Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Tuesday August 6, 2019.

There’s no other way to put it. Being away from Kamloops for a few days makes it ring true, yet again. It happens mostly when I am stuck in slow traffic as I approach the Mainland. Once you leave Hope behind… I know, the pun that so many cannot resist, but it is a bit like magic. Just not the kind that leaves you mesmerized, but the kind that makes you wonder how on Earth can the same thing happen again and again on the way to the coast.

On the way back from there too. Of course, it is summer and fun is in full swing everywhere. People travel, as we all do this time of the year, and there are festivals and various events everywhere. Plus, construction along the way, though to be fair, as long as people observe the signs, traffic runs smoothly enough, albeit slow.

Neither of the above is bad in any way, but the sheer number of people (in cars) gives the experience a different flavour.

I have loved seeing the beautiful expanse of the Nicola Valley from that first drive to Kamloops when I was awe-struck at the beauty of it. It happens every time: I take a deep breath knowing that I am almost home. It’s a feeling like no other.

We have it good here.  

Firstly, traffic can become a mayhem sometimes during rush hour in Kamloops, more so when summer road construction or repairs are on, but really, when you think of the big picture, there is nothing to it. There are more people and more cars on the road, and that’s a good incentive to push for a reliable public transit system before it gets too bad.

Secondly, the immersion in nature. It’s just so close. I say this a lot: let’s never forget how spectacular it is to have large nature parks within walking or driving distance; to have breathtaking vistas to gaze upon as you simply drive around town up and down the hilly roads. My family and I have lived in a few locations around Kamloops and by far the worst was living near a highway, but wherever we found ourselves, nature was never too far. Ditto for hiking or trail walking with dogs or getting close to a body of water in the summer. We have it good, and so do our Kamloops dogs (if they get to be out in nature every day.)

Thirdly, our downtown. Yes, it is on the small side and we have seen a few businesses fold up and move out. Yes, there is room for better, as it always is, but I love it every time I find myself walking there, meeting someone for lunch or coffee (and we do have some great coffee shops) or going on a date with my husband. It’s homey, and, much like any other small town (though it is a big city!) you are never too far from bumping into someone you know.

Our downtown comes with at least two remarkable features: a thriving farmers’ market and beautiful, unique murals if you care to take a tour. I wrote just last week about the goodness of locally grown food and the easiness of growing food at home. Anyone who has tried to get a decent crop of tomatoes while living on the coast knows the unbeatable feeling of seeing tomatoes grow without an issue, other than overloaded plants. If you ever need inspiration to grow a garden, just take a walk through the residential areas around town. You’ll see some gardens that will leave you speechless.

As for the murals and art in general, we are in a good place. Movie festivals, galleries, coffee shops and other local venues displaying so many talented local artists… we have them. Worthwhile events and talks around town, some hosted by Thompson Rivers University, we have those too. Street fun? Ditto. Ways to get there without being stuck in traffic before or after for a few hours. Yes to that too.

We have it good. And a sure sign of that is people’s friendliness. I have come across the occasional grumpy person, while on leisure activities, running errands and getting things done around town, but for the most part, the people I meet are ready to share a smile, even chat a while if the circumstances allow for it, and the overall feeling is a good one.

I know that Kamloops has issues. I know there are stories that make us shudder and happenings that makes us shake our heads in disbelief, so here’s to hoping that we will have enough strong voices to call for and inspire changes. There are things to be improved, and too many will likely be happening in slow motion. But despite all that, we have it good. We really do. Let’s each try our best to keep it that way and also make it better where it is in our power to do so.