My 10-Year Anniversary with Canada

August 2nd, 2021 marked ten years since I first stepped foot in Canada.

I remember the teary goodbye with my mum at Gatwick Airport and sitting on the plane next to a mother and daughter from Quebec, smiling to conceal my nerves. As I walked into the the arrival lounge at Toronto Pearson International Airport, I clutched my backpack as if holding onto the only friend I had. When I stepped off the bus in downtown Toronto and gazed around at the tall buildings, I felt tiny. For a moment, the sound of traffic blurred out as I took in my new surroundings. The hustle and bustle of the city was quite overwhelming, and I quickly got lost. The sight of drivers turning right on a red light confused me, and I was thrown off in a shop when I learned tax was added to a product’s price at the till.

With some inner pep talks, I began to find my feet. I pushed through the nerves to approach a group of people sat on my hostel’s patio. The next morning, I smiled with relief when two Italian girls on the same Niagara Falls tour as me invited me to join them for the day. When we approached their stop on the way home, I held a scrap of paper in my hand with my name on it, only to smile with relief once again when they turned and asked the question that seemed so common in those days of, “Do you have Facebook?” A couple of days later, I shared a cab with a stranger after both of us missed the bus to the airport.

It was when I flew west to the Rockies and bussed through BC that I realized this country would remain special to me for all the memories made. But I definitely didn’t expect that ten years later, I’d be a permanent resident soon to be applying for dual citizenship, with a book published about my experience of moving here.

In reflecting on that first visit to Canada, I feel a corny sense of pride because I realize just how much I kept putting myself out of my comfort zone. Finding my way around unfamiliar places, introducing myself to a room full of chatting people, asking strangers on the street for directions, reacting to unexpected changes, moving forward after losing my backpack.

I always think of that time in Canada as the time when “life really became fun.” It was definitely fun before then, but that experience spawned a more confident and adventurous me – someone who saw the world as her oyster, who realized that we’re just tiny specks of dust in a huge galaxy and there are so many bigger issues than a few minutes of us feeling awkward or embarrassed. I began to approach new experiences with less worry and more faith that “things will work out.”

When I consider the increased rates of anxiety among younger generations today, I sometimes wonder if some of these cases stem fom these individuals having been too sheltered and having not put themselves out of comfort enough. I think back to the time I was fourteen years old and my mum drove me to a school friend’s party in the nearest town. We arrived late because it had been snowing, and when we pulled up outside the town hall, I heard loud music and laughing from inside. For some reason that I still don’t understand, I was suddenly overcome by nerves and asked mum to drive me home.

I could have done the very same thing at Gatwick Airport when I caught my mum crying, but instead, I swallowed the emotional feelings and turned around to walk towards departures. How different my life would be if I hadn’t turned around that day.

I truly believe that making progress towards a more fulfilling life (however you personally define that) comes from challenging yourself and putting yourself out of your comfort zone. At first it feels daunting and awkward and uncomfortable, but when you take the plunge and make those little steps, you start to realize that the world isn’t as scary as you might have once thought. Sometimes you need to push aside your ego and push through your anxiety and take the opportunities before you. Progress won’t be achieved without taking some risks and navigating some challenges. It’s these experiences that build character and make you a more confident, competent person.

It’s because of the associations with increased independence and confidence that I have such a soft spot for Canada. I grew up a lot during those five weeks in the country, and I’ve continued to grow up since moving here almost five years ago.

I write this post with an awareness of the privileges I have as a resident of Canada. I can love and appreciate this country for my own reasons while also knowing it needs to do better for others. I respectfully acknowledge the Indigenous peoples, on whose unceded territories I am fortunate to live and explore. I wish for more harmony and less hostility in the ongoing process of reconciliation.

New Book Available for Purchase | Trail of Worth

It’s been a busy couple of months balancing my full-time job with finishing up my book, Trail of Worth. After 18+ months of effort, I’m very excited to announce that this book has now been published!

In writing Trail of Worth, I’ve tried to:

  • Give an honest portrayal of moving overseas and the various challenges it entails
  • Take a candid look at relationships and their fascinating complexities
  • Capture the way people (especially women) can perceive themselves during their twenties
  • Provide a commentary of travel experiences
  • Demonstrate the importance and influence of family and friendships

In writing this piece of creative non-fiction, the most important thing for me was to be authentic – to show the main protagonist’s flaws and strengths, the mistakes and moments of vulnerability as well as the little wins. There is genuine dialogue and I have not catered to a “mainstream” narrative. I’ve tried to create something that is both realistic and relatable.

Trail of Worth covers many themes and topics – travel, immigration, careers, running, friendship, relationships, mental health, and self-worth. Some of the content will make you smile, some will make you think, some may trigger sad or painful memories, and some I hope will inspire. If you’re a member of a book club, this story would be a great choice for initiating meaningful conversations.

Trail of Worth is written from the perspective of a female, millenial expat. It’s based on actual events recorded from the time, but identities have been changed. Interpretations of events and behaviours in the story will be influenced by the readers’ own attitudes and life experiences. I would simply encourage anyone reading the book to try to read it with an open and reflective mind.

Here’s a summary of what my editor had to say when she read the manuscript.

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Something my editor mentioned when reviewing Trail of Worth was how relatable the story would be for women in their 20s-30s. However, she also said that as an older woman, she really enjoyed the story – it made her reflect on her younger years and the experiences she had.

I think you would enjoy this book if you:

  • Have experienced or would like to experience moving overseas
  • Like to travel or have travelled solo as a female
  • Have experienced what has felt like a quarter-life crisis or a loss of self-worth
  • Have been in a long-distance relationship
  • Have struggled with emotionally difficult relationships, including those impacted by mental health issues
  • Are a competitive runner or simply find fulfillment in this activity
  • Have worked in recruitment and HR
  • Have struggled with age bias and Imposter Syndrome in your career
  • Can’t relate to any of the above but are curious 🙂

Links for Purchase:

Trail of Worth is available to buy online in Kindle or paperback format from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and some other small online retailers.

If your country doesn’t have an Amazon site, you can get worldwide shipping from amazon.com

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Amazon US/EU/Worldwide

Amazon Australia

Barnes & Noble (US customers)

Book Depository

If you’d like to receive more commentary on the book and further insights into the topics discussed, you can follow my main Instagram page @shannelizabethco

And if you’re interested in completing and publishing a book review, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Thank you in advance for reading Trail of Worth. I hope you enjoy this story that is very special to me 🙂

Publishing a Book | Cover Design

Thanks for following along on my book publishing journey. In my last post I talked about the editing process. That’s probably the most important part in the whole complex process of releasing a book, but perhaps the most exciting part of the process is the cover design. That’s when it starts to feel real!

To get started, the publishing company asked me to fill out a questionnaire that outlined my vision for the cover. In my mind I very clearly pictured a path winding through tall trees with a small figure walking under their gaze. I really liked the idea of a blue-grey colour that captured the moodiness of a British Columbia forest.

I tried to give as much detail as possible for the designer. Doing this virtually through a questionnaire rather than in person was quite challenging. What seems clear to you might not seem clear and comprehensible to another person.

It took a week for the first draft to come back. I had been told that the first draft was unlikely to match what I was looking for, and sure enough that was the case. While the designer had included the elements I’d mentioned, they weren’t presented in a way that matched my vision. I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing this book cover on the shelves.

I immediately started to leave notes on the cover to help the designer make changes. A little less blue, a smaller figure, taller trees. In doing so, I had doubts about how effective how my feedback would be, and whether the proposed changes would be enough.

Then I recognized the main flaw. The cover image was more suited to a fantasy or horror genre, not to a memoir. While I still liked the idea of the setting, the colours were very mysterious and quite haunting. Even the font seemed more like the style you’d see on a sci-fi book. The cover didn’t match the theme of the book at all, and it was because my vision hadn’t matched the theme.

I reluctantly accepted that my initial vision for the colours would need to change slightly, in order to avoid confusing readers about the kind of book they would be reading. I began to consider the different colours I could use, but none left me inspired.

In my moment of contemplation, I suddenly remembered that a photo had been taken on my camera a few years ago that matched the vision I had. A small figure on a trail under tall trees. The crazy thing is that this photo was taken in the period featured in the story. Maybe it was all meant to be..!

Feeling inspired again, I decided to send this photo to the designer so they could use it for the cover. I also requested changes to the text font, size and positioning. At first I felt bad for potentially seeming picky and demanding. Then I reminded myself that I am paying for this service, and that the book cover is extremely important.

This isn’t the book’s cover image, but it’s definitely got some similarities!

The revised cover came back just under a week later, and it looked so much better! The designer had done a fantastic job of adapting the photo to the front and back cover. And because it was a photo owned by me, the book suddenly felt even more authentic and special. I began to feel really excited at the thought of people holding the book in their hands.

At this stage I edited the blurb slightly and requested a few minor revisions to the text styling. There were just a few small things that I felt could be tweaked before I felt 100% comfortable. The updated version was returned to me in less than a week, and it looked spot on.

Now I’m just waiting for my editor to finish the copy edit. It’s been three weeks since I sent my updated manuscript for the edit, and I’m feeling restless! The end is in sight and I just want to be reviewing those edits. However, I’m also very aware that high-quality editing takes time, and my book is around 120,000 words. I’d of course prefer the editor to put a lot of care into the process, than to rush through and compromise quality. But it will definitely be an exciting day when that email comes in…

I look forward to sharing Trail of Worth with you, once complete!

Publishing a Book | The Editing Process

In my last blog post I shared that I am in the process of publishing a book. Since December, I’ve been working on editing my manuscript. Today I’m going to talk a little more about that part of the process.

The most challenging things I’ve found about the editing process are 1) being selective and 2) not being too much of a perfectionist.

