It’s been a little over three months since I started my working holiday in Canada back in October. After a hectic couple of weeks at the start trying to sort out my life here, I’m a bit more settled now. However, I have opted to go for a somewhat nomadic lifestyle here, so ‘settled’ is a relative term. More on that if you keep reading! Anyways, I thought it was about time I gave a bit of a life update so far!
The Work Part
So there’s no way I could do a working holiday in Canada without finding a job of course! I have savings to travel with, but needed work for the rest of my time here too. I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about job hunting in Canada in general. Some say they’re crying out for workers here and find something quickly. But I’ve also met quite a lot who took much longer to get something, especially if looking in more skilled fields. Also, apparently Canadian “resumes” have a specific layout and key words compared to British CVs.
I must have gotten lucky though, because I barely edited my CV and had several job offers in the first few weeks! All were jobs in travel companies, in customer-facing sales positions planning people’s trips with them. They’re very similar to my last job back in the UK, so I have plenty of relevant experience. And the “revenge travel” trend with everyone desperate to travel after the pandemic, combined with so many travel companies having to lose staff and now rebuild, means there’s a lot of demand for staff in the industry. Which worked out in my favour of course!
The one I ended up accepting is a fully remote role, which I thought would be ideal for travelling around within Canada. It’s also for a large tour operator that I’ve heard of before (unlike the other roles) who have teams around the world and are hugely focussed on responsible travel and sustainable tourism. Given that I also study Environmental Studies part time, and am passionate about the environment, this seemed like an ideal fit! I’m a couple months in now, and so far there have been moments of wanting to scream and customers or getting a little bored by some of the repetitive tasks. But big-picture wise, it’s a good position to have, and I’m even moving into a more specialised team (with less customer calls!) soon.
The Holiday Part
So while I plan other people’s holidays all day, I also have my own to plan. The ‘holiday’ part of my working holiday in Canada is the whole reason I came here. Arriving in autumn means I’m holding off a lot of my plans until the spring and summer for better weather. But, I chose Vancouver for its milder winter and have seeing what I can so far. I’ve been around lots of parks, and several museums on rainy days recently. I’ve done Christmas lights and been to the Symphony Orchestra and squeezed in some low-level (read: not snowy) hikes on sunnier days.
I also ventured out of Vancouver a couple of times already! In November, I spent a long weekend in Victoria, on Vancouver Island. This also has me planning to go back to the island again for a few weeks in spring! Then in December, my work flew me to Toronto for their holiday party and I spent a few extra days exploring the city.
I’ve also been super busy trip planning for 2023 these past few weeks. My parents and two friends from home have all booked visits for later in the year. My parents are coming for a long time too, so we’re planning a cross-Canada trip, from the West Coast through the Rockies and over to Ontario and Quebec. I definitely want to head up to Squamish and Whistler at some point. And, I’ve got plenty cross-border plans to, starting with long weekends in Portland and Seattle. Then maybe California for a few weeks, and a longer US stint later in the year. There’s just so much to see!
Finding Somewhere to Live
Now there’s also a few other things to consider as part of a working holiday in Canada. Like somewhere to live! Getting a remote job meant I didn’t have to factor in a commute, therefore opening up my choice of location considerably. Since I have so many travel plans that will take me out of Vancouver, I also didn’t want to commit to any long-term leases. A lot of flats are unfurnished too, and getting furniture to then have to sell it again in a few months seemed like way too much hassle. So my solution? Sublets.
Sublets are legal and way more common here than in the UK. Some are just for a couple of weeks, but I’ve been able to track down longer ones for several months. Facebook groups have been my best friend for these! I spent two months staying in a house in Kitsilano, and now I’m in a flat in the West End for a few more. Kitsilano has a pretty laidback vibe and is near the coast, which I liked. But being a more ‘suburban’ area, stuff was further apart. The West End is super convenient for transport and amenities, as well as being near Stanley Park and more beaches and coast. But it is a lot noisier and busier around here. And after this place? I’m not sure yet, but I think I’ll be on the go some more and heading out of Vancouver for a while!
My Social Life & Hobbies
Easily one of the hardest parts of moving to a new city is meeting people. How do you make friends as an adult? A lot of people said to join a sports team or a club but a lot of my hobbies are very much solo in nature. There’s plenty of hiking Facebook groups, but I don’t like snow nor do I want to invest in special winter equipment. So, these are on hold until the weather improves! Since I’ve done yoga at home for years, I decided to go to some in-person classes. I haven’t met any friends through them yet, since everyone is very quiet and in their own mindsets before and after class. But it gets me out the house and around other people and I enjoy it still.
I’ve actually had the most luck through yet more Facebook groups! While I hate the app in some ways, it’s proven useful in others. There’s several groups for people moving to Vancouver, especially the British. It is a bit nerve-racking to go to these group meet ups full of strangers basically! But I’ve been forced to push through my social anxiety or risk getting lonely! Though it’s a little hard to connect with people when I’m only here temporarily. I’m a slow burn at first, but then hang onto close friends forever, which doesn’t fit great with my nomadic lifestyle this year.
Recently though, I’ve found a little group of fellow Brits who are fairly new to the city. We’ve started organising meet-ups and activities fairly regularly now. It’s been really nice to have people going through the same experience too! I did also meet some people through my past and current housemates. They felt more like their friends, of course, but it was good and important to try to socialise when possible.
Overall Impressions of Canada So Far
Moving to Canada was scary, But now I’ve had some time to settle, I can get to know the country itself. Overall, I do like it a lot, and I don’t regret coming here. I love having new experiences in new places, and a working holiday is ideal for that. The scenery around Vancouver, with the mountains and coast, is so beautiful. I’m excited to get out and explore more of BC (and the rest of the country)! It’s been fairly easy to assimilate too, without a language barrier or the sorts of cultural shock I had in Hong Kong.
That said, I’m not in love with it. There are so many people I’ve met or seen comments online talking about how they’re staying here permanently and would never move back home. I am definitely not one of them. I don’t like that everyone drives here and public transport isn’t good as a result. It drives me mad that the heating is on constantly while the planet is dying. There isn’t a strong sense of culture or tangible history – which I’m well aware is the British Empire’s fault for destroying the First Nations heritage. I’m trying to learn as much as I can though, from several different museum visits! But cities here can feel a bit generic from those I’ve seen so far.
And Scotland will always be home. I miss all the old, quirky buildings of Edinburgh, and our Scottish heritage and traditions. I also miss the cultural diversity of travelling in Europe so close by! As mentioned, I hold onto people for a long time, and I can’t imagine not returning to all my friends and family back home. So I do get homesick still, but I’m having a great time on my working holiday in Canada overall so far. And I’m excited to see what the next nine months brings!