I left Canada in 2007 at the age of 26 and just recently returned home. Since I still had the travel bug, the first trip I did was a week ago to Montreal for 4 days. Although it’s freezing cold, I’ve never been to this part of the country before and I was keen to how our French friends compared to the real deal.
This got me thinking about the amazing diversity of scenery and culture that we have here in Canada. I’ve spent 2 weeks in a car driving from London up to a ferry to cross over to Ireland, around Ireland, back on the ferry and up to Scotland, then back down to London and I have to say that much of that time was spent watching green rolling hills go by. By the end I missed the hustle and bustle of London and was sick of seeing green grass and cows.
Here in Canada we have much more of diversity, largely due to the size of our country, but even if we take the western part of the country we still have some different scenery.
As soon as you fly into Vancouver the mountains immediately stand out, and there are many mountains that can be seen from the city itself. From Vancouver you can head up to Whistler for some amazing mountain scenery. Maybe instead of that you could head to Kelowna and see the endless stretches of vineyards and wineries…. oh and some more mountains.
From the green grape vines in the Okanagan valley, you can keep heading north toward the Calgary where you can hang out with some cowboys before heading on to Banff for a taste of the Rocky Mountains. I would then drive up the icefields parkway to Jasper as this has to be one of the most amazing drives on the planet.
Once you get to Jasper you can head west to Edmonton and see a typical North American city, complete with a massive shopping mall. If you feel the need for some more mountains you can just head back down through Red Deer and Calgary back to Banff or you can keep heading west into Saskatoon. I would encourage people to take the latter route as this will take you into the prairies where there are no mountains, but just a flat plain.
Once you get to Saskatoon it’s time to turn around and make your way back to Calgary. One the way there is place called Drumheller which is the land of dinosaurs and is well worth checking out. The surrounding area is known as the “dead lands” and there scenery here is also very unique and well worth seeing.
From Calgary you choose your own adventure but what about some surf? I haven’t even mentioned Vancouver Island yet which is absolutely amazing. You could spend a month just on the island. I would suggest getting the ferry across so you can see what it looks like to float into the harbour in Victoria. From there I would just head up to Tofino and forget about the rest. There are other places to see on the island but if you explore Vitoria and Tofino you will not see anything to different or any more impressive.
So there you have it. Just in one part of Canada alone you can see some amazing mountains, world class wineries, green flat prairies, the dead lands straight from a John Wayne movie and the amazing beaches of Tofino. Where else in the world can you experience anything like that?
As a Canadian I find it hard to shrug off the stereotypical image of overweight North Americans, and I find this interesting because my own perception of Canadians is that we are a very sporty and active bunch. Even in the cities there is massive stream of traffic heading out in all direction on a Friday afternoon or night after work of people looking to get away and into the mountains for a few days of active relaxation.
I found this culture to be totally nonexistent in the UK. Weekends were about socializing and most of the time that meant drinking. It may very well have been the group of people I associated with but I got the impression it was a general reflection of the society.
One major difference for being in London was that I had easy access to places like Ireland and Scotland, and even Europe for short weekend trips so that would have to be the main way I found myself being active as I love to get on foot and explore new places. This was actually the main reason I went to the UK and in particular London in the first place, and it’s something I’ve continued to do since returning to Vancouver. I now realize there are so many places to visit that are only a short drive or flight away. The Rocky Mountains are the best example I can think of for this example.
In Vancouver we have Stanley Park which is a great place to spend an afternoon to get your fix of jungle wandering. Often I will jump on my bike and do a big lap around the city that takes me over to Granville Island and also around Stanley Park. Dealing with the traffic is not ideal but it gets very peaceful around the back of the island. In London I spent a few nice sunny days kicking a ball around in Hyde Park but I wouldn’t say I did any hiking and biking in London.
The final point I have to make is about sport, and the difference between watching and playing. I’ve always played hockey so regardless of how cold it gets, I’m used to getting out there and smacking the puck around. In the UK they live and die for their football or soccer as we like to say. But you won’t find too many people out on a rainy Tuesday night kicking the ball around, but more so in a pub sinking pints and screaming abuse at the bid screen. As a Canadian, I really feel like we get involved in sports and much more active level. We are players of sport, and I even include skiing, hiking and biking in that, where as I found the Londoners to be much more passive towards actually getting out there and playing, but more inclined to head to the pub to watch a game.
So the perception that North Americans are fat and lazy is very interesting coming from English people as we are certainly more active than they are as a nation. Maybe it’s more about the food we eat. If you have ever tried to explain poutine to a foreigner you will know may very well know the mixture of confusion and disgust that often comes across their face as you explain our infamous national dish.
I grew up in eastern suburbs of Vancouver in the suburbs. I had a heap of friends and plenty of room to play. Our houses were small but our backyards were large and we always had a place to kick a ball around or to play hockey on winter. I spent a fair amount of time in the city but never had to go there for school or work so I was basically a suburban kid.
I had never really dived too deep into the cost of living difference between Vancouver and London before I made the move but I knew it would be more expensive. I was not totally focusing on this all the but I did notice there was a difference in the cost of some items but when I actually put some effort into comparing the cost of living differences I was amazed at just how expensive London is compared a city in Canada.
The first thing to deal with is obviously the fact that there is a large difference in the exchange rate. This always fluctuates so I don’t really want to go into this, and besides if you’re living and working in London, it’s easier to just forget about the exchange rate. One piece of advice I was given by an Australian buddy, which I will impart here is simply don’t convert currency, you will just be sad if you do.