I used journals to frame a lot of my manuscript’s content. Having these references was super helpful for dialogue and structure. The downside was that I sometimes struggled to decide whether something should or shouldn’t be included. I almost seemed to feel a need to do justice to something that had happened in real life. I might feel compelled to write about an interesting side-event, even though I knew it didn’t necessarily fit in with the course of the narrative.

It was this challenge that particularly influenced me to request an editorial evaluation from the book publishing company. This is where a professional editor reads your manuscript without making any changes on the document, and then writes a summary of its strengths and weaknesses.

It took two weeks for my editorial evaluation to come back, and I really appreciated the editor’s input. I’m fairly confident in my writing ability and had been pretty satisfied with my content, but hearing an external person’s perspective was really valuable. I really came to realize that some of the content I had didn’t add much to the story and its purpose. It might have been an interesting detail, but oftentimes it was actually disrupting the flow and pace of the story. Having the impartial eyes of someone I didn’t know really helped me cut out the needless content I felt committed to!

A highlight of my editorial evaluation was seeing that the editor felt the central theme of the book was clear and believed in the importance of its message. I’m sure a lot of writers go through moments of doubt during the process where they wonder if their story is “even any good” and worth sharing. After getting the editor’s feedback, I felt encouraged. I also felt like her feedback wasn’t given for the sake of being critical, but was given with my best interests and those of my book in mind.

One of the great things about an editorial evaluation when self-publishing is that you have the power to do what you want with the feedback. You might elect to request a substantive edit where the editor studies your content in-depth to suggest changes to the flow, voice and characterization etc., or you might just make a few minor changes and then request a copy edit, or you might not make any changes and just go straight to publish.

In my case, the editor recommended a copy edit (which is standard). She also recommended some changes to the content, and said that if I didn’t feel confident making these changes on my own, she’d be happy to help with a substantive edit.

I chose to work on the changes myself. I loved the challenge of it. I almost felt like I was back in school, improving a draft of a story an English teacher had read. It was a really fun project for me because it allowed me to test my skills as a writer while maintaining creative control.

I spent two weeks working on the edits while continuing to work full-time. Some of the edits were pretty quick and simple changes, while others took more thinking and a few tries of different approaches. Overall, it was a really rewarding process. I had a goal of finishing the edits in two weeks, but I also felt it important to be flexible. As mentioned in my last blog post, the editing process shouldn’t be rushed.

On the day I went to re-submit the manuscript to the publisher, I found myself having last-minute thoughts of “Maybe I’d better read that section one more time”. I would then find little things to change – adjective or adverb replacements, rephrasing of a sentence, removal of a word. That’s where the perfectionist in me comes out. Even after re-submitting, I’ve made notes of little things I want to change once I get the copy edit back. I don’t think this is a bad thing; I just hope I won’t be doing it once the final copy has been sent for interior layout design ;). There’s definitely a fine balance between putting effort into ensuring something’s quality and obsessing unnecessarily over tiny things!

Tips for Other First-Time Writers (from a Non-Expert!)

·  Be selective. Journals can be a great source of inspiration for creating content and dialogue, but it’s important to keep the content relevant to the narrative and purpose of the story.

·  Take your time. Having a deadline to work towards can be motivating, but be mindful that life happens and things can get delayed. Once you are finished writing, don’t rush to send the manuscript off to an editor. Take time to re-read and make revisions until you are completely satisfied.

·  Get an editorial evaluation. Even if you consider yourself a skilled writer, getting a summary of the manuscript’s strengths and some recommendations for improvement is really helpful. It gives you a base off which to make more edits that will only make your book better!

·  Before submitting your manuscript for an editorial evaluation, prepare notes for the editor. Explain the story’s purpose and your goals for the book, provide context behind the style and methods you’ve used, and summarize the key areas you’re looking for feedback on. This helps ensure you get as much value as possible from the evaluation.

·  Be open to feedback. Hearing the opinion of a stranger about something so personal to you, even if it’s constructive criticism, can be daunting. But the feedback is ultimately coming from someone who cares about quality writing and good stories. It could be extremely valuable to you, not just for a current project, but for future projects as well.

·  Get a copy edit. If you don’t want to pay much for editing services, it’s still recommended to get a copy edit at minimum. This helps ensure a polished and professional finish to your book. I consider myself a pretty strong writer, but I knew there would be grammatical or structural errors I’d made.

*

Thanks for following my book publishing journey! I’m now waiting to get the copy edit back, after which the editing process will be complete. My next blog post will be about the cover design process!

If you’re a published author or are in the process of publishing a book, feel free to leave your thoughts and tips on the editing process below 🙂

I’m Publishing a Book!

Many people seemed to spend their free time in 2020 making a baby. I spent it writing a book, and I’m excited (and nervous!) to share that I will be publishing it in the coming months 😊

I’ve been writing since I was a kid – pony stories, poems, journals, articles in the local paper. There was a time when I wanted to be an author, but it quickly got to the point where it didn’t seem like a realistic way of making a living. However, the dream of one day writing a book lived on. The issue was that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. I had ideas for novels, but never one that really inspired a devoted effort. So, I just carried on writing my blog and journaling. Through journaling, I’ve always enjoyed the process of identifying interesting trends and themes from daily life.

Scribbling next to my childhood best friend, Tom

Then I moved to Canada at the end of 2016 and experienced a big life change that led to some interesting experiences and challenges. Some experiences were unique to my situation, while others exemplified life events and scenarios common to women in their mid-twenties.

In December 2019, I was home alone for Christmas. During a state of restless boredom, I felt a sudden motivation to write. I thought back to my first year in Canada, and the experiences in my first year overseas ended up giving me the inspiration I was looking for. So, I decided to write a piece of creative non-fiction. I opened up my laptop one evening and set myself a goal of finishing writing a draft manuscript by the end of 2020.

About the Book

An honest portrayal of moving overseas, this book creatively explores the various themes and challenges that accompany both an expat life and the general life of a woman navigating her mid-twenties. From adjusting to a new environment, seeking a fulfilling job, establishing oneself in an occupation, and handling complex relationships, the book’s theme centers around self-worth during a quarter-life crisis. It’s a story that will make readers reflect on their own experiences, with the purpose of inspiring and uplifting them.

The Writing Process

A year may sound like a long time in which to write a manuscript, but when you have a full-time office job and don’t want to spend all of your free time staring at a computer screen, it starts to feel more reasonable.

Before starting, I had a good idea of how I wanted to structure the book, the key content I wanted to include, and the main theme I wanted to be conveyed. Some people know what they want their book’s title to be right from the beginning. I personally didn’t have a title in mind when I started, but it came to me a few months into writing.

The social distancing regulations that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic became a strange convenience, because they gave more reason for me to focus on writing in my free time.

For some reason, I’ve always been secretive with my writing. Even as a kid scribbling pony stories, I would hide them away when my family came to look. I think it was because I was shy about others reading what I wrote. During this writing process, it was only my partner that knew I was writing a book. Our suite doesn’t have a separate office for work or writing, so I quickly came to appreciate how great he was at leaving me to it! The reason I decided not to tell anyone else was because I wanted avoid any requests for updates, and just focus on the book without feeling any intrusion or pressure.

One thing I noticed was how easy it was to get fatigued while writing, especially if covering a topic that was complex or emotional in nature. Sometimes my creativity seemed to be lacking. The longest break I took from writing was around 3 weeks. However, there were other times when the words just seemed to flow freely and before I knew it, it was almost midnight!

I met my goal of finishing drafting the content in December 2020, but then my own revisions and edits started. This is such an important part of the process. I found that there were many things I’d written almost a year earlier that I wanted to change, particularly with regards to content and structure. Some of the content no longer seemed to be relevant or add value. In some areas, there was a lack of flow, or I felt things could be written more creatively. I ended up re-writing several sections of the manuscript.

The revisions process took around two months until I was satisfied with the manuscript. In addition to content editing, I also did copy editing to the best of my non-professional ability. Sometimes during my work day, I would suddenly think of something that I felt could be edited or added, and I’d make a note in my phone for later. The revision process is something that really can’t be rushed. It’s amazing what a rested pair of eyes can see! Even if you plan on getting the book professionally edited (which I have), it’s important to ensure you have a relatively polished manuscript in advance.

Choosing a Publishing Path

The next step in the process was deciding how I wanted to publish the book – the traditional route or self-publishing. I’m lucky in that I had knowledge of two experiences. My brother’s book, The Rule (Jack Colman) was published by Harper Voyager in 2015, while my dad self-published his memoir, The Right Thing? (Dr. Richard Colman) in 2014.

Both routes have their pros and cons, depending on the writer’s goals. Getting published the traditional route still carries more prestige, while self-publishing is sometimes termed “vanity publishing”. I get why this term is used for some self-publishers, however, I think it’s also quite offensive to the talented writers who simply feel tired of waiting to hear back from agents, or worry that their book will lose its integrity if managed by someone with a different priority. Does “vanity publishing” mean that artists who sell their paintings at local street markets are “vanity artists”? Are people who turn their passion into a business “vanity business owners”? Frankly, it’s the “stars” of trashy reality TV shows who seemingly have no problem securing a deal to publish a book about their life that are the vain ones.

