I’m in Vancouver so often that people ask if I’m there for family, work, or love, assuming that I’m drawn to a person or a purpose, not just the place. It’s a common trope in travel: It’s never enough to say where you go—people want to know why. But some truths are general, and the reason I keep visiting Vancouver is because I love it, and because I can.
Of course, there are often people behind the places we love. I first fell for British Columbia when I fell for a boy. We camped in a flimsy tent below the twin peaks of Golden Ears, and I thought, This is what is must feel like to be in love with nature. On the drive back to Vancouver, I thought, This is what it must feel like to be in love.
That love story ended, but the setting kept me coming back. I said yes to invitations I would’ve turned down had they been anywhere else: weddings, job interviews, conferences. Through those visits, I made friends, made work, and made love—and made even more reasons to keep saying yes.
But Vancouver is a place that meets you on its own terms. I pride myself on finding (and fighting) my way through cities like New Delhi and Nairobi, a skill I inherited in Manila and refined in New York. Vancouver moves at its own pace (a decidedly slower one), but, in return for your patience, lets you have it all—city and country together at once. The peak of Grouse Mountain, 3,700 feet in elevation but only 15 minutes from downtown, allows you the vistas of snowcapped mountains, lush evergreens, and the Pacific Ocean, punctuated with the lights of the city.
I’m a better version of myself in Vancouver: healthy without trying too hard, outdoorsy without having to a plan a day trip, chill without feeling unambitious. The stunning backdrops (and the lack of ride-share services) force me to have perspective. In New York, if I have a problem, I think it through under the glare of lights in a corner conference room. In LA, I go for a drive. In Vancouver, I walk—and the sense of clarity that comes with a humbling mountain panorama is unparalleled.
And that’s what people are really asking when they ask why I love Vancouver. They’re asking why I come back better—lucid, eager, energized, happy. But it’s an irreducible answer, a classic case of topophilia, the affective bond between people and place: the ambient joy of mere being. I don’t go to Vancouver for family, for work, or for love. It’s something larger than that. I go to Vancouver for Vancouver. And for myself. And for the person that place shapes me into. And sometimes, when I’m there alone on a mountaintop, they are all one blissful, enormous thing.