Retirement, Vancouver Island

Location! Location! Location!

I am currently watching the snow steadily stream down outside the window of my home on Vancouver Island. Although snow is not a common sight in this particular area, nothing surprises me here, which makes me love this small town (population 12,300) even more.

Shortly after we moved here we noticed that so many other people, usually retirees, were new arrivals as well. (Seriously, is anyone left in Calgary?) The common question asked at these meet-and-greets was “why did you choose HERE?” This question was often especially directed at us since we had moved from Beijing and had never lived on the Island previously.   Invariably the most common answers included:

  • Mild temperatures and Mediterranean-like dryness which have given this region the nickname of “Canada’s Riviera” (today is definitely not a good example)
  • Reasonable cost of living
  • Minimal traffic and less hectic pace
  • Endless outdoor sports and activities, including numerous golf courses nearby
  • Uncrowded and unspoiled sandy beaches
  • Miles of pristine hiking trails–shared with black bears, cougars and other wildlife
  • The ability to live close to family, usually in Vancouver, while still giving everyone their space
  • Can golf in town and then ski at nearby Mt. Washington on the same day (although today you would have to be a true die-hard golfer, and a bit of a kook, to even dream about it).

Our personal answer to the “why here” question definitely includes all of the above. We had done quite a bit of exploring and research. From our initial visit, Vancouver Island instantly felt like home.

As it is the emotional side of retirement that most interests me, I am keenly aware of what a huge role location plays in quality of life. In our global world people no longer need to live where they always did, and this is especially true in post-work life.

My husband, who was born in a very, very small town, likes to joke about living in a small town once again. The pace can be very slow, the person in front of you at the grocery store checkout always seems to have a (long) story to share, it is difficult to find a restaurant open after 7:30 p.m., nightlife is virtually non-existent, finding a doctor who will accept new patients is like winning the lottery and if the ferry doesn’t run… well, you simply do not go.   Also, as the average age in Parksville and our area is 60+  my husband also often refers to local gatherings and events as “the sea of grey” — um honey, have you looked at our own birth certificates or driver’s licenses recently?

Comparing the list of island advantages to the list of complaints about small town living, the decision to live here was a good one for us. Stay tuned for the post on bad decisions; we’ve definitely made a few!

My best retirement advice? Take your time, look around, think outside of the box, and then carefully choose where you would like to live –not where you, or others, think you should. Consider all of the quality of life factors no matter how mundane they may seem at the time. It is the smartest investment that I can suggest.



9 thoughts on “Location! Location! Location!”

  1. Donna, I wondered why the island…..your reasoning makes very good sense.I hope that you enjoy it there…and of all the pictures and adventures along the beach, hiking in the snow! Meeting new people and family gatherings, you have made this home in a very short time! Enjoy retirement! I find it hard to believe it has been only two years since I retired…..and still not enough time in each day to do all the things I would like to do! Will enjoy reading your blog….


  2. Right on, we choose an island as well and although technically not retired we sure have a slower pace of life. By now we know practically everyone and a run to the supermarket might lead to a drink and dinner with whoever you run into. If you make it to the checkout counter then be prepared for a very long wait if there are one or two people ahead of you. Things go slowly and we are glad to see it that way. Like you we lived in Beijing, hectic and with around a million people added each year the concept of space is pretty much non existent. Here we have all the space we want.

    No sea of grey though, the university is around the corner and there are plenty of young families to liven up the place. The wales and dolphins come and go through the bay and the horizon is changing every 5 minutes while the volcano sleeps and sometimes puts on a white snow hat. There is one traffic light on the island, 6000 people in our “busy” city and 15,000 on the entire island.

    It was 1986 when I first visited the islands and I vowed to come back and retire here…took some time but here we are, 30 years later. The place changed a bit…for the islanders life is incredibly fast now, you only have to wait two months for spare parts for your car and sometimes you might get them in two weeks if the boat leaves Lisbon in time with the right containers on board.

    Do we miss Beijing? Not a single day. Cheng has her family to visit and the yearly spring festival run but that is about it. In the battle of lifestyles of not being able to jump on a horse to ride a morning in the mountains, go fishing or take the dog to the beach, compared to struggling for 20 minutes to pass the traffic light at the end of our street in order to make the left turn onto the endless traffic jam that is called the third ring road which one is preferable?

    Rens Metaal
    Horta, Faial, Azores


  3. Thanks so much Rens! I loved reading about your life in Horta, Azores. We do miss Beijing and are extremely grateful for our time there. We are also thankful for having such an amazing place to retire. You are right, some of the differences are extreme.


  4. We agree that location for “post-work” life is very important. It was why we chose the north of Provence. Mediterranean climate, rural but active communities, quiet with a relatively slow pace of life. Plenty of walks, hiking and wild life. Close enough to visit family at the weekend, (but not close enough for dinner). And yet, we have a world heritage cultural centre within 30 minutes drive, a beautiful coast line within an hour, and the mountains within an hour and a half. We have wonderful neighbours, but the house is not overlooked. Enrico is thinking of buying a Vespa to go buy bread though! Not only that of course, but people are much more willing to come and stay in the South of France than they were to come to Beijing!

    I also do not miss Beijing, but living in a quiet and secluded part of Tokyo is, of course, just wonderful.

    Love to you both!


  5. Hi Helen – Thanks for reading and for sharing. The South of France sounds wonderful! Glad to hear all is well there. Expect more visitors soon!


  6. We retired into the same community we were already living in (and I grew up in), but sometimes it seems too large and crowded for our retirement lifestyle. I don’t know if we’ll ever move (we love the weather and have lots of friends in Southern California), but many of the assets you listed for Parksville would be attractive to us also. You are right about location being so important in retirement.


  7. Great advice Donna. When I finished work we moved onto to the boat, which we love, it’s as adventure, but when Jon retires, probably in around 3 years (ish) we may just make another big decision on where we’ll live 🤔 I love hearing about your island living 😊


    1. Hi, Sam – Thank you for going back to my very first post. Now that’s hardcore! Richard and I greatly enjoy life on Vancouver Island. You should add a quick visit here during one of your Canadian Skiing adventures. I’d love to show you around!

      Liked by 1 person

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