Here are the reasons I’ve decided to go the self-publishing route (in case anyone is debating the options for their own manuscript):

  • I like the idea of having ownership over something I’ve created (this book is literally my baby!) instead of having it be owned and managed by someone else.
  • Because the book is based on real-life personal events, it’s important to me that I maintain a large amount of control over the content. With self-publishing, I can maintain full creative control. I have the final say on any edits suggested, whereas traditional publishing can take away a lot of the writer’s control. I would hate for someone to try to change the content of my book to make it fit what they might see as a more mainstream (aka $$) narrative.
  • Self-publishing does not mean you’ll have a terribly written book that’s filled with typos. You can have your manuscript professionally edited with a polished design. You have to pay for this service, but if you believe the story is worth sharing, why wouldn’t you invest in its success?
  • It is extremely competitive and can take a long time to get a literary agent and/or be offered a deal by a publishing company. This isn’t a reason not to try, however I’m personally at the point where I don’t want to wait months to hear back from an agent (or not hear back at all!), only to then wait even longer for the work to be published.
  • I’m not writing this book to launch a new career as a full-time author. I’m writing it to share a story that I believe (and have been told my editor!) has an important message. I’m also writing it to tick off something from wish list. Perhaps that’s the vain part 😉
  • You get higher royalties when you self-publish. Who doesn’t like being rewarded more for their writing skills and hard work?!
  • One thing the pandemic has highlighted is the importance of supporting local.

If I write another book in future, I would definitely be open to trying the traditional publishing route. But for this particular story, self-publishing seems to work well for me. Plus, if I did want to write more books in the future, having an already published book could be helpful in securing an agent.

Side note: I recently learned that The Martian was initially self-published in 2011, before a traditional publishing company bought the rights a few years later. Then it was turned into a film! That’s pretty cool.

To get things going, I researched two local publishing companies in Victoria. I contacted both for more information. Ultimately, I opted for the one whose website content spoke more to my interests and goals, whose publishing consultants seemed less sales-driven, and whose publishing package offered better value for what I was looking for.

Journalling

I’m currently working on content edits, and am excited for the next stage! I’ll be posting updates on my Instagram page if you’d like to follow along 🙂

Have you written and self-published a book? What tips would you share?

Age & Assumptions | Working Overseas as a Millennial Woman

A few people have asked me what the most challenging thing is about living in another country. As you’d expect, one of the hardest things is being away from family and friends for long periods. The pandemic has really added to that challenge, with my flights this summer cancelled and no real certainty of when I’ll next be going home.

As a blonde and softly spoken immigrant woman from the millennial generation, the other challenging thing about living overseas for me personally has been having to occasionally deal with underestimating assumptions about my abilities from people I’ve met, whether in a personal or professional setting.

I write the above with a firm acknowledgment that I have benefited from white privilege through my life. I haven’t had assumptions made about me regarding criminal status. Restrictions on the schools I could attend or areas I could live in were not influenced by my race. I was able to move to North America free from expectation I’d face discrimination because of my skin colour, and I recognize how fortunate I am for that.

In this post I’m addressing societal attitudes towards young women, specifically assumptions about their abilities that appear to be influenced by a mixture of general stereotypes and unconscious biases.

I’m 28 years old, and three years ago shortly after I moved to Canada, I decided to stop wearing mascara to work. Make-up was already something I didn’t wear much of, but I was sick of getting styes and realized I didn’t care how I looked without it. Given my naturally fair facial features, an understandable effect of this is that people tend to assume I’m younger than I am. When I was 25, I went through security at Victoria International Airport and the female searcher said “So, you’re probably around 18, right?” I laughed it off, but afterwards I wondered why she couldn’t have just asked me to tell her my age, instead of telling me how old she thought I was.

When corrected on age, people will often tell you to “take it as a compliment” that they mistook you for younger. There comes a point when saying this just becomes annoying. It’s okay if people guess my age incorrectly; what isn’t okay is when people associate this assumed age with my abilities.

At a recent small barbecue, I met a man with a foreign accent who appeared to be in his late 60s. After he brought up New Zealand a couple of times, I asked where in the country he was from, and he reciprocated by asking me where I was from.  After I told him, he said, “So, do you have family here?”

When I returned home I felt irritated, and I realized it was because of the man’s question. This is a question I’ve received several times since I moved to Canada. Although part of me knew it was a reasonable question to ask, and although I knew the man meant well, I found it frustrating that his initial assumption had to be that I had moved to Canada with or to be with family. What’s wrong with simply asking “Why did you move to Canada?”? Why must there be the assumption that I couldn’t have immigrated by or for myself?

A few months after moving to Canada, I met with a recruiter to discuss the local job market for HR and recruitment roles. The woman implied my chances of being hired for a permanent job in my field were low because I was on a two-year working holiday visa. I left the meeting with my confidence dealt a blow, the woman’s skeptical expression and fake smile etched in my mind. I felt like her opinion of me had been formed at first glance, and she hadn’t really given me a chance.

That same afternoon, I attended another interview and was offered the job there and then. I work as a Staffing Consultant, connecting job-seekers with employers. My role involves interviewing people on a daily basis, and often these people are older than me. Before COVID-19 led to remote working and phone interviews, it wasn’t uncommon for me to introduce myself to a candidate and receive a blank or confused look in return. Sometimes I would even notice a brief look of disapproval. During interviews, some of these people would make faces at the way I pronounced certain words with my accent.

What’s important to note is that it wasn’t just men giving me this reception. There aren’t enough fingers on my hands to count how many times women have called me “sweetie”, “honey”, or “dear”. People from all genders have said “Oh, you’re so young!” in surprise. They have remarked with embarrassed faces that their son/daughter is “probably your age”. Others have scoffed when asked a question about a job on their resume and said “I think I worked at that company before you were even born”.

While some of these comments and terms of address are used innocently without the intention of causing offence, they are inappropriate and often come across as patronizing. For those with a sensitive ego, their implication in referencing my age is that I am not competent or experienced enough to help them, or that I do not deserve to be the person with authority in this working relationship.

What’s ironic is that we would never say the above comments to someone who appears to be over 60, because society tells us it’s rude to do so. While it’s always nice to feel I’ve changed someone’s initial opinion about me, it’s just a shame the assumption has to exist in the first place. With workers retiring later and Gen Z’s entering the workforce, different generations are working side by side more than ever, and I know I am not the only millennial woman who has been condescended or underestimated by older colleagues.

Having grown up in a society where blondes are still stereotyped as bimbos whose main skills are shopping and posing on the cover of lads’ mags, being underestimated is not new to me, but moving overseas has brought a new dimension to it. It’s not uncommon for someone to assume that I’m a student, or to look surprised when they learn I have a job that isn’t related to hospitality, tourism or retail. Of course there is nothing wrong with working these jobs; I just wish it didn’t have to be the assumption that they would be my only option as a young female immigrant.

A positive of this experience is that it’s given me a tougher skin. I’m getting better at not taking reactions or comments personally, and more confident at (politely) letting the person know they are inappropriate. I try to see such moments as an opportunity to change someone’s perspective towards younger women.

Another positive has been that it’s made me more mindful of my own stereotypes. There’s no denying the reality that everyone has their unconscious biases or believes in irrational stereotypes, whether inspired by society and the media, their upbringing, or other sources. I try to practise being open-minded in everyday life, which is only beneficial for my job. As someone who has been underestimated, it feels good to be in a position where I can endorse those young women (and others) who have been underestimated and overlooked as well.

If this post does anything, I hope it makes readers think about and perhaps reconsider a) their assumptions about the motivations of female immigrants, b) their assumptions about the capabilities of young female immigrants, and c) the way they address and speak to younger females in the workplace.

 

A Brit’s Guide to Living in British Columbia, Canada

As a former colony of the United Kingdom and a current member of the Commonwealth, you might think that Canada and the province of British Columbia specifically is very similar to the UK in its culture and bureaucratic systems. Well, think again. If you’re planning to move to Canada’s western province, below is a large compilation of some of the main differences I’ve discovered as a Brit living in British Columbia.

Stawamus Chief in Squamish, BC

Driving

You probably all know that in Canada, you drive on the right side of the road. It makes sense to have the same system as the neighbouring USA, since a lot of trade between the countries is delivered via road. In terms of speed and distance, the metric system of kilometres is used, which differs from both the UK and USA.

Getting a driver’s license as a new driver is also a different process. Upon turning 17, people in the UK are eligible to get their provisional license, which allows them to drive on the road with a supervisor with L plates attached to the vehicle. Most drivers will learn the basics from a family member, before taking driving lessons from a qualified instructor. After a learner has passed the theory test, the instructor will ultimately determine when they are ready to take the road test. This will typically be after 40 hours of lessons.

In British Columbia, it is less common for new drivers to take formal lessons from an instructor. Before doing any driving, they must acquire their learner’s license by passing a knowledge test and vision test. This can be done on or after their 16th birthday. After a year of practice with an eligible supervisor (someone 25 or older with a Class 5 license), they can then take their first road test. Passing this gives them their Class 7 or “N” license. Certain restrictions come with this. N plates (which stand for “novice”) must be displayed on the vehicle, and they can only carry one passenger at a time (with the exception of immediate family members), unless one of the passengers is 25+ and has a full license.  After two years of safe driving with no tickets or prohibitions, they can take another road test. Passing this would give them their full Class 5 license.

Note that if you move to BC with a clean UK licence, you can switch it over to a Class 5 for free within 90 days, without having to take a road test.

When it comes to actual driving, there are some interesting differences. The ‘turn-right-on-red’ rule means drivers can make a right turn when the walking man light is on for pedestrians, so long as no pedestrians are crossing at the time. I personally don’t like this rule because of the risks it can pose to pedestrians if a driver shoots around the corner due to not seeing the pedestrian or simply not caring.

Another difference is 4-way stops. When drivers approach this type of junction, they must all come to a halt, even if the roads appear clear. The vehicle that arrives first is entitled to proceed first, and so on. If two vehicles arrive at the same time, the driver on the right has right of way. I find that when two cars from opposite directions arrive at the same time and want to turn instead of going straight, a silent interaction between drivers takes place through gestures. It goes something like this: “Oh, after you.”…”No no, you first.”…”No, please, I insist.” …”Are you sure?”… “Oh, quite sure!” ….”Okay, thank you! And sorry.”

