Public confession of a well-traveled American: I've never been to Canada. I've been to London, Mexico City, Rome, Sydney, Delhi, Papeete and New York, but I've never been to Vancouver, Toronto or Quebec.
This past weekend, my colleague Lauren (another well-traveled American gal also known as @WanderLoz) and I both traveled to Canada for the first time to attend a travel bloggers conference. Between us we've probably been to dozens of countries yet never made the short trek north to Vancouver.
Originally this post was supposed to be about things I loved doing in Vancouver. But I realized that instead I had to write about the local people. Every single experience (with the exception of one grumpy person whom I think was just born that way and suffers from it as a permanent condition) was so nice!
I didn't expect them to be mean or anything, but check out these instances of locals going out of their way to be extra nice.
At customs, I committed two "customs sins" that I have seen other travelers reprimanded for in the past. I took out my mobile literally right in front of the customs officer's face and started to move my little fingers over the screen. It was just instinct: phone in hand = must touch and move icons.
She said more politely than I've heard flight attendants ask passengers to put on their seat belts to please put it away. I proceeded to endear myself further by declaring that I had a small amount of left-over soggy chicken sandwich (no trashcans on walk from train to customs) in my possession. Oh and a mostly-eaten apple as well.
Based on past experiences when I have unwittingly harbored contraband food items, I expected a fair amount of concern and commotion over the offending items (a la Monster's Inc - code 2319). But there was no Why didn't you eat all the chicken (it was gross)? No Why are you a murderer of poultry? There was no general implication that I was solely responsible for making the customs officer's life a living hell. He just took the bag and said I was free to go.
At the Vancouver Sky Train, Lauren and I couldn't figure out what was wrong with the ticketing machine or if we were reading the map correctly. A nice gentleman stepped in, showed us how to use it and thereby realized it was broken; then he made sure we knew how to use it properly and where we were going.
On my first day getting myself to the convention center, I realized I wasn't sure how to get there. I am completely reliant on my smartphone but did not have access to it in Vancouver. A local businessman on the bus overheard me telling the driver this, and he walked me from the bus stop to the convention center - door-to-door.
Leaving Vancouver, I was just short of enough change for the pass to the airport. I was standing at the front of the bus with my purse contents dumped out on the 'table' in front of me, desperately searching for coins. A nice woman asked how much I needed but by the time I figured it out, she was getting off the bus. Then another passenger came up to me and gave me the change I needed.
After getting off the bus and taking a few steps to the corner, I heard some honking. I couldn't figure it out - until I turned my head and saw that the bus driver was waving to me. Had I forgotten something on the bus? Then he motioned that I was going the wrong way and pointed me in the proper direction of the station.
At the security checkpoint (yes someone was nice there), my suitcase rebelled and refused to stay closed after all. The transportation security officer was very patient and ended up trying multiple times himself to help me close the bag. He kept trying to make me feel better while I fought with my new suitcase nemesis. Then when we finally got it closed he helped me put it back on the conveyor belt. He also noticed my maiden name, asked if I spoke Spanish (yes) and then wished me a good day en español.
The last one is the topper. I bought a postcard to send to my mom since it's the one thing she loves me to get her when I travel. The airport store that sold me the postcard did not sell postage. Why would you sell me a postcard but no postage?! As I roamed the airport, I came across a customer service representative at her kiosk, and she confirmed they did not sell postage. But then she offered to mail it for me on her way home! And when I asked her how much for postage, she said she didn't want my money (don't worry I gave it to her anyway).
I came to Canada to attend a travel blogger conference, but instead I fell in love with a city. Vancouver I love you! I will definitely be back!
Photo credits: Vancouver Sky Train by MarceloPix ; others by author