“The weather was great in Vancouver, but I was the only woman of colour in my triathlon club”: Why I returned to Toronto

“The weather was great in Vancouver, but I was the only woman of colour in my triathlon club”: Why I returned to Toronto

I felt isolated—I missed Toronto’s diversity and vibrancy

Photo by Sierra Nallo

More from the Homecoming Club

Who: Vasundra Srinivasan, 38
What she does: Software architect
Her trajectory: Mississauga to Vancouver to Queens Quay

I was born and raised in Mumbai, India. In 2018, I moved across the world, to Mississauga, to live with my mom, brother and sister-in-law. After a decade of running my own consulting business, I wanted to take a mental break and have fun. Soon, I had a full-time job in marketing and another part-time job at the Art Gallery of Mississauga. On weekends, I trained to become a yoga teacher and volunteered at Allan Gardens. 

I fell in love with Toronto. As an outsider, I heard about the bars and nightlife, but I’m not much of a party person. Instead, I enjoyed biking the Beltline Trail and visiting the city’s coffee shops, where I would write and illustrate. I also loved being near the water. By early 2020, I was ready to move to the next level of my career. I thought, This is going to be my year. And then the pandemic hit. Suddenly, I was stuck looking for jobs remotely.

In September, I took a position as a consultant at a tech company with offices all over North America. They wanted me to be on the West Coast, near some of their marquee clients, so I started browsing rentals in Vancouver. I had visited the city before: I went on a 14.5-kilometre kayaking trip, which was beautiful. My aunt also lives there. It seemed like a good fit for me. The views were heavenly.

I found a lovely two-bedroom condo in a neighbourhood called Fairview, which is a lot like Liberty Village. My mom came along—we thought it would give her an opportunity to explore the city with her sister. Also, the weather is better, giving her a chance to spend more time outdoors.

The Fairview condo. Courtesy of Vasundra Srinivasan

Professionally, things were great. Tech was booming, and I was getting a lot of work, increasing my chances of getting a promotion. I also started training for a triathlon, and Vancouver—with its ocean access and hilly terrain—was the perfect place for it. I spent a lot of time running along the seawall, biking from Fairview to the nearby parks and swimming in a bay at the west end of the city.

But Vancouver had its limitations. I missed Toronto’s diversity and vibrancy. I was the only woman of colour in my triathlon club, which felt isolating. My mother, a 72-year-old extrovert, had trouble finding community groups and activities on the scale Mississauga and Toronto had to offer.

Still, in January 2021, I started looking for an investment property that I could also live in. I wanted something with rental potential. That way, even if I had to move, for work or otherwise, I could turn it into an income property. My criteria: a two-bed, two-bath for less than $1 million, with amenities like a gym and pool.

By May 2022, after lots of searching and getting outbid on a couple of properties, I still hadn’t found anything. I started looking in areas outside of Vancouver, like Penticton, which, because of its climate, access to lakes, and long roadways, is considered one of Canada’s triathlon capitals. It’s also a four-hour drive outside of the city. I was still working remotely, anyway. But I thought, If I’m considering somewhere outside of Vancouver, why not just look in Toronto?

With the help of a realtor, I put together a list of 20 properties. By then, my affinity for the water was even stronger thanks to my triathlon training, so I knew I wanted to be near Lake Ontario. My list included places in the south core: King West, Queen West, Harbourfront, Liberty Village and Queen’s Quay.

By July, my realtor had narrowed down the list to a few places, and one of them stood out: a two-bed, two-bath in Queen’s Quay, listed for $948,000. The sellers had recently reduced the price by $50,000, which seemed promising. In July, my realtor took me on a FaceTime tour. The unit was roughly 700 square feet, but it had a massive wrap-around balcony with west-facing views of the water. It also had a 24-hour concierge, pool and gym. Another bonus: it was within walking distance of my company’s Toronto office.

The next day, I made an offer of $910,000, with a closing date of September 17. Then came a back-and-forth with the buyer. I increased my bid by $2,000, $10,000 and, finally, $15,000, to a final offer of $925,000. I also added a quicker closing date of August 17. That night, I received a call from the seller. The place was mine. I was a middle-aged female immigrant, relatively new to the country, and I had officially purchased property. It felt amazing.

In mid-August, my mother and I moved back to Toronto. She moved back in with my brother and sister-in-law and was able to attend a local creative writing workshop, called Firefly, in person. Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying the city again, going on long runs along the Lake Shore toward Cherry Beach. One day, as I was running, a group of random people started cheering me on. They were so friendly. When that happened, a sentence formed in my head: Welcome back to Toronto.