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

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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…!

New Year, New Outlook, New Plan!

Well Happy New Year to you all!

So I was going to write a New Year themed blog based around New Years resolutions and 2013 goals etc, but it’s been done, and done again, and again, and a few more squillion times after that.  Anyway how many of your resolutions did you keep last year?  I can’t really remember mine, although I can guess it went along the lines of lose weight, get fitter, find a new job, learn a new skill, get to Canada…meh maybe a couple of ticks in there,  better than any other year!  Still, the whole thing needs a shake up.  So I have one for this year.  And here it is.

Live more in the moment, without worrying about the past or the future.

No I have not been captured and brainwashed by some hippie commune, nor have I been taking advantage of Vancouver’s relaxed smoking laws.  Basically what I’m going to try to do is enjoy what’s happening right now, and not get lost thinking about how the future will turn out.  After all this is it, this is life, right now.  Obviously some forward planning is always required in life i.e. what time shall I wake up, how will I get to my destination, one foot in front of the other etc…so it’s not too literal, but you get the idea!  I was out snowboarding on Cypress Mountain the other night, and the view from the top was just unreal.  I did take some photos (to be included in a later blog), but they really don’t do it justice.  It was real ‘Holy crap, this is my life!’ moment.

The New and Improved 2013 Plan

So when I first set out on this adventure, although I had no solid long term plan, the general idea was to live and work in Canada for as long as my visa would let me, and then decide if I wanted to go down the Permanent Residency route or head back to Bonnie Scotland.  Although I love Vancouver, I mentioned in an earlier post that I did miss the excitement of traveling to a new place, discovering a new city.  Well it looks like there will be more travels in the pipeline…

My current roommates arrived in Vancouver in June 2012, and set out with the plan of working in Vancouver for a year before traveling through South America for six months and then applying for a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand.  After two months of living with them, the excitement of such adventure has completely rubbed off on me.  After a few weeks of thinking about it, I asked them if they would mind me tagging along…and they didn’t seem too traumatised by the idea.  They are going to apply for the second year visa just to give them some extra time to save, which works out perfectly as my visa will be up in October, our estimated date of departure.  This means that I wont be applying for the second visa, which works well for me as it means that I could always come back to Canada again.

So what with living in the moment and plans to travel to some of world’s most stunning places, 2013 is set to be a good one!

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!

Canada: The good, the bad and ‘culture shock’.

There are various schools of thought out there that describe the various stages of culture shock.  Now, the idea of culture shock may seem a little melodramatic when talking about relocating from the UK to Canada, are they really that different?  Not in a bigger picture sense, no not really, however there is always some adjusting to be done when you find yourself a long way from home and living somewhere where things work slightly differently.

To keep things simple, I’m going to refer to four stages of culture shock that I have read up on:

Stage 1 – Wonder

Often referred to as the “honeymoon period”, and is overwhelmingly positive.  The traveler is filled with excitement and can’t wait to see the sights, meet the locals…the general sense of adventure that travelers tend to get hooked on!

Stage 2 – Frustration

This usually occurs when the traveler begins to settle into his or her new country/city.  Some of those local quirks which seemed endearing at first can start to become frustrating i.e. language barriers, different accents, weather etc.  At this stage the traveler will often refer back to their home country and remember all of the aspects that are better than this new, foreign land.

Stage 3 – Feeling down about the experience

At this stage the traveler will often call into question their entire reason for embarking on the adventure, longing for the “honeymoon period” to return.  This can often lead to depression or thoughts of homesickness, which become difficult to rationalise when in this state.

Stage 4 – Acceptance

After potential weeks or months of struggling on the roller coaster of thought and emotion, and lots of looking inwards, acceptance and a maybe even a feeling of love for your new country/city will embrace you like a long awaited hug!

I would probably see myself as leaving Stage 2 and entering Stage 3 right now.  Having said that, in no way I am I depressed, and I make sure to count by blessings every day that I have ended up in such an amazing city.  I wouldn’t even say I’m homesick, however being able to relate to some of these feelings has placed me in unique place in my adventure where I can look back at Scotland, look at Canada, and point out some differences…some which suit me, and some that really don’t…

The Good

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  • Bar and restaurant service: This may be a result of the very generous tipping system in this country, but when servers offer you free samples from the menu, split bills and outstanding service in general all I can say is…the system works!
  • Transport:  This may be Vancouver specific, I didn’t use public transport very excessively anywhere else in Canada so can’t really comment.  However transport here is fast, efficient and reasonably priced, definitely more so than back home.
  • Energy prices: Right now petrol in Vancouver is sitting at around £1 per liter. When I left Scotland, it was £1.47!  In Scotland the average monthly winter energy bill for the flat I was living in was  £150, my bills are included with my rent but I’ve spoken to people to pay around £50 each month for a house or condo.
  • Bi-weekly pay cheques: This is standard in Canada, and it’s an amazing system.  Get paid weekly?  Money goes too quickly. Get paid monthly?  No money at the end of the month. Bi-weekly – it works!
  • The people: Canadians are generally great people.  Of course it’s difficult to generalise an entire nationality, every barrel has it’s share of weird, rude and smelly apples, but the general mood here is a positive one which I like.

