I know you have one. It’s either a friend or a family member out there in the world, living life in the big city, paying half a million for a shoebox, surrounded 24/7 with concrete. This person spends hours on end in traffic, hasn’t seen a tree that wasn’t planted by a city worker in a decade and he or she knows that your life in the small town is just that of a country bumpkin. They believe, no matter how much you tell them otherwise, that we’re all just simple-minded dim-wits out here in the boonies and we have nothing to do, nowhere to go and our lives are but stale tributes to xenophobia and ignorance.
Don’t get me wrong… I know small towns that fit their stereotype exist. But you and I both know, they ain’t in the Okanagan. And so we are compelled to defend our open-minded small towns; our welcoming arms happy to celebrate diversity and inclusion. We want to brag about our busy lives not filled with busy-ness, but instead, filled with life: hiking and swimming, skiing and kayaking, wildlife and fresh produce from your neighbour’s backyard, blue skies, fresh air and more green than concrete all around us. We want to tell them that they’re wrong and that though some might enjoy the rat race and the devotion to life in a rush, life out here is neither boring nor stale and there’s a reason people choose to come here on vacation.
I’m here to tell you to stop, though. Stop defending life in the Okanagan. Stop bragging about all that this gorgeous valley has to offer. Just stop and agree with your judgmental friend or family member. “Yes, of course, you’re right. We’re all just backwards ignoramuses in my town. You’re correct.”
Let them believe it.
Here are 6 reasons why:
1. Traffic – With our sincerest apologies, Kelowna, the rest of us rarely experience traffic, and I don’t know about you, but I’d like to keep it that way. It’s one of the biggest reasons we moved here in the first place. So, the next time your Haligonian cousin tells you that life in the country is boring, you say, “you’re damned right it is”, and that’s one less person considering bringing another vehicle here.
2. Line-ups – a line-up here in the Okanagan is profoundly different from a line-up in Vancouver or Edmonton. I grew up in Richmond, BC, just outside of Vancouver and I was conditioned to believe that standing in line at ICBC Driver’s Services was going to be an all-day thing. You had to get up before the crack of dawn to rip through the drive-through for a double-double and be at the Driver’s Services location before the doors open. Even then, you still wouldn’t be first in line, and you’d wait and wait and wait. Fresh greys would sprout on your scalp before it was your turn and when all was said and done, you’d just devoted half the week to renewing your license. When I first moved to the Okanagan, I had to renew my license. I got prepared Richmond-style, up before the sun with my helmet and my boxing gloves, ready to fight my way through the sea of people just to get ‘er done. When I arrived at the Driver’s Services location in Penticton, though, I thought I was being punked. I was second in line behind a senior woman who hadn’t even stood in the correct line. Friends, with nary an Ashton Kutcher in sight, I was technically first in bloody line. I had my licence renewed in three minutes and it would have been two if I hadn’t spent the last minute asking the teller, “are you for real?”. The more Vancouverites you convince that the Okanagan is the place to live, the more people are going to be in line the next time I have to renew my license. So just don’t. Don’t.
3. Nature – Us Noggins love our nature. We love to hike and kayak and climb and ride. Nothing makes us happier than the fresh scent of BC forests as pine needles crunch beneath our feet. When we come around a corner on a trail, we hope to see a chipmunk bounce out of our path or the cautious stare of a deer in the distance. None of us wants to see the melted remnants of a discarded Starbucks Unicorn Crappuccino. We don’t want to get to the top of Giant’s Head and find a half eaten QuoPo in a soggy MacDo burger box. We don’t want to kayak up a quiet inlet only to find dumped Steamworks Winter Lager cans, empty vape juice vials and a broken banjo on the beach, evidence of a big city hipster gathering the night before. Instead, keep those hipsters where they belong: in the pop-up bacon lollipop and beard oil stand on Robson. Tell them it’s irredeemably horrible here, and everytime an out-of-towner moves here, the Arctic Monkeys cancel a tour date.
4. Quiet – As residents of the Okanagan, we’re not often bombarded with noise pollution. There aren’t a whole lot of booming car stereos, not a lot of honking or screeching tires and we don’t hear many sirens. Instead, the soundtrack to life in the valley is filled with lake water lapping up against weathered docks and boulders on the shore. We hear the call of quail and the wind lightly brushing the trees all around us. When night falls and we hear nothing but crickets chirping, the last thing we need is to have that peace broken by the distant shriek of a domestic situation or the tremors from the beat of a house party. Keep those hosers from Cow Town sniffing the Saddledome by nodding in agreement every time they diss your small town life. “You’re right, there’s no fun way to spend an evening in Summerland. Calgary is way better, for sure.” Wink, wink.
5. Safety – When I lived in North Delta, I wouldn’t have dreamed of sending my kid walking to school on his own. I wouldn’t have let him play in the neighbourhood after dark or head to the dollar store with his friends. Here, in Summerland, I’m happy to do all of those things. With more people, comes more crime and I’m super pumped to let the Winnipeg police, the Vancouver PD and the OPP deal with our nation’s crime while my local RCMP detachment continues to help Old MacDonald find his missing prized pig named Percy, thank you very much.
6. Free peaches – There aren’t a whole lot of full-time Okanagan residents who don’t find their way to a box of free peaches at some point every August. We’re often juggling offers to pick our friends’ cherries or take some nectarines off their hands. It practically rains free apples at the end of the summer, and we’re not talking about those tasteless bruised apples that everyone has manhandled at Superstore – no, these are the sweet, juicy, crunchy-fleshed Okanagan-fresh gems, and they find our way into our bellies every year for free. Each new concrete-dweller you convince to give life in the valley a go, is another mouth devouring our abundance of produce. That means there’s less for us, and the worst part is, your buddy from Montreal won’t even really appreciate it because it doesn’t say fusion anywhere on the label (heck, there is no damned label!) and he doesn’t even know the chef’s name. No, let him continue to eat our cast-offs carmelized and sliced and tossed with a bowl of poutine at La Banquise for a shiny new $50 while we bite into the real deal. “Of course, our lives are droll and uneventful, Jean. You’re making the right decision staying in Montreal. Au Revoir!”
So stop bragging to all your Vancouverite BFFs or your bros from the 6ix. Let the degens from Edmonton keep playing in a mall and the hosers from Winterpeg keep getting excited when it warms up to a humid -3. If they think we have it bad out here in the backwoods, I say we let them think it. The last thing we need is more of them realizing what life here is really like. We don’t want them clogging up our roundabouts or eating all our apples; we don’t want them forcing us to have to use the take-a-number machines at T-bones, and we don’t want the crime and noise problems more people bring. No, we don’t want any of this. So, stay quiet and enjoy the tranquillity Okanagan Life has to offer and just agree when they all make fun of us country bumpkins.
“Oh, yeah, Gord. Life in the Okanagan is a bit harsh. Best to just stay where y’are, eh.”
Let’s keep this secret to ourselves. That’s using our noggins, Noggins!
I want to know what you think the best thing is about life in the Okanagan. Let me know in the comments!
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