So back to the UK I was bound. Just in time for a lovely Christmas.
I was 20 at this point so decided to try my hand at settling and staying put for a while. I quickly found work doing more sales. This time selling double glazing windows. I can tell you right now this industry is everything you would imagine it to be. I only did it for a few weeks as it really wasn’t for me. It felt very sleazy and pushy.
Following this I found agency work for a company specialising in care work with people with different disabilities. This was a great job, and with it being agency I was able to work as much or as little as I wanted with lots of great different people needing different levels of care. As there are not many 20 year old males in this industry I found I often needed to turn work down as I would get lots of offers. While not high paying I thoroughly enjoyed this sort of work. It had a sense of purpose to it and a lot of job satisfaction came from helping people.
It was also a good job to help put my own life and problems into perspective. They weren’t so bad. A few months after coming back from Australia the girl I had met in Australia moved over to the UK and we started a relationship, she lived an hour and half away so this wasn’t ideal but I was very happy. I had a job I loved, a happy relationship and I was loving life playing for my football team whom had formed that year. We were a group of good friends who had played football together for the Reading fc fans team and decided to take it to the next stage. Our season had begun just before I went to Australia, it hadn’t begun well with us losing a lot of games but we were having great fun losing. It was through the Reading fans team that I was invited to both be on TV as part of the Soccer AM fans of the week, and have an all expenses trip up to Newcastle to represent the Club in a national football fans tournament. We didn’t perform well in the tournament, in part due to the fact we were all still pissed from the night before.
Thus begun a happy but quite uneventful 6 months of my life. I was settled I was happy it was all good. Unfortunately the distance and other contributing reasons meant that my relationship was struggling. We ended up breaking up. I was really upset with this and spent the evening In the pub drowning my sorrows with a few friends. The next morning I woke up with a stinking hangover and was greeted by a poorly spelt note written in my drunken handwriting. It simply said “You are going to Canada in 2 weeks”
I put my Sherlock Holmes hat on and did some investigating. I had got home, very drunk, gone onto my PC and loaded up MSN. Due to the hour my cousin in Canada was awake and we started talking. She mentioned I was always welcome to visit and it would be good to see me. At this point my impulsive brain must have kicked in and a quick check of my email inbox showed a flight itinerary for a fortnights time.
Never one to pass up an opportunity I thought “to hell with it why not” As I worked agency it was easy enough to get time off. So 2 weeks later I was off to Canada for 2 months.
I spent some time getting to know my Canadian family more. I had met them a few years previously at my cousins wedding but it was great to spend time with them. Plus there was a new addition whom I hadn’t met. During my drunken MSN conversation my Cousin had sold me on the image of us all exploring the nightlife Edmonton had to offer. However over the next 2 weeks she discovered she was pregnant with her 3rd child so that put the alcohol on one side but allowed me to see some of the family sights around.
I got to go out to the lovely Cold Lake where my Auntie and Uncle now lived. They had moved down from Yellowknife (the capital of the Northwest territory) a year previously so were only a couple hours drive away. I’ve spoken about the hospitality offered in other countries I’ve been too and I know that the people I was staying with were family, but they were at the time distant family who I knew by name only. Id met them all when I was much younger but apart from a brief visit for my cousins wedding a few years before they were strangers. The hospitality I was shown by them and the friendliness I was shown by others showed me exactly why Canada and Canadians hold the reputation they do. I was taken fishing, I was shown the sites and fed and given my own room. It still touches me how well looked after I was. At one point my uncle was even willing to come with on a cruise to Alaska I was looking at just so I didn’t have to pay for a single room supplement. I’ve tried to repay this kindness each time they have visited over the last few years but fear I still have fallen short.
I didn’t want to take advantage of this hospitality for too long so I booked a flight over to Toronto with the aim of jumping on another tour across the east of the country.
A few days in Toronto were spent climbing the CN tower and exploring Toronto. I jumped on a bus and took the opportunity to go over to see Niagara falls. Now after the breath-taking experience that was Victoria falls I had high expectations. I cant help but feel let down by it all. The falls themselves were impressive, but not in the same league as Victoria Falls. The maid of the mist boat however was great fun and it was really impressive to get too see the falls from such an angle.
