I visited Vancouver for the first time just short of seven years ago. I fell in love with the place instantly even though I was only there for three weeks. If it hadn't been so far away from the world I knew, I would have tried to move there in a heart beat. Part of the appeal of London in trying to get 'big picture experience' was that it was a Global City, but it was in the same time zone as people I cared about. Actually there were lots of people I cared about already there, and my niece was in the oven.
Vancouver also felt a little bit like a bubble. Sometimes you can get overwhelmed by big issues like 36%+ unemployment, crime, economic exclusion and tensions over whatever you look like in the mirror. Vancouver to me felt like this awesome place where all that mattered was living a good life. The people are friendly. The restaurants, bars & coffee shops create a buzz. You can walk places easily. I went to my first ice hockey game (It seems Canadians channel all their aggression into enforcers - must be why they are friendly everywhere else). The public transport was awesome. To the North there are mountains where you can go Skiing (I still need to try that), and to the South was warmer weather. It reminded me a little bit of Cape Town. Cape Town is awesome, but it does have problems you can't ignore.
Stanley Park - Vancouver
When people start having kids and they start building themselves a life, it becomes a case of priorities. When the worlds problems seem to overwhelm, a natural approach is to batten down the hatches and focus on a few things - Job and Immediate family (the one you chose, the ones you made). I guess the tough question is deciding how much you feel you owe the rest of the world for the opportunities you have had. Related, but less guilt laden, how much more happy could you be still making a contribution to the those less fortunate?
Melbourne is another one of those ridiculously awesome cities that I have immediately fallen in love with. As someone who is a fan of the idea of Global Citizenry, the multi-cultural flavour of Sydney and Melbourne cities appeals a lot. The suburbs I have been to still seem bubbly, but I guess progress takes time. The big difference for me from Vancouver is that some of my family made their home here a few decades back. Aussies also care a lot about cricket and a little about rugby - Canucks not so much.
My cousin describes living in Aus as a little like living at Mum and Dads. Mum and Dad build a big house with lots of rooms and life is very comfortable. To go out and start a life on your own seems like a lot of effort. Mum and Dads has everything and so the incentive to move out is murky. Life is good. Aussie humour often reflects this. Last night we went to watch Sammy J & Randy at the last evening of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. There was a fantastic song about first world problems and the perspective gained from knowing that one day you'll be dead. The news also reflects this, the stories that are newsworthy can be amusing. Boring in terms of drama can lead to a very happy life though.
I don't know what the answer is. I do know that the world is getting smaller and we are more in touch. John McInroy, an inspirational friend, is starting on foot (about 1750km) from Cape Town to the start of the Comrades Marathon on 1 May. I know of at least 1 guy who will be 'walking the first km' with John but in London (finishing at South Africa House in Trafalgar Square). I will be in Sydney and am way too unfit to join John this year. That is next years challenge. But I will also make a plan to walk that first km. We don't have to be physically together to provide support. It does help, which is why John is getting off his bike (the traditional Unogwaja Challenge) but I think the key point is that people do what they can. Even more important a point is that we can do something.