Moving to Vancouver

Its been a long time since I posted here, and thought it was worthwhile writing about myself for a bit.

I moved to Vancouver from Thunder Bay for what is known as a coding “bootcamp”. I think the term is cheesy, but that’s the term in the industry. I do see why it came about, the courses want you to spend 12 hour days over 2-3 months to do well in them. They are intense, and expensive and I wrote more about my experience over on my other blog  here.

I’ve learned a lot since starting the course. Its kinda funny looking at this blog now. The theme I used had the text set to grey instead of black, a common thing designers do since they aren’t focused on text. As a reader I like black text for maximum readability. As such I would manually set the text of every post I would write to be black through the WordPress editor.

This means that the older posts are wrapped in tags telling your browser that the even though the text should black.

I now know to write

body{color: black;}

in the CSS file to get around that. Not only do I know it, but it seems trivially obvious that that is the proper way to change font color, especially when you want to change it site wide.

Needless to say I did well in the course and got a job working for a Financial Technology (FinTech) company Koho. Here I am getting paid a respectable salary while I learn the ropes of the trade.

This post isn’t going to be about my job though. Instead I want to talk about my experiences moving here, why I like it, and how I think moving here has changed me. I’ve been taking a lot of photos this weekend (October 7th-10th, 2016) so I’ll include them.

Why I Moved

I wanted a high paying fulfilling career. I graduated with a degree in Chemistry from Lakehead. I then got a job working for Parmalat, an international dairy company, at their local plant. While I enjoyed working there there was limited opportunity for advancement, both at the plant, and in the field. I looked into making a career choice, which incidentally led me to starting this blog.

After starting this blog I learnt I enjoy learning about the technical nature of web sites. I took computer science electives in school, but never pursued my studies in computers on my own. It was this that led me to learn about courses that offer to teach you web development in 3 months.

I was skeptical at first, but after doing a lot of research they have been around for a couple years to help fuel the market hungry for technical talent. My being naturally intelligent guy, and my interest in making more money attracted me to them. Based on location and technology stack I decided to study Ruby on Rails with CodeCore based in Vancouver.

CodeCore, my school

CodeCore takes up all of the second floor of that building. When I was attending there, the furniture shop was under renovations. I met a lot of great people and learnt a lot about computers there. I am now a teaching assistant and I try to stop in from time to time when I am in the area. I liked the going to CodeCore much more than University. I liked that they taught a relevant skill set to the market, instead of to researchers.

First Impressions

The first night I was in Vancouver I decided to see some of the city by walking home from an event I went to. I walked down Hastings, from this area, this took me through a very untouristy area. Its a bit hard to tell, but that lot is filled with tents.

Tents in an empty Vancouver lot

Having a place to put your tent is a luxury to many people living here. I am sure there is a waiting list for a place in there even.

This lot marks the start of the poor area in town. While all towns suffer from poverty, Vancouver is unique in how isolated the less fortunate are located. I am happy I got exposed to the less aesthetic side of Vancouver early on. The contrast between rich and poor is very stark here. You can walk a couple blocks from Gas Town, a major tourist area, and be in the heart of the poorest Vancouver area. You can also walk a few more blocks and be out of it.

The people aren’t dangerous here, but you do need to be on the look out for needles. All the stores are have bars over the windows. A lot of the people who live in this area have mental disabilities, or some other issue that prevents them from working.

If you visit Vancouver I think its a good place to see, to help balance out your impression of the town. The rest of Vancouver is very opulent and aesthetic. So much so that it is easy to forget how fortunate you are to have the things you take for granted.

Serendipitous Connections

The second night I was here I messaged a guy someone who I knew from the MMA gym I trained at in Thunder Bay, Jesse. He was training regularly downtown at the time and we went to the gym he then trained at. There I got to spar a couple rounds with a pro fighter preparing for a fight. The guy was very good. I was glad the coach gave me 2 1/2 minute rounds instead of the full 5 minutes at the time.