What was the biggest let down however was the town behind Niagara. While not as good as Victoria falls, Niagara falls are still beautiful, until you turn around and see the tourist town next to it. It is filled with the worst parts of north America. Tacky souvenirs, flashing lights and just a general cheapness to it all. In the two hours I had before my bus was due to head back I decided to cross the bridge and enter the USA. Mainly just to get a stamp on my passport and to say I had. After getting a milkshake and a Taco I crossed back and headed over back to Toronto.
The next day I began my tour of the east. We drove along to Montreal where we spent a few days. I had a mixed experience of Montreal. By chance I arrived in the middle of the Montreal Blues festival a free festival that took over the city. It was a great time to be there and I was able to Watch Ben Harper perform for free. Sadly though I fell victim to my second experience of backpacker crime. My new flash and expensive IPod was stolen from my bag in my hostel. I was gutted as I hadn’t had it long and was proving so useful with the WIFI capabilities I hadn’t experienced on my other trips.
The experience of the Montreal police station was also not very positive. Now Montreal is in Quebec province. It is part of French Canada. The first language of Quebec is French. Those from Quebec are very proud of their French heritage but can have a reputation for being quite rude and distinct from the rest of Canada. This was certainly the case in the police station. My French is passable but not great. The policeman refused to give me an English form or speak to me in English, despite clearly understanding me. It was very frustrating and marred my experience of French Canada.
We moved on out of Montreal and spent some time in Mount Tremblanc. Its a big skiing hot spot in the winter, however seeing it in summer was just odd. No snow in sight, he sun beating down and clean ski trails and ski lifts clinging to the mountain. Its also surrounded by a beautiful national park. I got to climb a fire station in the forest. Its used to watch for forest fires and as you can imagine is very very high up.
Next stop was Ottawa, The capital of Canada. Its similar to Canberra in many respects. Nobody seems to remember its the capital, its not the biggest or most affluent city in the country but its very pleasant and seemed a nice place to live. It was also home to the weirdest hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It was the old jail. It had been converted into a hostel but kept the original fixtures and fittings. It also claimed to be haunted. Now I didn’t see ghosts but walking along corridors past barred rooms while drunk was very freaky. It was also in Ottawa I learnt about tipping. I tried to pay for a beer with exact change and the bartender refused to serve me. I must admit I went very British at this point and refused to back down in my indignation. I ended up being removed from the club.
Just outside of Ottawa we went white water rafter down the Ottawa river which was such good fun. If you have never tried white water rafting then I recommend it with all I have. Its such a rush. Even though we did flip our boat. There’s a great video of our trip which shows our boat flip. If you pause the video you see the boat inverting like the titanic and me still clinging on for dear life as my fellow rafters tumble past me into the water. Wet and happy we finished the day with a BBQ.
Finally It was back to Toronto but not before a farewell toga party with my friends from the tour.
Back to Edmonton I went and got ready to fly home. Well that was until my cousin, who will come across as a bad influence again here, casually mentioned a 2 week long road trip they were taking into British Columbia and the Rockies. Well hey flights were invented to be postponed, so I changed this to add another month onto my trip.
We packed up the car, attached the trailer and off we went. The first stop was Drumheller. An area of Alberta famous for its dinosaur museum. We enjoyed the dinosaurs before heading to the Drumheller Pow Wow. Now Wikipedia describes a Pow Wow as “a North American Indian ceremony involving feasting and dancing” My cousins husband is First Nation so I was keen to learn more about his culture. It was great fun to be there and see the dances and traditions of a culture I knew nothing about. First Nation is the preferred term to describe people who are commonly, if offensively, called red Indians.
We then drove into BC. The drive was spent with my earphones in and a book in my hand for much of it as the audiobook of twilight was blaring over the radio to keep my cousins children (who I refer too now as my nephews) happy.
BC and the Rocky Mountains are absolutely stunning and I would advise you all to visit this wonderful place at some point in your life. I would like to go back one day and hike and explore around here some more. However it is quite disconcerting that rubbish bins are surrounded in bear proof metal boxes similar to the charity bins seen in the UK.
It was great to get to know my cousin’s family and spend time with them, they were even calling me Uncle Dan by the end of it and it proved a great decision to have gone with my drunken impulses and had this trip. But as the name of my blog suggests this trip did prove to me I was wandercursed. When anything in life wasn’t going right my impulse would be to leave. To wander. Each time I wandered I had the time of my life, each time I returned it was harder and harder to go back to normal daily life. This would make me want to leave again. It was becoming a vicious cycle.