The End. Sort Of.

The End. Sort Of.

Dear readers, it has been 5 months, 1 week and 3 days since my last blog post…

I have been a rubbish blogger this year.  Absolutely terrible. Someone much smarter than me once said ‘never ruin an apology with an excuse’.  Well I’ll be happy to forget the apology as I have a full blog post of excuses waiting (also read: shit I’ve been doing this year).  In fact, my last post was all about the weirdo aspects of Vancouver, which I’ll still stand by, however it does leave the whole thing on a bit of a negative note…which would just be a terrible and completely inaccurate reflection on the past two years.  Also known as The Best Two Years of My Life.  Yup, you read it right.  The Best.

So what exactly has been so important that I spent so long away from the blog that I actually forgot the password?

I’ve always tried really really hard to NOT be one of those travel bloggers who bores poor, uninterested souls with walls of text detailing every second of every trip in dry, I’d-rather-be-having-my-eyeballs-poked-with-hot-needles-right-now detail.  Kind of like a post-social media version of being subject to hours of Auntie Nora and Uncle Alec’s holiday snaps of grass and such.  

So here’s the deal.  A quick (really!) list of where I’ve been/what I’ve been doing this year with a few snaps here and there for that extra dimension of ‘whoa I really feel like I was there!’.  Okay.  Go!

January – March: Lot’s of snowboarding! 

Much in the style of Reservoir Dogs.

boarding

April: My friends Sandy and Dan came to visit me in Vancouver.  

sandydanvan

And then we went to…

hollywood

And lastly…Vegas!!

vegas

May:  Camping at Cultus Lake.  The kind of camping that involved Domino’s Pizza.  

camping

May/June:  Packing up and saying goodbye to our little Vancouver home.  Far too many goodbyes.  Obviously lots of alcohol was required.

everyone

lastdayinhouse

 I should also add if the following photo looks as though it may have been taken at 2am by a homeless man who was paid generously in loose change for his troubles, then that’s about right.  Seemed like a genius idea at the time.

lastnight

June 12th – June 16th: A final adventure with the crew.  First stop…

portland

And then final call, San Fran.

sanfran

June 17: Vancouver Airport…bahhhh!

yvr

The soppy bit.

So you’re still awake?  Excellent.  If you can last through this next part without dry heaving the you’ve done a stellar job.  What a pro you are.

So yes, as stated, my (almost!) two years in Vancouver have been pretty much the best two years of my life.  So far that is.  Despite what my mum keeps trying to tell me, I believe that I am in fact getting ‘any younger’ and there are still many years of fun and giggles ahead.  Anyway yes, Vancouver.  Wonderful, beautiful, amazing city.  I couldn’t recommend it enough, if you ever get the chance make sure you go.  I’ll be back there soon enough, but more on that later…

Nonetheless Vancouver will always be there.  That is unless the threat of ‘the big one’ that has grown adults sitting under their desks in offices all over the Pacific Northwest for five minutes every year on account of the annual earthquake drill actually comes into fruition.  But all things going well, Vancouver will always be there.  

However the friends that I made and the memories and experiences that I had with them will not.  It’s not like leaving home, when you can usually more or less count on the fact that most people will still be there when you get back, and that things will pretty much be the same.  The transient lifestyle will attract those that are similar, and as a result the majority of my friends in Vancouver were like me, just passing through.  A few are still there and probably will be for a while yet.  But not forever.  And yes it’s wicked to now have friends from all over the world that I know I’ll see again at some point.  But the circumstances that brought us all together for a year or two and created the little life that we loved are no longer there.  It was an existence that’s now a memory.  An awesome memory.  A really, really awesome memory.  

Oh man up woman.  So what now?

Well I’ve been back across the pond for almost a full month now.  Lots of catching up with family and friends, and yet more drinking required.  Good job I’m so bloody good at it!  

I did spend last week in Sorrento, Italy as a bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding.  She was beautiful, the day (and week) were gorgeous and the location was stunning.  So all in all I’ve not been fairing too badly. I’ve also had some good news on the job front.  With effect from the 5th of August I will be working for a company called Audley Travel as a Country Specialist for Canada! Two very exciting things I’ll mention about this job (of which there are many).  