With regards to insurance, UK insurance companies insure the driver. In BC, the vehicle is insured. This means you are more likely to see friends lending their cars to each other in BC. BC’s government-owned insurance corporation now requests that a second driver be listed on the policy if they will be using the vehicle on a regular basis.

Drinking

Each province in Canada sets its own regulations for determining legal drinking ages. In British Columbia, it’s 19. Bear this in mind if you’re visiting from the UK aged 18; you won’t be able to buy alcohol or go to clubs. Skip over a province to Alberta however and you would be fine.

Although the province of Ontario is now allowing beer to be sold in some supermarkets, in most cases alcohol can only be purchased in provincially owned or private liquor stores, or from a brewery. Anyone who looks under 30 can expect to be asked to show ID.

While there are a few differences between the countries in terms of the laws that apply to people operating a vehicle, the rule regarding drinking is one Brits should be aware of. Last summer, I was in the backseat of a car with friends driving back from a camping weekend in Hope. I asked my boyfriend to open the cooler and get me a Radler drink. He looked at me in confusion and asked why. “Because it’s hot and I’d like a refreshing drink,” I replied with an innocent shrug. I then learned that in BC, passengers are prohibited from consuming alcohol in a vehicle. The idea is that they might distract or influence the driver. No refreshing lager for me.

Banking

I quickly noticed that Visa debit cards can be used for fewer transactions in Canada than they can in the UK. I never had a credit card in England, but for the aforementioned reason I got one when I moved to BC. My chequing account (what we in the UK would call a “current account”) has a monthly fee based on how many transactions I make. It gets waived if I maintain a certain balance. My UK account doesn’t charge such fees. Something to consider if you plan to set up a Canadian bank account.

Salt Spring Island, BC

Education

In the UK, the word “school” is typically associated with primary school (elementary) and secondary school (high school). If we do A-Levels (from age 16-18) or a vocational diploma, we say we’re going to “college” or “sixth form”. If we do a degree, we tell people that we go to “university” (or “uni”). In Canada, the term “school” is used for all levels of education. I first learned this in Toronto airport several years ago, when an elderly couple queuing for check-in behind me started chatting. “Are you heading back to school?” the man asked. “To university,” I said, to indicate my age. “So, back to school?” he replied with a cheeky smile.

Indeed, it’s very common to hear someone in their thirties say “I’m going back to school.” This is because the higher (or “post-secondary”) education system of both countries is very different. In the UK, we essentially choose our major by the time we apply to university aged 17 or 18. For example, I chose to study a Bachelor of Arts in History. Such a degree is automatically considered an honours degree, meaning students must submit a dissertation (or “thesis” as North Americans call it) in their final year. Unless they are studying Medicine or another vocational profession, students must complete their undergraduate degree in three years. They have to take a certain number of courses per semester, and will automatically graduate after those three years. Anyone who requests to suspend their studies and take a semester off due to personal reasons will likely have to re-take that year. A Master’s degree is completed in one year.

Students in Canada apply to university in or after their final year of high school. Instead of applying to major in a specific subject, they can choose a general direct entry program, such as Humanities, Engineering, or Science. In their first year, they have the option of taking a few different courses from within the program and a few electives from outside it, before then deciding the subject within that program they wish to major in. Although there are differences in universities across Canada, students in BC can typically choose the number of courses they take per semester, and have more flexibility in the years they take to graduate. Most people I know here graduated after five years. Some may take six years or longer. This is because the university system allows students to take off semesters, either to work or travel. Classes can also be taken in the summer term from May to September, unlike in the UK.

There are also more structured programs available within Canadian institutions to support students with finding paid co-ops (or “internships” as we’d call them in the UK). Students must pay to be involved in this program, but it’s a useful resource I wish I’d had at my university. Some programs, such as a business program, require students to complete a minimum number of co-ops in order to graduate. If a student wishes to graduate with honours, they must apply for the program. One would typically do this if he/she intended to apply for grad school, as writing a thesis could strengthen an application. In order to graduate with a degree, students must apply and provide proof they have met the minimum criteria. It’s common for a Master degree to be completed in two years.

Taking all the above into consideration, it means that a student in BC might not finish their undergrad degree until aged 25 or older, whereas in the UK the standard age of graduates is 21 or 22. I think there are pros and cons to both systems. People with a British education will have specialized more in one subject area, and will typically have a head start in the professional workforce. However, Canadian students are likely to have less tuition debt, have had more chances to gain paid experience and try out different roles while studying, and also have more time to actually enjoy their studies. In comparison, strict timelines for completing courses and graduating sometimes made me feel I hadn’t had a chance to properly explore and understand a course I was taking.

While there are options for people in the UK older than 18/19 to enrol in university degrees, it is still a less common practice; most will attend university from their late teens to early twenties. It seems to be a more culturally accepted thing in Canada for people to either start their first post-secondary program or take a second program in their mid-twenties and above. Some people might complete an undergraduate arts degree and then later take a post-degree diploma to specialize in a specific area, such as HR. Others might work right after they finish high school, and then enrol in a post-secondary program a few years later when they have saved up to pay the tuition fees. And others might be in their early thirties but go back to school because they want to change their career.

The system for tuition fees also differs between the countries. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are home and international tuition fees. Currently in the UK, home tuition fees for an undergraduate degree are around 9000 GBP per year. (Scottish students studying in Scotland don’t have to pay!) These fees are general and not based on the degree you are studying. This means that as a History student with only 8 hours of contact with teachers per week, I paid the same as someone studying Mechanical Engineering who had more contact hours. In Canada, however, tuition fees are based on the program you take. Someone in the Humanities program will pay less for tuition than someone in Business or Engineering.

Mt. Finlayson on Vancouver Island, BC

Healthcare

Each province in Canada has its own publicly funded health insurance plan. In British Columbia it’s called the Medical Services Plan (MSP). It used to be the case that recipients were charged premiums, with employers often offering to pay the costs. In January 2020, the fees were scrapped. However, eligible residents must still enrol for the plan in order to receive free or subsidized medical assistance. Enrolled residents must get a Services Card with their photo and Personal Health Number, to prove their eligibility to access these services. This card can also be used as a form of government-issued ID for accessing other services, like opening a bank account. If you’re not registered for MSP, you must pay out of pocket for any medical assistance.

One thing to note if moving to BC from the UK is that, regardless of having MSP coverage, some medical-related services in BC incur fees that would not apply in the UK. For example, if someone in BC calls 911 and is taken to a hospital by ground or air ambulance, they will be billed $80. If an ambulance is requested and then declined, they will receive a bill for $50…so making a prank call would be even more stupid. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) is funded by tax payers and there are fewer charged services. Say a Brit suddenly develops chest pains and calls 999 for an ambulance to take them to A&E (or “ER”), they won’t pay a penny.

For this reason, I’ve always found it funny when I hear Canadians commend the country’s “free healthcare system”. For sure, the system is much more generous than that of its southern neighbour, but not as generous as the UK. Again, there are pros and cons to both systems. The NHS has strained resources and as a result, some are calling for patients to start paying for certain services. To avoid burdening the Canadian healthcare system, anyone coming to Canada on a working holiday visa is required to show proof that they have purchased medical insurance.

Something for Brits to take note of is the differences with dentistry. In the UK it’s part of the NHS, but in Canada it falls under the category of extended health. This means it’s not covered by the provincial medical services plan. For this reason, having a job that includes benefits is ideal, as these will be used to cover most of the costs of each dental visit. However, even with benefits, it’s typically still slightly cheaper to go the dentist in the UK.

In the UK, the dentist pretty much does everything, and the dental assistant helps with paperwork and equipment prep. In Canada there is a dental hygienist who does the initial assessment, x-rays and cleaning, and then the dentist will do an exam and any necessary surgery. Oh, and Canadians say “hy-gen-ist”, not “hy-geen-ist”. Weird…

Marijuana

The growth, sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes became legalized in Canada in 2018. Any cannabis shops or pharmacies must be licensed and follow certain regulations. Consumers are allowed to grow up to four plants in their house. Of course, Canadians were smoking weed for a long time before it became legal. Marijuana shops are now a normal sight, and it’s not unusual to catch a whiff of weed while walking down a street. Over the past decade, use of marijuana for medical purposes has also become more common in Canada. CBD and THC (chemicals within the plant) have been used to relieve muscle spasms and treat conditions including MS and PTSD.

Sombrio Beach, Vancouver Island

Tipping

While tipping bartenders or servers (aka what the UK would call “waiters/waitresses”) is not required in Canada, it basically feels like it is. A minimum tip of 15% is pretty much expected. Even if you go to a deli (also a more commonly used word in Canada, I’ve noticed) and simply order a sandwich, the option to tip will come up when you pay by card. In such cases, I don’t bother. Why would I if all the person has done is pick up a pre-made, pre-wrapped sandwich from the counter and hand it to me??

I was reminded just how different this custom is from the UK and Europe in general when my parents visited a couple of summers ago. My dad, never one afraid to be honest and express himself, asked our server how much she’d like for a tip. “That’s up to you,” she said politely while I put my head in my hands. As if thinking a negotiation was required, he asked her, “How about 10%?”. At this point I ran away to the ice cream counter. Of course, UK restaurants will now typically add a service charge to the bill in order to get around the cultural reluctance to tip.

On that note, Canadians also ask for the “bill”, and not the “check” like some people assume.

Sports

In the UK, girls in secondary school will often play hockey on grass or turf. In Canada, hockey means “ice” hockey. The less popular UK game would be referred to as “field hockey”. I still struggle not to say “ice hockey” in full, and it always seems to make people smile. If you’re watching a baseball game, prepare to hear lots of people shouting “good hustle” to players. It basically means “good effort”.

