Travel teaches you. There is something new to learn from each destination, each culture, each person you meet on the road.
One of the trips from which I’ve learned the most was during the 7 months I spent living in Vancouver, Canada with the working holiday visa. 5 years have passed since that trip and today, reflecting, I can tell you 5 things I’ve learned from Canada.
5 things I learned from living in Canada:
1. You can always be (more) kind
If there is something that characterizes Canadians it is their kindness. Canadians are extremely polite and kind people. You can walk down the street and receive a “sorry” every 2 minutes, even if they didn’t touch you.
In any place they will welcome you with a smiale and a “Hello, how are you?”. From my first night in Canadá I felt welcomed by the warm and friendly people, always ready to help.
A tradition in Vancouver (I don’t know if this happens in other cities too) is to thank the bus driver. Every time someone gets off, he or she shouts “Thank you!” to the driver, no matter how many people get off. It is one of the things that surprised me the most as it is a habit that I still haven’t seen in any other city in the world. Everyone thanks their bus driver in Vancouver. In fact, a woman was banned from using the bus system for 2 years because she forgot to thank the driver. Real case.
I sometimes tried to adopt this Vancouver habit back at home in Buenos Aires and many people looked at me weird, some drivers didn’t even answer. I guess I must have surprised them.
In the end it is always possible to be kinder to others. A simple “how are you?” can put a smile on someone’s face. A “thank you” can change your day.
2. To love nature
Canada is a country which is completely related to nature and ecology. While the main cities are large and cosmopolitan, people live in connection with natureand healthy life.
I’ve always loved nature but the truth is I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I’ve never lived so connected with nature before living in Vancouver.
Living in a place surrounded by mountains and lakes was a great change.
In Canada I learned to love the mountain. I did my first trekkings and learned a lot about wildlife in Banff and Jasper national parks. Today hiking is one of my favorite activities when I travel. Canada taught me to love nature, to enjoy it and to take care of it.
3. The coexistence between different religions, races and cultures is possible
Canada is a country that received millions of immigrants with open arms. In fact, Canada is the first country in the world that adopted multiculturalism as a national policy. In the streets of any Canadian city you meet people from many countries who chose Canada as their home.
Different religions, races and cultures coexist under the same flag. While living in Vancouver, I met people from many places and learn from their cultures.
4. You can also miss the chaos
Canadians are generally very punctual and organized. Cities work perfectly. There is not even a paper on the streets. The education system is one of the best in the world. The health system is good too. The transport system is effective. You can leave your front door open and nobody will enter. Weed is legal. People have a very high standard of living.
Canada is really an example of a great country and this is something I celebrate. But coming from a Latin American city I must confess that while living in Canada I sometimes missed the chaos. Buenos Aires is chaotic city but believe me that from time to time I missed that chaos of which I complained.
The spontaneity and the surprise factor from Buenos Aires is something I value. And of course I also value and miss the peace and tranquility of Vancouver.
5. You have to leave the comfort zone
It sounds trite but it’s real. At 20 years old, I was very comfortable living in Buenos Aires with my parents, studying architecture without having to worry about anything.
Moving to an unknown city, surrounded by new people, speaking another language every day, having to look for a job from scratch, a place to live … are things that really open your mind.
During my months in Canada I worked at a Turkish restaurant, cutting meat and preparing donais. This was a job I never imagined having. And I was happy working there! I learned something new every day, I had colleagues from countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America and I discovered things I had in common with them even if we were born in opposite parts of the world.
I also worked at BeaverTails (the most traditional pastry in Canada) in a ski center. What was I doing in a small cabin in the middle of a mountain frying pastries? I could have stayed in the comfort of my house in Argentina, without the need to work to pay a rent, without getting out of my bubble … but leaving was one of the best decisions in my life.
What I learned during that 7 months in Canada were more than what I could’ve learned during 2 years at my normal life.
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