1.  They will be sending me back to Canada next month for 3-4 weeks to experience some of their tours and hotels as part of my training.  Not too shabby.

2.  I will be working at their new London office.  So this means a move to London. A whole new city to explore and get excited about!

What about your poor wee blog?

Well you may or may not have noticed that I now have a fancy new domain (aka web address) that does not have ‘wordpress’ or ‘flookr’ (not really sure what I was thinking with that one) in the title.  I’m right here at http://www.herethereandmostlycanada.com for now and for always.

Although my lack of output may have led you to believe otherwise in the past few months, I really enjoy writing this blog and I’ve been thinking of taking it up a notch for a while now.  The only issue was I had no idea what direction to take it in.  I knew I was leaving Canada, so there was no point in keeping the current title and I had a few ideas about future travels but nothing solid.  But now that my actual job title is about to be ‘Canada Specialist’ then I think that the current title is more than apt.

So my plan now is to draw a line under this old basic, yet effective format and relaunch the blog under the same title but with a shiny new face lift and a little more focus and direction.  

So thank you very much for reading/following/commenting.  If you are about to embark on a working holiday visa in Canada, then please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.  I have plans for a ‘FAQ’ for the new website, so this would help me and hopefully be of benefit to you.

Well that’s all for now.  It’s been a blast!  I’ll see you on the other side folks!

Lots and lots of love,

Caroline x

 

Is Vancouver a Sociable City?

Is Vancouver a Sociable City?

Not really, no.

To the casual observer, Vancouver appears to have it all.  Beautiful scenery around every corner, the promise of an active lifestyle, some of the best hiking in the world, lots of art and culture and many other attributes that often have it competing with Melbourne for top spot on the Economist’s annual report for the most livable city on the planet.  And there is very little that would cause anyone (outside of Melbourne city limits that is) to argue with that result.  However, with one in four Vancouver dwellers admitting that they find it difficult to make friends, and one in three claiming that they are lonely (The Vancouver Foundation Study), it would seem that Vancouver is not as ‘livable’ as you might think.

Vancouver has earned itself a reputation of being, cliquey, unfriendly and unwelcoming to newcomers.  ‘Unfriendly’ and ‘unwelcoming’ I don’t necessarily agree with.  On a superficial level, people are generally very friendly and I’ve never been made to feel unwelcome by any Vancouverite.  The issue, I feel, tends to be getting past the superficial.  People are outwardly friendly, but there is rarely any follow up and real friendships are difficult to form.

It’s not just me, I swear!

This phenomenon is not recent observation, nor is it unique to my experience.  In 2012, The Vancouver Sun published a five part piece on social isolation in the city.  That’s right, five part!  When the province’s most prolific broadsheet dedicates this much time and space to the issue, we can reasonably assume that there may be something afoot.

Wait ’til you hear what Toronto said…

I’ll be honest and say that this detail had been brought to my attention before I left for Canada back in October 2012.  And again when I arrived in Toronto, many times I was forewarned of the socially reclusive creatures I would encounter should I travel too far West.  Almost certain that no one had given this snow capped, beach footed, beautiful city a fair chance, I naively decided that this place is exactly where I would make my home for the next year or so, open armed, ready to befriend anyone who would have me.

Not this gal…

In fact, I was so determined to prove the doubters wrong that I decided that I would find an apartment with Vancouverite roommates and really try to integrate with the city’s locals.  Well, sixteen months down the line I live with three Brits and our friend group consists of people from Scotland, England, Ireland, Australia, USA and other parts of Canada.  My few friends that I do have who are from Vancouver tend to be people who have travelled and lived overseas themselves, and so are more likely to reach out.  However, this isn’t a problem unbeknown to the locals, people from Vancouver acknowledge this issue and often feel it’s effects as much as newcomers do.  It seems that no one, domestic or imported, can really put their finger on the cause.  A quick Google search will spit up numerous articles on the subject, suggesting various theories, with no solid conclusion.