Holidays

In England and Wales, there are eight bank holidays: New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, the two in May, one in August, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. In Canada, public holidays are called “statutory holidays”, five of which are nationwide. The remaining holidays are determined by province. In BC there are ten holidays: New Year’s Day, Family Day (February), Good Friday, Victoria Day (May), Canada Day (July), Civic Day (August), Labour Day (September), Thanksgiving (October), Remembrance Day (November), and Christmas Day. I appreciate the even distribution!

Language 

Now we come to my favourite part. As a native English speaker in a country where English is one of the official languages, I expected I’d be pretty well understood by Canadians. Not the case.

The main issue I have is the enunciation of R’s. In England we don’t emphasize them. “Water” is “wawtuh”. “Work” is “wuuuk”. “Art” is “aaat”, and so forth. I once ordered a turkey sandwich from a deli and it took five attempts for the person to understand me. As a result, I’ve found that adapting my accent at certain times in the workplace has been necessary, particularly when speaking with people over the phone.

There are also differences in full pronunciation of words. Some common words I say that incite giggles among my peers are “yoghurt”, “vitamin”, “basil”, “tomato”, “oregano”, and “aluminium”. Meanwhile, I find the way some Canadians say “bagel”, “route”, “thorough” and “details” very odd.

Another issue is different words being to describe the same noun. Here is a non-exhaustive list of examples:
“Jumper” = “sweater”
“Trousers” = “pants”
“Trainers” = “runners” or “sneakers”
“Wellies” =”rubber boots”
“Biscuit” =”cookie”
“Handbag” =”purse”
“Purse” =”wallet”
“Cinema” =”theatre”
“Boot” =”trunk”
“Bonnet” =”hood”
“Nappy” = “diaper”
“Soother” = “dummy”
“Aubergine” =”eggplant”
“Courgette” = “zucchini”
“Rocket” = “arugula”
“Spring onion” = “scallion”

And if you say “brolly”, most will have no idea what you’re talking about. Who knew there would be such a language barrier?!

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If you’re planning to move to British Columbia for a while, I hope this article is useful resource to help you prepare yourself for the political and cultural differences you can expect to find!

13 Reasons Why I Moved to Victoria, Canada

Canada Day is quickly approaching, and now that I’m a permanent resident it feels even more fitting to celebrate the qualities that make this country so loved. Why did I decide to move specifically to Victoria on Vancouver Island? Victoria has many great qualities, but below are 13 of the main reasons it has stolen my heart.

1. Landscape

As I walk home from work along Fort St, a quick glance down a side street will often reveal views of Washington State’s towering Olympic mountains, snow glistening on their jagged peaks. Head towards their direction and you will eventually come to witness the vast Pacific Ocean stretching before you. When I lived in London, my social life seemed to revolve around going for food and drinks, but here a walk along the coast with friends will satisfy your social and physical needs, with no money-spending required.

Go inland and you are immersed in a sea of dense forest with tranquil lakes hiding here and there among the hemlock and Western red cedar trees. The landscape on the Island is so natural and unspoiled, and it never gets tiring to see. If you like photography, you will be in heaven here!

Brentwood Bay

2. Weather

Victoria has a moderate climate with winter temperatures usually remaining above negative. Compare that with -30 degrees Celsius in many of the other provinces and you can understand why so many people choose to move to the West Coast! Snowfall in the city is minimal, and when we do receive a mere couple of inches, the collective panic that erupts is quite amusing.

Summers are mild with temperatures rarely going over 30 degrees, allowing for sun-kissed comfort rather than sweltering torture (especially for someone fair like myself!). The lack of humidity and mosquitoes is also greatly welcomed!

If you’re into ocean sports, you will benefit from clear waters for diving and great wind speeds for sailing and kiteboarding.

Rain is less common here than in Vancouver, but even in the rain the surroundings are beautiful. Most places look dismal under grey skies, but Vancouver Island isn’t one of those places. Drifting fog over a bed of water dispersing slowly against a backdrop of evergreen trees is a trademark of the Pacific North West.

Sailing outside Cadboro Bay

3. Hiking

Drive 30 minutes outside of downtown Victoria and you are entering hikers’ paradise.  A variety of hiking options are available, depending on how far you are willing to drive to get there and how far/steep you want to walk. Mt. Doug is accessible by bus from downtown Victoria and offers 360-degree views over Greater Victoria and the surrounding Gulf Islands of the USA.  My favourite places to explore include John Dean Provincial Park in North Saanich, Mt. Work in Gowland Todd Provincial Park in the Highlands, Mt. Finlayson in Goldstream Provincial Park, Mt. Wells in the Langford area, and Matheson Lake in Metchosin. There’s nothing like a great hike to recharge your batteries and keep you smiling!

Mt. Finlayson

4. Lake Days

While England has the Lake District in the north and Hampstead Ponds in London, summer swims in lakes were never really a big thing when I was growing up.  Over here, you haven’t experienced summer if you haven’t had a lake day. Surrounded by forestry, Victoria’s surrounding lakes have authentic rustic settings that give off strong ‘Dirty Dancing’ vibes. (Because we’ve all at some point day-dreamed about re-enacting that scene!)

For a fun day out, you can pack a picnic and take a drive to Sooke to explore the potholes. More daring types can often be seen jumping from the rocks into the clear pools of water. Those searching for a quiet spot should head further upstream. Durrance Lake is a relaxing place to cool off after a hike in Gowland Todd Park, while Thetis Lake is a great option for chilling with friends, floaties and dogs. An hour’s drive up island, the Cowichan River is renowned by tubing lovers. If you’re bringing booze to any of these locations, please be respectful and take your cans away with you.

5. Wildlife

During a hike, you can expect to see bald eagles, turkey vultures and other birds of prey roaming over the trees with silent authority. Pickle’s Bluff in John Dean Provincial Park is a particularly great spot to witness a flying show.

Black bear sightings are also common as you head further inland, though the closest most people will get to one is from almost stepping in their berry-studded poop! Making regular gentle noise on the trail is typically enough to keep them away. Victoria also recently made headlines when a young cougar was spotted in the Gorge area. Thankfully, I am yet to come across one!

Between October and November, Goldstream Provincial Park is home to an annual salmon run that sees thousands of Chum salmon selflessly battle upstream from the Pacific Ocean and give up their lives to spawn. Watch closely and you can see the female digging her nest with surprising strength. You can’t help but admire these fish as they battle resiliently upstream against the current only, after after all that effort, to sacrifice themselves for the sake of making some babies. But at least it gives the other wildlife a meal!

Otters and seals are some of my favourite wildlife to see on the water, but if you’re looking for something bigger, you’re in the right place. Orca whales call this stretch of Pacific Ocean home, and it’s common to see a pod of them appear during a journey with BC Ferries over the Salish Sea to the Mainland or Gulf Islands. No matter how many times you might have seen them, the sense of awe never fades as you watch these beautiful animals rise up majestically from the water.

Humpback whales are another mammal that I’ve been fortunate to see by boat. Whale-watching trips operate out of Victoria, but as a firm believer in supporting local businesses, I tend to go with Sidney Whale Watching. The guides are knowledgeable and friendly, and they show respect for the whales’ well-being by adhering to regulations for viewing distances. I wish the same could be said for the private American charter boats.

6. Beaches

“I’m going to the beach” used to be something I’d say during an annual holiday in the Mediterranean. Now it’s something I say on a weekly basis. Why would I go drink in a rowdy pub on a Friday night after a busy week at work when I could instead soak up an opportunity for a quieter unwinding?

Within Victoria, Gonzales Bay is an excellent choice if you’re looking for an evening of sand, serenity and sunsets with a book or a guitar. Slightly bigger, Willows Beach in Oak Bay is a favourite for dog-owners and dog-stalkers-that-wish-they-were-dog-owners. A good place for seal sightings, it’s also a great place for a first date (speaking from experience!). On the eastern corner of the peninsula, there are many other quiet little coves to discover during a romantic evening walk.

If you are looking for rugged West Coast inspiration, the pebbled beaches en route to Port Renfrew will deliver. Perfect for a weekend of camping, there are a few options to choose from. Sandcut Beach and Sombrio Beach are two of my favourites. It’s easy to spend a couple of hours on these beaches appreciating the waterfalls, collecting driftwood or pebble souvenirs, looking in tide pools for small sea life, playing with seaweed (aka chasing your friend with it), and admiring the sheer number of clams and mussels. The odd surfer might be spotted braving the waves too.

Willows Beach

7. Road Trips

Whether you’re heading to Tofino for the weekend, taking a day trip to Port Renfrew, or making the long trip to Port Hardy, a road trip on Vancouver Island allows the above elements to be combined into one memorable adventure. The Island may seem small, but whether you are going solo or with friends, there is so much to discover and explore! Stopping in a few small towns such as Cowichan Bay is a great way to get a taste of the Island’s history and discover local art or trades.

Another bonus of road-tripping from Victoria is that the main highway is much quieter than the motorways of England, allowing for a more enjoyable driving experience.

Cowichan Bay

8. Food

Every road trip needs a great picnic, and Victoria is spoiled with places to stock up on snacks. Most importantly, it supports a variety of local restaurants, cafes and delis, meaning there’s no need to visit the big corporations like Starbucks or Tim Hortons.

Red Barn Market makes fresh sandwiches to order using local meat and vegetables, and offers generous servings at the ice cream counter. For this (latter) reason, the location on West Saanich Road has become a must-stop for me after a hike in Gowland Todd Park.  If you’re on a road trip to Port Renfrew, a great place to stop for coffee and sandwiches is Shirley Delicious. I’m pretty sure the South African barista has been on ecstasy every time I’ve gone..but he’s got great customer service!

