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Image / Editorial

Lockdown life in Vancouver: ‘There is an inescapable sense of sadness downtown’

22nd May 2020

Fiona Cooney had hoped to move back to Dublin next month, but the pandemic changed her plans. Here she writes about lockdown life in Vancouver

I grew up in the scenic suburbs of Western Australia. It was the ideal backdrop for a carefree, adventure-filled childhood. As much as I appreciate the simple life, I definitely consider myself a city slicker at heart. I moved to Dublin in my early twenties.

To this day I consider it one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I love the fast-paced nature of city life. The diverse culture and alluring nightlife also add to the appeal.

Three years ago I decided it was time to shake things up again. I had become restless, and longed to feel like a fish out of water. Vancouver proved to be the perfect antidote. Whether you’re cycling the seawall, or spending your lunch hour down at Waterfront, the views are simply stunning.

I’ll never forget the first time I took a stroll through Gastown. I felt like I had stepped onto the set of a 1950’s movie. The old-style lamp posts pay homage to a classic, more romantic era. I still get giddy when I look up and see the mountains in all their glory. It amazes me that you can be privy to such a picturesque view when you’re living in an urban city.

The Vancouver I fell in love with looks a little different these days. The once crowded streets are now deserted. There’s an eerie, almost apocalyptic atmosphere. The pandemic has essentially shut down the city.

I work for a small, boutique-style law firm. We’ve been deemed an essential service, allowing us to stay open. Our company isn’t set up for remote access, therefore I’ve been going into the office every day as normal. It’s a strange feeling, in a lot of ways it’s been business as usual.

Lockdown has affected certain aspects of my life, but my work routine has remained intact. I’m grateful for that. I have a lot of respect and empathy for those who have had to work from home over the last 8 weeks.

I felt like I was a character in a doomsday movie, walking the streets in a daze, looking for any other survivors.

Navigating the city during lockdown is a very surreal experience. At first it was unsettling, and rather lonely. I felt like I was a character in a doomsday movie, walking the streets in a daze, looking for any other survivors.

The novelty of the situation eventually wore off. I soon became accustomed to the lack of human traffic. Partially filled buses and trains became the norm.

I have to admit that at times it’s been rather nice to have the city to myself. There are no queues to contend with. The elevator at work goes directly to and from my floor now. Come 5 pm, I no longer have to flee the office in a panic to avoid rush hour. Everything seems to have slowed down.

Lockdown in Vancouver
Fiona Cooney


All perks aside, there is an inescapable sense of sadness downtown. Every “closed for business” sign represents a human being, or a family who are now minus an income.

I had hoped to move back to Dublin in June of this year. In a way I’m glad that those plans have been put on hold. Dublin was my home for over a decade. It was the happiest time of my life thus far. The image of my beloved city lying idle would have been hard to absorb.

I wonder what it will be like to share downtown Vancouver with people again. The pandemic has changed the way I interact with strangers. I’ve definitely grown wearier.

I find myself becoming anxious when two or more people are walking towards me. I tend to view them as possible infectors instead of fellow humans. I know it will take time for this to change.

Life post-Covid 19 is going to involve a certain amount of adjustment for all of us. Only time will tell what the new normal will look like.

I hope we forge ahead with a renewed sense of perspective and gratitude. I’ve come to realise that postcard-worthy views, and eye-catching skylines are not the only things that contribute to the beauty of a city.

The real heart and soul of any city is the people who occupy it.

Read more: Emma in Sydney: ‘I have to say, home has never felt so far away’
Read more: Alex in Barcelona: ‘My kids and I have not left our 90sm apartment in 16 days’
Read more: Mary in Marseille: ‘I’ve worked in many trouble spots where lockdowns and curfews were common’