Prescription to Move.
November 17, 2009 8:02 PM   Subscribe

Canada Filter: I live on Vancouver Island, BC. We just had 180mm of rain in a day and a bit. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder. The two do not mix. Where should I move?

I also struggle with depression the rest of the year so there really seems to be no respite. Today my psychiatrist recommended that I should think about moving somewhere else for the long run. It is getting harder and harder to get through each fall/winter.

So where should I move? I need to stay in Canada simply because I love my country. I'd like it to be sunny but not too hot in the summer (nothing above 27-30C on average). I don't like the cold or snow but I suppose I could adapt. It just isn't something I have ever experienced and it frightens me.

It feels like I am in the mildest climate of Canada already and I prefer that. I just need sun added in. I would settle for less gray and not constant rain.

So suggestions? Favourite places? Experiences of places where you felt the weather lift your mood?
posted by beautifulcheese to Grab Bag (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you can stand the cold, somewhere in the southern prairies would be the best bet. Lots of sunny skies year round.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:18 PM on November 17, 2009

Southern Alberta has the most hours of sun out of any region in Canada. Lethbridge is a pleasant little city with very mild winters, close to a big city, close to camping etc. I have lived in a lot of places in Western Canada, and Lethbridge has the nicest climate of anywhere I've been. Yes, there are problems with living in Alberta (although, if you are white, straight, and conservative these might be features not bugs), but at least we don't have to pay for health premiums anymore.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:22 PM on November 17, 2009

Victoria or White Rock.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:29 PM on November 17, 2009

Just yesterday I was looking up Vancouver's climate data to see how rainy November is on average (because yeah, wtf rain, enough already) and I found a link to the "Weather Winners" website. It ranks all Canadian cities on all kinds of categories such as number of sunny days in winter, coldest average winter temperature, most rainfall, and dozens more. It is amazingly appropriate that you asked this question the day after I found this tool because it is just what you need.

I see you're in Port Alberni: that's the 7th warmest year-round city in Canada, and has the 6th-lowest amount of sunshine year-round. As for "number of sunny days in cold months", which is what you care about for SAD: Port Alberni is 99 out of 100, ahead of only Chilliwack.

The good news is you may not have to go far. Look at Victoria: 5th warmest year-round, and 77th-least sunshine year-round (that is, 23rd sunniest, that's good!), and 51st for sunny days in cold months, same as Toronto and Windsor. Almost every city that scores high on cold month sunshine is in the prairies or the far north or Ontario where you will get very cold winters and very hot summers. But for whatever reason, Victoria is relatively sunny!

Kamloops does better for sun and is pretty warm too, but ranks #1 for "hot summers". But in any case you can play around with the website for hours. You could maybe even copy the key categories you care about into a spreadsheet and do some weighted sums to see which cities come out best overall. Good luck.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:30 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I believe Victoria has the most hours of sunshine on the island. You must be up island?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:31 PM on November 17, 2009

Oh and you can search by city, too.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:36 PM on November 17, 2009

Also, in AB and SK: It's a dry heat. (Sweat actually evaporates like it's supposed to!)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:39 PM on November 17, 2009

Port Alberni is not a very good place to be if you don't like grey weather. Most anywhere on the southern-half of the Island would be better, though Victoria would be best. You could also consider some spots in the Gulf Islands. You won't find a milder climate anywhere in Canada than Victoria or the Gulf Islands. Victoria also has the advantage of longer days in the winter than the rest of Western Canada.
posted by ssg at 8:46 PM on November 17, 2009

Calgary has the most sunny days year-round, and the most in winter. But it is significantly colder. Maybe just move slightly further west -- Kamloops and Cranbrook and 13th and 14th on the most sunny days list, and are probably warmer than the cities ranked above them.
posted by emeiji at 8:47 PM on November 17, 2009

Though the summers can be a bit hot, what about the BC interior? Though some of the Interior towns in the valleys suffer from inversions, so they can be quite grey.