It felt good being able to move to a new city, be able to walk into an MMA gym, spar, and have it be no big deal. Something I wouldn’t have thought possible before I trained at Leading Edge in Thunder Bay.

Afterwords Jesse took me for a drive along the Seawall (the part of town that borders the ocean) where I took this photo.

North Van at Night

I find its a bit funny that I would start hanging out with Jesse on a regular basis after moving to Vancouver. In Thunder Bay we used to live on the same street one block away from each other, but had no idea. I found out after getting a ride from a mutual friend from the gym, right before Jesse moved out here. I guess thats how the world works sometimes.

Besides Jesse, I had another serendipitous connection in the city. As you may or may not know I was a competitive pen spinner in highschool


One of the spinners from the english speaking pen spinning forum was named Jamie Enns, one of the few spinners to use his real name as his pen spinner name. I use “Awesome” as mine for example. Me and Jamie met up once when he was in Thunder Bay, as well as seeing each other on the forum when we were both active. Crazy to think that in a couple years it will be decade of knowing each other.

I didn’t think Jamie lived in Vancouver when I moved out here though. The last I remembered he lived in Winnipeg.

On the first day of CodeCore I was spinning my pen in class when one of my classmates noticed. He mentioned his friend was really into spinning as well. That he had special pens and names for all the tricks. I didn’t think of asking who his friend was. I figured he wouldn’t know his friends pen spinning name, although I was confidant I would know a fellow spinner who had mods. Canadian pen spinners are a pretty small group.

Later on my classmate showed me a video of his friend, who I recognized to be Jamie Enns. Which was quite the surprise. Me, Jamie, and out mutual friend Matt all live in the same area of Vancouver which is cool.

Matt and Jamie know each other because they listened to the same type of music. I went to one of their parties this weekend. I only took one picture, partly because it was dark and I didn’t know how to turn off the flash on my phone camera, partly because I was taking pictures earlier that day and was tired of picture taking.

Matt doing his thing

This picture is of my friend Matt DJing the party. Jamie also was DJing, but I didn’t get a photo of him that night. The picture turned out well, but it does a poor job conveying the mood because of the flash. I saw someone elses picture where they had the three DJs in a dark picture. It captured the mood much better.

Now that I am getting into taking more and more pictures maybe I’ll take the time to learn the settings better. Photography is fun when you have a camera in your phone that you take everywhere anyway.

There is a YouTube ad that gets targeted to everyone living in Vancouver that starts out “For a photographer, there’s no better place than Vancouver”. Everytime I’ve repeated the line I get a chuckle. This suggests that they flooded the market with the ad. I have no idea what the ad was for though.

I think this happens because YouTube only charges you if the ad plays for over 30 seconds or if you get a click through I think. People like me who skip the ad are “free”. Still after learning more about online industries running ads to so many people are not cheap. If I dropped that kind of money for my company I would expect to have brand recognition in Vancouver, which I don’t think they’ve gotten. An example of a marketing group that received its money from a bureaucracy that fails to hold the marketeers accountable to the proper performance metrics.

The Money Matrix

I first heard the term from Jesse. I didn’t quite understand what he meant when he said it, but its starting to make sense. When I moved here I wouldn’t of thought about the cost and what makes an effective campaign when I am served an ad. I think how I see advertisements is the easiest way to describe my progression through the money matrix.

Before I thought ads were annoying and never clicked them. Now I pay attention. Someone went through the hassle of making a video or banner, and payed money so you would see it. If you keep on seeing the same ad, it means someone is spending a fair chunk of money to get their message out there.

I’ve now started to click on ads, especially the more annoying ones. Most ad networks charge by the click or some similar metric. I figure if the company got my attention they might as well have to pay for it.

Living in Vancouver has exposed me to the vast differences in the economic spectrum. Hastings street has a bunch of homeless people. Walking a short distance can bring you to a ritzy tourist area. It is easy to see the difference having money makes here. Those with it live significantly better lives in my eyes. Of course money isn’t everything, but its an important part of life.

