On Monday 14th May I flew away from my home for the past 23 years. A land that I love. Sorry, before I get ahead of myself, I will just say this. I can’t help but romanticize the green pastures of the United Kingdom when I am away from it. I have always been this way. I feel like a soldier at war, in a dirty uniform and mud-smeared cheeks, dreaming of those haphazard hills scattered with cows and sheep with longing. I’m hanging on to crumpled letters in my breast pocket from the fam and the woman like those men did. (Obviously I appreciate that the context of their situation in a bloody war and my situation, checking into a modern hostel, could not be more different. Please don’t rile yourself politically correct people.)
In the day to day, the rain can bring me down and the shelves of the local supermarkets remain ever-dull. I immediately mute ‘The One Show’ the moment I hear it in the living room and I detest the Central line when I’m tired in the mornings and when I’m drunk in the evenings. But yeah, I still dream about all those things. Specifically, the Welsh countryside of my ancestors and long drives through the valleys with my head against the window. The sound of Felixstowe docks late at night and the first gulp of tea in a morning full of whippy coastal wind. Primrose Hill, damp grass, the crack of a beer can and the London skyline. The sun setting over houses on my walk home from the station. (Just listen to Think of England – Bear’s Den, one of my favourite songs, and you’ll get the gist of what I’m saying here.)
However, I am not homesick. I am so blissfully glad to be away from all of this for an extended period of time. I am so excited for what my future has to bring in Canada. I feel like I’m on the top of the world with an unknown road mapped out before me. I have been here in Toronto for only six days, and this place and this experience has impacted me deeply already.
There is definitely something about travelling alone, a power that is so strong I can’t put it into words. I arrived at Canadian customs with my green rucksack, jean jacket with the collar up and my blonde hair ever-scruffy from trying and failing to sleep on the flight over. I was entirely alone and I knew that. I was a needle in a haystack. I kept having to clasp my hands together to stop them trembling. I had to constantly pep-talk myself as I looked out the airplane window after leaving my family, friends and people I love behind. Tell myself that I would be fine and throughout this whole adventure I would do better than I think.
So far, I have proved that.
I got through to customs and was asked a few questions about what I intended to do in Canada. The printer shuddered, and a moment later a swanky new and approved work permit was placed on the desk in front of me. ‘Keep this with your passport every time you enter Canada,’ I was told. ‘Get your SIN number at the Service Canada desk next door and you’re good to go.’ Two years starts here.
These are the highlights of my first week in Toronto, Canada. A great city if there ever was one.
But CAN you feel the euphoria, darlin’?
-Having a $7 pint or three in the Steam Whistle Brewery. I sat outside on a bench right next to the CN tower with my new friend Philip from Christchurch, New Zealand. He was showing me pictures of his nieces and telling me about his sisters. I had a belly full of Italian pasta. I realised that true contentment is usually accompanied by fucking good pasta.
-Taking 40 minutes to settle the bill with Lucie and Marcus in bar 224. We were on the hostel pub crawl, but we’d already left the others because we were too engrossed in conversation with each other. Namely about films and a lengthy discussion about Call Me By Your Name. We were on our second pitcher of beer and 4 quesadillas down, and each time we’d look at the receipt and hatch a plan, one of us would say “so wait, what are we doing again?” Literally one of the funniest times of my life.
-Philip saying that Frodo in the Lord of the Rings had a terrible Kiwi accent. We then told him that he wasn’t meant to have a Kiwi accent, it was a mystical world. A fantastical land. Philip coming to terms was is the best revelation reaction I’ve seen.
-Walking over 20,000 steps in about 5 hours with Marcus. I wasn’t dressed for the sunny weather. I was feeling comfy and lazy, and was donning a mixture of winter and summer attire in my STA hoodie, jean jacket, jeans and birkenstocks. As we walked we spoke about everything from love and loss to fraternities, everything LGBT, villages in Spain, solo-travelling and the future. I had no idea where we were most of the time, but I remember the iced-cap from Tim Hortons went down so well. My feet are covered in blisters from this walk and I don’t give a shit.
-Meeting my Canadian cousin again after probably over a decade, and meeting my English cousin whose just moved to Toronto!
-Spending time with rooftops and cigarettes – literally the best combination. The rooftop of the Planet Traveler hostel in Toronto now holds a special place in my heart. You can see amazing graffiti, people’s backyards, the CN tower and other tall buildings as far as the eye can see. My favourite time to go up there is at 8PM, when the sky is pink and deep conversations are brewing. A particular favourite is being with Philip, Lucie and Anne talking about fruit and vegetables and Paris.
-Toronto Island is the coolest! I love a good boat me, and this boat only costs $7 to across Lake Ontario to Toronto Island. To be fair, there isn’t much to see there. The fair ground was shut, and the Greek street food looked dodge, but it was worth it for pictures on the pier and the sign post that showed the km to Vancouver (and other destinations.) We also threw balls at a shoot-the-clown ride even though the machinery was off, which felt like something out of a movie.
-A night watching the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre with Molly and Maddy, and meeting some lovely people at a housewarming party afterward, even though it was fleeting. I had a lot of beer at that point and the night was young. 11:15 PM never felt so good.
To summarise, I feel differently in my bones. When I smile, it is from the core. I have made connections and friendships with people I have known for 48 hours. I have loved our conversations and the fearlessness in which we explored this city (Toronto) together. Here’s to discovering a bit more of everything, one week at a time.
Songs listened to while blogging:
Bad Day – Daniel Powter (literally, this song is still so good)
Good Life – OneRepublic
Feeling a Moment – Feeder
Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John