Why you should ditch your job and move to the Canadian wilderness
Have you ever played ice hockey on a frozen lake in the mountains?
Everyone wants to travel. Everyone wants to finish university and spend a year abroad, be it travelling through Asia, working at Camp America, or spending a ski season in the Alps. I chose to live in Canada, because Canada’s got it all.
Like most, I chose a year in Whistler for the Ski Season. First thing I was told? You come for the winter, but stay for the summer. It sucks you in and you can’t leave (until your visa ends and your life is over).
Outsiders think of the freezing winters, the endless nothing, and Terrence and Phillip. But there’s so much more to Canada.
As a Brit, it’s more of a culture shock than you’d think. How can living in an English speaking Commonwealth country be so different? But it’s the little things that catch you out, grow to love and become a part of you.
Poutine becomes your favourite end-of-the-night meal. KD mac’n’cheese replaces Pot Noodles. A box of Timbits with a Double Double will do just nicely.
Everything is bigger out in Canada. The roads are wider, filled with big SUVs and 4x4s, where little hatchbacks stick out like a sore thumb. A small drink in McDonald’s is a large to us. Individual crisp packets, or chips, are sharing size.
Even the animals are huge: where in the UK could you poke your head in a bush and find yourself face to face with a black bear?
But in reality, the bears aren’t actually scary. Or at least black bears aren’t – grizzlies are another matter. Unlocking the trashcan becomes second nature, and it’s not over the top: I once saw a bear force through a half-open window because it smelt someone’s lunch.
But while you’re getting used to the different country, you realize the mountains are home to some of the worlds top ski terrain. Thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies from the world over descend in search of life’s greatest joys.
You find a new lease of life in the mornings – nothing can drag you out of bed at 7am after a booze-fuelled bender quite like 30cm of fresh powder. Because it doesn’t just snow in Canada. It dumps.
You’re immersed in mountain life, away from the real world but right where you want to be. Facebook and Instagram fill up with artistic ski-bum photos, tagged “My life is so much better than yours” or “The view from my office today”. It might come across as boastful, but really it’s because you’re in the best place in the world, and you want everyone to know it.
Even when the snow starts melting, the winter wonderland transforms into gorgeous greenery. Tuques are replaced with flat caps, goggles with shades and jackets with vests, as the -20 chill heats through to +35.
Glacial melt flows into the lakes, setting beautiful turquoise streaks through the mountains, which you struggle up with your camera and tripod for those once in a lifetime views.
But then, once you think you’ve seen real beauty and life can’t get any better, you look into the sky. No light pollution, calmness all around, and the Aurora dancing across the Milky Way. It’s almost too much to handle.
As if the beauty of the mountains wasn’t enough, you’re in a hub for the world’s best extreme sports. Year round you’re set – waist-deep powder in the morning, park laps in the afternoon then frozen lake hockey in the evening? Yes please.
Then in the summer, store your skis in the garage and pull out your bike. You spend your days weaving through the trees and clearing bigger jumps each time. Or if biking isn’t your thing, $20 for an Explorer is no problem.
You float down rivers with your buds, a rapidly warming six-pack tied to your boat while you soak up the rays. The lakes become a second home: after all, is there a better way to spend a lazy afternoon than with some chill music and a cool Cariboo?
Then, just as you’ve finally got your head around adding tax to everything you buy, started calling your bucks Loonies and Toonies and empty your wallet to tip for each drink you buy, it’s all over and you wish you’d been quicker applying for your next visa.
You fly back home, excited to see your friends and family again, but it quickly gets boring as nothing has changed, except Josh grew a beard and Alex had a child. You can’t bear to look at Facebook and see photos of your Canadian friends hiking that waterfall you never made it to.
Your favourite playlist brings a flood of memories, and certain smells, foods and pictures can ruin your day. TV’s not the same without flicking past Trailer Park Boys or a hockey match, and you can’t wear a flat cap on a night out anymore.
But it doesn’t matter. You’ll already have found a new way of life, and begun to count the days until you return – it’s not a matter of if, but when. Canada shows you how great life can be, and it’s addictive.
You’ll remember everyone who told you they went for the winter and never left, and you’ll understand why.