I can barely believe it! For the second time in my life I’ve succeeded in quitting my job, packing my bags, moving out of my humble abode and driving my possessions up to Queensland for storage at my parent’s place north of Townsville. At 1:50pm on Wednesday 25th of September 2013, I’ll be leaving the life I’ve established over the past four years in Sydney to embark upon a new adventure: first, a five-day stopover in New York City, before flying into Toronto for a working holiday. I have the potential to live and work in Canada for two full years, but having merely booked three nights accommodation at a backpackers so far, I can only see as far forward as October 3rd; anything beyond that date remains a mystery. This sense of not knowing – of having a blank canvas future in a foreign country – is amongst the greatest feelings I’ve known.
This is not something I’m new to. In 2008, I journeyed to England for an extended period of time, although the catalyst upon which I decided to travel this time differs quite substantially to the circumstances of yesteryear. It wasn’t until I’d conquered the misery of a failed online romance that I came to fully appreciate my time in Britain, by which time my working visa was nearing an end, resulting in my return to Australia much more prematurely than I would have liked. Now, four years wiser, I’m set to recommence the voyage on nobody else’s accord but my own. It’s an understatement to say that I CAN’T WAIT!!
As much as I would have adored returning to my beloved England, unfortunately my quest for obtaining European citizenship through Italian ancestry has turned out to be a lot more complicated than I initially anticipated. I came to realise earlier this year that it’s likely to be a few more years before it comes through (if ever), so I started focusing my attention onto other potential worldly locations to explore. The majority of countries that participate in the working holiday program stop issuing permits once you enter your 30’s, so with a year to go I figured that if I wanted the full international experience once more, it would have to be now or never. And it just so happened that Canada came out on top of my list of the potential worldly locations.
Well, it’s mostly thanks to my all-time favourite band Great Big Sea, who I discovered nearly two years ago. The Newfoundland folk/rockers came up as a recommendation for me to listen to on Last.fm – I was hooked after the first song and spent the next six months getting to know their incredible back catalogue of releases. Their lively renditions of traditional Newfie folk tunes and optimistic original compositions paint pictures in my mind in a way that no other group of musicians have been able to match. I was lucky enough to catch the GBS boys perform live at The Basement in Sydney in April 2012, and ever since then it’s been a dream of mine to catch a gig of theirs on home turf. Combine that with the fact that every Canadian I’ve met has been infectiously pleasurable to be around, and it made perfect sense that I should get to know the land of poutine & maple syrup for myself. Oh – and it helps that I love the cold as well!
My Canadian bucket list
After many hours spent at the library vehemently studying every Lonely Planet, Eyewitness, National Geographic and Frommer’s guide available at my fingertips (not to mention Charley Boorman’s series, the barrel-of-laughs-and-full-of-ideas Extreme Frontiers: Canada), it’s clear to see that the world’s second-largest country is full of compelling cities, attractions, festivals, roadtrips, activities and experiences. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but I’ve taken a few notes of unique things I’d like to tick off while in Canada. Some of them may be a little far-fetched (eg. crossing the Arctic Circle) but you never know what might eventuate!
– Try some authentic Quebec poutine
– Sample fresh maple syrup syphoned straight out of a tree
– Eat a Nova Scotian Donair
– Experience a proper Canadian Thanksgiving and White Christmas
– Take a girl on a date to the 360° Restaurant at the top of Toronto’s Sky Tower
– Sit in the audience of a Canadian TV show
– Catch a Great Big Sea play a gig to a local audience (this will be happening and is booked for November!)
– Spend time in St Johns, Newfoundland, and witness the landmarks that Great Big Sea mention in many of their songs
– Visit the French territorial island of Saint Pierre off the coast of Newfoundland (just to get my passport stamped)
– Join a local folk/rock band with likeminded musicians
– Take a sip of the famous Sourtoe Cocktail (an alcoholic beverage poured over a human toe) in the Downtown Bar at Dawson City, Yukon
– Go kayaking on Lake Ontario
– Take a boat trip underneath Horseshoe Falls
– Visit Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands along St Lawrence River
– Have a go at adventure caving in the Vancouver Island caves
– Take the train through the Canadian Rockies
– Learn to ski
– Go ice skating on a frozen river in one of Canada’s cities
– Feel the blistering chill of -20° (or colder) weather
– Go on a roadtrip from Toronto to Detroit
– Visit Sydney, Nova Scotia and compare it with Sydney, Australia
– Visit London, Ontario and compare it with London, United Kingdom
– Visit the town with the weird name of Moose Jaw (cheers Kumlu for finding that one!)
– Get up close & personal with squirrels, beavers and moose in the wild
– *Mum, cover your eyes* Get within a few hundred metres of a wild Grizzly *Ok you can uncover them!*
– Eat moose meat (sorry, vegetarian friends)
– Watch a hockey game
– Watch a baseball game
– Go shopping at Walmart at 3 in the morning (although I’m not sure if they’re open 24 hrs in Canada? I know some stores are in the US and I’ve always found it amusing that people shop there at ridiculous hours of the morning)
– Explore the subterranean terraces of Toronto’s PATH (27km) and Montreal’s Underground City (32km)
– Catch a bunch of acts at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal
– Travel far enough into Manitoba or the Northwest Territories to see the Northern Lights
– Cross the Arctic Circle
– Learn French
So long, Australia!
Although the Sydney lifestyle didn’t turn out to be for me in the long-term, looking back on my time here I’ve had a brilliant run. I’m eternally grateful for the countless hilarious hours spent with a fantastic group of mates (which included some pretty impressive achievements over the years such as three 26km+ charity walks and winning the Peoples Choice Award at the 2012 SydneyVision Song Contest). From living in a beautiful apartment with very pleasant housemates in one of the most picturesque Sydney locations to landing a highly stimulating & challenging role at Nespresso; from getting to experience the most delicious cuisine across the city with my foodie friends to having access to explore the likes of Burning Mountain, Newnes, Condobolin, Thredbo and everything in between: I’m left with many, many happy memories of this place. I offer my heartfelt appreciation and thanks to all my Aussie friends and family for being so awesome. I’ll see you all again soon.
I will try my hardest to blog about my upcoming travels more frequently than what I have been doing recently, so make sure you subscribe and keep in touch!
And on that note: let the Canadian adventure begin.