Confessions of T.O explorer.

Name: Roxanne Aila
Hometown: Brisbane, Australia
Program: Canada Fully Loaded 2 Year Working Holiday Visa
Length of time overseas? 9 months, I arrived September 2010.

Where did you live and what did you get up too?
I live in Toronto, Canada.

I arrived in Toronto 9 months ago without a clear plan or knowing anyone here, but with a thirst to travel and explore Canada. I considered moving around from resort to resort to experience a variety of places in Canada but fell in love in with Toronto and decided to stay.

One of the best things about Toronto is how multi-cultural and diverse it is. Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world and I loved staying at Global Village Backpackers downtown and meeting travellers from around the world and different backgrounds whet the appetite to learn more about fellow travellers and their home countries.

I love the busy-ness and pace of Toronto. While not as busy as other ‘big cities’ like New York, Toronto is a hub for the arts, music and a number of Canadian businesses…but still has the feel of a smaller town. They say big cities have no heart, but I have found Torontonians welcoming, interested in where I am from and eager to help me get settled. I was sick on the subway a few weeks ago and a number of kind souls came to help me.

What job did you have? 
I am working as an account executive at an advertising agency which is an exciting opportunity. I worked in advertising and marketing in Australia so it was great to land work in my field. 

Prior to advertising gig in Toronto, I worked as a barista and also retail sales associate which was tough work because of the minimum wage and it is also physically demanding because you are on your feet all day, 7 days a week. It is tough to survive on minimum wage and you need to prioritise and balance what you want to do – either explore, party hard, food, bills. In saying that, I don’t regret working in hospitality or retail because I was able to meet many people in the community from the local drycleaner to copywriters and authors and construction workers. I recommend work in the service industry because the nature of the work means that you will meet a number of people from different backgrounds which is great when you are setting up in a new city. I also learned a lot about coffee! I make a fantastic skinny, vanilla bean latte. Coffee is not just coffee people, there’s so much to know!

What are some of the experiences that made an impact on you?
Definitely staying at the backpackers was a positive experience that has had a huge impact on my time in Toronto. I was able to meet fellow travellers from Australia, Israel, Germany, Wales, Egypt and Scotland to name a few countries. I learnt about different cultures and got to meet people I would not ordinarily meet. I met my friendship group at the backpackers and being new to Toronto we all look after each other and have our little ‘Toronto Family’ and celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, birthdays and new jobs together. We have a close friendship group and imagine we will be friends long after Toronto days.

Exploring together – Niagara Falls and Montreal was amazing. Snow, minus zero weather and ‘wind chill’ are all new ‘concepts’ that I could certainly feel – the burn of -22 in my boots is something I will not forget.

Were any of these times hard?
Absolutely! There have been a few hard times since arriving that have made me want to pack up and go home to be in my Mum and Dad’s comfortable house! Tough times including not having a job and wanting to experience Toronto, party hard, socialise, explore Canadian sights and sounds as well as basically surviving and covering rent, food and transport costs and not being able to conveniently rock up at my brother’s house when he is having dinner and join him for tea.

Being away from home at Christmas time when the whole family was together was tough and I was terribly homesick, but I survived! It has been a great experience stepping out of my comfort zone to grow and not only experience and learn about another country, but to learn a lot about myself and develop independence and life-long skills that I will always carry.

What is something unexpected/different/strange about where you lived?
Don’t wear your boots into the house in winter time – they salt the roads here in winter time when it snows to melt the snow. This concept was completely foreign to me coming from Queensland where sunshine, blue skies, singlets, rugby shorts and thongs are the go year round.

Top 3 travel memories?
– Backpackers
– Toronto house parties
– Love the feeling of packing up suitcase and rocking up without a plan and landing on my feet….just.

Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to go on a working holiday adventure?
– Do it!
– Have an open mind, do anything for work including wash dishes, serve, be a host/hostess. Not glamorous but you may not work straight away in your field of study or experience and you still need to work to save money and survive
– Persevere when you want to quit! Clichéd as it sounds – your hard work will pay off as you get set up and continue to explore Canada
– Be positive and open to meeting new people
– Have fun and enjoy the experience

What’s next?
I am planning to go to New York in summer, camping in Muskoka, skiing in winter and want to use Toronto as base to travel to South America. Fingers crossed it all goes to action plan!

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