One of my absolute favourite places for a post-hike treat is My Chosen Cafe in Metchosin. Tasty pizzas are made on site, and while you wait you can pet the adorable goats and donkeys nearby. Make sure you leave room for dessert, as its Sugar Shack really is the place where candy-filled dreams come true. Delicious and REAL milkshakes, mouth-watering fudge, and a variety of baked cookies, cakes and pastries await you. I personally love the Caramel Pecan Brownie and cry a little inside whenever it’s sold out.

While I don’t drink coffee, my penchant for tea has grown since moving to Victoria, thanks to the number of independent coffee shops around that create a cozy ambiance. Wild Coffee on Yates St, Bubby Rose’s Bakery on Cook St, Demitasse Cafe in Oak Bay, and Moka House on Fort St are nice places to catch up over a brew. And because there are so many coffeehouses around, I’m yet to discover more of them!

Then we have the bakeries. The window of Crust Bakery on Fort St is forever enticing drooling passers-by with its unique selection of pastries and tarts. A couple of doors down you have the Dutch Bakery with a variety of sweet treats on offer. If you like marzipan, the Dollar Rolls are delicious! Patisserie Daniel on Cook St has mouth-watering cinnamon buns and makes fantastic cakes for special occasions. Pure Vanilla Cafe and Bakery on Cadboro Bay Road tends to attract Oak Bay’s more affluent residents, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying its selection of breads, muffins and special cakes. Empire Doughnuts is fortunately (and unfortunately for my waistline) located one block from my office, and tends to be my go-to when the menstrual hormones are raging.

Summer in Victoria isn’t complete if there haven’t been several occasions when you’ve gone straight from work on a Friday to Cold Comfort. Located on North Park St, its ice cream sandwiches with their unexpectedly ideal flavour combinations are a wonderful end-of-the-week treat. My favourite flavours include Citrus and Coriander, London Fog, Raspberry Rose, and Hoyne Dark Matter (I don’t drink the beer…unless it’s in ice cream). On Fridays they pair up with Empire Doughnuts…uh oh!

9. Fitness

I love Victoria for its many scenic paths and trails. When I went on runs in London, the sounds of traffic, the air quality and the crowds of people I had to get through before reaching the park often left me frustrated. Here those irritants don’t exist. My favourite running route takes me along a beach, through a leafy creek area, and along a quiet road with gorgeous houses to distract me from the distance.

Whether walking through the pretty neighbourhoods of Fernwood or Oak Bay, running along Beacon Hill Park’s chip trail and grassy routes, or cycling a coastal route from Cordova Bay to downtown, you are bound to find something that keeps your mind happy and your body healthy.

For indoor fitness, Victoria has a huge array of gyms to choose from. I train at at Studio 4 Athletics on Yates St, where there are great options for personal training, individual workouts, and group classes. Victoria is also full of yoga lovers; in three minutes of walking around downtown, you can guarantee to see at least two people carrying a yoga mat.

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) is Canada’s beloved outdoor clothing and equipment store. It’s like a toy store for adults. Located on Johnson St, the store also organizes running/cycling meet-ups, clinics and races. Before a series of niggles influenced me to hang up my running shoes for a while, I went to the Tuesday run meet-ups and found them to be good fun and a great way to socialize while keeping fit. They also inspired me to get back into racing!

Racing at Elk Lake

10. Second-Hand Shops

On the subject of cycling, I bought my second-hand road bike for $600 from UsedVictoria.com. This website is awesome for buying used items, from cars to couches. It’s also how I’ve found many of my room-shares/roommates.

The thrift stores are also a real highlight of Victoria for me. Some people might turn their noses up at the idea of wearing clothing previously owned by someone else, but I personally think it’s awesome! Bagging a deal while helping the environment…what’s bad about that? Some of my favourite work blouses, jeans and summer dresses have come from Value Village or the Salvation Army. The Patch on Yates St is also amazing for vintage dresses. If you plan to go in there only buying one dress, good luck.

These thrift stores are also great for buying furniture and art, whether you are looking for an extra bookcase or some antique ornaments. I’m a big fan of landscape canvasses and paintings, and could spend a good hour browsing through them.

As someone who enjoys reading, I love visiting Russel Books on Fort St just to browse their huge collection of new and second-hand books. Whether you are looking for historical fiction or horticultural guidance, you’re bound to find a cover that catches your interest. It’s a perfect place to kill time if you’re waiting to meet up with a friend!

11. Events

Victoria holds a range of events throughout the year that emphasize the idea of supporting local businesses and fostering a multicultural population.

My favourite event to attend is the Oak Bay Night Market, which runs on every second Wednesday of the month from June to September. With live music, food trucks, and local vendors selling original crafts and baked goods, this market has a real community feel. It feels more personal and welcoming than any of the events I attended in London. It also seems to attract all the local “hot dads”…and their even hotter wives.

Annual events like Canada Day, Car-Free Day, Oak Bay Tea Party, Pride Parade, and the Symphony Splash are naturally a little busier, but they all highlight Victoria’s friendly and diverse… (cue next point)…

12. Culture

“You folks in this town are very friendly, tank you,” spoke an Irish man recently when I offered him some help after noticing he and his wife starting perplexedly at a map. It’s become a habit of mine to proactively approach people when they look lost. I ultimately do it as a way of paying back the help others have given me here.

People visiting from Vancouver or other big cities might mock Victoria for the fact that it still accepts change for buses. I however like the fact that Victoria is a little “behind the times”. It makes it cute and endearing. It’s also a welcome change from London to have a friendly bus driver who says hello and advises tourists when they should get off. Likewise, it’s nice to hear passengers thanking the bus driver when they get off. Further, it’s refreshing when you can speak freely with a fellow passenger without feeling the alarmed eyes of others on you assuming you’re a psychopath. (Yes, that was another dig at London.) In fact, striking up conversation with a woman who used to take the same bus as me in the morning is how I made one of my friends here! I also love the fact that when I’m walking to work, I often see the same smiley old man pushing his trolley who gives me a wave and comments on the weather.

When it comes to my friendships here, I definitely fit the mould of “quality over quantity”. But that’s fine with me, because the friends I have made are some of the most open-minded, easy-going, down-to-earth, adventurous, and generous people I’ve met.

13. Proximity

Even when you live in such a beautiful city, you sometimes need a change of scene. Luckily, Victoria is conveniently located. A 40-minute bus ride takes you to the sleepy town of Sidney, where you can spend a few relaxing hours browsing bookshops, reading in a cafe, and walking along the pier.

Take the bus further to Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal, and you have your gateway to a mini vacation on the Gulf Islands. If you’re craving some time in a big city (or a trip to IKEA), you can take the 90-minute journey to Tsawwassen and head up to Vancouver from there.

From Victoria, there are daily ferries to both Seattle and Port Angeles, with the latter being your pit stop en route to Olympic National Park.

Dallas Road

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If you’re a foodie who loves spending your free time outdoors exploring nature or getting active, Victoria really does have it all. Please feel free to add your questions about or tourist recommendations for Victoria below!

A 20-Something’s Guide to Getting Permanent Residence in Canada

My soft spot for Canada developed when I travelled through the country in August 2011, aged 19. It was this country that instilled in me a new sense of confidence, independence and adventure. Soon after my trip, I moved to London to start university, graduating from King’s College London in summer 2014 with a BA in History. I spent that summer in Canada and road-tripped through the USA, without a clear vision of what I wanted to “do” or “be”. Through a mixture of luck and initiative, I was offered a staffing and recruitment role in 2015, and found it to be a field I thoroughly enjoyed working in for the next two years. My relationship with London and England in general wasn’t blossoming quite as well, and I maintained my love affair with Canada through a trip in between contracts. The big and bustling city just wasn’t for me; I dreamed of mountains and lakes of British Columbia, of hiking on the weekend and smelling the ocean’s scent on evenings. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be doing with my life in 30 years’ time, but I did know that moving to this part of Canada would bring me much more happiness than my life in London. I identified for myself that I needed a big change. Neil Young sang “24 and there’s so much more”, and that was how I felt. Some people aspire to have a certain title, make lots of money and have a big house, but for me, living a healthy, active and happy life in a beautiful part of the world was the goal.

Canada is understandably one of the most popular choices for people looking to work and travel overseas; it has beautiful scenery, it’s relatively safe, and it has an immigrant-friendly government. Aged 24, I moved to Victoria in late December 2016 on a two year working holiday visa. Happily settled into a Canadian life, I submitted my application for permanent residence in June 2018 and was granted this status in December of that year.  Below is my guide to the process.

Peyto Lake, Alberta

Getting to Canada

When looking for information on the available opportunities for immigrating to Canada, the only website you should be consulting is the Government of Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website. The easiest way to start your quest for Canadian permanent residence is to go on this website and apply for a working holiday visa via the International Experience Class system, which is open to applicants aged 18-35. Depending on your country’s agreement with Canada, you can get either a one or two-year work permit that allows you to work for any employer (barring those in the sex trade…). Applying for this is fairly simple and just requires you to enter some personal information including your age and citizenship. You are then entered into a pool from which candidates are randomly selected to apply for the visa, typically after two or three months. You then submit an application form with your personal details and the addresses/occupations of your family members, have a police criminal background check completed, and pay the fee. If your application is approved, you have a year in which to arrive in Canada, where upon arrival an immigration officer will ask you a few questions. You must be able to prove you have sufficient funds to survive for a few months without a job, and have purchased medical insurance to cover the duration of your visa.

