I spent part of my afternoon at a study and work abroad fair trying to figure out exactly what I want to do after I graduate. Right now, I’m planning to apply for a Youth Mobility Scheme visa to the UK, which gives young people from certain countries (including Canada) the right to live and work there for two years, and leave and enter the UK freely.
This plan is very different from what I originally thought I’d be doing now. Last year, I figured after I graduated, I’d start full-time at a media outlet somewhere in Canada right away. I was hoping work at the CBC, but I would have been happy working anywhere. I made sure I got enough experience to secure this and worked at Global News Toronto last summer and The Gazette in Montreal.
At that point I had only ever travelled with my family and even though the thought of travelling somewhere alone interested me, I didn’t think I was ready for it yet and I’d definitely do it some day.
So what happened? Well, in October I moved to London for two months to do an internship or school at the CBC and as cliché as it sounds, everything changed.
Before that I had just started my eight-month internship at the Toronto Star (where I still work) and I thought I would be happy working there in Toronto for the rest of my life.
While I love working at The Star, I realized I love travelling more. While in London, I took weekend trips to Edinburgh and Amsterdam and then I spent two weeks after my internship travelling Spain and Italy. So when the postings came up for summer internships at Canadian newspapers, I didn’t apply. I knew that if I got tied down to an internship, there was a good chance I’d stay at the paper. I was afraid in five years, I’d regret not travelling.
So, all of this to say that even though picking up and going to a new country seems daunting, do it. Just go. I promise you won’t regret it. Not all of your experiences will be good, of course, but the good ones will more than make up for the bad ones.
Earlier this week, I came across a post that I had written last year about a friend of mine who was travelling alone through Peru. I was very jealous of her, but worried I couldn’t handle such a big adventure.
I wrote, “I am fortunate enough to live in downtown Toronto in a fifth floor condo with two roommates. I have parents who pay for my tuition and books and even my rent and groceries, so really I never have to worry about anything other than getting my assignments done on time…
“The idea of setting off for some unknown land, where you don’t speak the language all alone, like my friend, scares me shitless. But it is also thrilling. I’ve lived most of my life in the safe lane and I think it’s time for some adventure. So I put a question to you, my reader (all two of you!) Where should I begin my adventures of discovering the world I live in? What country would be a good jumping off point? What should I bring on my adventure? Basically any help would be great.”
So now I have an answer to my own questions: start with a country where you speak the language. That way if you need help for any reason, you’re not struggling to get it. For people who only speak English, this means somewhere like the UK, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. For those fluent in another language (I speak French) there are more countries to choose from.
Not everyone will agree with my advice, of course, but I think when you’re worrying about getting the necessary visas, getting through security at the airport and customs at the other side, booking a hostel, and getting around a foreign land, it’s nice not to also worry about the language. Once you’ve done it a few times, then try it while dealing with a foreign language.
As far as what to bring… the answer is as little as possible. I know everyone says it, but you never realize how important it is until you’ve travelled a bit yourself. Last year, I went to Chile with my family for 10 days and brought so many things, I needed a large suitcase and it was full. Two weeks ago, I was in London for a 10-day trip and I managed with only a half-full small suitcase (and I still didn’t wear everything).