The end of any journey is often anti-climactic. We had a great welcome home party from friends and family but once everybody had left, Jan and I stood in our quiet house with the luggage and bike boxes cluttering up the front hallway asking ourselves: “Now what?”
Instead of unpacking, we decided to go for a walk in the neighbourhood. Just like we’ve been doing for more than a year on the road, when we arrived in a town or city we would explore our surroundings and find a café or restaurant to have a drink or a meal, or go grocery shopping. It helped to orient ourselves in the new surroundings, looking for the things we would need to continue our journey.
Things have changed a bit around our neighbourhood. The changes are fairly subtle. Some new houses have appeared with old ones renovated or torn down. Not a big surprise as Vancouver has been undergoing renewal for 10 years as real estate prices have been rising steadily.
In our ‘hood, along Main Street and Fraser Street, new multi-level apartment buildings have popped up where there used to be one-storey shops, another result of the renewal and densification.
Some of the familiar shops and restaurants have disappeared while new ones have filled the gaps. Lots of new ones. We sauntered down the street, stopping often to look in shop windows to see what’s on offer, or trying to remember what used to occupy the space.
Since coming home is about familiarity, we ended up at a well known hangout: The Reef, a Caribbean restaurant that’s been on Main Street for many years. We met a couple of friends there and sat in the waning sun drinking beer and snacking on Jamaican patties, yam fries and some Doubles, a fried flat bread with chana (curried chickpeas).
On this sunny patio, on a warm October day, we begin to catch up with each other’s lives while watching life go by: young couples pushing strollers; trolley buses droning by and overwhelming the conversation; hipsters zipping along on their bicycles; and across the street, a familiar face sits on the sidewalk in front of the credit union begging for change.
We will rediscover our city in the coming weeks as we settle back into urban life. We will rediscover relationships with our friends and family whose lives have carried on while we were cycling in a kind of suspended animation. Soon, snow will cover the wall of mountains that dominate the city’s skyline to the north and we will replace our bicycles with skis. It’s good to be home.