Establishing Yourself in Canada 

I was lucky when I moved to Canada in that I already knew the area I would be living in and had a (now-ex) boyfriend whose family I was able to live with for the first few months. If you have enough money saved to rent a place from the beginning, there are usually many house-share listings available on websites like Kijiji or Craigslist. If you don’t have any handy connections and are worried about funds, consider signing up for work exchange programs like Workaway, HelpX or WWOOF. In exchange for around 5 hours’ work a day (gardening, labouring, looking after animals etc.), you receive free food and accommodation. This is a great way to save money while helping others, meet people and get to know your new neighbourhood. Some families really show their helpers an awesome time during their free time, whether it’s taking them camping, sailing or horse-riding. Just make sure you aren’t having too much fun that you’re not putting enough time into searching for a paid job! It’s worth pointing out here that because I had already seen a lot of Canada on previous trips, I was more eager to jump into hunting for a full-time job than I’d expect of someone who was completely new to the country.

Finding a Job

There are a few different programs through which you can apply for permanent residence, with certain criteria needing to be met in order to qualify for each. Naturally, work experience has a huge influence on whether or not you will be granted permanent residence.

The Canadian Experience Class program is a good option for 20-something applicants who only have a couple of years’ skilled work experience in total but have a full-time job in the same field in Canada. The Federal Skilled Worker Program suits older applicants with a solid education who lack Canadian experience but have worked in a skilled role for the past 10 years. Experienced carpenters, electricians, plumbers and so on should check out the Federal Skilled Trades Program.

Because of my age, amount of professional experience in England, and the permanent position I received with a Canadian company, I opted to go through the Canadian Experience Class for my PR application. This program requires applicants to have 12 months’ of full-time (1560 hours minimum) work experience with a Canadian employer in the past three years before applying. The job must also fall within the skills category of 0, A or B in the National Occupation Classification (NOC).  ‘0’ refers to managerial jobs in any field, whether this is Human Resources, hospitality, health care or construction. ‘A’ refers to professional roles that typically require completion of a degree, such as a physiotherapist, engineer or teacher. ‘B’ refers to skilled jobs that typically require post-secondary education or training, like legal assistants or electricians. To be brutally honest, working as a server or retail assistant won’t cut it. If you want another country to accept you as a permanent resident, you need to prove that you will bring skills required in the job market that are perhaps lacking among the Canadian population in that region.

If you are struggling with your job search, considering registering with an employment agency. After learning about your skills and preferences, staffing consultants will send you details of job leads with their clients. These are typically temporary roles but can often lead to permanent opportunities if the client decides the temp would be a good long-term fit for the company. I myself signed up with a local employment agency and completed a few temp assignments with the provincial government. While the wage was lower than I was used to and the work less challenging than I was used to, I knew that it was worth it in order to make useful contacts, enhance my resume with some Canadian experience, and ultimately increase my chances of finding a permanent job as a foreigner. Funnily enough, a few months after registering with them, the agency offered me a position as a staffing consultant when a vacancy opened up, and it remains my job to this day! While I definitely had some luck with the timing, I wouldn’t have been offered the role had I not made a good impression during my temp assignments. Moral of the story: let go of your ego and who knows where you will end up!

Sooke, Vancouver Island

Preparing for your Application

If your job is going well and you are confident in its longevity, half the hard work is done! The rest mostly requires organization, patience and frankly, quite a lot of money. To apply through the Canadian Experience Class program, you need to have worked continuously for 12 months. If you work on a shift basis, make sure you are getting enough hours to total the minimum 1560hrs amount at the 12-month mark. If you work a consistent Monday to Friday schedule, use your free time to focus on the other application prerequisites.

While there is no education requirement for the Canadian Experience Class program, getting your education assessed (if it was completed outside of Canada) will boost your points in the Express Entry pool. The Education Credential Assessment (ECA) verifies that your foreign education is equivalent to Canadian standards. It takes up to four months to be processed, so get organized early. Contact your old university or college requesting they send your certificate and transcripts to the organization conducting the assessment (I used the University of Toronto Continuing Studies). You also need to upload a copy of these certificates to the organization’s website, before paying the fee of $271 (as priced in 2017).

A language test must be taken before a candidate is eligible to apply for permanent residence. Yes, you read correctly: if you were born and raised in England, you must still take a test to prove your proficiency in English. I opted to just take the English exam through IELTS. Taking an additional French exam will give you more points, but it will also cost more money, so it’s not worth doing unless you’re super confident in your abilities. This exam involves a Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking element, and requires half a day of your time (but you can take them on weekends!). Results are mailed out around two weeks later and are valid for a year. It cost me $309 to take the IELTS test. You might be thinking, “This is ridiculous, I’ve communicated in English for 24 years, I shouldn’t have to take a test”, but don’t expect to receive full marks on each test; I didn’t, and I’m a literary nerd. If I could re-take the test I would practise writing in pencil beforehand, especially because some people already struggle to read my handwriting in pen.

While you wait to reach the 12-month mark with your job, it’s also worth contacting your former employers in your home country to ask for references or copies of your contracts, as these will be required when proving your work experience later on in the process.

Applying for Express Entry

Express Entry is a points-based pool system that considers candidates’ age, education, work experience and language skills when assigning them with a rank. Draws take place throughout the year and candidates with the highest number of points are invited to submit a residency application. There are federal and provincial Express Entry options available, with the Provincial Nominee Program meaning a province can nominate you to apply. In the interests of money, I just went through the federal system.

Certain criteria need to be met before you are eligible to create an Express Entry profile. Once you have been employed for 12 months, completed your language tests, and had your educational credentials verified, go on the IRCC website. The ‘Come to Canada’ wizard has a questionnaire which determines what immigration programs you are eligible for. It asks you for your age, citizenship, marriage status and so on before inquiring about your work experience, education and language test results. Eligible candidates will receive a personal reference code to start their Express Entry application. You will only be eligible to apply through the Canadian Experience Class program if your dates of employment show you have held your position for 12 months. Entering the pool is free. (“Finally, a free component of applying for PR!”)

Submitting an Application for Permanent Residence

It’s important to remember that being in the Express Entry pool doesn’t guarantee you will receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for residency. It ultimately depends on how your points compare to other candidates. Some people wait for months to apply, others never get the invitation and have to re-apply the next year. I was fortunate (and pleasantly surprised) to receive my ITA after one week. Candidates have 60 days in which to submit an application so once again, organization is key. Candidates must request that their home country’s police force complete a criminal background check. This cost me £45 and the certificate took about 10-14 days to arrive in the mail. They must also complete a medical exam (including an x-ray, blood test and physical) to confirm they have no contagious diseases and will ultimately not be a drain on the country’s health system. The IRCC website helpfully lists all the clinics in your area that are authorized to perform medical exams for immigration purposes. I booked mine the day after I received my ITA because spots can fill up quickly, and all the tests were done within 10 days. The total cost of the medical exams is $340. Ouch. That’s an expensive way to find out that you’re in good health.

When applying through the Canadian Experience Class, you are asked to list all your previous work experience that falls under your current Canadian job’s NOC. Proof of this experience must be provided, including signed contracts or references that note your position title, duties, hours of work, and salary/wage. Your current employer must also write a reference letter verifying your employment status. Reading that my boss valued my contributions and intended to keep me employed for years to come definitely made all the work for the application seem worth it!

Employers wanting to hire a temporary foreign worker for a specific job must typically complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to confirm that a Canadian citizen is not available to perform the job, and this costs money. However, candidates currently in Canada on a working holiday visa obtained through mobility programs like the International Experience Class have an open work permit, and because this is a reciprocal program between the UK and Canada, their employer is subsequently exempt from needing to complete a LMIA and does not need to pay any fees to sponsor the application.

A passport photo, copies of your passport, your medical exam results and criminal background check results must also be attached in the online application, before you pay the submission fee of *gulp* $1050. You’d better really want to stay in Canada!

Whistler, BC

Next Steps

You’ve submitted your application and have collapsed on your sofa with a glass of wine. Now it’s a waiting game. Applications are usually processed within six months. While easier said than done, it’s best to try and forget about your application over the next few months. Unless you have a very dodgy criminal past or you do have a contagious disease, it’s likely that your application will be approved in time. Do yourself a favour and don’t call IRCC every few weeks in hopes this will make a difference; you will simply get through to an automated system and be told that your application is being processed, with no further elaboration provided. After a month or so you might get an email from IRCC and gasp in excitement…but it will likely just be a confirmation that you passed the medical exam.

Following submission of an application, you are considered to have ‘implied status’, which means you can continue working until a decision is made on your application. For additional peace of mind, you can apply for a Bridging Work Permit. I paid the $255 fee for this in October 2018, knowing that my visa was set to expire in late December and you cannot extend working holiday visas. On reflection I don’t think it was necessary for me to do this because my application was due to reach the 6-month mark on December 1st. Had I submitted my application in September, it would have been a different story. But given how close we were getting to December, I just wanted to be safe rather than sorry. (And frankly by this point, what’s a couple more hundred dollars matter anyway..?) Typically, my PR application was approved before I even received confirmation my BWP application was approved. I’m still waiting to hear back about a refund…

Confirming Permanent Residence 

A few days before reaching the 6-month mark, I received a letter from IRCC noting that my application was in the final stages. After reading this I think I did a little jig in my office. Candidates at this stage are instructed to send an Express post parcel to an office in Ottawa with copies of their passport, a form confirming their current residential address, two professional photos* taken for their PR card, and a self-addressed return envelope.

*When getting your photos taken, don’t make the mistake I did of going to London Drugs. I asked the employee in the photography section if the store took photos for permanent residence applications and he confidently told me they did, only for me to find out a month later that the $14 I paid was for two photos that were rejected because they didn’t meet the specifications for the PR card. Thankfully this had no impact on my application, but it was still stressful to find out. I also received no response when I emailed the customer service department with constructive feedback. 

