Just as a quick update, I am currently in Montreal in a hostel, sitting at the bar and waiting for my shift to start. Things move quickly here…it’s still snowing.
My bus journey from New York lasted a long 14 hours, luckily I had my own two seats for the majority of this and a small 20-minute break every 3 hours or so. It wasn’t too bad until we hit Buffalo, by that point I was dying to get off the bus.
See, I don’t really mind taking transport like buses or trains, as long as nobody gets in my personal space. But the problem with the buses that run on such long journeys across North America is that there tend to be a few people on there who aren’t necessarily classed as ‘normal’. I mean who is? Nobody is ‘normal’, but what I’m talking about is social awareness ‘normal’, like how you behave on a long haul bus. I only have a few rules:
1 – Don’t talk to other people unless it’s completely necessary
2 – Don’t make eye contact
3 – If you have to sit next to each other, try to create at least 1cm of space between you and the other person
4 – Don’t talk on the phone
5 – Keep your music down so nobody else has to suffer from your atrocious taste
6 – Don’t eat stinky food
This is coming from an introvert, obviously.
So the Greyhound does tend to have a few people on there who aren’t aware of my obvious unwritten rules that are only in my mind, obviously. Which means I had a few run-ins with people.
Smokey woman (not sexy, just fag ashy) – She was on the bus from NYC to Buffalo, she kept sitting next to me and told me she had had heart surgery in Florida and had been on the bus for 5 days, it had cost her $1500 and they had lost her bag. Normally you would think that this poor woman just deserves a break, bless her. But I can tell you that she was absolutely full of shit and that her story changed every time I spoke to her. The bus driver confirmed this for me. She was not a fun character to have on a 14-hour journey.
Another guy was wearing jeans that were as low as his knees (Clueless style), he was wearing gold chains and he spent the entire journey hitting on me to a point where I had to change seats so I didn’t have him staring at me. JUST NO.
There were a few more characters but I found if I put my feet up, earphones in and closed my eyes I could ignore just about everyone.
The scariest part of this trip was immigration. They are frigging scary and hold so much power! They can literally deny your visa for the smallest complication. I had a folder full of bank statements, energy bills, old passport, new passport, insurance, police checks for the UK and Australia etc etc etc, I was so prepared for anything!
So this guy walks up to me, crew cut, 6’1 built like a triangle and takes me into a room. I smile and try to make him laugh, which is apparently how I get through all awkward conversations, by saying something stupid. He didn’t laugh, he just stared at me and looked back down at his computer. He didn’t say a word for a good ten minutes. It was awful!
Then he finally spoke.
Him “Why do you not want to work in Europe?”
Me “Ermm, well I dunno, Europe sounds fun but I live in England and erm it rains there.”
Him “Do you realise you’re not allowed to work in the sex trade?”
Me “Erm ok”
10 more minutes of silence and him clicking his keyboard.
Him “Do you have a job?”
Me “Umm no, I want to travel and then work later if I can afford it, but might work, but I might not”
Him “Ok, well if you do work, understand that you can’t work in the sex industry”
Me “Erm ok”
More silence, more clicks.
Him “Ok, this is done, you have a two-year visa, please abide by all rules including no dealing with drugs or working in the sex industry”
Me in my head – WHY DOES HE THINK IM GONNA WORK IN THE SEX INDUSTRY? WHAT GAVE HIM THIS IDEA? DO I GIVE OFF THT VIBE? FUCK.
Anyway, apart from the weird questions it was pretty easy and he didn’t check one document, not one!! In my neatly compiled folder. It didn’t matter, I was in! The sun was just setting and within 90 minutes I’d be in Toronto!
7 days in T’rono
This would be my first time staying in a dorm on my own, so I was pretty worried. My anxiety over sleeping in a room with other people isn’t about me being woken up by them, but rather the other way around. What do I do in my sleep? Do I talk, snore, fart? Probably. I’m human. And it’s only now, after spending a good 4 weeks in shared rooms that I realise this. Who gives a shit? Why have I spent all this time worrying about what I do in my sleep? It’s stupid when you think about it. It’s something I’ve learnt to deal with and I feel a lot happier now, knowing I can do it. My entire time in Australia I paid out for private rooms in hostels or twin rooms (at a stretch), I’d only stayed in big dorms with other groups of friends. So on walking into my 4-bed dorm and finding only one other in there, I was nervous but relieved.