My opinion…what was that about assholes?

I believe that the ‘Vancouver Effect’ has become something of a self-fulfilled prophecy.  People are automatically guarded and distant, because they believe that everyone else is guarded and distant.  In the dating game, guys don’t approach girls as they come across as stuck up, girls come across as stuck up as the guys seem uninterested and unfriendly…and so the cycle continues.  I have even found myself getting caught up in this chicken and egg scenario, not following up on new contacts due to the belief that it probably won’t amount to anything anyway.  Just one lame-ass theory, of which there are plenty more out there I’m sure.

Social skills…hello!!

Having been here for over a year now it’s inevitable that my friends and I have become woven into this odd social fabric.  It wasn’t until a recent trip to Victoria, over on Vancouver Island, that the stark contrast between Vancouver and the ‘outside world’ became very apparent.  After checking into our hotel, my friend and I decided to go out for a couple of drinks.  It was a Friday night and in Vancouver this would usually mean deciding on one of the chic, mellow bars, being shown to our table by our server, having what I’m sure would be a very stimulating conversation between ourselves, and then maybe trying our luck at a nightclub.  Well imagine our surprise when we entered Big Bad Johns…a loud, lively crowd, random pictures and artifacts on the wall, bras hanging from the ceiling, a barman who actually served drinks at the bar…and a ton of people who actually wanted to talk to us!  We had a fantastic night and left Victoria the next day reassured that we had managed to salvage at least some of our social skills from our pre Vancouver days.

Where are you going? Come back!

With all of this in mind, the last thing I want to do is scare anyone away from Vancouver who is thinking of making the move.  It has taken more effort and time than it has in the past, but I have made some really good friends.  I do love this city, but it’s the people I have met who have made the experience worthwhile, and that’s what I’ll miss when it’s time for me to leave here.

My Advice for Vancouver Newbies

  • Arrive in Vancouver armed with the knowledge that it can be a little socially backward at times.
  • Make an effort with other travelers who are in the same position as you.  Hostels are obviously ideal for this.  If you’re not staying at a hostel, make sure you check out the Beaver Bar at the Samesun hostel on Granville Street.  Once you’re feeling brave, you might want to give the Cambie a try…definitely one place in Vancouver where you might wish people were a little less friendly 😉
  • If you have any kind of hobby or skill, definitely use that to break into niche communities.  Look out for postings in coffee shops, Craigslist and Facebook
  • Meetup.com is a popular way to gather troops here, I made some good friends from one of the groups on there when I first arrived
  • When looking for somewhere to live, definitely go for living with at least one roommate.  Also, be willing to sacrifice the quality of the place if the roommates seem cool, they could be and most likely will be your gateway into a social group.
  • Enjoy this amazing city, and if you manage to crack the Vancouver social code, be sure to share!

I’d be really interested to see what other people think about this ‘phenomenon’.  If you’ve experienced it, think it’s all BS or just want to tell me how awesome/turd-like this post was, please vent away in the comments! 🙂

Boats, beaches and blue skies!

It seems that the longer I live in Vancouver, the more I grow to love it.  This may be the inevitable relationship  that a girl and a new city will nurture after spending many months together, or it could be down to the fact that it’s SUNNY!!  Yes!  There is a glowing ball of fire in the sky that definitely prefers to spend it’s downtime shining on the Pacific Northwest than in the wee bit hills and glens of Scotland…during the summer months anyway.  Vancouver does have it’s own temperate rainforest, so don’t get me wrong, rainy days do occur here and there.  And while Vancouverites around me wince and complain at the thought of ‘sunny with a chance of showers’ the odd day in June, I’m just forever grateful not to hear the familiar ‘showers with the slightest chance of 30 seconds of sun’ forecast which generally applies to all but a few glorious days of the Scottish summer.

941205_1000362568602_1478023328_nJust a dude and his dog on a paddle board.

So this is what I will choose to blame for my lack of updates in recent months, which I’m sure have been sorely missed amongst the bored and insane.

