Three years ago today, I set off on the biggest adventure of my life – as I write that, I hope that there are still bigger adventures to come, otherwise I live in the past thinking of this one amazing thing I did once.
I miss writing my blog, I find it therapeutic for myself, and I like sharing my adventures. Today seemed like a good day for a resurrection.
I left England on my own with no idea what was to come in Canada. I didnt have a huge amount of money, was armed with a huge to do list and for some reason, very little fear. I had no idea that I would break my ankle less than a week after arriving, and manage to overcome that – somehow I didnt fly home, well I physically couldnt as I couldnt carry my belongings with my crutches. I also didnt spend a month crying at home waiting for it to heal, although truth be told there were a few of those days. I hopped my way to the bar and found day drinkers and baseball, I hopped to the beach and fell in love with the lake and the beach lifestyle, dreaming of the day I would be able to run along the boardwalk. The people I met in the pub those first weeks helped me settle, looked out for me and were both a blessing and, sometimes a curse when the beaches gossip struck. That first summer finding my feet was the best and I made such a random and welcoming collection of friends.
The Brits in Toronto group gave me a lifeline to home with fellow Brits to chat about what we missed, or share amusing stories about Canadianisms, or the best place to buy English chocolate or decent tea bags. As I write that, I chuckle thinking of my Scottish and Welsh friends correcting me saying that its not English chocolate. I walked so much around the city with friends, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes visiting markets or countless different Tim Hortons, taking a ridiculous amount of photos of the CN Tower and visiting board game cafes. The Brits organised my first ever baseball game – I went as I didnt want to be left out, and now look at me!
At the end of the summer, work beckoned and I found a job. Some normality was introduced and I found myself seeing what it was like to travel on public transport for 90 minutes each way to and from work. This began with a steep hill that was brutal no matter how many times I did it. I learned at this stage that, in Canada, the summer commute is hellish with the humidity and the winter commute is hellish with the ice and the frozen eye lashes – there is limited respite time in between the extremes. The ice took me out a few times sending me home with childlike grazed knees and hands. I met some friends that were most like my at home friends, and worked in addictions. I had missed group work and this gave me a chance to get stuck in to a new programme, and also to work with both men and women again. I didnt stay too long as I realised I didnt want to work all the time with little annual leave. One of these friends has already been to visit me in Devon.
When in a different country, why be sensible? I quit my well paid job with benefits and career experience and went to work for Toronto Blue Jays as an Usher with some bar work thrown in at my local pub. I met a whole new crowd of random, and mostly lovely, people. I learned how much I love baseball. I finally understand how people enjoy sports! The atmosphere in the stadium and sense of pride I had working there stayed with me for every game. I got a Blue Jays tattoo. I was recently asked if I regret that now – not even a little bit, I absolutely love it! I did some work for the Rogers Centre on the events side and got paid to work at the Guns and Roses gig, Monster Trucks, Beyonce and Disney on Ice. I would never have gone to these, but it was great to be paid to go. The Monster Trucks shows were such fun!
In between the bar and the baseball, I managed to spend lots of time on the beach. I sunbathed lots, I swam in the lake, I never tired of walking the boardwalk and Queen Street, alone or with friends. We had regular pubs to stop for cider in the sunshine along the way. It took some doing but I became comfortable sunbathing topless on the secret beach. This is not something I would have been able to do without the confidence and carefree attitude of one friend rubbing off on me. This is probably not something I will be repeating anytime soon on an English beach, but for a while there, I felt care free and tan line free! Aside from the beach, I also went off and got to see amazing things – I was going to say I cant even begin to list everything and what I most loved, but I am going to try…. bears, mountains, the Icefields Park way, Niagara Falls, Manitoulin Island, the screaming faces, all of Newfoundland, snowtubing, Toronto Islands, the squirrels, Kew Gardens, Fenway Park, Vegas, Empire State building at night, Beavertails, random road trips. I drove on the other side of the road for the first time in my life.
My Dad visited twice and three friends visited. We had so much fun. I loved showing them around my new home, and realised how much I had picked up as I easily navigated the city in hire cars and on public transport. I showed them the best spots and shared the things I loved. The friends I made were so welcoming to my visitors – this meant a lot.
