Yesterday Was Résumé Day – Today I have a Job

Comparing a résumé to a British-style CV is a pretty simple task. When looking for a working holiday job my only advice is to keep it basic. I only put my six months of relevant experience on my one page resume (one job). It’s never been so short. I wrote in bullet points and only included the bare minimal – I didn’t even need a Canadian cell on there (just one way I’m saving money here, cell plans are extortionate – I shall put off getting this for as long as I can).

If you’re heading to a new country to be a server, do manual labour or work in retail (to name a few examples) don’t bother spending any time writing about your A levels or your hobbies – no one cares – save it for interview if necessary – forget all the fluffy stuff.  All decent sized towns here have writing clinics to help newcomers with such things. I know many of the travellers in this hostel have made the most of these services over the last six months.

I’ll be working at the local vegan cafe, preparing fresh food from local ingredients – I’m pretty excited. It’ll be a world away from my previous job at a burger joint in the UK.

This morning I celebrated my success with waffles at my new workplace:

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Banana buckwheat flour waffle topped with cashew cream, chia jam and figs

I’m looking forward to preparing and eating good food, and having a little pocket money.

The Ever-loving Abigail

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Little Catch Up: Dive Bars, Timbits and Hostel Living

Catching up on a few days writing here. After another mini staff training ‘bootcamp’ on Tuesday the day was drizzly. Besides a little light reading and job searching online my activity was minimal.

At my first weekly staff meeting I offered to organise the next staff outing. I’ve got a little budget for it as well. I’m trying to throw myself into hostel living. I’m really excited to get planning. I’d like to do something that the volunteers wouldn’t otherwise do on their days off.

We also discussed a little about lead roles in the hostel and what each of the volunteers might be able to take responsibility for e.g. Art Lead, Maintenence Lead etc. I think blogging or events planning would make sense for me given my previous experience.

That night my supervisor invited me to head over to the karaoke night in town to hang out with some locals. The Chieftan – It’s a bit of a dive bar. Online definitions describe a Dive Bar as a disreputable, slightly seedy, place for locals on a budget – often dimly lit. But in recent yeras, these bars have attracted students and hipsters alike as the affordable places to go and mingle with locals. And where better to go as a traveller in a new town?

So, out of my comfort zone once more, I went to a karaoke night. Not my usual night as someone who you will never find getting up to sing. As confident (gobby) as I am – singing is not my forte – singing badly isn’t even my forte. I can’t get away with it. However I am a very good hype girl / cheerleader / drunken supportive dancer.

I shared pitchers of the shitty brew recommended by the local – with orange wedges in – an acquired taste. Something I shan’t divulge in again. Getting pleasantly tipsy I smiled and chatted to a few of the resident hipsters and some slightly more rugged bearded types. People that work in mines and live on boats…  

I danced the night away. Cheesy tunes and cheap beer.

I walked back to the hostel with a friendly Scot in the early hours. We went via McDonalds – I really respected his choice to opt for a strawberry milkshake like myself. It was funny to see such a dreaded, bearded, worldly hippie drinking a pink beverage through a straw and tucking in to a big mac.

Back at the hostel I stayed up chatting for a few hours with my new dorm mate and yet another handsome German. I think I’m going to get along just fine in Squamish.

The Next day, very tired, I snagged a lift up to Brandywine Falls. It was beautiful, but not quite as magical as other falls in the area. You can’t feel the spray on your face.

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On Tuesday, Canada was dancing with locals in a dive bar.

On Wednesday, Canada was lounging on bean bags watching Oilers v Mighty Ducks (Hockey pals 😉 ) after a day among the pines.

As for Thursday we headed back to Vancouver and I tried my first Timbits, a truly Canadian experience apparently. (Tiny doughnuts in assorted flavours from Tim Hortons).  We also visited Lynn Canyon, a cute spot on the edge of the city.

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Today, today is resume (CV) day.

The Ever-loving Abigail

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The Stawamus Chief

Walking around downtown Squamish yesterday morning was strange. I see a McDonalds, Timothy Hortons, a dollar store… all the chains you find in the big towns and cities. I can’t help but think a town set in the mountains like this should have some level of protection against these eye sores. But I’m in North America, the country is very young. Houses in Austria for example would stand out as heritage buildings, blending in to the scenery with slightly smaller winding roads.  But this is one of the main routes up along the West Coast (The Sea to Sky Highway / BC Highway 99). If the roads were quaint and narrow I fear the congestion would be too much for this small young town. A town that only came into existence in the early 1900’s. I never imagined a town like this, I think I was picturing Squamish through rose-tinted euro-centric glasses.

