8 Months in Canada: Vancouver, Bears, Lakes, Mountains and Maple Leaves

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As Elizabeth, 25 from Warwickshire, approaches the end of her Work Canada adventure, she tells us about the highlights of her trip so far.

To summarise the past 8 months of my life in Canada is impossible! It all started with a flight to Vancouver, and it is ending with some of the closest friends I have ever made, many amazing memories, hundreds of funny stories and thousands of photos. Here's the story of my time in Canada so far...

I couldn't have asked for a better bunch of random people on my flight, it was a positive start to Vancouver as we spent time together exploring the city and attempting to frantically find accommodation and work. BUNAC's partner office in Vancouver put on an ace orientation for us, and even though we were jetlagged on our first day, we went away feeling positive and prepared for this huge new country. Within a couple of weeks most of my friends and I had found places to live, I moved into an apartment with a new friend from the flight, which we had seen advertised on BUNAC's partner office accommodation board. It was all working out well, and by this point we had turned somewhat into a research group, all of us searching job websites and working on our resumes! All our hard work paid off and most of the group found jobs within a few weeks, I was very excited to get a great little office job, which I had also spotted in BUNAC's partner office!

I was really beginning to enjoy my new life in Vancouver, and had never felt so at home in such a new place. I spent a lot of time exploring the town with my friends at first, we checked out Granville Island, Stanley park, the art gallery, and even tried our first Tim Hortons donut! However  our first real Canadian experience was to come, we'd decided to go along to one of the events organised by BUNAC's partner: Curling.

That's right, that game where you throw rocks down a sheet of ice and then people with brooms sweep and everyone looks ridiculously silly, and you get to shout "sweeep!!!" a lot ... although that is probably not the technical term for sweeping! I never thought I'd say this, but curling is cool. So we donned our plastic shoe grips and brooms, and got out onto the ice. After a quick instruction session we got practicing. My team were pretty good, we got the hang of it fairly quickly, and after a few falls we were on our way to being pros! ... My first shot at throwing the rock was a major fail, and I fell right over and slid what felt like half way down the ice sheet - luckily I was not the only one to fall on my first attempt. Still, after some practice I managed some pretty good shots, one of them even won us a game!

After a couple of months in town working, I'd managed to save a little bit of money to take a trip, I decided on Tofino on Vancouver Island. The trip began with absolutely amazing views along the way; lakes, rivers winding through the mountains and green forest everywhere. The first day I decided to go whale watching and to the hot springs, so I booked my ticket and hopped on the boat. Being by myself, I was lucky to meet a really friendly family who welcomed me as part of their group, they were there as a wedding party, the couple had got married just the day before.

Within 15 minutes on the boat, we had sighted Killer Whales! It was an awesome experience to see whales in the wild, and our tour guide told us they only see Orcas once or twice a month, so we were really lucky. We saw 3 different lots of whales on the trip altogether, a couple of sightings on the way up to the hot springs, and another group on the return trip. However, another lucky and  completely unexpected sighting, was a real black bear! He was nonchalantly sitting there on the rocks, eating a fish, completely unaffected by the presence of the boat and a bunch of tourists snapping photos! He stared right back at us as if he were the one looking at wildlife! That really was an amazing experience. Once we reached land again we headed to the hot springs, which were beautiful, and an experience to bathe in a natural waterfall and pools of 41 degree water. I even joined the family from the boat for champagne!

A few touristy sights later and it was soon time to head back to Vancouver. The trip ended with the Greyhound bus driver, stating “Well folks, Vancouver will be our final stop, if you wish to take connecting buses you require bays 6 – 8, and if Vancouver is your final destination, then welcome home!” … and the funny thing is, it did feel like I was home!

Life and work continued, I still spent a great deal of time with my friends from the flight, seeing their apartments, houses, hearing about their new jobs, and travel plans. Summer was starting and the good weather was beginning, I went on a few more BUNAC events; hiking, a baseball game, and cycled around Stanley Park. Watched the dragon boating festival on False Creek, went kayaking, started eating a lot of sushi, and by this time we had also developed a few favourite restaurants! We were beginning to feel like locals and had really started to know our way around town.

The summer saw a couple of out of town trips, Whistler and Victoria, before leading up to my biggest trip yet, one huge tour of the Rockies! I'd decided to take a Moose Tour, which is a hop-on-hop-off bus company, of which I was able to get a sweet discount on, as a BUNAC member!

I met my tour group and we were soon headed away from the city of glass, stopping along the way at many beautiful waterfalls and lakes. Our first overnight stop was at a Shuswap Lake, at a tiny outback hostel called the Copper Island Inn. The pub downstairs attracted all the locals, being the only place for miles around! The next day we drove on, the scenery began to change dramatically as we approached the rockies, we gradually ascended into the clouds and huge snow capped mountains around us. We crossed 4 national parks in one day, as we made our way to Alberta, as well as crossing a time zone.

The next stop was our first glacial lake, Emerald Lake, it was bright turquoise and amazing to see for the first time. We had travelled over 10,000 kilometers over 2 days, and finally arrived into Banff. We drove through the Icefields Parkway, one of the most beautiful and scenic drives in the world, saw the most photographed lake in the world; Lake Louise, stopped for lunch at Mistaya Canyon, and then walked on the Athabasca Glacier; the largest glacier south of the artic, all in one day! That evening we stayed in a wilderness hostel close to Jasper, where on arrival we were given a speech about bears and what to do should we see one, after all, it was bear territory! We managed to avoid  a bear encounter, cooked a meal together, and then had a camp fire under the pitch black sky dotted with stars.

The rest of the trip was equally amazing, my favourite place being Peyto Lake; where Moose took us on a lesser known hike to an amazing spot, that other tourists didn't seem to know about. We were stood thousands of feet above the bright blue lake, it was stunning. Soon the trip was over, and I once again found life continuing in Vancouver.

I started to really notice how much time had gone by when we started to say goodbye to some friends from the group flight, as they left to travel or return home. I continued working, took a few more trips, made even more friends, went to a couple of ice hockey matches and generally lived the Vancouverite life. I will never get tired of the daily commute in Vancouver; seeing the sun rising over the snow capped mountains, the sunlight pouring over the glass high rise buildings, and the reflections in the water of False Creek. Autumn is here now, the city is changing colour and bright red maple leaves line the streets, the beaches have become empty, and snow is falling on the mountains again.

It has been one amazing journey so far, and it is coming to an end, but I will never forget this awesome Canadian experience!

Like the sound of this? Find out more about Work Canada 

Want to tell the world about your BUNAC adventure? Send your stories, photos and videos to experiences@bunac.org.uk 


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