When I moved to Canada 3 years ago, I learned that going to new places on your own leaves you vulnerable and very open. Some days were hard and emotional, some weren’t, but I learnt very quickly that travelling can so often be very far from idillic. It is tough because your character is constantly tested when you have none of your things, and none of your friends near by. You have to adapt and very often find comfort in strangers, learning to trust without conditions.
Sometimes I turned up on people’s doorsteps knowing nothing but leaving with a whole wealth of knowledge on the randomest subjects.
Sometimes I’d turn up with clean clothes and leave caked with mud but wearing the biggest smile.
Rarely I left anywhere disappointed and to my relief (and 21 year old surprise) I found that the world was a good place full of good people.
I’ve not always done a great job, but I have tried to live up to my findings of those 12 months in Canada, and leave things better than when I found them, including myself.
After I left Canada, I relocated to the south of France. If I’m honest I’m not completely sure what the thinking behind this was, I wanted to improve my French which I had started to pick up in Montreal. I certainly wanted to spend some time in such a beautiful place, even though I don’t deal with heat too well. It was an interesting summer but after three months trying, and often failing to communicate in a second language, I decided to move back to England instead of completing the intended 12 months.
Finding myself back in Liverpool holding down a minimum wage bar job with a terrible boss and barely a penny to my name, I felt like an absolute failure. I was 23 with some great stories but not much else to show for my adventures. My friends and people I worked with started to become bored with my travel stories and tell me I was bragging. Actually most of my stories were from other places because I’d spent the last year and a half or so in other places.
Friends had moved on and there no longer seemed to be room for me in the old groups. It was a very sobering couple of months.
I decided to move to Manchester and get ‘a proper job’. This didn’t work out too well and I ended up in a job I hated, with people I liked less and living with the strangest girl who was actually surprised when I needed to keep food in the kitchen.
Long story short, after six months I decided I needed to find a new job, move house, break up with my then-boyfriend who still lived in Canada (1 1/2 years of long distance… Yikes!/what was I thinking?!) and go on holiday. And that’s just what I did!
I had a fantastic week in Stockholm enjoying the fresh air and change in culture. It was around this point, even though I had always had a vague idea to return to Canada, that I decided to apply for the visa. I began a fantastic new job with a small but tenacious open source software company, I moved house and I met Jake.
The following ten months were transformative to say the least. I no longer felt like I was failing at anything and got back much of the confidence I had lost. I was doing well with my job, enjoying (eventually) living with Jake – and Peanut, the stray cat with no teeth and IBS. My visa was approved to return to Canada for two years as was Jake’s, I was managing to save a respectable amount of money and planning an impressive tour of South East Asia on our way to North America.
Fast forward to the last month and a half I’ve had a new challenge of travelling with someone. Again it’s been difficult, I’ve had to learn and, in very different ways to the last time, allow myself to be vulnerable and trust someone unconditionally.
The instability of travelling is sometimes exhausting, we have both at times longed for a kitchen to bake a wheel of cheese, and indeed a wheel of cheese to, you know, eat a wheel of cheese. There isn’t much cheese out here. Creature comforts are different, favourite snacks change and clothing is surprisingly controversial at times.
There is an over idealised assumption about long term travelling and relocating. It’s difficult and the highly prized reward of the experience is hard earned. Yes those who go are lucky, and believe me we know it, but I’m not convinced that it is any easier than living your life in one place. There are the same struggles, and some different ones, but the reality is when you choose to spend a long time doing something, there are always goals to achieve and much like ‘real life’ those goals can be very hard to accomplish.
It has been difficult but very rewarding. My partner in crime is more than I could have asked for and I’m very happy he chose to do this with me.
Half way to Canada, 5 weeks left. Thanks for coming with me Jacob.