I find many people have a negative connotation when they think about making money, which I think is unfortunate. Markets form the under pinning of all societies. The clothes you are wearing (or aren’t, I can’t be the only one who enjoys naked reading, right?), the computer you are using, the electricity its consuming. These are all things you don’t want to make, but enjoy having. The people who made them probably didn’t want to make them either. They did it in exchange for a pay cheque.

You in turn had to do something to get the money you exchanged to get those things. Money, as long as no one is coerced or tricked into giving it, makes for a pretty fair system, that being a pretty big if.

Some people understand the system much better than others. Those who understand it enjoy the benefits of money, those who don’t suffer from their ignorance.

I like to think the want of money causes much of the world’s problems. Even those who have more than enough to live a comfortable life strive for more. It might seems silly from a distance, until you examine their lives more closely. As you make more money you become accustomed to what it brings you. Your peer group will also tend to change to reflect your new position.

New found wealth will soon make you used to a high standard of living while doing nothing to make you happier. I think this is because unhappiness and discontent is an adaptive behaviour. By our biology always yearning for us to achieve greater and better things we always have to be pushing ourselves, except for the brief time after accomplishment where we can enjoy our reward.

The trick is to be at peace with this striving and learn to enjoy it.

Money is an important tool humans have created. If you want to lead a good life it is important to have. Make sure you can make it, but don’t mistake it as an end in itself. Its only a part, not the whole of life.


One of the big difference I noticed in my habits since moving is in my shopping. I feel compelled to spend money on some form of consumerism on the weekends, where as before I was very frugal. The biggest source of this change was the “price” I pay for money now, compared to when I lived in Thunder Bay.

In Thunder Bay I did very monotonous mechanical work. It was not engaging, and didn’t offer opportunities to learn new things lead into roles with higher salaries once you got past the initial learning curve. I did like the people I work with, but the time spent at work was essentially wasted time in exchange for a pay cheque.

Now at Koho I get great mentorship in a highly technical field. The time I spend at Koho helps improve my skills so I will be able to make even more money in the future. The pay cheque is nice, but is only a secondary consideration for me.

This seemingly small change in perspective changes how I feel parting with money. I feel that money is abundant and easy to get for me. Since I am doing what I want to do at work I am more inclined to spend.

I started paying more attention to clothes. Before I would be rather thrifty the odd times I did buy clothing, which was usually out of necessity. Now I have boughten clothes just because I liked the way they looked.

My favourite purchase so far is this shirt

Hoodie with collar

The fabric is very soft and comfortable. It very thin for a hooded shirt and not that warm. I’ll be the guy with double hoods soon probably.

I also got a pair of jeans that wasn’t from Wal-mart. They are a lot more comfortable than my other jeans and I see why people don’t buy the cheapest clothing they can find now. I don’t want to spend my time shopping at thrift stores when I can help it.

Wrapping Up

I know I haven’t posted to Awesome Drifter much lately, but I am thinking I might try to get somewhat regular posts here. I feel I can write much more freely here than on my other blog. I hope to use this as a writers sandbox of sorts to try out new ideas without having to worry about my audience expectations.

I feel like I have a lot more to write about Vancouver, but I am already over 2600 words, making this one of the longer posts on this blog. I wrote it all today across two sittings. I guess that shows how much more comfortable I am writing since I wrote here last.

If you have any questions feel free to ask, through the comments.






4 Comments Add yours

  1. Great blog.

    Can u make a how to video on pen spinning? That is bad ass!

    1. Eric says:

      This guy has the best tutorials. I learned from someone else who has since taken their videos down.

      There is also a gathering that might be happening soon.

    1. Awesome says:

      Thanks for commenting!

      I was confused about your blog at first. I thought it was meant to be programming stuff only. Then I realized, wait, language is a lot bigger than just code. Cool stuff.

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