However, as strange as this little morning jaunt was. I found some absolute treasures. There’s an abundance of healthy living options here. Gyms, yoga studios, adventure sports shops, vegan cafes – a small town like this has a lot of options for special dietary requirements. Eating out at these places doesn’t cost much more than cooking at home as well – because supermarkets everywhere in Canada are sooooooo expensive.

My favourite find was the thrift stores, like our charity shops in the UK, but with a lot more second hand sports equipment: roller blades, skates, wetsuits, helmets, hiking boots etc. I’m going to be able to kit myself out with boots, a light waterproof and some decent base layers for less than $60 CAD for sure. I sort of wish I’d bought all of this there and then. I never anticipated returning to the hostel and deciding to go on a hike straight away. We headed off to the first peak of the Squamish Chief – Conrad, Anaise and I.

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(South/First Peak we hiked 3km with an elevation of 535m)

With a fair few breaks along the way the hike (and scramble, there were plenty of ladders and chains to help us drag ourselves up) took us 90 minutes or so. Longer than it should have really but we were going at a very leisurely pace. Conrad, an avid hiker, could have done it a lot quicker bless him. Anaise and I are not in such peak health, but I believe after the next three months we will be.

The trail took us alongside a beautiful waterfall. This is our local source for drinking water. I’m yet to purchase a water bottle and took advantage of this source along the way, collecting water in my hands as it dripped straight from the rock face. I can’t explain how magical this felt. The sun penetrated through these great trees that stood all around me and I found myself doused in the spray as I re-hydrated. This moment trumped everything on my trip so far. As I drank water from my cupped hands I felt at one with nature. It’s cheesy as hell but it’s true.

I reflected on my first impressions of this strange, interesting town. I wasn’t quite sure where I’d ended up. Looking down from the first peak I remembered Why Canada?

This is why Canada folks. Yesterday, Canada was drinking water from my hands in the golden hour. Tomorrow Canada will be something else.

The Ever-loving Abigail

 

Back to Work: First Day

Part One – Pre-show Jitters

I’m nervous again for the second time on my trip and I’m feeling pretty good about it. My work exchange at the Squamish Adventure Inn begins today. If all goes well this will be my home for the next three months.

In fifty minutes I meet at reception to begin my first trial shift. I’ll be doing some housekeeping, working the front desk and contributing to the hostel’s own blog. I’m not feeling too anxious about the work at all – I’m gonna smash it. It’s just the great outdoors on my doorstep… it’s so bloody great. No Instagrammers or travel blogs can prepare you for this, it’s sooooo big (and full of plenty of things that can kill me).

I’m super excited to get out there and soak it all up but I’m not feeling the most prepared at the minute. I’m without hiking boots, climbing shoes and a solid ‘outdoorsy’ wardrobe (a proper waterproof… not the barbie looking thing I own, see below)

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This is a photo of me the first time I went off on some travels – Interrailing in 2012 and I’ve been rocking that tacky waterproof at festivals and on particularly soggy days ever since. I’m wearing those same Doc Martens now too. I feel my first task after getting settled into my new room and my new job will be heading out to find some proper gear so I can be a proper outdoorser.

Thrift stores here I come… and Save-on-Foods. Can’t bloody wait to get some groceries.

Part Two: Hiking, Beer and Pooches

We sat down for introductions with coffee, peanut butter chocolate and shortbread. I started with two other lovely Workawayers: Conrad and Anaise, from Austria and from France. They are both super smiley (and attractive) and seem eager to dive straight in. My job’ll be keeping this morale up; tends to be my role in the workplace. Skipping around smiling and keeping spirits high.

After our little orientation we had about twenty minutes to go and move into our bunks and then head back down for staff activities.

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(Excuse the average quality photo, taken at Brohm Lake – I’ll play around with sharpening the image up)

Our volunteer co-coordinator had organised a little hike around Brohm Lake followed by a visit to one of the local microbreweries.