The Bad

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  • The Cheese! Seriously, why is it so difficult to come across just bog standard cheddar here?  Most of the mass produced stuff is very much like plastic, and most uncheese like!
  • The tipping culture: I like to tip good service, but it doesn’t sit so well with me that service charge is expected regardless of the level of service.  At bars, the general rule is $1 tip per drink.  Why not just charge an extra dollar for a drink? This can however work in your favor…if you are a good tipper say goodbye to bar queues!
  • Bank charges:  This is a big one amongst new comers to Canada.  In the UK, the banks will look after your money for the interest they receive from it.  In Canada, usually you have to pay a monthly charge and your number of ATM and debit transactions are limited.  And you need to withdraw from your bank’s own ATM or you are charged. Crazy!
  • Buying alcohol: I’ll never take Tesco Express or Scotmid for granted again, where you  can buy your dinner and a bottle of wine all under one roof!  In BC, and in Ontario when I was there, you need to buy your booze/liquor from allocated government liquor stores.  There are a few private chains starting to pop up around Vancouver, but still the inconvenience applies!
  • Cell phone charges: Right now I have a SIM only deal from Fido…200 local minutes (unlimited after 6pm and at weekends), unlimited texts, 200MB of data and international texts all for $42 each month.  Then I bought the ‘extras’ package which includes free incoming calls, caller ID and voice mail…totaling $62 after tax. So that’s around £50 each month for a deal I used to sell in Orange for £15 or £20 a month.  Oh and because I signed up to a longer plan, they waived the ‘activation fee’ and SIM card charges.  Sorry, the what fee and you charge for SIM cards??

I’m sure that when Stage 4 kicks in all of the bad will seem like long forgotten, insignificant details.  But probably not the cheese thing.

Just grab your hat, come travel light, that’s hobo style…

So the hostel thing is cool for a while, and as an only child I think that I did pretty well spending a month in communal living spaces…but eventually a fixed la bode becomes necessary for mental and financial well being.

I viewed a few places before I found somewhere.  The first place I viewed in Kits I really liked, $380 a month rent, an okay sized room and some decent roommates.  But these guys spent ages getting back to me, and it turns out that they had a friend who hadn’t decided if he was taking the room or not, and he eventually decided that he would.  The next place was also in trendy Kits.  I had heard people talking about the ridiculous set ups that landlords will impose to squeeze as many people into a house as possible, and now I got to see a great example!  The ‘bedroom’ for rent was actually a tiny attic space.  You had to climb up some ladders and then crawl though a tiny Borrowers style door to enter a room that was no more than 2.5 foot/50cm high!  And they wanted $650 a month for it.

The last place I almost didn’t go and see because it was quite far away from downtown, about 35 minutes on public transport.  However the place sounded amazing and the rent was really good.  My first attempt to get there almost ended in complete failure as I had typed the wrong address into my iPhone, woops!  But I got there eventually, and it was such a nice place…roomy, underfloor heating, hardwood floors, back yard…and the roommate seemed really cool.  Like all of the good places, they had viewings all week and then they would choose the tenant.  And I’m now very happy to say they chose me! 🙂

The first day of being able to unpack all of my stuff and sleep in a room all to myself was amazing!  I’ve been here a month now and I’m still loving it, it turns out that the distance from Downtown means that I don’t go to the SevenEleven every day and accidentally spend $20.  We are also very close to Little India/Punjabi Market so there is always loads of good food nearby!

Room hunt, success!Image

Beautiful British Columbia

You can’t really argue with a province whose tagline is ‘The best place in the world’, now can you?

Thursday

‘Those Americans will give you a tough time at the border’ they said.  ‘The Canadians are great, you’ll have no problem going the other way’ they said.  They said wrong.  I was supposed to cross the border back into Canada on the train, but there was some sort of problem so they put us on a bus (I still need to complain about that…), and I was the only one who had my bag emptied and swabbed for narcotics.  If it had been anyone but an armed immigration officer with my passport and visa in his hand, I would have told him to bugger off and did he realise how bloody difficult it is to pack a rucksack?  But I didn’t.  Because he was.

It turns out that the day before, an immigration officer had been shot at that exact same border crossing, so I forgave his paranoia a little.

People told me that it rained a lot in Vancouver.  “Puh, I’m from Glasgow”, I scoffed. “You don’t know rain until you’ve been there for a summer”.  It turns out that they do.  In fact if Vancouverites were to compete against Glaswegians in a rain-athon, my money would be on Vancouver.

This view may be slightly tainted by the fact that it rained for 24 solid hours when I arrived here, thus dashing all of my hopes that this talk of rain was just a vicious rumour.  I has booked into the Hosteling International Downtown hostel – I had realised a few hostels ago that the Planet Traveler in Toronto was a gem unto its own and so had stopped expecting such a standard, but even with this in mind, I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed by the retro-but-not-in-a-cool-way feel of the place.  Regardless of this, I was happy with my room and new roommates – Sinead and Ursula.  The girls were from Ireland and had arrived in Vancouver on a working visa ten days before me, it was a reminder that the care free traveler part of my adventure was over, and it was time to start looking for gainful employment…and a fixed address.