Digital Nomad in Vancouver Canada is not a destination you hear about a lot. Most of it has to do with the high costs. In 2015 I returned to Vancouver as a Digital nomad and spoke about it with my friend Nigel. I was a struggled to find a place to stay, but I think I did well and had a good setup in terms of work, live, and play. In 2017 I could not find the same place and It took me almost a week of searching full-time.
As one of the most expensive cities to live in the world, Vancouver is not at the top of most Digital nomads lists. Vancouver in the summer is in my opinion one of the best places to be in the world. The weather is hot, sunny, not humid, and none of the mosqitoes that Asia has. There is a lot that Vancouver has to offer, which I’ll share. I grew up here in Vancouver, so you’ll get even more insight than I usually do more my exotic digital nomad guides. I touched down in Vancouver 2 months ago after a year of globetrotting places like Bali, Penang, Langkawi, Seoul, Chiang Mai, South Africa and Singapore
After some scouting I decided to live in the trendy, touristy, edgy heritage area of Gastown Vancouver. For those of who are not familiar with Gastown this is where the city of Vancouver originally started. It is on the edge of Downtown Vancouver’s Eastside popular with tourists for things like the steamclock, drinks on the patio, and exploring dirty alleys with entrances to trendy spots. It’s popular with locals for trendy restaurants and patios like Chill Winston, the flying pig, tacofino, the lamplighter, and Meet. To Entrepreneurs and startups Gastown is also home to a growing number of trendy co-work spaces and offices that sport the exposed brick wall offices, wooden beams and pillars, bike racks, dog friendly atmosphere, and craft beer in the fridge.
Where to Stay
I’ve lived most of my time in the South side of downtown in areas like Yaletown, which is more family oriented and quiet. On my last visit I stayed the GEC hotel at Granville and Davie. They now do not rent out on a monthly basis. I wanted to design a lifestyle that was close to the co-work spaces in Vancouver (Gastown). Finding short-term full-furnished accommodation is difficult here. Airbnbs are overpriced in the summer and have a supply shortage.
I’m fortunate my sister Sanya shared a link for short-term sublets on craigslist. Using that I a found a fully furnished studio near the SFU woodwards building. I paid $1300 canadian plus half month rent deposit. If you want to pay less you can share a bedroom, but you will have to do things like provide references, meet the owner or roommates to see if there is a fit. It really is a full-time job.
Good areas to stay are near the Canada line. I can recommend near Yaletown roundhouse, City hall, King Edward, Langara, or even Marine Gateway. Popular neighborhoods with mid 20 something to 40 something locals are Cambie Village, Main St (Soma), Gastown, The Drive (Commerical drive), Yaletown, Kitsalano, and the West End. Each area has it’s own character and vibe.
Where to Work
The Vancouver Central library offers nice work areas and fast Internet. I recommend going with a friend because its not a good idea to just leave your laptop unattended. This is not Thailand. The cafe and coffee shop circuit offer good coffee, but are not optimized for productivity. They can be small, crowded, or lacking power outlets. Some cafe’s you can try include waves, Urban Fare, Allegro cafe, and Bird and the beets.
The next step-up are co-work spaces. Most co-work spaces as mentioned are concentrated in Gastown. There are spaces like Hive, Launchpad, L’atelier, and the Creative Co-workers (my space). Each space has a different design, vibe, and culture. I worked at Launchpad which offers more of young startup chaotic vibe. L’atelier was a smaller trendy space. Some spaces offer a free day-pass that let you try the space. Monthly plans usually average around $250 to 300 Canadian, which is super expensive compared to Asia. I chose the Creative co-workers because it was spacious, the community feel, the good workspace, and they offers a huge studio called the sandbox. The owner of the space (D) allowed me to do a “flex arrangement” where I work there part-time and a lower cost than the other spaces. It’s been a great arrangement. The studio could be used as a photo studio and they had a smaller sound proofed room that I used for podcasts and talking head videos.
There is a huge difference between visiting and living in Gastown. The location was central to co-work spaces, grocery shops like Nestors and London Drugs, Tinseltown, the library, the Waterfront station, and the waterfront. The accommodation was not as comfortable as I was used to. The studio was a bit smaller and hot, so I tried to spend as much time out as I could outside. There wasn’t a comfortable work area for my laptop. At night on the weekends the area was crawling with bums and crackheads. A block in the wrong direction would take you bum row, or a couple of blocks in the other direction would be some of the trendiest spots in Vancouver. This area really is an organic dichotomy. I now believe you are a product of your environment, and this environment wasn’t healthy for my mental state and my experience of Vancouver. My mistake was rushing into this space and settling.
On the positive side it was a nice 10 minute walk to the Creative co-work space and pretty central to a lot of areas in downtown. I was able to work from my university (SFU), which has opened up several centers concentrated in the downtown area. It is a convenient location to waterfront station, which is a central transport station to connect you to the Canada line (through central Vancouver to the airport), North Vancouver, and Greater Vancouver.
Vancouver offers great Western food choices. It’s great to have a great burger, great french fries, poutine, and steaks again. We are spoiled for choice for craft beers with what seems like hundreds of micro breweries at reasonable choices. Wines are also quite affordable here. If you go out drinking a lot it can add up with all the taxes and tips. Marijuana is going to be legalized in Canada in about a year from now, so if that is your thing it is very liberal here compared to Asia. Vancouver is a great walking city. It is nice to get my entitled pedestrian rights back and have cars wait for me to cross. Vancouver has beautiful locations to walk at. My favorite is the seawall.
What you can learn – The Next Step
I’ve moved and relocated to another trendy area in Vancouver known as Main st (Soma). This area is central to a lot of good coffee shops, restaurants, and close to my family. It is a good neighourhood. Maybe I’ll write another post on this.I’ve noticed an immediate improvement in my quality of life and outlook. I felt like I was bringing the negative vibes from my area in Gastown to my friends and family. I’m usually a positive and optimistic guy, and it feels like the cloud hanging over my head is moving away. I’m ready to take the world on again and follow my dreams.
- Take your time to find your “First space” – This is where you are going to live (neighborhood, location, vibe) and find your center
- The second space is equally as important. This is where you spend the second most amount of time. In my case it was my cowork space. It may be your office or perhaps the library if you studying
- The Third space – This could be somewhere you chill regularly like a JJ bean coffee shop, your favorite park, or the gym. For me it alternated between the YMCA gym and volleyball and my favorite park in Vancouver.
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