Visas

So my last post was complaining about the ridiculous jumping-through-firey-hoops-whilst-blindfolded process that is the IEC Working Holiday Visa.  In the following weeks the process proved even more ridiculous,  however I am proud to say that we were victorious in our quest and have been deemed worthy of sharing soil space with the likes of Michael Buble and Pamela Anderson for another year.

Getting Oot and Aboot

When we had to place our snowboards into hibernation for a few months, it was time to fill the void with some other activities, which I think we’ve managed to do pretty successfully so far.  Vancouver is such an active, outdoorsy city that it’s almost impossible not to feel compelled to get out there and do something.  So with cycling, climbing, camping, boating, hiking, rodeos, 420 day (worth a post all on it’s own!) beaches and the occasional alcoholic beverage we have managed to fill our time quite nicely.  On one of the long weekends (of which they have a fair few here), I had an extra day off so took myself over to Victoria for a day.  Victoria is the capital of British Columbia and is located on Vancouver Island.  The ferry ride over was pretty cool, and I even managed to spot a whale breach it’s tail!  Victoria looks a lot like some European cities, and is pretty small but charming.  So a few things ticked off, but still loads more to do.

217523_1000362359022_158329345_nI’m on a boat…

This Old House

You remember how excited I was when I found my house back in October?  Well it has been a brilliant house, with awesome housemates and I’ll always have some great memories there.  However a few months back the idea of moving to one of the more bustling neighborhoods was thrown into the mix.  A seed was planted and after weeks of Craigslist scrolling, discussions, viewings, phone calls and spending every day after work tag teaming around Vancouver investigating overpriced condos and cramped basement suites…we finally found an awesome place!  It’s a Heritage Home, which means that by local bylaw the property has to retain it’s original features.  This is because that by Canada standards, it’s an old house…around 100 years old.  It’s right in the heart of Vancouver, located around 15 minutes walk from the downtown core, a few minutes walk away from a Skytrain station…and really close to all of the vibrant, fun neighborhoods.  We move there at the end of June…the beginning of a new chapter in Vancouver!

houseOur new gaff.

Caledonia You’re Calling Me, Now I’m going Home

Only for two weeks mind!  Yup that’s right, I’ve chosen to forgo a small portion of the sparkling Vancouver summer for two weeks on yon bonnie banks.  I was quite hopeful that I might actually catch some sun when I’m back…it’s July after all!  However I have since learned that Scotland has already had it’s summer…it occurred around three weeks ago, on 21st May, between 11.20am and 5.15pm.  Oh well.

I joke, I joke.  It will be amazing to see everyone again, and I am actually really excited about the trip!  Two weeks lazing around at my parents?  Who wouldn’t be!?  And then when I return I have a whole new house to live in and wonderful summer ahead of me.

Until next time amigos 🙂

Rare sighting reported: The Elusive Canadian Working Holiday Visa!

Now people reading this who have never had and will never have the compulsion to apply for a working holiday visa in Canada may understandably perceive the subject as a bit of a dry one.  They await tales of sub zero temperatures, northern lights, killer whale sightings, bear attacks… Well I, as well as many people reading this I’m sure, can attest to the fact that the adrenaline, stress, fear, sweat and general sense of doom involved in pursuing one of these ‘working holiday visa’ cretins could take on the body’s reaction to being chased through the woods by a grizzly any day.

Firstly, a little bit of back story as to why I decided to take on this dizzy beast once again. In a previous post I mentioned how I was planning on heading south with my roommates when my visa runs out in October.  Well said roommates only have their current visa until June, and so needed to apply for a second year unless it starts raining gold between now and June.  So after working out that if I ever wanted to return to Canada in the future, I wouldn’t be able to participate in the program anyway as I’d be too old (happy days!), I thought I may as well get one as a back up.  Get one as back up, no problem… just like grabbing a copy of the latest Marie Clare.

No.  No it wasn’t like that at all.  Nowhere near it in fact.  If someone at working holiday visa HQ was employed under the title ‘Make-this-process-as-difficult-and-as-glitch-ridden-as-possible Officer’, then they did a fine job indeed.

