova Scotia. Why not? I could be unemployed in St. John’s, or I could be unemployed in Halifax.
I went on bit of a life binge, a free-for-all for six weeks. Tossed money around with disregard to the consequences, and partied every night of the week.
I had a freaking blast.
I applied for jobs in the city, willing to give up St. John’s for a new home. Wanted a different lifestyle, a change of scenery. After too much rejection, I sulked my way back to St. John’s and resumed my normal life.
But man, I loved that city. I went back for 10 days last May. And just a few months ago, I went back for a third time, for a whole month to see Cailin before she went off to Australia and to spend time with my best friend Joanne and her new baby.
Suddenly I didn’t fit into Halifax anymore. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Did I outgrow the city? Were its quirks and charms worn off on me? I was horrified by how much money it cost to have a good night out.
Many of my friends were also no longer around, having moved on to bigger futures. The remaining group of friends I DID have in the city, of course, were amazing. Chauffeured me around and fed me and took good care of me. But as all 20-somethings do, the majority of us had grown up. Sorta.
After Cailin left, I happily spent most of my time at Joanne’s house outside the city. We went for walks in the evenings, and I fell in love with Baby Frances. We spent a night at their cabin in Mahone Bay, cut off from the world but completely happy. No toilets. No cell phone reception. No problems.
One afternoon, I met up with Yelp community manager Ben Boudreau who took me to The Smiling Goat, an organic espresso bar where the server whipped me up his signature drink. We moved on to Indochine, where I had my first Korean taco. I spent hours working at Paper Chase Cafe & Newsstand, a coffee shop where I stood out among gothic garb, spiky hairdos and tattooed faces. The girl next to me was studying Nietzsche. I admired her handwriting in her sketchbook.
I walked home with the sunshine beating on my face and felt something like a city slicker in a small city. I was happy. Proud of myself, for something.
Had the city changed, or had I?
I suppose that’s always the risk for travellers, right? What if you find that happy spot, that one place in the world where you just GET it? You vow to return years later. When you do, it’s not the same place.
Let’s see how Montreal stacks up.