Postcards from #Canada150
My plan was to spend the first year volunteering at festivals, through the WWOOF and Helpx networks, traveling wherever the breeze took me, then to spend the second year working. It was a surreal experience to be that free. Staying with inspiring farmers, re-learning skills I had learned when I was younger, but never had the chance to practice. I would stay as long as I was welcome, or move on when I felt it was time.
In the cities, I would go Swing Dancing; something I had wanted to try in Australia but never had the time or energy. I bought a ukulele and actually sang in the company of new friends. Who was this woman?! I rediscovered my capabilities, confidence in my decision-making, and trust in myself.
Three months in, I arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I volunteered on more farms and went to the city every week for social dancing. A handsome dance teacher caught my eye. By early January, I had found a wonderful community of friends and a surrogate family. I decided to stop traveling around Canada, move to Halifax and get to know this handsome dance teacher.
Six months later, I nervously told my parents that I was applying for permanent residency. Their reaction was mixed, glad that I was building a life for myself, miserable that it was so far away.
I obtained a new work permit and gained employment in what I now know to be my dream job – with a bicycle tour and rental shop. People on my tours assume it is my summer job and that I am studying or saving money until I get a ‘real job’ in ‘my field’. Of all the jobs I’ve had or aspired to, I’m not sure anything could beat getting paid to ride a bike about town, sharing my love of Halifax and rekindling the child-like joy of cycling for locals and visitors alike. I have found my community, my (not-just-to-dance) partner, my vocation and another volunteer network, this one of bicycle mechanics and enthusiasts.
Recently, I was featured in Halifax Magazine and the Ecology Action Centre’s 2017 Green Jobs Calendar. I also volunteer with the Halifax Cycling Coalition, an organisation advocating an enhanced urban environment and reduced traffic congestion. I was asked to co-ordinate four group bike rides during the “30 Days of Biking” event for this organization, which was a great opportunity. I also frequently operate their ‘bike valet’ bike parking service at public events. I love being involved with a wonderful and diverse bunch of people, working to achieve positive change in this city.
Needless to say, the Working Holiday experience in Canada changed my life. It gave me space to explore what I was interested in and make up my own mind about what I wanted my life to look like.
Contributor: Ashleigh Boers
Occupation: I Heart Bikes, Tour Guide Supervisor
Hometown: Wollongong, Australia
Working Holiday in Canada: 2014
Start your life-changing International Experience Canada (IEC) adventure today!
This is one in a series of stories shared by International Experience Canada participants from the 1970s to present to celebrate Canada 150.
IEC began in 1951 as a reconciliatory cultural exchange between Canada and Germany following World War II. Today, IEC supports Canada’s interests by administering Youth Mobility Agreements (including Working Holiday) with 33 countries and territories. The agreement between Canada and Australia started in 1975 and is currently reciprocal in the number of inbound and outbound participants.