Now I’m not going to bore the non-applicants (or induce PSD in the 2013 applicants) with the details of the process, however I feel that a little summary of the issues is in order:

  • Last year’s quota opened in December.  Some of us planning to apply for a second year ordered two police checks (at the recommendation of the visa people) which are valid for 12 months, so they could be used for the following year’s applications.  This year’s quota opened mid-February.  Police checks invalid.
  • Last year’s quota of 5,350 visas allocated within 5 months.  This year’s 5,350 visas were allocated within five hours!  Now there is a vicious rumour going around that BUNAC promoted the program to excess this year…for the sole purpose of broadening the horizons of today’s collective youth, whom conveniently are all required to pay £400 to BUNAC for said broadening.  This may be the reason for the increased interest in the land that spawned Justin Beiber…either that or Mr Cameron is screwing our great nation over wonderfully.
  • This, combined with 2013’s new and improved online system – which involved a website designed to handle traffic equivalent to the population of Craggy Island, meant that filling out and submitting a form which should have taken 20 minutes was actually taking a great chunk from most of our young lives.
  • The visas were released in three batches, presumably to stagger the processing of the paperwork.  However the crazy website traffic meant that many people hadn’t even completed half of the sections by the time they had run out i.e. three hours later.
  • The whole process was based in London, and so adhered to London times.  This meant that us Canadian based applicants had to be ready and waiting at 4am for the ‘word’.  The ‘word’ didn’t come until three hours later, which meant missed days at work.

The last batch was today.  All 2,350  visas were gone within half an hour!  On the lighter side of the news, I am very pleased to report that our whole crew managed to secure a foot in the door – with one of us just squeezing in on the last 15 visas….so all plans are a gogo!

A message to the government of Canada:  only the hardiest, most determined and downright boldest of our country men and women will be gracing your shores in 2013. They should be treated with the appropriate appreciation and respect.  Or given a $50 loaded Tim Horton’s card at immigration.

And for those who are up for a little PSD….enjoy 😉Image

SNOWMG!

SNOWMG!

Terrible pun.  Sorry.

If you haven’t already guessed from the wacky title, this post is about snow.  Or more specifically, strapping a board to your feet and travelling over the good stuff down a mountainside.  And Vancouver is one of the the best places on earth to be located for such activities, snow joke!

Okay I’ll stop now.

So my snowboarding career until recently has been patchy at best.  It all started in 2006 when I decided to take part in the university ski club annual trip to the French Alps.  Having never gotten around to upgrading from sledging down the Campsie Hills, my flatmate and I decided to go and have some ski lessons beforehand.  Things were coming along nicely when I began to notice a burning/tearing sensation on my Achilles tendon at the end of each lesson.  Cue seven hours a day in ski boots when we got to France, I realised that this wasn’t happening so on the advice of a friend I switched to boarding half way through the week.  So after a quick lesson, I could pretty much stand up and go down on my back edge.

Then I had a four year break, as professional athletes do on occasion.  Now in Edinburgh, one of my old uni friends had booked a cabin in Aviemore, the most popular ski and snowboard spot in the UK.  A friend and myself decided to tag along after having a dry slope lesson beforehand.  By the end of my day in Aviemore I could get up, go down on my heal edge and turn.

One year on…I randomly decided to try out one of the indoor ‘real’ snow runs, so again I went along for a lesson and a couple of hours practice session.  By the end of that I could get up, go down on my back edge, turn, and go down a little on my to edge.

Herein end of my career until…

Snowboarding in Vancouver

So if you want to start/continue/excel in your snowboarding or skiing career, Vancouver is clearly the place to be.  According to a semi-reliable source (i.e. my roommate), there are 81 mountains in British Columbia set up with lifts and runs.  Vancouver was also the location for the 2010 Winter Olympics, with events being held at the three local mountains; Cypress, Grouse and Seymour as well as the renowned Whistler Mountain a few hours north of the city.

