Coming home from my Working Holiday Visa in Canada
Updated: Jan 19, 2021
We've all had that feeling of dread as you go to bed for the last time in a foreign country before the chaos of an early morning flight home ensues in just a matter of hours. I used to think this meant that I'm somewhat dissatisfied in what "home" is for me. I don't like admitting that but the way I would see it is how could I truly be satisfied with my life if returning to it brings me this feeling of just wanting to be literally anywhere else. But what I learned is that the dread of coming home is only natural. It doesn't mean your life at home sucks it just means your holiday was awesome. The greater the holiday, the bigger the dread! It's not personal.
It's important to remember as well that if you can afford to go on a holiday (of any kind) you are already a lot more privileged than a lot of people, and that's something to be thankful for. It's hard for me because I am equal parts travel and wanderlust obsessed as I am a home body. So, I am forever in a state of mental turmoil from wanting to see the world while also wanting to be present at home in the lives of my loved ones.
What I really want to get in to is my experience returning from a working holiday in Canada. After what I could only describe as 13 months of pure unapologetic bliss, I came to the conclusion that any more time in Canada would just be me trying to top the year I'd already had. For me, the choice was obvious that it was time to return home to my family and "go out on a high" as they say.
What followed was a prolonged high, seeing my family again, surprising my friends. Life played out like a movie for a while and I was silly enough to think it would last. What followed can only be described as one of my life's biggest come downs. Now don't get me wrong it's not all doom and gloom, I'm simply being honest and raw to give you some perspective that travelling isn't all insta-worthy photos, year 'round tans and having no responsibilities (ugh, I miss living overseas!).
Upon my return home to Australia, I gave myself a couple months buffer period financially to just relax, find my feet again and search for a job I actually wanted. I'm very grateful for my foresight with this, it was time I really valued and that was definitely beneficial for me in taking my time re-entering the workforce.
As the months went on the "how was your trip?" questions stopped, the people I met travelling were still uploading photos of snow-capped mountains as they commenced their winter season in post card worthy locations and there I was sitting on the couch sweltering in the Australian summer heat. I never felt regret about coming home when I did, that was never the point. My working holiday was always going to end and these growing pains were always awaiting my arrival home. I guess I just felt an empty space in my heart that nothing in Australia could fill no matter how hard I tried.
Everyone kept saying to me "everything is the same here, why did you come home?!" but the truth was I was grateful nothing had changed. That's what makes it home, right? I loved that I could get homesick a thousand miles away to return home to the smell of a summer storm on a hot afternoon and it feeling like I'd never left.
But it felt like if life in Australia was a pair of shoes, it was now two sizes too small for me. And that's the honest truth. The hardest part for me was relating to my friends again like I used to. I simply wasn't the same person I was when I left. All of the friends who had been on this wild ride with me were either still in Canada or had returned home to their respective countries (nowhere near Australia). I admittedly felt a bit lost for a while.
My sister was living in Manchester at the time and my other sister lives in Melbourne so I was heavily reliant on my friends as a support network and I noticed the natural progression that had taken place with other relationships in their social circles that I was no longer a part of. Having not been around for the past year, I took full responsibility for the fact my friendships weren't as close as they used to be and I will never hold anything against them for that. But it left me in a position where I felt somewhat alone. I decided I could either succumb to this post-holiday depression and spiral into a negative complainer (the old me would have done that), or I could remind myself of the fabulous person I'd become through my experiences and share that person with the world (whether they liked it or not).
Luckily for me (being the ever-deep thinker and forward planner that I am), I formulated a list while still living overseas fully aware that life would try and get in the way of my growth and I called it "How to stay euphoric at home". This list helped me with planting some real roots again here in Australia and helped me find my feet as a somewhat outsider in my old life again. I'm going go out on a limb here and share this list with you in the hope it may help you too:
- Plan your days off down to each day like you would in Canada.
- Plan somewhere or something new for date night each week.
- No radio.
- No news.
- Always get out and about. Week nights included (especially weeknights).
- Make a home of wherever you are.
- Be fearless.
- Be the life of the party.
- Be present.
- Be warm.
- Be happy.
- Be grateful.
- Be a tourist in your own city.
- Always get involved.
- Have fun in everything you do.
- Be enthusiastic.
- Have/bring energy.
Now while I may not implement 100% of this list in my life, I must say I reference this often and it continues to be a great reminder of how I can reconnect with my traveller brain and not get caught up on the BS of the rat race.
I think the most important lesson I learned was that while no one may really care all that much about the stories I might have or the things I've seen, what I experienced on my working holiday in Canada is one of the rare occurrences in life that I get to keep between myself and those who were there with me. It's not often you can do something of such a grand scale and have such an intimate and sacred bond with it. While you may feel alone at times and like no one "gets" it, hang onto this as a beautiful reminder that no, they don't. And not many people will, and that is what makes your experience so special. I am also of full understanding that (believe it or not) the world does not revolve around me and it's not that people don't care, but these people have lives of their own to worry about! So, try not to take their lack of interest at times personally.
A way that I connect with my experiences is through writing about them like this and reminiscing with friends who were there alongside me during my time in Canada. I message them on their birthdays or when I think of them, I've even been lucky enough to have stayed in touch with a close few who have since moved home and I regularly catch up with.
It's not going to be easy but let me tell you the high is most definitely worth the come down. Plus, the harder it is to return home, the greater your experience has been and ultimately that is something you should be incredibly grateful for.
To conclude I'm going to leave you with this short poem I wrote when I was struggling with all that came with being home in what felt then like a foreign country to me at the time. Hopefully some of you can relate. And to those who can, I'm here for you and we're in this together.
Just like the humble honeybee
returning home to the hive, full
of a combination of unique
nectars each with its own story to tell;
I too returned home from my
travels full of memories and my
very own stories only to find it
was all the same honey to
No one could taste the
difference, no one knew what
my eyes had seen or cared to
understand how my life had
changed from this experience.
Instead, all I found was that the
Queen bee never left and there
was still the same buzz around
the hive that there always had
been. Everybody wants to get out
there and taste the sweet and
foreign nectars of flowers
they’re yet to smell and lay
their eyes on the places they’re
yet to see. Perhaps home only
tastes like home because
nothing ever changes there and
without this fact we'd be but
simple honeybees flying from
flower to flower, with the
instinctive longing to return
home to the hive.