The first woman I met was Emerald, a lovely Canadian from the West Coast of Canada, who was holidaying and visiting some of the big cities in the East. Emerald was really nice, I think she was 22, quiet and sweet. The next day a German girl moved in, also called Kim, she was 18 and couldn’t wait to explore the world. I was kinda jealous that she’d started so young and knew what she wanted to do already. She also smoked a lot of weed, which I quickly learnt that everyone does in Canada! I mean everyone. The term “I can smell weed” is pretty common in England, so much so they made a meme out of it. But England has got nothing on Canada, the streets are full of not only the smell but people openly smoking it. I later found out there are actual weed dispensers across T’rono. Kim was pretty happy about that (I’m not referring to the third person but the other Kim). Apparently, the police get more pissed at jaywalking than people smoking weed.
So on my second day Emerald, Kim and I went out exploring together. I was pretty hungover after spending the previous night in the hostel bar making some friends and getting drunk until 3 am (I’ll get back to this).
I had mapped out a bunch of locations across in the downtown area and we were seeing how far we could go to visit them. See I haven’t mentioned the weather yet, but it is exactly how you would imagine. Toronto was absolutely FREEZING. A lot of the time it was maybe -6 or -7 but in Canada, you have the temperature and then you have a ‘Feels like’ temperature. That day it was -20 and I couldn’t feel my entire body after ten minutes, to a point where I could only take one quick photo because my hands were cramping from the cold. But we managed to see some things, we went to the courts and saw a beautiful library, then to ‘Graffiti Alley’ which was full of amazing art and where I saw my first Canadian celebrity. Who I would have no idea of unless Emerald hadn’t been in such shock from seeing him. He was filming and his talk was really interesting, his name is Rick Mercer and he’s a comedian who has his own show including “Ricks Rant” where he rants about some big news story. This time it was about sexual assault.
You can see it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNOb9QAP_Mg&feature=youtu.be
After that, we walked through China Town and enjoyed some very good dumplings, then on to Kensington Market, which is not a market at all, but a small area filled with cool cafes and restaurants, lots of street art and beautiful houses. I immediately loved it there. By this point, I couldn’t feel my legs and quickly walked back to the hostel to cook a nice healthy meal.
By this point, I couldn’t feel my legs and we quickly walked back to the hostel to cook a nice healthy meal.
I didn’t get to the healthy meal bit, though, I went back to the pub in the hostel and met up with the guys I’d been hanging out with the night before and we all got drunk again until 3 am. These guys quickly became my Toronto drinking buddies! So there was Andres AKA ‘The Muffin Daddy’ he was a chef and from Venezuela he’d been living on the West Coast studying a degree in engineering and was now on the hunt for some work in Toronto, then there was Adam who was the other chef and was English and a Geordie, Adam spent his spare time learning Japanese, Craig who was also English and from Manchester he was full of wisdom and sarcasm, my kinda guy, he’d moved to Toronto to solely stay there and not travel, he was doing a new thing each week for fun, and the lovely Claire who was from Toronto, about the only person I’d seen since Sinead O’Connor that totally pulls off shaving her head, beautiful inside and out. We had other people join and leave us but those were the main crowd.
By the end of my 7 days in T’rono, I was genuinely sad to say goodbye to these lot! They taught me so much, like, how to say T’RONO like a Canadian. They don’t pronounce their ‘T’s’ here. No one would understand me asking for ‘water’ I’d have to say WARDER or if I spoke about ‘Ottawa’ the countries capital city, I’d have to say ‘ODAWA’. They just don’t like the letter ‘T’ here.