I was lucky enough to move in with three people who were uber keen to get up to the mountains, so when the first week of decent snow came…of to Cypress Mountain we went.  Now, a day on the slopes for those of us with only public transport to rely on is not for the faint hearted.  A typical day at Cypress has us up and out of bed by 6am, on the Skytrain by 6.45am (usually after a 10 minute walk unless the buses are behaving) and on the Cypress Express by 7.15am.  Then it’s nap time until we finally get to the mountain at around 8.45am.  By the time we sort lockers and lift passes out, we’re usually in queue for the first lift by just after 9am.  Then repeat in reverse at the end of the day.

Image

As you can imagine, we would not be doing this every Sunday if it wasn’t totally worth it!  Having said that, my first day up there was a little disheartening as I thought I would remember more from the previous four beginners lessons!  My first bunny slope run (aka the newbie slope) had me falling over like a drunk all morning.  As the day progressed, I braved my first green run, which seemed like an exercise in self-harm by the time I made it to the bottom.  And the next day…ouch!

My next trip up I was slightly apprehensive about the impeding beating that was surely awaiting me.  Between trips, I had talked to some people about the length of board I should be renting – and it turns out that the one I had used the time before was longer than what some of the 6ft + guys ride!  Shorter board and smaller boots this time please.  To my immense surprise, I made it all the way down the bunny hill without falling over….on my edge the whole time but hey progress is progress!

I think I’ve had about five days of boarding now, and it’s a really great feeling to see yourself improve each time.  I even upgraded to a couple of blue runs on my last trip! And I bought my own board and boots as a Christmas present to myself…at $70 a time to rent it works out a better deal to just hunt for a good deal on Craigslist, especially mid-season as the injuries start to pile up.

Image

Catching a Moment…

One of my absolute favourite times on the mountain was when I went up in the evening just before New Year.  It was an amazingly clear day, and the view from the top at sunset was unreal – I’ve included some photos but I really don’t think they do the experience justice.  Later on I was riding down the same run with two of my friends, we stopped to have a look at the awesome view of the city at night and it was amazing reminder as to how far I’d come in the past three months.  I’d travelled across North America, saw some unbelievable places, met some amazing people, managed to establish a new life 3000 miles away from home and here I was cruising down a mountain in the snow, with my new friends, looking down at one of the world’s most incredible cities at night.  Definitely what I’d call a moment.

Image

Off to the mountains with you…

If you are heading to Vancouver, or you’re here already it would be insane not to up to the mountains during the ski season.  Pretty much the only other thing going on outdoors during that time is rain, so may as well give it a go.  If you are new to snowboarding (as I remember, skiing is slightly easier to pick up), it can be frustrating the first few times but just persevere and you will find yourself getting better.  You can pay for lessons but you’ll get on just as well if you have an experienced and patient friend.  At the very least you should get up there and make a few snow angels…!

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes” – Part II

So this is basically an update from my last post about jobs and finding work in Vancouver, which I’m sure you’ve read with fervor and enthusiasm… but just in case it slipped through your readings somehow, you can have another look here.

So after upping my alcohol intake as suggested by Mr Wilde, it seems that some misguided soul has decided to employ me!  This wasn’t without a few bumps and near misses along the way, but as things always seem to…it all turned out alright in the end.

So this is how it went…

Encounter 5 – The extended cut.

  • Organisation: Expert Recruiters – Recruitment Agency
  • Job Title: Receptionist
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: I had a good couple of reception assignments with these guys, however work isn’t guaranteed.  I did almost end up with a permanent position with one of their clients, but I received my current job offer beforehand.

Encounter 6

  • Organisation: Teach Away Inc
  • Job Title: Teacher Placement Coordinator
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: No
  • Outcome: I was a little confused about this one.  They gave me a telephone interview, invited me in and asked me the same questions.  When I asked for feedback as to why I was unsuccessful I was told that I didn’t have enough experience teaching abroad…which they would have known from my resume before even speaking to me.  Never mind.  Onto the next one.