The hike took no longer than 90 minutes with a few little inclines here and there, nothing too strenuous but enough to get me excited for the bigger challenges to come. We stopped off at a few nice chill out spots and some of the volunteers jumped in for a chilly swim. I wish I bought my swimsuit along – I didn’t thing my new companions were quite ready to see me in my underwear. Besides the views, the best thing about the hike was the dogs, a Collie and a Westie came along with us. It was so nice to be in nature and back with animals again.

After a refreshing walk we headed off to the micro-brewery, frequently referred to as a ‘pub’. I’m certain it doesn’t qualify as a pub but I wasn’t ready to have that discussion with people just yet. Why get cocky when you’re getting free beer?

My new little life has started off fabulously.

The Ever-loving Abigail

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The City Meets Nature

My lens couldn’t accurately capture what I wanted to show you but I’ll try my best with my words. It doesn’t normally take me long to write up posts but I’ve had to ponder over how to squish this all in.

Despite being somewhat of an anosmia sufferer (lacking sense of smell), I still had what I can only describe as the taste of blossom lingering on my tongue yesterday as I made my way from the bus stop at the end of Granville. This road runs from where I’m staying all the way to Downtown and to the Vancouver Harbour; it’s cheaper than other Canadian cities I’ve visited at only $2.75 CAD for a single trip, approx £1.60.

I walk past a tourist hotspot – a poutine stop – and I ask myself ‘To tourist or not to tourist?’ – thinking back to the advice of some lovely Québécoise I went in and grabbed a box to munch on before I head off on what I assumed was going to be a long day of walking.

As I make my way downhill without a map I walk past a great rush of suits all heading for the food vendors lining the streets. I check out what’s on offer: Tacos for $5, Japanese hot dogs- a phenomenon I think is yet to hit the UK, and smoked meats – a delicacy more popular in French Canada. For future reference these food vans are definitely the way to go. I didn’t catch anything costing more than $8.

I’m pleasantly surprised so far by the cost of day to day travel and lunch options. Everywhere seems to have generous happy hours too – $5 beers being a popular promotion.

The lingering taste of blossom in the air is starting to combine with the smells of the harbour front, and being 420 there’s a hint of marijuana everywhere I go.

I reach the waterfront and I’m met by a view that no one had prepared me for. Returning to Toronto and Montreal this month I knew what to expect as I’d been to these locations before. Vancouver is entirely new to me, I’m quite sure everyone back home knew how much I’d love this place before I did.

In front of me the city meets nature. The cloud bank kisses the mountain peaks, the sparkling harbour is dotted by boats preparing for the summertime and seaplanes coming in to land. Over to my left is Stanley Park covered in the tallest trees I’ve ever seen – this is my destination, I wish Monty was with me.

After walking along the waterfront of the park, looking back over the harbour onto the city where I had just been, I turned into the woodland and lost myself among the trees. I peer around and it reminds me of Jurrassic Park as I sit among the ferns. I sit here on a rock for a while breathing it all in.

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Late afternoon I found myself catching the bus back to where I’m staying at Matt and Ola’s. Matt’s an old friend from work back in the UK who I got in touch with when I knew I was heading out to Squamish. Their hospitality has been amazing. Having a beautiful place to stay for free for a few nights is such a treat I’m not sure how I will thank them. The company is great too, there’s a real sense of communal living here. People are sharing their stories (and their food) with me once more and eager to talk to me about their hobbies and interests. It’s a giant house full of travellers – much like a fancy hostel (one with a sauna and a games room!).

I shall have to update more later as I fear this post is too long once more.

The Ever-loving Abigail

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Goodbye Montreal

It’s been sweet Montreal, but I’ll catch you later in the year.

As I travel further west than I’ve ever been, and perhaps the furthest from home, I think about the longevity of my travels.

I’ve been only been away for just over two weeks. I’ve nabbed myself some work and a fixed term residence for the coming months. Truly, I’m sorted until the end of July when some of the Johnsons are gracing me with their presence over in Vancouver. After that is unknown. If I have enough money I shall make my way west to east using the VIA Rail network I love so  much. This 60 day rail pass costs less than £800 (bit cheaper than Interrailing) and will allow me to see so much. Vancouver to Halifax – wowza. Trip of a lifetime. This would mean I’d be returning to Toronto for the fall (probs).

