I Like Big… Cities and I Cannot Lie
For those of you who don’t know, I’m from a small town in Newfoundland called Branch (mmhm.. like a tree branch) and now live in Canada’s largest city, Toronto…in all its CN tower glory. So, this post is basically in reference to living in the good ‘ol Land of Drake (people legit worship him here). Although with a population of 6ish million people in the GTA, Toronto is relatively small compared to other cities in the world. But to me - growing up in a town with a whopping ~300 people - yeah it’s pretty big 😅
I wanted to write this post because a lot of friends, family members and new people I meet ask me why I moved to Toronto and if I like it here. They always seem to think it’s because of the better weather (although there is some truth to that…summers in NL are no bueno) or simply because there are more things to do, more people etc. While these things are correct at a surface level, I’ve come to realize that my reasoning is so much deeper than that. Aaand since I like to think about the underlying reasons (logical or emotional) why I feel a certain way, I decided to make this rambling blog post and share it with all those who wanna listen..err read.
So why do I love big cities so much that I’ll even work in a Sir Mix A Lot reference (you’re welcome) into the title? Well, of course I love the vast/cool/different/unique opportunities that come along with living in a big city, countless things to do, new hobbies to get into, cool potential jobs, a million (totally instagrammable) cute restaurants, bars and coffee shops, public transit convenience, sweet local businesses etc. Seriously there's something for everyone in this city. For example, I’m part of a freediving club here and there isn’t an ocean for like 600 kms or something, I volunteered with the Brazilian Film Festival for the last two years, there’s trivia nights for The Office fans all over the place… I guarantee there’s a little micro-community for you, no matter what your weird hobby/interest is 🙃
But let’s break down my reasoning a little further.
/// Friends with Intangible Benefits
More than anything, I love the intangible benefits I get from big cities Like Toronto. Tiny moments in situations I find myself in that allows me to learn something new, gain perspectives from people who think differently from me, challenge my preconceived notions about a certain topic, be inspired and motivated by people who are hustling and killing it. In other words, it allows me to continue down a path of continuous growth since I legit learn at least some little thing every single day…and I’m alllll about that continuous quest for growth.
The diversity and multiculturalism alone here is AMAZING. I was out just last weekend with a group of people who were from different places like Colombia, Egypt, Mexico, Brazil and Portugal. I cannot tell you how much I love that!! Learning about different cultures is prob my fave thing; new phrases in different languages, musical genres, historical facts about countries, the odd dance move… everything… just tell me all of the things. And all y’all single ladies, think about the Hinge situation… just sayin’.
And while I absolutely love where I came from and will proudly tell people that, um no - my accent isn’t from Australia or Ireland or South Africa (as super cool as they are) I’m a Newfoundlander, born and bred! I love going home for a visit because now I have a greater appreciation for it and value the uniqueness that is, Newfoundland.
But even though Newfoundland’s own culture is super unique and beautiful, I didn’t really have the experience explained above in St. John’s or any of the smaller cities I’ve lived in. I’m not saying it’s impossible to experience this in a smaller city, because maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough or maybe I was just comfortable in my current situation or whatever the reason - but from my own experience it wasn’t easy to find. Definitely not as easy to find as it is in bigger cities, and maybe that’s due to sheer population numbers, no doubt.
/// Bursting the culture bubble
I first realized I was in somewhat of a “culture bubble” after I came back from a backpacking trip in Europe (so predictable/basic, right? Obvi I needed to include the tried and true coming of age backpacking story 🤣). I digress… In late 2013, I travelled to 11 countries in Western Europe and was loving life. Legit loving every minute of it because it was so new & different, and it was an adventure, and the people were all kinds of amazing, and just… ahh it was just amazing. And then. All of a sudden… those post-trip blues came along and knocked me on my ass as soon as I arrived home. I had experienced so much change and new-ness in a small amount of time, while everything remained the same when I got back home.
That trip truly opened my eyes into what I was missing, what kinds of cultures are out there, and that no, St. John’s is not the centre of the world. I was always super interested in travel, but this was just confirmation that I didn’t belong in one place forever or for even an extended period of time. There is literally a whole world out there and home will always be there if I want to go back. And so, after that I knew something had to change about my current living situation.
It took me until 2015 to make somewhat of a plan and summon the courage to say eff this.. quit my job, terminate my rental lease, pack up my two suitcases and move to Toronto with nothing more than a reservation at a hostel. No job, no apartment, no friends/family, nothing. But I was motivated and knew I could do it, it was only a 3hr flight away from home. Travel also gives you confidence, apparently.
Plus, at that point I had already lived in a suburb of Toronto from 2009-2011 so I was somewhat familiar, but knew I hadn’t experienced the city life to its full potential. I had moved back home in 2011 because home is comfortable and familiar and I wanted that in my life after spending 2 years away. Although it may have taken me a couple of years to take action, it didn’t take me too long to realize I like being “uncomfortably comfortable” aka out of my comfort zone because that’s where the excitement is for me.
I've always said that Toronto itself feels like a hostel. Lol, if you’ve been in one you’ll know what I’m talking about. People here are from all corners of the world, there are always really cool events going on and it’s generally full of people who are nice and just want to have a good time. Just walk down the street in busy downtown Toronto and you’ll hear so many different languages. If you closed your eyes you might think you’re walking down a hall in a hostel. (PSA: I don’t recommend walking down the street with your eyes closed).
Toronto allows me to meet so many different people from all over the world and I’ve been lucky enough to learn about their cultures and open my mind to how they think and observe the world. So in some weird way, I take advantage of the multiculturalism that Toronto offers and pretend that I’m in a new place every time I’m in a diff neighborhood.
/// H U S T L E C U L T U R E
Staying with the cultural theme, but in a completely different context: cities like Toronto make you realize what is possible. Or better yet, will make you believe that you can do whatever the hell you want to do because you see people in your circle - in real life - going for their dream and absolutely killing it. Ahh…people believing in themselves with a no-plan-B-option mindset? YES that makes me so happy. And by surrounding yourself with those kind of likeminded, nonjudgemental people, you gain that belief in yourself by proxy. It’s like, well they’re doing it…why not me?
At least in my opinion and experience, notions and ideas of success are much more progressive in bigger cities and not always cookie-cutter-esque. All you have to do is look around and ask someone what’s going on in their life... usually they’re working a 9-5 PLUS working on that side hustle during their free time. So then you kinda re-evaluate and say.. that’s so cool, I’ve always wanted do something like that #motivation. Again, not saying it’s impossible to find this in smaller cities, it’s just not as prevalent in my experience.
The hustle culture is very much alive and well in Toronto and I love that. Things that you might discredit as being “not for you” or “impossible to achieve” can dissipate as you see first hand what is possible if you really work hard and surround yourself with supportive people who get it.
A little BTW sidenote - I’m not romanticizing being busy or comparing yourself to others - I think it’s important to take time for yourself when you need a break and I think it’s also important to look up to other for inspiration. Just wanted to add that in there!
OMG Becky, this post was so long (sorry…had to throw that ref in there) I feel like I could go on and on, buuut I think I’ve covered the main points about why I like big cities and I cannot lie.
PS - I just read the lyrics to the song and laughed out loud a lot.. wow some profound stuff there guys #90sThrowback.
PPS - I’ve watched Shrek so often that I want to sing that version whenever I sing along to the actual song… anyone else? 🤣