Exploring Vancouver While Backpacking British Columbia — A Travel Tale

Once I arrived in Vancouver following my Western Canada rideshare road trip in a transport truck, I settled in over the next few days, and got to know the nearby area. I was ready to begin backpacking British Columbia, and I planned to start by exploring Vancouver!

The Pacific Ocean and the downtown skyline with a mountainous backdrop, as seen while exploring Vancouver.
View of the Vancouver skyline from the Seaside Trail at Hastings Mill Park.

But before I could spend any time exploring Vancouver and more of the province, I needed to fund my living expenses. I’d come to Vancouver at just the right time, only a little over a month before the Olympics. So the following week, I began my job hunt in earnest, and within another week, I was working as a server at a sports bar just off the main downtown drag.

It was a lot of fun, being in Vancouver in the lead-up to and during the Olympics. I met people from everywhere, both through my job and through CouchSurfing. This time, I logged on to CS to organize or join social events and activities rather than as a way to find accommodations, and it turned out to be an excellent way to use this travel resource. I hosted a meet-up at my sports bar, went to a house party in my neighbourhood, and in the spring, I rallied a small group to go hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail.

At work, I got to feel the Olympic spirit in full swing. Most of my co-workers were visiting Canada on working holiday visas, and many of the customers were in town for the Games, usually come to watch an event on the big screens. As diverse as the crowd was, everyone was friendly and courteous when their team lost. Canadians and Americans would call out good-natured jibes to each other when the whistle blew during hockey games. And when the men’s hockey team won the gold medal, there were free hugs all around (smiley face).

The Olympic Flame in Vancouver (2010).
I went to see the Olympic Flame, but the crowd was so big, I just snapped a shot from the sidewalk…

During my time exploring Vancouver, I walked many of the city’s parks. I wanted to see as much as I could during my time off from work (and I was working a lot!), so I only made it to these places once… Which is always the perfect excuse for saying you need to go back (winky face).

City walks are great, but since hiking is my thing, it’s no surprise that I made it to several of the nearby trails, too (winky face).

And I even made it out on a few snowshoeing day trips! I’d brought my snowshoes with me, so my first time out, I went to Mount Seymour Provincial Park in North Vancouver, since it’s easily accessed by public transportation.

It took a bit longer to figure out that I could access Garibaldi Provincial Park for free from Whistler, so once I organized a rideshare to the ski hills, I got to spend a fantastic day snowshoeing!

Snowshoe trail and scenery at Garibaldi Provincial Park, accessed from the Whistler ski resort.

I’d come exploring Vancouver with a place to stay for the first few weeks, but knew I would I have to find another place just before the Olympics. Luckily, an acquaintance I had known as an ESL teacher in Korea was living in Vancouver at the time, and subletting his apartment during the Olympics. I jumped at the chance to cat-sit for him (smiley face).

Cherry trees in full bloom line both sides of a Vancouver street.
Cherry blossoms seen while roaming my new neighbourhood — they’re as beautiful in Vancouver as in Busan!

On the day he was set to return, I was all packed and ready to move into an apartment I’d sublet, this time with the intention of staying more long-term, for I’d gotten a job as a tree-planter for the summer. I would remain at my current job and continue exploring Vancouver until the spring, when I would depart to more northern regions of the province.

But then the phone rang. With a sinking heart, I listened as the leaseholder explained that the current sub-letter had refused to leave, and that since an official eviction notice had to be issued, it would be at least 60 days before I could move in.

Oh, no! Where would I go?

I’d made some friends in the building who took me in for a few nights, then by turns, some of the other staff at work took me in for a night each. I kept most of my things in the basement at work and just carried a small bag with me wherever I slept.

After a stressful week, a co-worker suggested I rent the couch in her friend’s apartment. The rent was cheap, and I had a hallway closet for my stuff — I couldn’t have asked for more at that point.

Which is about when I found out that things weren’t going well at work. Some of the employees began to whisper about bounced cheques and improperly paid overtime hours. Around the same time, I was offered a lucrative contract back in Ontario beginning in the spring. It sounded like it was time to quit exploring Vancouver, so I decided to take a bit of a vacation backpacking British Columbia, then slowly make my way back east.

First I took a few days to visit my cousin out in Squamish, and we spent some nice family time together. The highlight was when she and her husband took me up the Stawamus Chief. Fun!!

All too soon, I returned to Vancouver, but since I was going to meet up with the other CouchSurfers with whom I'd be hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail, I was beyond excited!

Despite having to deal with housing and employment mishaps, I had a great time while I was exploring Vancouver. It's an absolutely beautiful city, one I certainly wouldn't mind living in!

To find out what else I did while backpacking British Columbia, check out how things went while Hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail, and read about the return journey during my Western Canada Road Trip.

Resources for Exploring Vancouver