On December 5th, a week after the initial letter, I received the email from IRCC confirming that my application for permanent residence had been approved! Even though deep down I had known there was no reason I shouldn’t be successful, it was still an overwhelming moment and I immediately broke into tears of both joy and relief.

Shortly after receiving this email, your parcel from IRCC will come back with your ‘Confirmation of Permanent Residence’ landing visa. Just when you think you’re all done and can put your feet up and write your emotional Facebook post, you are told that you need to show this letter to an immigration officer and have it signed and approved before officially obtaining PR status. There is an option to schedule an appointment with an officer in your town, but this can take up to 30 days. The other option is to leave the country and speak with a border officer on return. Living so close to Washington State, I decided to get things over with and paid $60 for a US day visa and return ticket for the Coho ferry.

On return from a sunny couple of hours in Port Angeles, I showed the border officer in Victoria my landing visa and then sat down with another officer who signed the forms and informed me of the terms I must follow in order to maintain PR status. While it can take up to several weeks for the photo card to arrive in the mail, the signed landing visa is your official proof that you have permanent resident status. The border officer also touched on the process of applying for citizenship (as if I wasn’t exhausted enough from this process to start considering that!) He was absolutely lovely and I particularly appreciated his recognition of the effort that goes into getting permanent residence. It truly is a long process that requires a lot of organization, patience and dedication. It was as I walked home from the immigration office, passing Victoria’s distinctive legislature buildings on the way, that I felt a weight lift from my shoulders.

Ultimate Dos and Don’ts

  • Do make sure you consult the IRCC website for official information on anything related to Canadian permanent residence. There are lots of visa-assistance or immigration law websites that don’t always give 100% accurate information, and many of them are ultimately looking to make money off people without visa success being guaranteed.
  • Do be organized with looking for a job, getting all your documents together and booking exam dates etc. Two years goes by quicker than you think, and timing can make all the difference. Save all relevant emails in one folder and keep any mail correspondence related to the application in one place, in case you need it for future reference.
  • Do be smart with your finances. Obviously you will want to enjoy your free time, but keep the main goal in mind before you splurge out on trips across the country (domestic flights in Canada are not cheap!). Consider setting up an application fund and putting some money from each pay cheque towards it.
  • Don’t apply for PR unless you are 100% sure you want to stay in the country for the next few years. Applying for PR is a big commitment and an expensive process if you are funding yourself independently. If you are in a relationship with a Canadian, ask yourself what other factors attract you to the country and if you would genuinely want to be there if single.
  • Don’t immediately consult an immigration lawyer for advice. Applying for PR is already costly before paying additional fees for the sake of having to do a little less work. The IRCC website isn’t perfect and ESL speakers may find it confusing, but at least try to understand it first before paying for advice you might personally not need.
  • Don’t complain to immigration officials about the processing times. Everyone is in the same boat, so being petulant and demanding about the status of your application won’t do you any favours.

Approximate cost of applying for Permanent Residence (application submission, medical exams, language tests, educational credential assessment, postage and other expenses)$2500

Salt Spring Island, BC

 Good Luck with your application!

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Please note, this post is an unofficial guide to the process of obtaining Canadian permanent residence, based on my personal experience. The writer of this article cannot be held accountable for the outcome of a reader’s application.

Have you successfully obtained permanent residence in Canada? Please feel free to share any additional tips or experiences below.

Relations & Realizations | An Expat’s Summer in Canada

It’s been ten months since I left the UK for Vancouver Island, Canada. Summer with its droughts and wildfires has now passed, and I still have no desire to return back to England. Not only do I have a permanent job doing something I love, but my time in Victoria has opened my eyes to a lifestyle I was missing before when I lived in London.

In the first house I lived in upon moving to Victoria, I’d wake up for work in the morning and open the blinds to see a deer just hanging out in my front yard. He became known as ‘Stanley’. On the walk to the bus stop I would pass runners and dog-walkers who would smile and let me pet their pooch. I would recognize people on the bus who were open to the concept of smiling and engaging in brief conversation. I admired and participated in the culture of saying “thank you” to the driver upon exiting the bus. I established that my favourite driver was a former pilot called Dan who provided weather updates, scenic commentary and probably even birthday shout-outs if requested.

I learned through my interviewing of various people at work that a lot of Canadians can’t decipher between an English and Australian/Kiwi accent. I made friends with a Persian family who started a new restaurant a few steps away from my office, to the extent that they wave at me whenever I pass by and look in.

I learned (and soon forgot) the rules of softball and that “good hustle” and “you got this” are a quintessential feature of Canadian vocabulary.  I experienced how wonderful it is to spend evenings after work on the beach, in a park or doing exercise, as opposed to being in a culture that seems to promote spending the evenings in a pub. I learned of various locally owned bakeries and cafes that made such a refreshing change from the large corporate chains such as Starbucks, Pret and Costa Coffee that can be seen on every street in London. I realized just how fame-obsessed and media-mobbed life in London was in comparison to the easy-going, outdoor-loving West Coast lifestyle. I also learned that I’m addicted to thrift stores.

With regards to self-esteem, I stopped wearing mascara in late April after suddenly feeling more comfortable in my skin and realizing I no longer cared about looking younger or less attractive with my naturally fair features. And at the end of the summer, I went to an open mic night at a small pub up island attended by a handful of locals, and ended up singing on stage with a bunch of old boys playing guitars.

The kindness of Vancouver Islanders in comparison to Londoners really came to light during a bus journey on a sweltering Saturday in June, when I fainted after having a vasovagal episode. I opened my eyes to see a few strangers peering down at me uncertainly, with one of them casually holding my raised legs by the ankles. A lady placed a damp flannel on my forehead and asked me a series of questions, before deciding that my apparently ghostly white face warranted calling an ambulance, (even though I had had vasovagal episodes like this before and was pretty confident all was fine). The lady continued to ask me a series of questions, including: “Where are your parents?” Suddenly I had one of those stirring moments of realization I’ll occasionally get where I remember where I am and how far away I am from home.

This same lady would later text me to ask how I was feeling. To my grateful response she replied, “Don’t thank me, just pay it forwards.”

So I did.

A few weeks later, I was reading at the beach minutes from my house when a little girl ran over to her mum to inform her that reckless Sally had taken a tumble at the playground and cut her toe open. “Oh God, oh God,” gabbled the mum like an alarmed chicken. “Is she okay? Is it broken? Is there blood? You know I can’t handle blood, Lucy!” And so Lucy ran back to assess the extent of damage further before returning with a report. “Oh God oh God,” began the chicken-momma again. “Why would she do this to me? Does she need an ambulance?”

I impulsively offered to help, and without hesitation, the woman accepted. Little Sally sat calmly on a bench and rolled her eyes at me as if acknowledging her mother’s flappy ways. I cleaned up and covered the 1-inch cut on the top of her toe and then her mum approached, only to shrink back at the sight of a slightly-bloodied wet wipe. “Thank you so much! I just can’t deal with blood when it’s on my kids; with anything else it’s fine, but not my kids.” I decided not to ask what she would do if her child was in a life or death situation, but did insist she shouldn’t need to take her daughter to the doctor.

All in all it was a great summer, and the best thing was that I got to show my life here (and some humpbacks!) to my mum when she came out to visit for a week.

The worst thing about the summer was the part where my boyfriend and I decided to call time on our 3-year relationship.

No relationship is perfect – there will always be struggles, and for a while you will rightfully try to work through them. Then comes the time when you have that highly needed yet highly unsettling moment of realization that someone you have loved and cared about for a long time just isn’t right for you anymore and vice versa.  Your personalities, interests and goals no longer align, and you no longer recognize them as the person you felt an instant attraction for upon meeting. No matter how much you try to compromise and persevere, you cannot find the sense of content you are looking for, and it’s time to concede defeat. But it’s terrifying to leave the comfort of something that has always seemed so simple, natural and ideal in so many ways. As an expat far from home, questions of, “Why am I really here? Do I actually want to be here?” arose in my mind. The future seemed unclear and scary.

Then I thought long and hard about all the big things I had experienced in Canada since December, like new friendships and a fulfilling job. And then I considered all the little things I had experienced just over the summer – the run clubs, the beach days, the outdoor adventures, the friendly interactions, the pleasant sights. Things that made being here so much more appealing than returning to London and England. Why would I give up all these things I’m lucky to have in my life? Why would I return to a place and a lifestyle that doesn’t make me feel as happy? More than ever, I knew that I wanted to remain in Canada.

I made a list of goals for when I would become single. One of them involved running competitively again. I signed up for my first race in over two years for late September, and regardless of the fact that I ended up being the first lady home in my race, I enjoyed the whole experience immensely.

Another goal included making more use of my free time to travel. It had been over a year since I’d completed a solo trip. After passing my work probation I booked a few days off for the beginning of September. It was time to leave the Island and return to the place where I first fell in love with Canada: the Rockies.

I spent a day walking around Calgary (not for me) and then got a bus to Banff. The town was flooded with tourists for the Labour Day weekend and had become a lot more commercialized since my last visit. I was a little disappointed by my return visit, but just having some alone time in a different setting felt good.

One morning, I sat at the same spot on the Bow River where I’d perched six years ago as a less confident and more naive 19 year old. I thought about all that has happened in the past six years – travelling, moving to London, completing my degree, commencing a (mostly long-distance) relationship, starting a job that developed into a career field, moving to Canada, and returning to single-hood again. I felt a sense of pride remembering all that I’ve experienced, learned and accomplished in that time, and suddenly the world felt like a map in my pocket, with me in control of my life route and excited for what lay ahead in my chosen path.

This summer turned out to be different from how I initially envisioned it would be. But the unexpected developments turned out to be positive. They gave me some important realizations and helped inspire my future plans.