Encounter 7

  • Organisation: Enterprise Rentals
  • Job Title: Trainee Manager
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: N/A
  • Outcome: So these guys found my resume on monster.ca and gave me a call.  I passed the initial telephone interview, and found out that the job was basically a management trainee program for their rental stores and the talent finder had picked up on my sales background.  After the interview, I checked the company and program out on Glassdoor (a really great website for checking up on what it’s like to work for companies – not so big in the UK yet but pretty huge in Canada and the US) and didn’t really like the sound of the program.  Long hours, intense sales, below average salary.  I decided that I would go to the second interview if nothing else came up, but that same week Expert Recruiters offered me a decent assignment, so I cancelled the interview.

Encounter 8

  • Organisation: AppleOne Recruiters
  • Job Title: Office Layout Coordinator at BC Hydro
  • Interview? Yes
  • Job Offer: Yes
  • Outcome: Definitely the best recruitment agency I have come across out here (I’ll detail a few others later) – this job pretty much found me!  AppleOne’s online application and tests are a little more detailed, lengthy and difficult that other recruiters…so I started it, got half way though and decided to come back to it later.  A few days later one of their recruiters called me to arrange an interview the next day.  I went to the office, completed the application and tests, had my interview, and had word of a six month position with BC Hydro within 10 days.  During that 10 days, my recruiter was on the phone almost every day updating me with progress – extremely efficient!

So I arrived in Vancouver on the 18th October, and I started my new job on the 7th January – that’s eleven and a half weeks to find something long term.  I will admit, however, that I was being slightly fussy.  I declined a couple of jobs and was really holding out on having to work weekends unless my situation became dire.  It paid off though, now I have a sweet little job that pays over $20 per hour and gives me my weekends.  And temp work did keep me floating along in between.

As far as temp agencies go, most of my contact has been with Expert Recruiters and AppleOne.  However a few others I am registered with and have friends who work with are:

  • Miles – offered me an assignment which I declined, as I was already on assignment.  They do seem to be quite negative about the visa situation, giving the impression that you will only ever get temp work whilst you have Working Holiday Visa status.  This completely not true, and I get the feeling that they are just looking to have a decent bank of temps to choose from.
  • Executrade – I signed up with these guys as one of the clients I was working at for Expert Recruiters switched agency while I was there, and I wanted to stay at the job.  They were very good at getting me in for interviews etc and setting the job I wanted up for me, but I got the BC Hydro call before the assignment started.
  • AngusOne – My roommate has worked with these guys for the past 6 months and recommends them – I’ve not really had any contact though.

So that’s been my experience so far – I hope that it helps some of you guys who are planning on coming over in 2013.  My advice would be not to get too caught up in the line of work you end up in…as long as you are happy and you can pay your way.  Once you have been out here and working for a few months, you will see how easy it is to slip back into the work-home-sleep cycle.  So why bother living in a different country if you are doing exactly as you would back home?  You really do need to take the time to appreciate where you are and why you are here.  Luckily for me, the views from my work are a constant reminder that I’m loving every minute of life right now!

Enjoy…

My view from work 18 months ago.

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My view from work now.

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Going solo!

Having recently found myself pining for that adventurous feeling of arriving in a new city, knowing nothing and no one, I realised that it may actually be worth sharing my thoughts on this subject.  It’s the ultimate adventure, but at the same time solo travel can seem pretty scary.  It was something that I had always wanted to do, disappear into the horizon on my way to meet some great adventure (in a very poetic manner of course!).  But when my plane landed in Toronto with no one to meet me at the other side of immigration, shit got real!  What if I don’t meet anyone?  How will have fun at night?  I can’t go to a bar on my own, can I? What if I leave my passport somewhere and there is no one by my side to run through the obligatory what-has-Caroline-forgotten check list?  And the ultimate scary scenario, what if I have to dine alone??

Thankfully my experience was completely positive and I have now found myself planning some more solo trips.  I have a sketched out plan of traveling back to Glasgow in May for a visit, but passing through Banff, Edmonton and Calgary on the way.  I’m also keen to spend a couple of months in South and Central America at the end of 2013 when my visa expires, nip home for Christmas, and then come back into Canada in January 2014 to activate my new visa. All just plans in my head for now, who knows where life will take me in the next few months, but there are definitely some more adventures on the cards!