It all sounds terribly rosy and I find myself with a warm feeling of nostalgia. I know that it wasnt all a fairy tale. I missed my sister being pregnant, my nephew being born and his first year, weddings, my pony dying. I missed my pets – though I had the best hamster in Mavis and had such fun with her babies, an unexpected and entertaining experience. I also had a succession of foster cats to keep me company. I loved the beaches and hated the beaches at times – the gossip and stirring was upsetting and tiring at times, but I loved the welcoming friendly people that I knew I could rely on. I loved being able to go to the shop or coffee shop and bump in to people I knew for a chat. I loved being able to go to the Remarkable Bean for a chai latte and to people watch! I digress back in to nostalgia. I found it difficult working in the different jobs after a while, I felt like I wanted to use my skills and I missed working in prisons. I still got plenty of challenging behaviour to work with at the pub and the baseball, but not the same! My apartment was cute and my own space, but I never really got furniture or kitted it out properly so it was always a mess and never really my own. I found that Canadian friends didnt always want to go on road trips or explore Canada, but some of the Brits I met were quite a bit younger and preferred to go drinking and clubbing. I missed dressing up in heels and dresses to go out – now I am back, I just wish I could go out in ‘active wear’ and a baseball jersey with flip flops! I was very up and down in my last few months in Canada and I think a lot of this was to do with things like living out of cardboard boxes instead of having a chest of drawers! and not having a car which I found really frustrating, and also developing chronic plantar faciitis making weight gain worse and meaning I lost my passion for the gym as it was too painful to enjoy it or do much. This said, there is no way of knowing which ifs and buts would have changed anything, so I probably wouldnt change much looking back,
Im still remembering more and more great experiences as I type, skiing was fantastic. For some reason, I even look back on driving in snow squalls with glee! Despite the crawling along the road with a very real fear of imminent death. Oh and my friends leg going through the ice on a frozen lake that he assured me was okay to walk on. I stayed on the safety of actual solid ground.
How is it being back? I have been back for 9 months. For the first couple of months I savoured every rich creamy English chocolate bar, devoured fish and chips, pies, decent bacon. Didnt want to let Mr Jinx out of my sight. Didnt want to go in Follys empty stable. I have loved having cuddles with my nephew and babysitting – I cant stop spoiling him and buying him clothes and toys and all of the cute stuff.
After the initial glow of being home wore off, it did take a few months for me to settle. There were days that I felt like I made a big mistake coming home. I felt like I wanted to run away back to Canada. This is weird, because I was never running away going there in the first place, or coming back. I missed the easy lifestyle and lack of pressure. The days where I feel that pang are getting fewer, though some days I feel like I want to hold on to every memory and bit of Canada to stop it slipping away from me and becoming a distant memory. I am finding it harder to recall street names and shops, but then there are some places and memories that are so vivid, it is as if I was there this morning.
I have had two Canadian visitors. I loved this. I loved how welcome my friends made them – just as they had with those that visited me. I loved being able to show them my part of England and how gorgeous Devon is – I also took one to her first foam party! The Manc I met in Canada also visited for an epic and memorable night out along with a brief tour of Devon and Cornwall. I went to Berlin, Vienna and Salzburg with one of the Torontonians – we sang songs from The Sound of Music non stop.
I got a bit down with the job hunting after a while being back. I couldnt find exactly what I wanted, and I wasnt getting far with temporary jobs. Canadian police checks and DBS checks held me up some more. Eventually, in November, I found a job and got my foot back in the prison door. I love being back in the field of work I enjoy and am good at. I have moved sideways and upwards in the role I am doing, and the new experiences are fantastic. Fantastic / stressful at times!
When it comes to friends, some things are unchanged and some friendships have moved on. It is strange that I never see some people that I was inseparable from before. It feels like our lives are different now somehow – though I dont know what has changed. I know that there are some friends in Canada that will be friends for a life time, and some friendships that, whilst they were a huge part of my life in Canada, dont translate across the world. I think that that is okay though. Some friendships will always be good memories and a part of that stage of my life, even if we are not in contact all the time.
The odd heatwaves we have had have reminded me that the heat was too much for me in Canada – even thought it has been nowhere near as hot or humid here, it has been enough to remind me! The core reasons for not staying stay the same – too hot and humid and not enough annual leave in most jobs. I also felt that I went backwards from having a career, my own house and the freedom of a car to renting, non stable jobs and no transport. In some ways that was a big difference between some friends I met there and me, as quite a few were living without parents for the first time, so they didnt feel that same nagging of regression that got to me some days.
Where am I now? Living at home again with my house still rented out – what was I just saying about regression?! Is Canada off the table? Not completely. I feel like I have to go back to visit to shut that door. I miss parts of the lifestyle, and I think that while I live here and save some money, I need to figure out where I want to be and how I can gain some of the positives of the lifestyle I had over there whilst keeping my irreplaceable English countryside. I am back in the gym and feeling better mentally and physically because of it – losing the ability to exercise took a big part of who I am and buried it for a while.
Can I ever really compare the two countries and lifestyles? I dont think I can, they were so different and both have pros and cons. I really dont think there is a ‘better country’, but there is a ‘better fit’ for the individual.
I dont know what the next adventure will be, but I am sure I will start plotting soon enough.