I was girlishly emotional as the plane touched down in Toronto: I was finally where I had planned to be for so long and following so many travels.
Those first two weeks at the Planet Traveler – also known as the best hostel in the world – were both incredibly stressful and incredibly exciting. I immediately regretted not coming to Canada sooner so that I would have had more money, gained less weight and been able to more thoroughly enjoy being somewhere I was going to live rather than just pass through.
The other 5 girls in our cosy little 6 bed dorm were staying long term on working visas or internships. This meant friendly camaraderie, as well as the ability to sleep properly and get up early for job interviews without being disturbed by constant partying. But when I did want to go out I just had to head to the rooftop, which had spectacular views of the city.
My second week was particularly enjoyable as there was a group of Australians who were staying for a week and nearly every night we would meet up on the roof and then go out (as I was not yet employed and did not have to go to work the next day!).
After constantly applying for jobs and attending (fruitless) interviews with recruitment companies – stressed, because I had not much buffer money to live without income – I was lucky to get a job at a call centre through a contact at the organisation I paid for membership to, in conjunction with the working holiday visa.
At first, I was happy: it was basically full-time hours, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, I was thrilled to be a productive member of society again, and the others working there were really friendly, so I enjoyed lunch breaks (and system break downs!).
However, the commute was long and the work not only repetitive but also high pressure, so for weeks I was too exhausted to do much after work: even going out on Fridays was a struggle. When I obtained a job as a receptionist – with an even longer commute – this exhaustion was somewhat abated.
I had also obtained repetitive strain injury / tennis elbow from too much typing with an incorrect arm angle. This was exacerbated instead of eased when my receptionist job took on a large element of data entry.
I loved the nightlife of Toronto, and the ease with which I could get around on the subway. I moved into an amazing 3 storey townhouse right at a subway station and next to High Park – the biggest park in Toronto and an upmarket area. I was able to go for runs in the park (when I wasn’t too tired!) and was able to just jump on the subway whenever I wanted to go out anywhere.
There were things going on any night of the week if you really wanted to – although Mondays and Tuesdays were more difficult. My housemates included Quebecoise and French students who passed through temporarily but were very social: we had dinners and a DVD night.
They were replaced with Canadians with whom I thoroughly enjoyed getting ready and then going out together. I spent time setting up my room and making it feel homely, discovering that the right cheap Ikea mattress can be more than sufficient. After the call centre work party in the park, and for my birthday, I invited people over and they all admired the house.
After a fair while without having many friends except an Australian I met at the hostel the day after I had checked out, I eventually found, through advice, meetup.com and made some friends at some fun events through that. Four of us then hired a car and went to Niagara over night to see the falls and head to a nightclub where a woman danced in a cage. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to do any more than drive through the beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake the next day.
Eventually, however, it became impossible to ignore the fact that it was going to be difficult, if not impossible, to progress my career in that city without some more specific study. Also influenced by the significantly higher minimum wages in Australia – I would be unable to travel around North America on the wages I was earning – I decided fairly suddenly to return to Australia in mid-October to start a vocationally-specific Masters Degree and enjoy the Australian summer with my family and friends.
Protests from Canadians and other immigrants were quashed quickly by the other Australians I had met who were on the same page and returning shortly: although Toronto was a wonderful place to visit and would probably be a great place to live should your income support it, Australia is, after all, one of if not the best place in the world to live, especially if you’re lucky enough to be Australian.