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Leaving Canada For Good


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.

2010

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.

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Tash and I spending our first Halloween together carving pumpkins a month after arriving in Toronto.

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).

2011

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.

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Singing in the drag bar, Crews and Tango on Church St

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.

2012

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.

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Hanging about on the coast of Nova Scotia on the eastern road trip.

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.

2013

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.

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The famous Wawa goose in Ontario on my east to west road trip.

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.

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A fossilized dinosaur skeleton from Drumheller.

2014

This was a Canada free year. I spent it at home mostly. Then in December I started travelling Asia again.

2015

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.

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At the top of Mount Yamnuska. First hike back after Everest Basecamp.

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. 

 

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The Emotions Of Leaving

For anybody who has ever packed up everything that they own into boxes and disembarked on a life journey with a one way ticket, this is for you. This is my third time doing this. And I must say, that it doesn’t get any easier. If anything, I believe it gets a little harder each time. The pull between the things you want in life gets stronger and stronger and before you realize it you are getting pulled apart in opposite directions. One direction is towards the road, the unknown, adventure, adrenaline and constant challenge, the other is towards the stability, familiarity and safety in the known.

There are positives in each, as there are negatives. I have sat for the last ten months working in my home town to make the cash to head off on the next adventure and it has been an interesting time. It is hard in a small town to feel like there are people to meet that understand who you are and the experiences you have had when you share none of these common experiences.  Making friends here  was so incredibly difficult compared to the ease of making friends on the road. Friends on the road come from a mutual understanding that everybody is in the same boat and everybody has the same needs. They are open to what  is around them. People not travelling have their friends already, They don’t typically need new ones because they have what it is that they need. The effort you have to put into trying to develop friendships with non-travelling people is so incredibly high in comparison and it can take months to feel like you are even cracking the surface of a real friendship with people. It can feel very lonely and isolating. Your amazing friends that you make on the road however eventually go home and take a small piece of you with them. Then you spend your time pining away on Facebook for all of the friends that you miss from every far reaching corner of the planet that you will never have all in one place again.

It is hard to relate to friends from forever ago that all now have husbands, children, mortgages and the rest and they ask you when you are going to settle down and eventually have these things. It is hard to explain that you are not even sure that you want these things in your life. But you do want a partner in crime. Somebody to live and share your adventure and zest for life with. “You will never find somebody unless you stay here in one place” they say, but at the same time, you feel like you will never find somebody in a place that is so insular. You would have to start again somewhere new and filled with more people like you, and if you are going to do that, then you may as well just go on another adventure. You are more likely to meet people like you to find a partner in crime on the road. But then you find an amazing partner in crime on the road and know that they will be around for only a fleeting time because these things on the road never seem to last unless you get really lucky.

You worry about money. Sure I have enough of it to start. But what happens if there is an emergency, I need to get home, I run out too quickly and I am forced to come home. What if I get a work visa for somewhere and I can’t find a job? What if…. what if…. what if…???

You feel bad about the things you miss. The birth of a niece or nephew and watching them grow, a death of a member in the family or old friend, weddings, Christmases, important milestones. I have missed all of these at some point. Before you know it, you are gone for two years and the baby you remembered is now a toddler you barely recognize.

You are unnerved by all of the lectures that you receive from people telling you that you need to settle down. “You are getting older now, you have nothing and will never have anything if you keep living like this” because majority of society place their value in the accumulation of material possessions. They don’t understand the value you place on memories. But they will also tell you that the memories you are making are the wrong ones. Because they don’t involve houses, children and work. Because they aren’t the conventional memories. Because memories of parties and having a good time won’t keep you warm at night when you are eighty. And yet my fondest memories from travel are not of parties at all.

And yet despite all of this you hit the road. You trade your double bed and privacy for a different single bed every night in a room with seven others. You trade your classy wardrobe for clothes with holes in them. You trade a cupboard for a backpack. Trade a house for a tent. Trade a car for a local bus. You quit your job. And you go.

You can’t explain to those who haven’t travelled before the enrichment that you get from going. The constant state of challenge you live in as you navigate new places, new cultures, new languages and new problems. The way your eyes change as they see everything in this world for the first time. The way your heart opens to new people and emotions every single day. The adrenaline. The freedom. So much of me yearns for it. And the biggest problem with living like this, is that I know I won’t be able to live a ‘normal’ life ever again. It has become a part of my being.

As I go, I am smacked with an array of emotions. Loss of what I have here, excitement at the prospect of new things and challenges, numbness in disbelief that anything is actually changing. But the biggest emotion I feel is fear. I am afraid. Afraid to stay. Afraid to go. But at no point in this life have I ever let that stop me before, so why should it stop me now? Fear is my nemesis that I kick in the arse every single day that I am on the road. And yet this is a fear that I am so familiar with that it is almost home. I almost wonder one day whether I will find the courage to face the fear to stay. Who knows…. maybe one day. But that day is not today. And so it is time to go.