Two girls, one tent and no petrol: Camping in Canada the hard way!

Sarah,31, from London embarked on a camping trip in the Great Outdoors that was anything but relaxing - but she explains why it turned out to be a surprise highlight of her Canadian adventure!

Canada – not bad, eh?

As a major milestone loomed I decided it was time to pack up my London life and make one last foray on the world. After much debate, I settled on a round the world trip with BUNAC Work Canada right slap bang in the middle.  I had not previously travelled to Canada but everyone spoke so highly of it that I decided to give it a go. After eight months on the road, experiencing South East Asia, Australasia and the US, it was time to see what Canada had to offer.

I had decided that Vancouver, with its frequent addition to the ‘best cities to live in’ lists and comparatively mild winters, was the place for me. Before settling down to work I wanted to get a grip on the country and the people that make up Canada. Was it just going to be like the US A? Would I be surrounded by bears and most importantly would I get arrested by Mounties’ for not eating enough maple syrup?

I travelled with a friend from Niagara to Québec city unearthing weird and wonderful sights, people, food and accommodation along the way. We ate our first pancakes (complete with maple syrup) and had our first poutine experience in Toronto, visited the Musical Ride and stayed in a jail in Ottawa,  took in the view from Mont –Royal, and went to the biggest student night in Montreal and brushed up on our French  while walking the city walls in Quebec City.

The next destination on our list was Calgary where we picked up our car for the road trip we had planned to the Rockies. Calgary turned out to be a tale of two cities as we had bad experiences being heckled by homeless people and witnessed someone being arrested in our hostel; but on the positive, we got to stay with a Canadian family who gave us a great insight into Canadian culture and astounded us with their hospitality.

What started out as a joke became reality as my friend and I embarked on a camping trip across Canada. We had little camping experience and no idea what we were letting ourselves in for, it turned out to be an enlightening experience which I’m sure will keep us entertained for years. 

Our Canadian friend had prepared us with good quality sleeping bags, rope, tarpaulin and we already had our $30 Walmart tent so we were ready for anything. Well almost, except our first night camping could have been the plot to a bad horror movie. We got lost, could not find anywhere to camp and started to run out of petrol. We ended up sleeping in a deserted campground which was occupied by two very strange men and no staff. We knew we shouldn’t stay there but we did (armed with a torch for protection) and had a restless night’s sleep.

We ended up coming out of it alive and from we felt like we had earned our camping stripes, and everything seemed like luxury after our terrifying introduction. The biggest surprise I had was that we actually enjoyed camping – something I never dreamed I would say. We also ticked off a few wildlife sightings with a bear, mum and baby moose and hundreds of ground squirrels.

After six weeks travelling we dropped the car off in Calgary and took a 14 hour Greyhound bus to Vancouver to settle in to our new Canadian life.  I would like to say that I enjoyed the scenery, but the truth is that I somehow slept for about 13 hours of this the journey, much to the dismay of my travelling companion.

Armed with all the information that BUNACs partners had provided we soon hit the streets in search of a job and a place to call home. We found our apartment within a couple of days and work started the week after. Thanks to the helpful agency list we were given at orientation, I managed to find a challenging job at the University of British Columbia and had the opportunity to interact with Canadian students and staff.

So far I have travelled to Whistler, Vancouver Island and Seattle as well as taking in the highlights of Vancouver such as Stanley Park, Granville Island and visiting its diverse neighborhoods. Being a BUNAC participant has ensured that I have made many new friends to share these experiences with.

Canada has so much to offer from the amazing scenery, multicultural city life, wildlife, outdoor activities and most of all the friendly, hospitable, laid-back Canadian people welcoming us into their country. I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone…now where is my maple syrup?

Want to walk on the wild side? Find out more about Work Canada

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