I think the posters above who suggested moving down island to Victoria might have the best idea. Also: I think the Gulf Islands are less rainy still. What about moving to Salt Spring or Mayne island?
posted by bumpkin at 8:47 PM on November 17, 2009

d'oh. what Percussive Paul said.
posted by emeiji at 8:47 PM on November 17, 2009

Oh, hell, I'm not sure about Victoria. I'm there right now, and am in the midst of the November blues like crazy. I've always poo-poo'd Seasonal Affective Disorder until the last few years. We may have a few more hours of sunshine, but still, it's dark, rainy, and quite depressing here. I've been pondering where to post my "I hate November" thread.

I recall winters in Kimberley, BC as being cold, but bright and sunny. I would take icy temperatures and snow and blue skies over this.

Mild temperatures do not compensate for light. Seriously, you might want to consider someplace that gets cold and snowy, because even at night, it's not as dark. Nights where there is snow on the ground are quite beautiful, and all that snow reflects light. Rain just drowns it.

Don't be scared of snow. It's soft, quiet, and has a beauty all its own. I am hoping sincerely that the rain will turn to snow.

Anyway, the East Kootenays are "brighter" and colder, and I have good memories of winters there, for what it's worth. And please--don't be scared of snow! Think of the light it brings to the winter nights.
posted by Savannah at 8:52 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

This lists Saskatchewan as the sunniest year round.
posted by 6550 at 9:03 PM on November 17, 2009

Well, you won't have to worry about passing your high end temperatures - 27-30 degrees as an average is really freaking hot for Canada. Toronto's July average high is 26.5.

I totally sympathize with where you're coming from. I just spent four days in Vancouver and my god was it depressing this time of year. A friend who lives there needs a full-spectrum light to overcome SAD.

I would say that you want to move between the B.C. and Quebec borders - Alberta to Ontario. Having lived in the Maritimes, it's certainly better than B.C. but you still get grey, wet winters. I totally understand the fear of real winters, which every year drive stories in the media about ZOMG SNOW! (or for a few years until the last two winters ZOMG WHERE'S THE SNOW?). But it's not really as bad as all that - the two key things to remember are (1) layers and (2) winter tires. Also, if shovelling is what you fear, snowblower, or electric shovel. If walking on ice is what you fear, Yak Traks.

I think that the big sky country of Alberta would do it for your mood - wonderful cold, clear days. We get similar days in southern Ontario. There's nothing like cross-country skiing when the sky is clear and the air is cold. I would say that you want to think about not just the climate, but also about what the place you live is like. Keeping in mind that I am a big-city person: With all due respect to Albertans, the only place I'd consider moving in Alberta is Edmonton, because it's relatively open-minded and not totally drunk on oil. With all due respect to Saskatchewanians, the only place I'd consider moving in Saskatchewan is Saskatoon, which is actually a really nice city, as opposed to Regina, which is not. With all due respect to Manitobans, I wouldn't move to Manitoba, as Winnipeg is (a) hot and mosquito-y in the summer (b) freezing to death in the winter (c) not a very exciting city.

I would think about southern, and in particular south-western, Ontario. Depends on whether you like to live in cities (Toronto, no contest, sorry if I'm confirming all stereotypes of Torontonians but it really is a great place to live) or towns (there are innumerable small towns in southwestern Ontario that give you great opportunities to take advantage of the winter. For instance, while the wind is cold in the winter, the Bruce Peninsula offers stunning scenery and year-round outdoor activities, along with a community of educated people who work at the Bruce power plant). There are also larger communities that, if you have a car, offer easy access to southern Ontario's beauty. Frankly, for me it would be Toronto or small town, as I don't dig the suburb-y feel of a lot of southwestern Ontario. Maybe think about Guelph (university town, also quite windy and cold in the winter)? Can't think of any more constructive suggestions at the moment (I just hope the foregoing has been useful). Good luck with your decision.
posted by Dasein at 9:06 PM on November 17, 2009

Kamloops, Penticton, and the Fraser Valley are really nice places to visit. Kelowna was absolutely devastated by the wildfires and the pine beetle has taken a huge swath of trees with it's migration eastward but the climate there is nice and it's by the mountains.