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I’m just speculating of course, I shan’t commit myself to any plans just yet. That’s the beauty of a rail pass, the price stays the same whether I purchase it four weeks or four hours in advance.

I may not want to stay in Canada at all… I might enjoy a beautiful season in Squamish and decide it’s time to head off to the comforts of home. I shan’t feel defeated if I do that either y’know. I’ve always known what’s right in my heart and in the pit of my stomach and I’m not afraid of saying yes to nothing.

‘Yes to nothing’ can be a unfamiliar concept. It was first introduced to me by Viv Albertine; former member of the punk band The Slits and author of Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys – Her memoir. She was reading at BookSlam in 2014. At the time I was persevering with a shitty internship and afraid to quit with the prospect of going on another job hunt and the uncertainty of finding no placement at all. Viv inspired me, with reference to her dead-end marriage (if I remember rightly), that we can all say yes to nothing. Because nothing can bring greater hope than a shitty ‘something’.

Right now my heart says Canada. But a few months along the line, or even a year I’m open to anything or nothing.

This sort of talk may sound as though I’m growing prematurely tired of my trip. This couldn’t be less true. I’m merely encouraged to  spend more time thinking and reflecting on my future. It’s enjoyable too. Many people my age spend a lot of time sick with worry about their direction – I myself have felt this. But these last few weeks I’m not scared anymore. I’m excited and enthusiastic about whatever comes my way.

The Ever-loving Abigail

Le Canal Lachine

The first day out of my comfort zone and I’m feeling great for it. I should’ve done something like this sooner. Pushing the boundaries of what you do in your everyday life is what travelling is all about. And frankly I’ve been playing it a bit safe until now.

For many, pushing out of your comfort zone involves talking to strangers or talking in a foreign language… For me – honestly it’s so lame – but it’s roads. The idea of being on the opposite side of the road in a city centre is super scary to me. I can’t think of anything worse than driving around a city over here.

Today I gave in and rented a bike with Lolo. Mostly this involved a comfortable cycle route along the canal: I found this route suggested in my Lonely Planet (courtesy of Ciara, I use it everyday ❤ ). However, we picked up our bikes nearer the city centre and had to cycle down a bit to the designated paths down by the water. Lolo lead the way and it was mostly a pretty straight route.

Throw me out of a plane, sure. Send me down some rapids, OK. All more likely scenarios than me cycling a city – I wouldn’t even do it in London on the side of the road I’m used to.

I don’t know what’s made me so pathetic when it comes to urban roads. I couldn’t be happier that I’ve taken my first step today. This little cycle ride has even given me some hope that I may even take the drivers seat over here at some point (still not in a city though jeeez).

 

The route along the canal wasn’t particularly scenic as we cycled away from the city. Mostly trendy warehouse conversions, factory buildings and some decent graffiti. Nice to mix it up a bit.

This morning, before our cycle we chose to walk the city in a new direction. Just for the sake of trying to see every corner. We walked for an hour or so and saw plenty of new streets.

Montreal today I really feel I’ve seen you.

Ever-loving Abigail

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In Search of Eggs

I went in search of eggs. Where’s the commercial Easter I know and love? The Easter promotions, the sponsored hunts? Nada, nothing, nil.

Today the sunshine has gone, the rain pours and Montreal is all closed up. It’s not particularly religious here as far as I’m aware but Montreal is taking this holiday seriously. Souvenir shops are open – I could get all the tot I want expensive hockey jerseys galore. Alas, all the normal shops are shut – The book shops are what I really need. I’m pretty sure reading and writing are going to get me through the hard times on this trip; the rainy days and the days I miss my family.

My alternative Easter began with me eating traditional Portuguese Easter bread: Folar – shared with me by some fellow travellers who seem to be participating in their own Easter traditions. It was nice to see the holiday marked somehow.

I went on to tidy my bunk, repack my bag once more (a never-ending chore) and then I went in search of eggs. Chocolate was preferable, however the only ones of this kind I’ve seen today have been on social media. I remembered Eggspectation, a restaurant I have walked past most days but have not enjoyed until now due to Lolo’s allergies. No searching street after street, I went straight here, ordered Eggs Benadict with lobster, a smoothie and some refillable coffee #TreatYoself.

