This is my second interview style blog post, this time it's going to be all about working and living abroad.
I wanted to share my friend Ewan's story about his Canadian working holiday experience and to hopefully inspire people to get up and go, go go!
If you are reading this and considering moving abroad, then perhaps this post will provide encouragement and answer some burning questions we all have.. and hey, this is a travel blog so if you want to go over to Canada then this post will give you some ideas of what you can do over there! #canadagoals
I have to say I am incredibly envious of Ewan's lifestyle, I have a soft spot for Canada and 5 years ago before I met my partner I seriously looked into going there to work myself. Maybe I'll do it before I turn 30, who knows? But for now, let's read Ewan's story...
Ewan, 27 made the move to Canada in late 2016 on a 2-year working holiday visa. Having lost his job in the oil and gas industry crash in Aberdeen, he decided to take the plunge and do something that he really loves - skiing in Canada.
He decided to go with the company BUNAC, who helped him through the visa application process and secured a job for his first winter season. *Links below
Now let's get on with the interview shall we!
What was the Visa process like?
I applied for the IEC (International Experience Canada) working holiday visa, which allowed me to live and work in Canada for up to two years, with more or less no restrictions. (No working in the stripper or sex industries though!)
The application was made online and it was relatively straightforward. I signed up with BUNAC, who offered support and advice.
Basically you have to register online on with the Canadian Immigration, and once you are in the ‘pool’ it’s a waiting game - people are then randomly selected to apply for the visa online – after waiting a month after I submitted my profile it was an air-punch moment when I got the invite. Once invited it’s a case of having all the supporting documents and making sure your information is accurate, and then it’s another waiting game with waiting up to 8 weeks to receive a decision. I signed up on BUNAC’s Ultimate program – which is more expensive but it guaranteed me a job in Canada – which for me made the daunting idea of moving across the world a lot easier!
What made you choose Canada for your working holiday?
I already loved Canada before I applied, I had spent about 9 months studying on an exchange program back in 2009. I had such a great time in Vancouver. It's such a beautiful country.
I'd always wanted to return - and finally I did!
Did you have a plan of what you wanted to do when you got there?
I knew that I wanted to work in a ski resort for the winter once I arrived. With help from BUNAC they set up Skype interviews whilst I was still in the U.K.
Soon enough I had a job lined up at Big White Ski resort, near Kelowna in British Columbia. I flew to Vancouver a few weeks before starting the job, so I could explore the area and catch up with some old friends.
Upon your arrival, what did you find the most challenging?
There are many differences between living in Canada and the U.K. but I can't say I've found the experience too challenging. If anything I find things are more laid back here. Generally speaking, not having your support network of your friends and family in unfamiliar situation can be tough. But, ultimately it's a rewarding feeling knowing you've done it all by yourself.
Oh and I should mention, it's pretty challenging with people not being able to understand the Scottish accent... aye.
Where in Canada have you been with your visa?
When I first arrived, I landed in Vancouver and reacquainted myself with the city I loved. The Samesun Hostel in Vancouver was great for meeting people and it had nightly events and daily hikes and tours around the city. Nearby I also spent the weekend with an old friend in Victoria, on Vancouver island. Which included bike rides and a whale watching trip!
In the winter time...
Once I was living in the Ski Resort. I spent the entire 5 months on the ski hill. The place was so magical, on the early shifts walking to work with the sun just appearing over the Monashee Mountains on the horizon was amazing!
I decided to buy a ski seasons pass for local hill, Panorama and I generally try and avoid travelling too far in the winter due to the snow and ice on the road. However, Invermere is also incredible in the winter. The Lake (Lake Windermere) freezes over into the world's largest outdoor skating track. They even drive over it! There is no chance you'll get me driving on the lake, but I did have a game or two of Curling!
In the summer time...
Following Big White, I had a job offer at a hotel in Invermere, a small town on the edge of British Columbia near the Alberta border. What attracted me to Invermere was the big lake! I was excited to try paddle boarding, kayaking and canoeing. It was a welcome change in weather too, summer temperatures could reach over 30 degrees.
During the summer time I managed to explore Alberta and a visit to Calgary, at the time of the Calgary Stampede. Labelled the "World's Greatest Outdoor show" - essentially, it's like a U.K. Agricultural show on steroids!
I also made another trip to the Banff area, but only managed to spend a couple of hours there. All of the lakes (Lake Moraine) and waterfalls were in stunning locations.
Once the spring arrives, I am making plans to have a road trip around Western Canada , hopefully I'll get a surf lesson in Tofino on Vancouver island. I also need to tick off Niagara falls off the bucket list and will need to check out Toronto in the east.
Have you found the cost of living and travel different?
I often think about this... but in general it's much and such the same. You may spend more on one thing and save on others. Ski resorts don't pay that well, although I do get a free season pass. Rent and living in a resort can be costly and I barely had any savings left when I left the resort,
In contrast, living in Invermere I had a private rental and paid $100 less per month for my own room. I can also afford a car too, fuel is significantly cheaper in Canada, but the insurance is a lot more expensive! I'm paying four times more on insurance than I did back in the U.K.
Having a car in a small town is helpful, public transport is not the greatest in Invermere. It lets me explore the hiking paths and places such as natural hot springs off of the beaten track.
Another thing to remember is that they are going to add tax on at the checkout, and I would say eating out is more expensive in Canada. There is a big tipping culture here which you have to bare in mind.
What jobs have you undertaken during your time abroad?
When I started out at Big White Ski resort, I worked on the front desk at one of the resorts hotels. Then when I moved to Invermere I did the same job at a different hotel. Then in September I stared working as a Barista at the Kicking Horse Coffee HQ (It's a big name in the Canadian coffee scene)
Generally, I've found it pretty easy to find jobs in hospitality.
British Columbia have a useful website which has a load of hospitality jobs in the province. *https://www.go2hr.ca/)
What has been some of your best experiences and highlights?
Improving my skiing, also white water rafting on the Kicking Horse river was such an experience! In Invermere I had access to so many activities such as hiking, water sports, curling and snowshoeing to name a few...
Is there anything you would do differently on reflection?
I think I would have reined in my spending at Big White, the less I dug into my savings then the more money I would have now to explore more of the country.
Finally, do you have any advice for people thinking about undertaking a working holiday?
I'd say it is what you make it!
You have to take a huge step out of your comfort zone but it's totally worth it. You just have to embrace it and not be afraid to try new things. For me I found it a lot less daunting flying over knowing I already had work and accommodation lined up.
Finally, I'd recommend having plenty of money saved up before you come over - in particular if you are going to do a ski season and want to enjoy a few beers..
Wow, well there you go. Ewan really seems to be having best experience in Canada and it seems that using a service like BUNAC is really beneficial.
I'll stick all the links and further information below.
I've also put Ewan's Instagram down below so you can catch up some more on his Canadian adventures.