Of course my solo traveling experience so far has been limited to the relatively safe towns and cities of the USA and Canada, so I can’t offer much advice on the likes of trekking alone through the Amazon, the Nepalese mountains or surviving Mexico City (yet!), nevertheless I will share some nuggets of advice I found to be useful along the way:

  • Hostels:  Use hostels and make the most of them!  They are the perfect environment for meeting new people just like you – regardless of who ‘you’ are.  During my time hosteling I met a girl and her mum who were backpacking together, a 30-something year old local woman who wanted to see what hostel life was like, a guy on release from the army, a 72 year old political activist, a French guy who only started learning English two weeks before, a girl who was a performer for Disney, a 22 year old who was traveling on her own for six months and lots of other fun and interesting people in between.  You get the idea.  Hosteling isn’t just 18-30 year olds looking for a party (that scene is there though, worry not!) or pretentious Rastafarian wannabes looking to compare travel resumes.
  • Tours and Activities:  This ties in with the hostel thing…get out there…participate!  You are traveling alone to push yourself out of your comfort zone, no?  Well that’s not going to happen if you spend every night in your hostel watching Netflix (I’ve seen in done!).  Most hostels will run tours and activities around the local area, Hosteling International Hostels are pretty good for it.  Daytime tours are a good way of meeting people as you immediately have something to talk about.  On the Freedom Trail tour in Boston, I met a group of people who by later that night, I felt like I had known forever!  If you are in a hostel over the weekend, it is very likely that there will be a bar crawl..and there is no social lubricant quite like alcohol!  Just don’t get too carried away, remember that you are in a strange city with people you don’t know, keep your wits about you.
  • Dorm Living:  If you have some extra travel money, it may be tempting to book a private room at your hostels.  I would recommend against it.  I almost did it for my Seattle stay, as I thought that after sharing for so long (only child here!) and traveling across the US I would want some private space.  When I went to book, the price was more than expected so I just went for a smaller dorm.  I’m so glad I did, if I didn’t I wouldn’t have met, Claire, my travel buddy for the next few days!  General dorm etiquette is to introduce yourself when you arrive in a new dorm, or someone new arrives in yours.  You will no doubt get chatting about your travels, it’s a very easy way to meet people.
  • Find a more confident you:  If you are an introvert (and let’s face it, no matter how confident we are able to act, most of us are), then striking up a conversation with a stranger can seem intimidating.  You just need to bite the bullet, and once you have done it once, it becomes much easier.  If you see a group of people chatting over lunch/dinner at the hostel, ask if you can join them.  If you are cooking in the hostel kitchen, rather than squishing past everyone awkwardly, start a conversation about food, cooking, whatever.
  • Social meetup websites:  Since being in Vancouver, I have used the Meetup.com website a couple of times, and I have met some great people.  It is very popular here for reasons detailed in this post.  It’s basically groups of people with similar interests, or who just want to meet new people, who arrange it through the website.  Also, although I haven’t used it, I have heard good things about arranged meetups on the Couchsurfing website – usually this is where you would find yourself a couch to crash on for the  night but they also have a massive international community of travelers just looking to meet new people.
  • Eating alone:  The situation will probably crop up when it’s time for food, but you haven’t met anyone yet to grab something with.  There are a few options to get around this if you’re not so comfortable with ‘table for one, please!’.  Most hostels will have a food prep area where you can cook your own food and just hang out in the hostel.  However if you’re not hanging around for very long this may not be so cost effective, you don’t want to be buying a full bag of pasta just for one or two nights.  Also, when you’re in a new place, part of the adventure is sampling the local cuisine!  When I was on my own, I would usually just make do with casual dining i.e. coffee shops, cafes, street food etc.  This way you can sample some local food, get out of the hostel and just take a book or something to keep you entertained.  Or just people watch, which is always fun when you’re somewhere new.  One girl I met in Seattle was perfectly happy dining in the city’s finest restaurants on her own, which is great, and if you’re happy doing that then you’re onto a winner!  However you will probably find that most of the time you wont have the option, as you’ll be inundated with people to share a meal with!

All in all, traveling solo is a great experience and if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do…but..forget the ‘but’.  You wont regret it!