by Veronique Demers-Mathieu, Globetrotter & Blogger
My background & moving story
Hello! My nickname is Vero and I am passionate about research since I finished my Bacc in food science and Masters in biochemistry. During my Ph.D. in microbiology, I was living in the off-island suburb of Montreal. I did a Ph.D. because I love research and I wanted to be able to work everywhere in the world. I had in my mind to move to another country for an international career in research. The lifestyle in Quebec/East Coast was just not for me. Even though I have amazing friends in Montreal and my family was close to me, it felt like something was missing from my life. Moreover, I had difficulty to feel in love in Montreal, probably because my desire to quit this glamourous lifestyle for an outdoor lifestyle prevented me from feeling connected to people in that scene.
East vs West Canada
My trips to BC (Vancouver, Whistler, and Tofino) and California (San Diego and San Francisco) in the last year of my Ph.D. confirmed the necessity to move to the West Coast. The difference of lifestyle and vibes between West Coast and East Coast is impressive. People in East Coast from cities like Montreal are generally more focused on a glamorous lifestyle and all the typical activities of “going out” – including chic resto, bars and clubs. On the other hand, West Coasters usually live an outdoor lifestyle doing activities like hiking, climbing, biking, swimming, eating local organic foods and playing/walking with their dog (it seems like more than half the population have a dog!). Not everyone fits with these characteristics (East vs West) but the overall average of the population seems to.
Challenges to the move
Several months before my thesis defense, I decided to sell my condo so I could move to BC or California. I was looking for a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in research on immunology in California. Comparatively to Canada, the USA has many opportunities for research careers and fellowships. Although I have a high level of scientific writing in English from my scientific background, my conversational skills were not the best. Unable to find a Post-doc position after my Ph.D., I moved to Vancouver to improve my English and continue to search for a Post-doc. During my time in Vancouver, I won an award to present my Ph.D. research in Australia and while there I was offered a Post-doc at Oregon State University.
The six months spending in Vancouver had allow me to transition from East Coast to West Coast. It was not as big as moving to another country. I could still speak French as I had few Quebecois friends and I didn’t need to deal with new bank, insurance, and government paperwork.
Life in Vancouver
In Vancouver, I’d finally connected with friends that shared the outdoor lifestyle I wanted. These friends motivated me to start climbing and backcountry skiing. I was also living in Kitsilano, a 5 min walk to the ocean. Every day, I was running on the sea wall from Kits to Downtown Vancouver, eating delicious and inexpensive sushi. Vancouver is the best city to meet travelers from around the world – especially Australia, New Zealand and Germany. There’s a lot to love about the city, so leaving wasn’t easy.
Why I moved to Oregon?
Oregon has a great reputation and it lives up to it. The State contains different types of areas: rainforests, deserts, coast and mountains. There are beautiful mountains for hiking, biking, backcountry skiing and climbing. Despite the beauty, what surprised me was how uncrowded the mountains were compared to California or BC (near Vancouver). Several times, I went hiking in Oregon Three Sisters Wilderness and saw only two or three people. The Cascade mountains divide Oregon into what people generally refers to as East and West. Eastern Oregon is composed to semi-arid and high elevation, is often refer to as high desert. Smith Rock is one of my favorite place in Oregon as word-class climbing and great hiking and camping. The Oregon’s climate is dry during summer (25-30°C), which is perfect for outdoor activity and the winter is rainy (0-12°C) but not cold like Canada. Generally, the snow is only in the mountains, not in cities. I really enjoy that winter in Oregon!
My Address Book for hiking in Oregon:
Olallie Mountain and French Pete Creek Trail are my favorite hiking trails with fantastic views and wonderful wildflower displays. Big Lake to Mckenzie pass is another trail that contains immense lava flows and abundant wildlife and wildflowers.
Oregon where you can see the transitions of Pine forest into the high desert. Smith Rock is by far the most popular place for rock climbing. There are few hiking trails in Smith Rock with an amazing view of Bend! Bend is in Central.
I finally found myself in the small university town of Corvallis 2 h South of Portland. The first 2 months were challenging. Oregonians are not used to meeting French Quebecois, people had more difficulty to understand me because of my accent. There are not a lot of Canadians in Oregon – mostly just people from the US who don’t travel internationally. I struggled and felt alone at times because of the distance from my culture, friends, and family. These are some of the realities we may face when going for our dreams. As Post-doc, we are expected to produce groundbreaking results, publish peer-reviewed papers in significant journals, and mentor students. It’s demanding, and at the end of day I just wanted to go sleep. It was a vicious cycle for isolation: There was little time or energy to make new friends when I really could have benefitted from sharing. I finally met an interesting man after 3 months and we visited together the best places in Oregon.
Food because everyone loves eating
I always eat well: Salad and lots of veggies, fish and tofu, and little meats (mostly chicken). It turns out that Oregon has always been very progressive when it comes to local and organic food. The food is incredibly tasty and fresh. The area is dotted with small farms producing cheeses and dairy, wine, fruit, nuts, meat and vegetables. Much of what we ate in our salad was produced with 5 or 10 miles of where we lived. The beauty of this lifestyle was new for me.
My Address Book for three restaurants:
Situated in Philomath, you eat beautiful, fresh and organic produce by the restaurant itself! Seasonal food inspired by the best French and Italian traditions, with personal Northwest style.
This restaurant in Portland offers the perfect combination of food and wine, with specialty drinks and microbrews. The seasonal menu employs organic ingredients and fresh produce.
The food is delicious, creative and funky. Design to be share! Situated in Portland
From the big city to a small town
Living in a smaller city has some important advantages for your wellness. It takes me only 30 min to walk to work at Oregon State University. ‘Traffic’ as I knew it in Canada doesn’t really exist here. It had been normal to spend 2 h driving in traffic to my work in Montreal. Insane. Now, in only 5 min, I can drive to a forest trail for running. These two elements (fresh food and less traffic) along with aren’t to be underestimated for their influence in my life.
As Oregon is not well-known, I made my address book of my favorite places.
My Address Book for other great places to visit in Oregon:
Oswald West State Park is one of the Coast’s most popular surfing spots. You can also hike Neahkanie mountain and see magnificent views of the ocean, some old-growth trees and wildlife. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor has also a beautiful scenic beach with high cliffs, stunning sea stacks and secret coves!
Southern Oregon, Crater Lake is an ancient stratovolcano with wonderful blue crystal lake surrounding of old rocks and trees. Hiking Mt. Scott gives the best overall view of Crater Lake.
Dog Mountain Trail is the best difficult trail in Columbia Gorge. Oneonta Gorge is a spectacular cavern with immense rocks and blue water.
Realizing your dreams
The lifestyle here in Oregon, plus the job and boyfriend I love have transformed my life. I’m glad I had the courage to leave my comfort zone, to realize my big career dream, go on the adventure of living in another country. I encourage you to not be afraid of realizing your dreams even if huge sacrifices are needed.
Thanks for Daniel Shea to help me with my English writing and for Marie-Claude Boisvert to invite me to her great team Heels & Brains