Edmonton is where I live and it's too sprawly but it is very nice in the summer; Calgary is too suburby but very scenic otherwise; Lethbridge is quite nice but windy! Always windy! Grande Prairie and the north is beautiful and has a bunch of different landscapes but it gets damn cold sometimes and the oilpatch is messing everything up.

I liked Saskatoon when I was there, another river city but quite small and probably pretty yawn-y. I also liked the area around the Great Lakes and they get mild weather (occasional devastating ice storm/record-shattering snowfall). They also seem to win the most lottery jackpots in Ontario (statistics blah!)

The smaller cities in Alberta kind of ... suck, except for Camrose. It's kinda nice there.
posted by Khazk at 9:09 PM on November 17, 2009

Toronto gets snow, but it's not too bad, and we get lots of sunshine, even in the winter. A sunny snowy day is actually pretty uplifting. If big cities aren't your thing, there's lots of smaller towns in southern Ontario you may want to consider - London is really pretty, or Stratford if you dig shakespeare
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:09 PM on November 17, 2009

instead of moving, which will be costly from PA, why not simply invest in a full-spectrum light?

Also, Tofino and Ucluelet are only about an hour away. Hate the weather? Wait 20 minutes. The weather moves much more swiftly through an open beach than inside of a fjord (for those unfamiliar with BC geography, Port Alberni is at the top of a very long fjord on Vancouver Island).

If you do move, then go someplace wide open, where clouds can't gather and hang around for days. Depending on your line of work, why not choose Bamfield, Ucluelet, Victoria, or Tofino even?
posted by seawallrunner at 9:19 PM on November 17, 2009

After pondering a bit more, I'm again, voting for snow and brighter days. Sure, you have to shovel it, but the thing about snow is that it reflects light. One of the things I like about snow is that even in the darkest night, it is light on the ground. You can go for a walk well after dark, and see where you are going, and see the landscape around you. In the dark rains of November, December, January and beyond, the world is drowned in a blackness that sucks up all the light and leaves you winterblind. On a snowy night, you can see the sky, the trees, the road or path in front of you. Figures walking on a winter night show up as dark figures against all the white. If the clouds are low, city lights bounce back from the clouds and against the ground. If the sky is clear, you have starry velvet night above and white satin below. Don't be afraid of snow.

Sheesh, I must really be Canadian, after all. My love letter to snow.
posted by Savannah at 9:21 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think I am hoping for some magic town on the coast here that gets secret amounts of sun. My doctor did suggest even just moving lower down the Island on the east side but I have lived multiple places here and the SAD still kicks my butt.

Thanks for that weather chart. That will give me much to play with.

I have never lived in a big city so that frightens me a little but I know there at least I would have a chance at decent public trans. Not having a car and having to walk/bus in the snow and -15+ weather is also a fear. Too many tales of people freezing stiff.

Thx for recommendations so far.
posted by beautifulcheese at 9:32 PM on November 17, 2009

Response by poster: Oh and I do have a full spectrum light that I use every day for 45 mins. I did live in Ucluelet for awhile but then I was working nights and just slept during the day and that didn't help either.
posted by beautifulcheese at 9:36 PM on November 17, 2009

Whiterock if you need to be near civilization. Saltspring Island if you don't. Both have very have much more sunshine and much less rain than the rest of BC.
posted by randomstriker at 9:38 PM on November 17, 2009

How about Courtenay? Or the Sunshine Coast?
posted by mannequito at 9:56 PM on November 17, 2009

oh and the Southern half of Cortes is relatively dry and warm, although I've never been there in winter.
posted by mannequito at 9:57 PM on November 17, 2009

I think I am hoping for some magic town on the coast here that gets secret amounts of sun.

