A Year in Canada - feature photo - Maligne Lake & Spirit Island in Jasper National Park
Life,  Travel

A Year in Canada

Well, technically 16 months in Canada. Except about 3.5 of them were spent in the USA. Anyways, back in mid-October 2022 I moved to Canada on an IEC working holiday visa. At the end of January 2024, I departed again for my next adventure. So, let’s chat about how my whole year in Canada went!

A Year in Canada - second feature photo - Joffre Lakes in British Columbia


I chose Vancouver as my base for the year, and I was going in blind really, having never been to Canada before. Now that I’ve travelled to other parts of the country, I still think it was the right choice overall. It ticked a lot of my boxes, being on the coast and surrounded by hiking and nature. Like, it was so easy to escape the concrete and spend time outdoors! Many people complain about Vancouver’s weather, being grey and rainy in winter (and I missed summer there). But the weather was actually just like Scotland, so nothing I wasn’t used to, and I got plenty of nice days too!

It’s also a big enough city that there’s plenty to see and do, but not quite as huge and overwhelming as other North American cities. The general vibe of Vancouver is also relaxed and outdoorsy, much like the West Coast as a whole. The biggest downside though is the cost of living. It’s one of the most expensive cities in Canada! I opted to suck it up and pay since I was only there temporarily – rather than pay less but maybe spend the year somewhere I didn’t like as much. But if I had ever decided to stay in Canada more long-term, it wouldn’t be in Vancouver. I would’ve been tempted by Victoria or somewhere else on Vancouver Island potentially instead!

I also kind of thought Vancouver didn’t have a lot of character to it? It’s hard to explain, but there was something missing. Now that I’ve been gone a few months, I think about the city with fondness, but I wasn’t super sad to leave. It was my temporary home, but not my forever home.

Social & Home Life

Speaking of temporary, I never had a permanent address during my year in Canada. I ended up hopping between sublets while I was in Vancouver, and was away from the city for months at a time. This forced me to travel light, living out of my luggage. It was great that sublets were readily available, giving me so much flexibility to move around. Even if constantly going to viewings was a pain! It did get tiring sometimes, always being on the move. It also meant that while I got along with all my various flatmates, I was never close with them, since I was only ever passing through.

Similarly, it was slow-going to make friends when I first arrived plus it’s hard to make friends as an adult! Especially if you’re like me and most of your hobbies are solo endeavours (I’m not one for clubs). I went to regular yoga classes, which I really enjoyed, but they’re not exactly designed for socialising. I did spend a lot of time on my own, which could be lonely sometimes. But I’m an introvert by nature and I like my alone time, so perhaps this doesn’t bother me as much as it would others. And it was a price I paid to go travelling so much instead!

I had plenty of calls and contact with friends and family back home though. The handful of friends I made in Vancouver came via social media, other newly arrived British expats. I went to a few larger gatherings, but since I was travelling for months at a time, only a few stuck as close friends. I’m very grateful for the time I got with them though, and having people to chat with about our shared experiences. Hopefully we’ll be reunited in the UK again!

Remote Work

I moved to Canada without a job, and applied for lots of positions when I got there. I wasn’t necessarily looking for remote work specifically – one of the draws of an in-person role would have been the potential to make friends through work. But, I ended up taking a remote position, still in the travel industry luckily, partly because it’s a company that shares a lot of my values. And because a remote role would allow me the flexibility to move if I tired of Vancouver or just travel more in general!

While I only met most of my co-workers in person a couple of times, usually at the Toronto end of year party, I was still very close with some of them! In particular, the training group I was hired alongside and the close-knit Tailor-Made team I moved into. These are people I now still keep in touch with, both at and outside of work! It definitely took some time to forge those friendships, over distance and the internet, but it’s kind of amazing how it worked out in the end! I don’t even find working from home to be that isolated, since we talked so much through the day, either on chat or calls. Plus, I think I’m more productive at home anyways, without the distractions of an office.

And a very important perk – since the company is global, I managed to continue working with them and transfer to a new region now that I’ve left Canada!

So Much Travelling

Have you noticed how many times I’ve mentioned travelling in this post already? Guess what my priority was this year? Yes, most of my decisions were made based on having the flexibility to travel. Working remotely in particular allowed me to see so much more of North America than I would have otherwise! I actually only spent about 3 weeks in Vancouver between April and October, despite referring to it as my “base”! In the first few months there, I took long weekend trips to Victoria, Toronto, Portland and Seattle. But by the time spring was on the horizon, I was tired of Vancouver and ready to go adventuring for longer stints!

I spent most of April in California, travelling along the Pacific coast. Then I went to Vancouver Island for May, visiting Nanaimo, Tofino and Victoria again. My best friend visited in June to go to Whistler, followed by my parents and I embarking on a 2-month trip all the way across Canada from west to east. After they went home, I then began my cross-country east-to-west trip in the USA. While I worked remotely for much of the summer, there were also stints of time off too, I do get some annual leave!

My original plan was actually to end my year in Canada around November, after finishing my USA trip. But I applied for a sales consultant role on an Antarctica expedition at work (on a whim, not thinking I’d get it) – and was successful! This made me tweak my plans and I returned to Vancouver in October for a few more months. Antarctica happened over New Year, my last big trip before I left Canada. So it was definitely a whirlwind year, with thousands of miles covered and so many fantastic travel experiences!

Final Thoughts

My year in Canada was a crazy, busy, exciting and wild one! I went with a goal to travel, but I never imagined I’d do quite as much as I did. And despite always being on the go, I met some really wonderful people along the way! Both Canada and the USA are beautiful countries with incredibly dramatic and unique landscapes. Their cities might not be as historic and pretty as European ones are (I’m also probably biased), but a lot of them still have cool things that make them unique!

I would definitely visit again – I wish I’d had time to visit the Maritimes region! But that’s not a super long flight from the UK for in future. But would I live there again? Probably not. I enjoyed my year, yes, but Canada never felt like home. Maybe that’s in part because I never put down roots. I never intended to put down roots though! I tried to stay open-minded in case maybe I would want to stay. But that feeling never came. It is a great country in so many ways and it’s not like I was unhappy. I just didn’t fall in love with it, didn’t connect with it the way I do with home (Scotland). And that’s ok!

I spent a year in Canada to travel and have new experiences, before moving on again, and that’s exactly what I did. While I did have low moments this year – as is normal and I would have no matter where I was – I’m grateful for the experience overall. And when it came time to go, I was ready. I did what I set out to do, learned and saw and a ton while I did, and now I’m content to move on. Thank you for everything Canada!

What’s Next?

So, I’ve finished my year in Canada and left… but where am I now? Because I’m not back in Scotland yet! Anyone who follows me on Instagram already knows the answer (and anyone who doesn’t, why not?). At the end of January, I hopped on a flight west across the Pacific Ocean. After a few days in Hawaii en-route, I crossed the International Date Line and the Equator to land in a new country for my next working holiday visa. Hi New Zealand! Are you ready?