2014 was the year I finally saw some of BC, and then left BC and saw some of Alberta. I also saw a lot of other places too, some familiar and some new. I was a self employed contractor for the whole of 2014 which meant I could take as much time off as would fit around work, and I made the most of that flexibility. I did a LOT of things in 2014 (start a couple of new contracts, pass the Certified Human Resources Professional exam, invest in some personal development courses), but my travels have definitely been the highlight. Below is a snapshot of the 15+ cities I visited over the past 12 months.
My first trip of the year was just a day in Whistler at the end of January, but was still a little bit of a big deal. I hadn’t been on the Whistler slopes since a few hours’ skiing in April 2011, and I hadn’t ever snowboarded before. Even though Whistler is so close to Vancouver that it’s practically considered a ‘local mountain’, snowboarding there was still something to check off the bucket list.
February arrived, as did my parents. They came to visit for 10 days, the last of which I spent with them in Seattle (technically we’re into March now). I’d been to Seattle a couple of times before and never really loved the place, but this time I took a short ferry trip to sunny Bainbridge Island. It reminded me of Bowen Island and Gibsons, very small and laid back with some fun little shops and great ice cream. That trip made me want to give Seattle another shot. Hopefully I’ll get my chance this year.
I’ve just returned from my first trip back to the UK in almost two years, where I was lucky enough to spend two weeks with friends and family. This marked the end of my longest stint outside of England, and it was definitely a weird experience going back. Everything was the same, but different. There were so many things that I’d just plain forgotten about having been away for so long, and had a lot of ‘classic England’ moments. Below are a few of my favourite sights and experiences, those moments where you just KNOW you’re in England…
The word ‘Mate’
I didn’t realize how British the word ‘mate’ is before I left. Canadians don’t say it, unless they’re ex-pats ironically greeting each other with ‘alright, mate?’. This was the first picture I took when I was back, of a vending machine at Heathrow. Coca-cola bottles over here say Dude on them. Yup.
30 miles an hour road sign
Looking at this picture almost made me put English villages as a category in themselves. There’s only one country in the world this photo could be taken in, and that’s before I saw the 30 mile an hour sign. I never thought of the white and red circle as particularly iconic while I was living in the UK, but now it’s a sure sign (geddit?) that I’m home.
Double-decker buses aren’t solely limited to England, but they definitely don’t exist as public transit options in Vancouver. I gave myself bonus points for this being a Park and Ride bus (another English classic) and definitely ran up the stairs to sit at the very front…
1. I don’t have a Canadian accent…or do I?
I mentioned in my last post that every single friend I’ve spoken to since I’ve been back has commented on my accent, or lack of one. It seems like a year has been long enough to pick up more than a slight twang, though how strong that twang is depends on who you talk to. The one thing I will admit is that my vocabulary has definitely been altered somewhat, with words like toilet, autumn and lift being replaced by washroom, fall and elevator. If it’s any consolation, I get the same funny looks when I use the wrong word in both countries, perhaps even more so back in the UK!
2. Home will always be home…
I was excited, nervous and more than a little apprehensive about heading back to the UK after a year, mainly because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know whether arriving home would make me feel happy or sad, or whether everything would be the same as I remembered it. As it turns out, I didn’t really feel any of these things. There was no rush of emotion or epic conclusion to the weeks of worrying, I just, well, came home and got on with it. I was surprised at how quickly I settled back into normal life, and how weird it wasn’t being back in Ipswich, Southampton, London and Cambridge. When I met up with friends it really didn’t feel like a whole year (or in some cases much longer) had passed since I left; we just got right back into our flow. Which I guess is a good thing.
3. …but one person’s home is another’s holiday.
Despite feeling comfortably at home as soon as I touched down at the airport, my trip back to the UK was a vacation in all senses of the word (three weeks of work…hello?) and I did make the most of the holiday feeling as much as possible. There are so many, many differences between England and Vancouver, and I found myself naturally appreciating the things that make each place unique rather than comparing the two. I loved sailing down the Orwell River in the freezing cold, wandering past historical colleges in Cambridge and enjoying a (cheap) drink in a London pub. I insisted on taking photos of everything, because ‘my friends back home would love this’, and I realised how lucky I was to be spending three weeks of my year in a place that many people only dream of coming. It sounds a bit soppy (and a tad unbelievable), but there’s definitely something to be said for looking at your everyday life through the eyes of a tourist.