If someone were to approach you, introduce themselves, and ask these questions, how would you respond?
“Would you call Kelowna home, or just another milestone?”
Or better yet, what if someone had asked, “Would you say THIS is ‘my Kelowna?'”
What would you say about your city? Would it be kind, or would it be negative? How would you describe the people? Would you take the time to stand by the White Sails downtown, and take a moment to observe your city residence?
Would you sit beside the person closest to you and shake their hand, and get to know who they are? Would you stand on top of the famous Knox Mountain and gaze over the multi colours below?
What is life in Kelowna? Better yet, what does this city mean to you?
If you had already been approached by someone with a list of questions, then you probably have put the pieces together and realised it was I who took an interest in your opinion. Surprise! It was I who took an interest in the people whom I’ve had the privilege of getting to know every day I step outside my door.
When asked to write an article about the city of which I reside in, I immediately thought to myself, “finally, I get to write MY opinions!” But it didn’t take me very long to see “I,” as an individual, writing about our city, would feel a sense of loneliness through putting pen to paper and not hearing what you have to say. What my friends had to say. What my neighbors, my mentors, the artist and the musician; from the believers to nonbelievers, the fortunate and the less fortunate.
I wanted to hear about you and your opinion on the Okanagan soil on which you stand on. Allow me to share with you the answers of your neighbours, and if I may, a bit of my thoughts on this beautiful valley.
Here is what I wondered:
1. Why did you choose Kelowna?
Some of us are “lifers,” others are coming up to our two digit year anniversary and for some, we have just arrived. However long it has been and the reason why you chose to live here, your “why” matters.
Some came for the schools, some came for the work, others came for the sun, and many came for the retirement and the beauty of the valley. Whatever your reason, you have a story and it involves this place.
I came for the change. What influenced me? A TV commercial. “Where’s Kelowna? What’s in Kelowna? How do you get there?” Here I am today, feeling more and more grateful for the 30 second commercial on channel 5.
2. What are some of the things you love about Kelowna?
The love you have for your city is probably something I can relate to as well. The sun, the lakes, the beaches, the mountains, the ski resorts, the unique boutiques, and the acres upon acres of vineyards and mega-wineries. The nightlife downtown, the music with Parks Alive, and strolls along the City Park boardwalk have dubbed this city the nickname “Kelownafornia.”
3. What are some of the things you dislike about Kelowna?
How rare it was to hear anything bad about Kelowna, but when it came to digging deeper, “Kelownafornia,” with all its’ beauty, comes with a price. A high price.
But, don’t let that discourage you. I found if you really want to live the Okanagan life, never be afraid to ask for advice or even ask for a little help. Which brought me to the next question.
4. Describe the people.
I was more than relieved to hear how many of you I interviewed had amazing things to say about your community. People of Kelowna are more than happy to help out a visitor or “the new kid” in town. I heard amazing stories of how others have gone as far as giving things away to someone new, just so they can relax and rest assure you can rely on us, if you allow us to get you started.
My list went on, but what I found to be a comfort was to really realise what makes this such a great place to be. Aside from the high prices on gas and food, Highway 97 Harvey Ave traffic jams at 5pm, and the mall closing at 6 or 9, what really makes Kelowna, is us.
Not too long ago, I had the pleasure of meeting someone from another city who was told Kelowna is a hard town to live in. Prices are high, jobs are short, and the people are “cliquey.” His friends told him he would be making a big mistake, but thank you to the handful of people who said hello to me when I first arrived in 2008, I was able to share with him what they shared with me.
Aside from the negative comments about Kelowna, you are going to find those problems anywhere you go. Some are harder to see, and others stick out like a sore thumb. But when it comes right down to it, Kelowna is how you make it.
I found that it was YOU who has kept me in the valley. Ignoring the statistics, the prices, and the silly rumours, I wanted to make Kelowna home. For that, I thank you. I thank you for telling me to get out of my comfort zone and proving the whole “cliques” wrong.
If you arrive with no education (like I did), don’t be afraid to ask for help. As I mentioned, we really are a helping hand kind of people. Start building a community (and not just with something you are familiar with), by actually taking the time to expand your network base. Make friends with people in other professions.
Websites like “Meet Up” and “Read It” have always served to assist with building friendships. If you don’t know the city well enough, a “K-towner” will not hesitate to invite you to take a walk downtown, drive you around the 4 points of the city, beach it up at OK Lake, and take you to the top of the many mountains that overlook our city.
5. Would you call Kelowna home or just another milestone?
I’m happy to have heard your answers, and if I may share with you my own response, Kelowna to me and my family is home. This does not mean we will be comfortable and never travel and touch millions of lives outside this city. But, when we do see the world, and meet our neighbour provinces and states, “escaping” Kelowna is not a word we use.
This is our home and I hope we have been able to make it feel that way to you too. I hope we ALL have been able to do our best to give you an idea of our city.
Make Kelowna however you want to make it.
Would you say, “this is my Kelowna?” I can definitely speak for my little family, and thank the community that has shaped us. To thank the help that’s been offered to us. The blessings we have received and the blessings we love to give. From the uniqueness of a city life and country life and the incredible distinctiveness of “you.”
This is my Kelowna.
Written by Tyler Durand