This time 5 years ago I was sitting in my unit in Melbourne packing my entire life into boxes. I would never have anticipated any of the things that happened to me over those 5 years to come and yet somehow here we are, not even sad in many ways to be leaving somewhere that was my second home for 5 years and teetering on another massive change. Like a relationship gone sour and that has gone on for too long, it is time to walk away.
But like with any relationship that ends, it doesn’t mean that you don’t look back on it from time to time with fond memories. And of course there are always the hard lessons that you learn and take with you.
So I wanted to take this chance to look at the years that passed, the highlights and some of the lessons learned.
I arrived into Toronto for the first time on the 12th October, 2010. My friend from high school that lived there picked me up from the airport, which helped make such a daunting move a little easier. I moved into the HI backpackers hostel on Church St and was soon met with Tash, one of my closest friends from home. She came on a visa to meet with me. I came on a visa to meet with a boyfriend that had fallen to pieces months before I even boarded the plane but not before I had booked my ticket.
We shared a room and ridiculous room mates in a place that still to this day holds some amazing memories for me. My first ever proper Halloween in the snow, my first hockey match, my introduction to the infamous Tim Hortons and so it goes on.
I got three jobs. My first being at Fossil selling watches and handbags, then at Aveda as a Christmas cashier and also at the Children’s Place folding kids clothing. I busted my arse 80 hours a week and it was only here that I started to learn the real value of money, doing it hard and having the arse out of your pants. After my first ever white Christmas, the work stopped and so we saw in 2011 (dancing down the street chanting like a pack of losers to the most anticlimactic fireworks you’d ever seen).
The year started hard. As I lost two of my jobs, with Aveda being the only one left I learned the importance of good friendships in times of utter boredom. The girls at Aveda kept me going with their amazingness, jokes and incredible support. These are the best work colleagues I have ever had and even though we are now spread all over the world I love them dearly. It is because of one of these “gurls” that one night my broke arse wound up in the drag bar Crews and Tango competing in Candice’s Star Search for the prize money to keep me fed that week. This started me getting jobs supporting other drag Queens in their shows and I became a semi regular about the place. It was incredible fun and taught me how to be a better performer. I will never forget the experiences I had in this place and the accepting nature with which I was taken in.
Upon entering into March I was starting to get shitty. No hours. No money. I didn’t move halfway across the world to work for 10 dollars an hour to have all of my savings drained on keeping my head afloat during winter. So I quit my job, packed my bag and went on a 3 month camping trip around the United States.
After my whirlwind trip around the US I came back revitalized and broke. The plan was to go west, then go home and make some money. But as fate was to have it, I met a boy and stayed another 3 months in Toronto. It was in this time I started working promo work, handing out chocolate bar samples or restaurant cards in guerilla type activations. It had good pay. I also went back to doing some more work in the drag bars and getting involved in showcases. It allowed me to live more comfortably. The thing was, I had booked my ticket home, and so I went. It was the hardest time of it I had leaving Canada. And yet I was to be back.
After a stint of teaching and harvesting poppies at home I went back to Canada in March. I spent my days living in the backpackers hostel in Kensington with some of the biggest weirdos you will ever meet. One woman was convinced that her husband had paid off all Tim Horton’s employees to try and poison her…. but in among those crazies were also some great people. I walked flyers and posters around the neighborhoods for 11 dollars an hour for 5 to 7 hours a day every day. I was in essence scraping the bottom of my Canadian finances to survive. One night I was walking to Chinatown after paying rent with ten dollars to my name to feed me for 5 days when I saw a sign for a dishwasher for the night and took it. Luck me in that 8 hours later I left with 80 dollars, a three course meal and three grocery bags of leftover food. I made it work until my then boyfriend got out of the military and in July we set off driving from Toronto over to Newfoundland for 3 months.
We camped, we explored, I got a better understanding of Canadian history. I saw and ate my first ever moose. I picked wild berries from the bushes and ate them. Some of my fondest memories I have of Canada were spent in the days I lived and worked on Eastport Organics Farm. We sat on the beach with the dogs and ate pizzas and played guitar and sang. We went to kitchen parties with the locals. We had bonfires. It was a simple life and life at its best. I was happy there. But time was getting away from us and we headed back to Toronto to pack and leave for Central America. My first 2 year visa was almost up and it was time for a new adventure.
After 8 months of travelling through Central America I decided it was time to go back and get my junk and make a move relocating west. I spent about a month in Toronto doing the odd promo until I found out I had a car lined up to drive across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver.
I arrived in Vancouver as usual, disorganized, with nowhere to stay, everywhere is booked out due to Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z in concert and I am having a freak out. I eventually found a backpackers hostel to stay in and spent some time chilling out and catching the sights before heading off to Vancouver Island for a week. Same went for Vancouver Island… didn’t book accommodation, had nowhere to sleep on Saturday night, pitched a one man British Army tent in the bush on an island that I thought was well hid and got caught by hippies. Many interesting times had by all.
I eventually double backed and relocated myself to Calgary. I started making beds and then doing the morning cleaning shift in the hostel I was living in and doing promo work. I worked so hard I barely had a day off. In the four months that I was there however I managed to see Drumheller, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, hike through Kananaskis, drive up through Jasper National Park, add a few trips to Banff and I’d seen a lot. Come December I had reached my tether with working so much and on a random whim booked a flight to go and see my friend in London for Christmas on my way home for the brothers wedding.
This was a Canada free year. I spent it at home mostly. Then in December I started travelling Asia again.
I decided to renew my visa for the last time and go back to Canada as an option. My friend who I went to Nepal with and I had big plans for hiking and camping and all other manner of things. And then the pneumonia happened and my body became incapable of most of the things we had planned. I went back anyway because my body needed to rest.
I took the odd promo work which was substantially less abundant than two years previous. I took a job at the hostel again, and it too wasn’t the same. With all that I had been through I had come to a few realizations. Firstly that I am over doing menial jobs for shit pay when I don’t have to. In many ways the jobs I took were nothing to ever take seriously because I always had a better out. Many I took because they were amusing to me. But after years of it, I am bored. My brain feels like it is dying from the lack of stimulation I receive on a day to day basis.
So it’s time to be more and work for a greater purpose. The second thing I realised was that I need to stop travelling and being around travellers for a while. My frustration at the lack of variety in conversations and different people I was meeting was killing me and my want to be social. It is time to find a new group of people and work on ‘staying’ for a while. And so begins the new challenge…. so I packed my bag and move to London.