To me, the theft of my bike last week was as a deathknell of sorts - at least to my stint in Vancouver. It gave me an odd sense of closure to a few stressful months back in the city I came to know so well. Being there slap in the middle of winter did not help the post-theft downer much either.
I often remark that no matter where I am in the world, my three most important possessions (other than essentials like wallet and clothing) are without doubt my laptop, my camera and my bike. In particular, it is because these three items give me what I consider almost total freedom. They allow me to be spontaneous, and they let me stay professionally, creatively and physically active wherever I end up, and that is something I value greatly.
Despite what you'll often hear, it is amazingly liberating to have no car. I have continuously been told throughout my life how useful a licence would be, and how much I would love the freedom a car provides. True, possibly. Yet in an ironic twiddle, I actually feel that I have been able to do things and reach places no driver can without one. I'm certain that I have traveled and explored places more intimately by bike and on foot than I ever could have in a vehicle. The ability to swing down a sidestreet or through a park, to swerve onto the sidewalk, lock it up wherever you feel works, or hop off a any moment is truly a great feeling. With a backpack and a bottle of water on hand, I guess it's just a question of which street to pick today. Also it's cheap.
When my bike disappeared therefore, I felt like I had been slapped. It was something of a rude reminder that in the city with such incredible beauty and such great people, there is ever that undercurrent of something lurking just underneath the veneer. Having gone through multiple thefts here (some by my own design, but most just plain bad luck) I wasn't really too perturbed. In truth, the reaction when I came upon the vacant spot in the bike rack was closer to a short, accepting nod of the head and 'huh' than shock.
Despite having most of my possessions re-distributed among the city's lesser-fortunate though, I must say I certainly still love Vancouver. Some of my best friends are here, and I hope to return often - but perhaps next time I'll just come back in the summer ... the sun, sea, and fun are enough to tear any unpleasantness far into the horizon.
For now, a ticket is booked for me back to Europe, and Berlin, where a new bike and more exploring awaits.