December 18, 2020
Story submitted by traveller Yee
I first heard about a working holiday in Canada while travelling in Central America. I was no stranger to working holidays. I had just finished my two years in the U.K. where I only worked a year and spent the rest of my time seeing the sights of Europe. Here I was in Central America on my last hurrah doing three summers in a row before heading home.
I met a number of people in Nicaragua who were living in Canada and working at the ski resorts. They were travelling in the ‘dead’ season, the shoulder season months where not much happens in the tourist towns between summer and winter. I had heard of Whistler, Banff and Big White but the thought of living in one of those towns had never crossed my mind…until now. In pursuit of the never-ending ‘wanderlust’ dream, I went home and worked hard for a year to save some money before leaving for the big mountains of Canada.
I had a goal. I wanted to learn to snowboard competently before I was thirty. It was logical in my mind that I had to move to a different country and immerse myself completely in what we call the ‘Whislife’ to achieve that. I hated the cold (see three summers in a row) and I had never snowboarded or really skied before – what more could go wrong?
I landed in Montreal and made my way east over to Prince Edward Island. My thought process was - go east before I go west as I was likely to end up in Whistler or Banff and would probably never head back east and would have less money to travel once I settled somewhere. The size of Canada is pretty deceiving and domestic travel is quite expensive.
I ended up driving from Prince Edward Island to Whistler with a girl who had converted a van which was named ‘Goose’ that I had met on a Canada Backpackers Facebook group. Driving across Canada and splitting fuel costs was going to be roughly the same as flying from Montreal to Vancouver. I thought why not take the time to see what the rest of Canada is about. I highly recommend doing road trips in Canada as you can experience different landscapes and feel the change in pace and vibes from mountain towns to cities.
I ended up settling in Whistler. I am a city girl at heart who loves the great outdoors and Whistler is slightly larger than the other ski towns. You can still be somewhat anonymous while knowing a lot of people and feeling like a part of the community.
One thing you have to remember is that the cost of living is quite high in tourist towns and the wages are low. Most people either try to work for the mountain to get a free ski pass, staff discounts for food/equipment and accommodation or in hospitality to get tips. I work for Lululemon, a Canadian activewear lifestyle brand. If you’re passionate about being a better version of yourself and enjoy interacting with people, then I highly recommend working with them!
Accommodation is scarce in ski towns. I can only speak from my experience in Whistler but I know it is similar in the other towns. Some towns only have staff accommodation so your accommodation then becomes job dependent. When I first arrived in Whistler, a local told me for every bed there were four jobs available!!
Most people live in ski towns for the lifestyle. And let me tell you, if you love the outdoors it is everything you could want. Snowboarding, rafting in glacial rivers, hiking and being rewarded with the most amazing views, crystal clear blue lakes, down-hill mountain biking, cross-country skiing, bungee jumping, zip-lining, snow-mobiling, husky sledding, the most epic après parties (shout out to Skiitour), camping under the stars, bear and wildlife spotting and life-long friends who become family are just some of the things you can look forward to.
Let’s not overlook summer and how much I’ve enjoyed hiking and seeing the most amazing views, glacial blue lakes and mountain ranges or sitting at the lake on a hot summer's day. I also managed to throw myself down a mountain on a bike – something I never would have tried if I wasn’t living in Whistler. The opportunities to try new things and the opportunities for adventure are endless.
The thing I’ve realised about travelling and moving to new places is that most of the people who are doing the same thing as you are pretty like-minded. Everyone’s upped their life and moved somewhere to experience a whole new lifestyle. For some, it’s short-term and for others it turns into the rest of their lives. Whichever it is, it’s always worth taking the leap. If you haven’t considered moving to a different country on a working holiday visa I would highly recommend giving it a go. Canada is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve been to (and I’ve been to sixty something and counting…) and the people really are nicer - maybe it’s the mountain air, maybe it’s the maple syrup, but it’s definitely the place to get outside, go exploring and get to know yourself a little better.
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