I called my family for a catch up and I headed back to the hostel. I fear that is all I will do today – probably best I don’t spend any more money anyway. Living like a traveller is not so easy in Montreal. It’s a bit too expensive, I am near no supermarkets. Shops that are a short Metro ride away aren’t particularly cheap either. So I eat out all the time.

Squamish beckons. Walks, cycles, paddle routes and home cooked food.

The Ever-loving Abigail

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Scavenger Hunt

While others enjoy their Easter egg hunts in the public places back home I’m yet to see one advertised. Maybe it’s not so much a thing here in Quebec (woe is me).

I however am on my own scavenger hunt instead; in the Botanical Gardens. I’m looking for different types of pine cones and interesting shaped leaves… that’s right I’m 9 years old again. It’s like the hunts you do at school in science when you are learning about nature and the seasons. My collection is not so big as I write this and I fear it will blow away as I concentrate on my writing. I shall take a photo at the end of my afternoon to show you what booty I’ve got left, if any. **Quite literally as I scrawled down that sentence my whole collection blew away and landed in complete disarray, so no photo**.

The colours in my collection don’t vary too much. The leaves on the ground are mostly an anemic brownish shade. I’m wondering if they’ve survived the last few months of snowfall. Just sitting under the blanket starved of sunlight for weeks on end.

Most of the gardens appear dead. It’s not really the best time to visit. The plants are only at the very start of their recovery. There is some green on the ground but it’s mostly straw-like. The pine trees are the only plant life as vibrant as ever. Their needles are mostly a deep green and their branches full. These are my favourite anyway so I’m not disappointed by what I can only describe as a very dormant place. I know that it’s not long before everything will be in bloom once more. I wonder how they would compare to the beautiful blossoms over on the west coast at the moment.

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As I sit here scribbling once more there are girls playing badminton with a makeshift net in-between two trees. I like to think that it’s true that Canada is an ‘outdoors nation’.  – this is apparently why the houses are all built with terraces and balconies – to reflect this lifestyle.

To the right of me Lolo sleeps on a deck chair. I think, despite the weeks that have passed, his biological clock hasn’t quite adjusted to the EST (Eastern Standard Time).

To the left of me, less than a kilometre away is Montreal Olympic Park. I hear distant cheers and am sure there is a game on. The shirts on display on the metro indicated a football (soccer) match to me.I think this is the home stadium for Montreal Impact. Although after a google I’m a little confused, they appear to have two home stadiums on my search? Perhaps one is undergoing construction. More research is needed. I’m looking forward to getting to know more about sports over here – not particularly soccer (as I’m quite sure they’re no good shhhhh). But I’ve got a lot of time for hockey, for baseball and for basketball, although I’m not sure the Raptors (Toronto) are much good either after watching them in a sports bar last night.

I feel like this could be getting too long. I’ll fill you in more later. It’s Easter Sunday, everything is closed and I think all I shall do is write and hopefully read a little (I feel a book shop search when everything re-opens).

The Ever-loving Abigail

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Friday Night In

You can’t be a social butterfly all the time. In the last fortnight I’ve met and shared stories with many fellow travellers, mostly dorm mates. Tonight is Friday night and I find myself tucked away in bed by 9pm writing my blog posts and listening to the new Kendrick Lamar album.

Not all my nights here have been like this, I’ve spent all my days here with the introvert I adopted in Toronto. We’ve gained a bit of a dependence on one another I feel. I’m glad to be settling in Squamish for a while so I can establish some longer term friendships as I fear I would miss Lolo (I know – he sounds like a pet) too much if I were to stay on the move. Making new friends is great fun but it can be super exhausting. When you’ve found one really good travel companion it can be hard to let go.

I’ve also managed to squeeze in some time with the locals, catching up with my friend Vicky whom I met last time I was on my travels over here. My french is mad-rusty but Vicky and her friends welcomed me with open arms and persevered with English even as they got more drunk and sleepy.

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Montreal is even more beautiful than I remember. Although I never thought I’d say this but I actually miss the tourists. During peak season some cities are brought to life and Montreal is one of these cities. This city is most impressive when it’s patios are overflowing and the streets are bustling no matter what day of the week it is. I think this season begins now, it’s Easter weekend and the sun is out. – not an egg in sight 😦 I’m definitely not looking in the right places. I want a hunt!

The Ever-loving Abigail