Caroline Rawcliffe, 23 from Yorkshire, tells us why her experience of Work Canada changed her life forever.
I remember this girl from when I was younger, she was bright and shiny, vibrant and colourful. Everyone wanted to be her friend, she wanted to be friends with everyone. For days or weeks or even months, she would be there and then the plane would land on UK tarmac and she would be gone. Life would be normal, things were less fun.
I have always travelled, since being a young child I got that bug, that itch for travelling that you can never satisfy for quite long enough. I did international summer camps, religious retrats, camping holidays around europe. rain or shine, I never really cared as long as I was on the move. Going somewhere different, or going somewhere familliar and looking at it differently.
By the time I finished my degree I had seen a huge proportion of Europe, I'd travelled to four US states, the Bahamas, Egypt, Turkey, the list goes on... Upon graduating though, rather than feeling like my adult life was starting, I just saw this emptiness, I was suffering from a huge lack of drive to go forward... So instead I went sideways, I applyed for my visa, booked my flights and after the longest ten weeks of my life I boarded a plane to Vancouver, Canada.
I left my mum in the airport, sad to be going but struggling to contain my excitement, and there she was, back again, part of me again, that bright colourful girl I hadnt seen in a few years... Sitting on the plane I was chatting to everybody, anybody about the adventures I was going to have the things I was going to do, the bright and shiny girl was going to be me for a while!
Throughout my time in Canada, nothing ever changed, even when times were tough or life was mundane, even when I was cleaning hostel toilets at seven AM... all the time things were bright they were colourful, I was so happy. Nothing got me down, nothing stressed me out, I never stopped wanting more from the experience, more adventures, more friends, more stories to tell.
I had the honour of being at the heart of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. I saw what was now 'my' city blossom in the middle of winter into this huge celebration of community and lifestyle and friendly competition. I got to stand in the middle of Lake Louise, Banff, frozen solid while professional Ice Dancers rehearsed for a performance around me. I sat on an outdoor hot spring in Banff with the snowcapped mountain tops surrounding me. I celebrated St Paddy's day in Calgary where the beer was green and the music was Canadian folk. I saw the awakenings of spring in Edmonton as the snow began to melt and uncovered the countryside. I saw the road for fifty five miles through a greyhound bus window as I travelled the country passing frozen lakes, sled racers, ice fishers, gushing waterfalls and everyday life. I met up with a friend for a whirlwind tour of New York and spent a day gazing in awe at the magnificent Niagara falls underneath a cloudless blue sky.
It was when I reached Toronto, when the people I met there were so welcoming, so loving and in their own ways, so vibrant and unusual. I was no longer a new traveller, I was no longer this strange vibrant girl who came out on holiday. What they saw, and what I came to realise, was that I had slowly become her. Or maybe she became me... Before I left Toronto I vowed that I would stay the same, that I would make my life at home as perfect as it was abroad, that I would meet new people, that I would do crazy things, that I would laugh until I cried and my new life back home would be in full colour. No more greyscale, no more fitting in, if Canada was full of colourful people, back home I would have to be neon colours to brighten up the grey and brown around me.
Five months later, its not easy but I think I'm managing it. Canada taught me to go out and get what I want. All the things I didn't want in my new life are gone. Slowly things are falling into place, I'm reaching my goals and I have reached a point where I am just as happy and excited about my life and what comes next as I ever was abroad. I even sneaked in a little trip to Amsterdam last week, and I'm planning more adventures to London, Paris, Memphis and Thailand. I always thought that travelling would change my life for the time I was there, now I know that it has changed my outlook and way of life forever.
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