This week marks three years since I left Australia with my Canadian working holiday visa acceptance papers in one hand, and a one-way ticket to Vancouver in the other. It is not news around here that the experience profoundly changed my life. So much so I am already dreaming about my return next year. But I know the paradox of emotions you will inevitably feel before taking that first step. Am I doing the right thing? Will I find a job and an apartment? Is Vancouver (or Montreal, or Toronto) the place for me? Sometimes these nerves and fears can be overwhelming.
But I want you to know the benefits of doing a working holiday in Canada far outweigh the disadvantages. Here are my top reasons why working abroad will be the best thing you ever did.
You will make friends for life
The people I met in Vancouver — from my colleagues to fellow expats — shaped my working holiday experience. I don’t think I would have seen and done so much without them by my side. Each and every one of them made me feel like I belonged on the other side of the world, and I really appreciated that. When your family is in Australia, your friends in Canada will become like a surrogate family. I think that is what makes them all so special, and I know other expats agree.
Your self confidence will skyrocket
I don’t think my self confidence was impressively high prior to my working holiday in Canada. But all of a sudden it was up to me, and me alone, to organise my life, find a job, secure a room to rent, and figure out how to run errands without a car. I was proud of myself every time I ticked something off my list, no matter how menial the task. I learned I could rely on myself wholeheartedly, and everything would be okay. This inner trust is something that has continued to grow and foster since I finished my working holiday.
You will travel to new destinations
Perhaps the biggest drawcard to living in a new country is the travel adventures awaiting you. Although it is no Europe, I loved my Pacific Northwest adventures, and my three months travelling across Canada and the United States. I discovered a newfound appreciation for many American cities and I am excited to revisit a few. Make the most of your working holiday and not only uncover a new city, but countries too.
For your career
Before I left for Canada, a family member told me that when she is looking at job applicants, she always looks for people with world experience. At the time I was working at a body corporate office after finishing university the year prior. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I arrived in Canada, so I applied for everything from admin to hospitality positions. I ended up with two jobs in hospitality, and we all know how much I loved working at Aussie Pie Guy. Don’t think your career is going to be affected. My friend worked in marketing in Australia and found a similar position overseas. It may even be a chance to try something new if you are feeling stuck too.
Because it’s CANADA
My Canadian knowledge included: it snowed, had pretty natural landscapes and was part of the Commonwealth. Yep. But then I moved there, and it turns out Canada is an amazing country. The locals are very friendly, the food is delicious, and the landscape is undoubtedly beautiful. Doing a working holiday in an English-speaking country does make the transition easier, and Canada has to be one of the best.
You will actually have seasons
I grew up in a place that had two seasons: extremely hot and not so hot. So it was a bit of a shock for me when I moved to Canada on my working holiday and actually experienced seasons for the first time. Although I am never going to love winter, it was a little fun buying warm clothes. I had actually only owned one pair of boots before Canada, and they were from a trip to Europe in winter. But in Vancouver I witnessed spring, when people seriously come out of hibernation. Summer was amazing, with the sun shining and festivals happening every weekend. Seeing the trees change in fall was unforgettable too.
You will get to see so many more bands
This may only matter to me, and it may seem totally trivial, but I went to so many gigs when I lived in Vancouver. An upside to living in a country that borders the United States is that so many musicians will happily cross the border from Seattle, and tickets are more reasonably priced than in Australia. I also saw four Aussie bands perform too, so you won’t miss out on homegrown talent either.
You can only do it while you’re young
I am pretty sure your 20s are all about discovering the world and figuring out what you want to do for your rest of your life (right?). Most working holiday visas are only for people between 18 and 30, so make the most of your indecisive 20s and head off in search of adventure in another country.
There are ways to combat homesickness
When I was feeling lonely and missing home, I would usually Skype with my parents or read back through blog posts and see just how much I had accomplished since I moved across the world. Having fellow expats as friends made it easier too, and visiting the local Aussie pub. The owner would play our rugby league teams’ games just for us, which was lovely. It is the little things that can make the difference.
You can always come home
I think this is most important. The Canadian working holiday visa lasts for two years, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay the entire time. You can spend the winter snowboard instructing in Banff, do some travelling and then come home. There is no shame in that. I was only there for 18 months and don’t regret my decision. Don’t go into a working holiday thinking about the deadline.
Don’t just take my word for it…
I asked Kate, an expat I met in Vancouver, what she gained from her working holiday. For her it was appreciation: “When I was away I gained a new appreciation for a lot of new, and old, things in my life. Some were more important than others, but I learned to appreciate beer and tea in Canada by trying new things. I definitely appreciated the outdoors more by hiking and exploring our new backyard. I felt grateful for what I had before moving, and the new things I got out of my life working abroad.”