Don't rule that out just yet. Across the border, there's the city of Sequim, Washington, which, because of a geographical quirk, gets an unusual amount of sun for the general area. Sequim lies in the rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:06 PM on November 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

I grew up in Kamloops, and it's an alright city to live in. Winters are bearable, summers are bloody hot, but overall it's just a really boring city which most musicians pass over and is too far from Vancouver to really make that a reasonable day trip.

Whiterock is on the coast, has nice weather, but has a very old, very religious/conservative population. My grandparents live there and love it.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:08 PM on November 17, 2009

I've lived in Victoria, Kamloops and Calgary. Kamloops never gets those weeks at a time without seeing the sun like Victoria can get in the winter. An entire November without any sun was all it took to convince me Victoria was not someplace I wanted to set up shop. However Kamloops is also very hot and dry (we miss being a desert officially by a couple dozen mm of rain annually). July and August in Kamloops is one long stretch of 30-35+ days with with the few merely 25 degree days sprinkled in between for variety. Heck the mean temperature in those months is 20-21. This summer we flirted with 40 for a week. Victoria gets something like 3Xs the precipitation that Kamloops gets.

Calgary is quite variable; slush on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and -20 Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday with freezing rain on Saturday isn't unusual. Neither is a week of -30 in the winter or snow in May. They beat out Kamloops for total sun but the trade off for those clear skies is much colder temps in the winter. The respite in the winter is Chinooks however many people, myself included, find they are associated with severe headaches. The weather was a big reason I returned to Kamloops from Calgary, especially the constant slush in the winter and the 3A vs. 5B growing conditions.

Finally the lack of rain, high temperatures and low humidity during a Kamloops summer mean most years by the end of June any place not being irrigated or covered with trees is brown. I mention it because it seems to depress the heck out of some people though for me it is just the natural order of things.
posted by Mitheral at 10:12 PM on November 17, 2009

Port is one of the worst places for rainy weather on the coast, though it seems you know that. Saturna island is the epicentre of the Gulf of Georgia dry zone. Even Victoria gets 1/3 the rain of North Vancouver (and probably Port, for that matter). But here's the thing: Victoria, say, is less rainy but almost as grey. The clouds sock in, move along and drop their rain on Vancouver, but Victoria is still not a very sunny place in winter. If it is cloudy in Victoria it is rainy in Vancouver: but either way it isn't exactly sunny. I'd bet Victoria's sun advantage is from the annual 2 month high pressure period when it is very common to have negligible rain from mid July to mid September, this would boost the annual figure immensely - though I haven't looked at the numbers.

Conversely, I used to do Christmas in Saskatoon, and it was freakin' sunny all day every day. Cold, yes, but if you have the right clothing then cold is not a problem. I like the suggestion of Lethbridge too, warm winds and prairie sunshine. But basically, yeah, in Canada in winter , you can have warm and you can have sunny, but you are hard pressed to have warm and sunny.

Nonetheless, no disrespect intended, but Port is not the most invigorating place in the world even on the best of days. Maybe a move to a different place with more of a vibe would help with the SAD even if, objectively, the sun was not that much more. Organize a Victoria meetup for starters!

Good luck!
posted by Rumple at 10:12 PM on November 17, 2009

How about Courtenay?

They got the worst of the rain this past few days. Much of the town is flooded out. Not sure I would recommend it.

I lived in Victoria for much of my life and moved to Vancouver five years ago. Victoria is considerably sunnier and drier, but windier, than Vancouver. I would recommend Victoria for a SAD sufferer. And I never owned a car there; it's pretty easy to live within a few minutes walking distance from work, wherever you work. Rental prices don't vary as much by neighbourhood as they do in Vancouver.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 10:17 PM on November 17, 2009

There are good and bad points to Calgary beyond the weather, and I'm here mainly because of family connections. It can be a pretty lonely city for someone with no ties to it, I think.