So the rest of my week in T’rono was spent mainly having a few hours a day photographing the city, then a few hours of editing and alone time (the chill out areas were epic at HI-Toronto) and finally spending my nights in the bar with the guys. It was fun and I enjoyed the city a lot, but it wasn’t what I expected. I’d spent a lot of time hearing all the hype about T’rono and I wasn’t overly impressed, but, that’s because (I am not told this REPEATEDLY where ever I go) I was visiting out of season. It was that time between Winter and Spring where the snow was mostly there but brown and slushy, the trees were bare and the parks were dull, the sky was grey and it was all kind of a bit subdued. But I knew that was because of the season, I could imagine how pretty it would look at any other point of the year except the time I was there!
Apart from that, I was impressed, it was a beautiful city full of a mix of modern high rises, interesting old architecture and a lot of art. Which I loved! Where ever I went there was some kind of street art, graffiti and galleries.
Another thing I discovered was there was hardly any people! Everywhere I walked, I saw hardly anyone and I was in the middle of downtown T’rono. I soon found out there was an entire underground city, and any locals were walking around that rather than stupidly (like me) freezing to death, above level. I attempted to walk the underground city and got lost very quickly, which is unusual for me.
I visited a lot of the museums and galleries, I set my bank account up and got my finances sorted and I had a few days lost where I was just anxiety ridden! Which was frustrating, I missed my Niagara Falls tour because of this, but on those days I’d just take it easy and be on my own during the day, taking photos and visiting museums and libraries. It was nice to be able to explore the quiet areas and be on my own. I enjoyed it. A lot. But the anxieties were over why I was in Canada, I’d forgotten entirely what I was doing and why I gave up my job and my life to move here. It’s weird that when you have depression you forget everything, you forget all logic. It’s just blank. People wonder what it feels like and why you would be “down” when you have so much going for yourself. From the outside I was confident, I was doing what some people would never imagine, I was travelling the world and exploring areas that people dreamt of seeing and I was doing it on my own. They told me all the time how amazing they thought I was, which is so nice to here, but when that depression and anxiety hits, all of that is gone. There is nothing. Just black. When I’m like that I just want my brothers or my Mum or Dad, they’re the only people who can comfort me. Luckily with technology, I am able to talk to them whenever I need to and they got me through those bad days. They made me realise I was capable of having a bad day and surviving it on my own. Which is something I really wanted to accomplish during this trip.
One day I took a ferry over to T’rono Island to watch the sunset behind the city. The ferry was about 10 minutes and I arrived as the sun was setting. I started to walk through the island to find a good spot to take the photos, but the sun was nearly down and it was seriously the coldest I’d felt to date. I finally found a good spot on the shore, to get to it I walked over this bridge over a frozen lake and down a lane which had a lot of discarded children’s toys hanging around…old ones. A few houses lined the lane and I can’t tell you how much I suddenly felt like I was in a horror movie. I’d seen no people, no stores, no cafes and it was getting dark, quickly. I lasted about 20 minutes and I got some great shots, but I was done, I was freezing and scared! Haha. Luckily I got some good stuff and I’m glad I did it, but once again, I’d like to go back in the Summer. Also in the middle of winter, the water between the island and the city freezes over, which I really really needed to see!
The final thing that I did was visit Niagara Falls. I managed to go on a day where there was a huge snowstorm, which in one way was lucky because I saw the falls surrounded by snow, in another way it wasn’t so great because I couldn’t get my camera out much, it was too wet, and the visibility was terrible. But, wow, what an amazing sight! Such a stunning area to see. Although it’s weird that they decided to build a mini Blackpool town right next to it. After we spent a few hours there we headed to Niagara on the lake. A beautiful little town nearby the falls, full of wooden uniquely designed buildings, craft stores, Christmas shops, old theatres and ice cream shops. All surrounding the lake that led to the falls. It was a gorgeous town, I’d love to visit again and stay there.
After we spent a few hours there we headed to Niagara on the lake. A beautiful little town nearby the falls, full of wooden uniquely designed buildings, craft stores, Christmas shops, old theatres and ice cream shops. All surrounding the lake that led to the falls. It was a gorgeous town, I’d love to visit again and stay there.
So after 7 days of the lovely (but very cold and windy) T’rono, it was time to hit up my next destination. This would be the Blue Mountains, and I’d begin my Work Away experience with a family where I’d be working 4/5 hours a day and 5 days a week in exchange for board and food. A new challenge to face!