That said, I moved here six years ago after nearly 20 years in Ontario (north and south), and my mild SAD - which I'd never fully understood as weather-related - vanished. Sunny sunny sunny winters here keep me pretty even keel (though the short days through Dec and early Jan can be a little bit rough). Summers are crazy sunny too. Never hot, and one thing that drives some people nuts is that you can go from ideal-summer 28C to bitter-wind fall in the single digits inside of 24 hours in the middle of July. Winters are cold, but rarely Winnipeg cold, and you get these warm chinook winds that bring livable springlike winter days every few weeks.

Finally, FWIW and because this is Metafilter after all, I can attest that Calgary is much less monolithically paleo-conservative than it looks from afar. Green Party's second-best result nationwide in the last election was Calgary Centre, and our MLA here in the centre of the city - David Swann - is the kind of guy who does hunger strikes to raise Darfur awareness.

All simply FYI.
posted by gompa at 11:31 PM on November 17, 2009

In the meantime, you might want to consider getting a bright lamp to help with your seasonal affect disorder (wikipedia discusses it here).A friend of mine had serious SAD while living in the UK, which is much greyer in the winter than even BC. She found that using a bright blue LED lamp helped her mood considerably; it also helped my husband, though it didn't seem to affect me.
posted by jb at 5:08 AM on November 18, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for everyone's help. It seems on consensus that lower Alberta is the place to be. I will have to mull over various factors as to what I want in a city plus the job market/medical coverage/political factors (leftish as possible) etc...(more Askme questions to come Yay!). So again thanks. Lots of best answers here.
posted by beautifulcheese at 6:53 AM on November 18, 2009

I have lived from sea to shining sea in Canada. If you want to stay near water and want less gloom and cloud and like being in a city, I think Halifax is calling you. Putting eight post-secondary institutions in a city of 250,000 gives it a vibrant culture, housing prices are quite reasonable, and the first time I climbed Citadel Hill I remember thinking that the city was full of air and light. As a bonus: unlike most of the west coast or anywhere on the Great Lakes, it knows how to use its waterfront. I would love for Toronto to have adopted Halifax's approach to the place where land and water meet.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:14 AM on November 18, 2009

I would definitely try the prairies because it has the sunny winters and a dryness that makes any warmer temperatures bearable if not actually enjoyable.

When I hear you are scared of heat I totally understand, I melt. I certainly don't agree with Dasein
Well, you won't have to worry about passing your high end temperatures - 27-30 degrees as an average is really freaking hot for Canada. Toronto's July average high is 26.5.
This is because there is a HUGE difference between a dry heat and a hot humid Ontario summer. I'm from Halifax and moving to Ontario was a really big change for me. I'm sure you are used to clean fresh air like I am, and Ontario doesn't always have it. While I love Halifax, it does have a miserable wet long winter, which may not be very attractive to you.
posted by Gor-ella at 8:06 AM on November 18, 2009

I'm an Albertan and rural, southern Alberta is not known for being leftish (you'd do better up north for that, but then you won't get the same sun). If you can stand a bigger city, you'll find folk of kindred political spirit in Calgary (though they are a minority, to be certain). For smaller centres in the south, you might find the history of Blairmore interesting from a political standpoint.

Saskatchewan might be better from a job market perspective currently, to be honest, and you could get close to the same amount of sun there.

Nthing that the prairie heat is way easier to deal with than the heat of Ontario/Quebec.

Good luck!
posted by Kurichina at 9:36 AM on November 18, 2009

Toronto's July average high is 26.5.

Why count July? August's the hottest month. 40s are not that common, but not rare either.
posted by jb at 7:02 PM on November 18, 2009

No, July is the hottest month. Check out Wikipedia or the BBC.
posted by Dasein at 10:43 AM on November 19, 2009

Nthing not Halifax. It's a great town full of great people, but it's solid grey from September to May, and the summer is humid enough to turn any walk in the park into a wet t-shirt contest.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:03 PM on November 19, 2009

Let me know if you come to southern Alberta - my partner and I will feed you dinner and show you around. :)
posted by arcticwoman at 1:01 PM on November 26, 2009

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