Things I Love about England #2

The walk-ability of London. This is true especially in the central, or closer to central, areas. I love that you can start in one area and easily see so many other things just by walking around. There are so many things within walking distance of my apartment (or flat) – and that includes the grocery store and the tube station which can take me to so many places. A bit of a longer walk (but still less than 20 minutes) takes me to one of the nicest parks around.

One Month Away

Hello Lovely Readers,

I know that I have been very absent from this blog, and I am sorry for that as I had planned on documenting the whole of my application process in the months leading up to this day. That, obviously, did not happen but I am going to try and do better from here on in (no guarantees, though).

As you have probably gathered from the title of this post. But one month away from what, you may be asking (and really, I don’t blame you for not remembering, it’s been ages since we talked last). Well, let me catch you up a bit. Over the past couple months I have been in the process of applying for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme Visa (Working Holiday Visa) to the UK. This Visa will allow me to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years. A couple weeks ago my Visa was officially granted and I will be headed to the UK (London in particular) October 15.

I’ve already started to work on packing (yes, I am that person – I just need to know I have everything organized and together, and that takes time). I’ve also started working on planning my initial arrival plans including accommodation. Okay, so as of right now most of the time has been spent figuring out initial accommodation. I really want to make sure I know that I have a place to stay for the first bit. Once I’ve figured out all of that (I currently have the first weekend planned), I’ll start planning the initial sites I want to see and how I’m going to fit them around my “let’s work on finding a job as soon as possible” schedule.

I am going to do my best to keep you all in the loop, and to fill in some of the planning details over the next couple weeks.

Life’s an Adventure!

Why England?

In Canada, the Youth Mobilization agreements allow Canadians within certain age categories to travel on Working Holiday Visas to a variety of countries including (but not limited to) the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, Belgium and New Zealand. Why then did England become my Working Holiday destination of choice? Short answer – Because it’s awesome.

Okay, okay, I know, that is a terrible answer please don’t run away. I do actually have a number of reasons behind my selection but hear me out on my defense for my initial statement. When I first started thinking about this trip over a year ago, I had never heard of the Working Holiday Visa program. The reasons that led me to type “Canadian working in England” into Google weren’t at all well thought out. I just felt the “pull” – that gentle and yet insistent tug that leads you to go to new places, try new activities and even try new foods. I wanted to work and experience culture in a different part of the world and I wanted that part of the world to be England.

It’s the same pull that led me switch my undergraduate major from Math to History. Were there logical reasons beyond this intangible “pull” that led me to switch majors? Without a doubt. But without that initial pull I would never have put thought into the deeper reasons, and would never have worked up the courage to switch. There are more developed reasons for my decision to work in England as well. But it all began with that initial, undeniable pull.

Okay – are you still with me? Because now’s the time when I fill you in on some of the other answers to the question “Why England?”

1. Minimal Language barrier. The only language I am fluent in is English (though I do have knowledge of both French and German to varying degrees). Travelling to a place where you only have a basic understanding of the local language comes with a different set of risks and rewards. Since I will be looking for a job to support myself, being fluent in the local language is a definite asset. Some of the Visa programs even specify that you have to be fluent in the language of the country but even if they did not, I assume that having limited knowledge of the language would greatly reduce the likelihood of getting a job.

2. Museums and Jobs in Heritage. If possible I would like to find a job in a museum or other part of the heritage sector. This would allow me to gain experience in my field, experience that can be difficult to gain in Ontario since there are fewer museums and therefore fewer entry-level jobs. My hope is that with more history, more museums and more tourist destinations connected to history and culture, I’ll have a better chance of obtaining an entry level job in the culture and heritage sector.

3. Location, Location, Location. I’d like to visit Scotland, Ireland and Wales. As a Canadian military historian, I want to travel in France, Germany and possibly the Netherlands. From the point of view of a Canadian (have you seen how spread out we are?), England is a hop, skip and a jump away from all of those places. In addition to all of these there are also all the places within England that I’d like to visit.

4. Jane Austen, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter and the BBC. All of these and more have contributed to my interest in visiting England. I grew up watching Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, reading Narnia, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. And who can deny the influence of Harry Potter, the Doctor and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock? All of these programs, movies and books have shaped my perception of British culture and I can’t wait to visit the land that has produced so many beloved characters and stories. And, let’s be real here, who can deny the pull of that accent!

There you have it, four (five if you count the pull) answers to the question “Why England?” Sometimes I wonder if any of these are enough to justify packing up and putting my life in Canada on hold for extended period. But then I realize that I don’t need an iron clad reason. I am a Canadian and a Canadian military historian. There is no denying that England played a part in the history of this country (whether you believe this is for good or for bad does not change this fact). Canadian military history is intricately linked with many aspects of British military history. I think all of these are excellent reasons to settle on England for my extended stay. And as I said initially – that’s pretty awesome.

Life’s an Adventure!

Why my blog (and travel plans) went on a six month hiatus

“In just under a year (if all goes as planned) I will be headed to England on a Working Holiday Visa.” This is the first sentence of the post I wrote six months ago on this blog. The only post I wrote on this blog in six months. As it turns out, it all did not go “as planned,” and I will not be on a plane headed for England in June. I am still planning on heading to England, but I am now aiming for the fall because June is no longer feasible. In my last post, I promised to let you in on why my June travel plans fell through and why I stopped posting about my travel plans.

The short reason? I stopped planning.

I continued to tell those that asked that I “planned on” heading to England in June.  After all, that was what I wanted wasn’t it? To put my life in Canada on hold, move to the United Kingdom and experience life, work and travel in an entirely unfamiliar setting? Of course I did, except… I began to wonder if I was really the type of person to embark on this kind of adventure. I like the familiarity of my everyday life, I like my routines, I like having my collection of books readily on hand, I like being within driving distance from the majority of my friends (and, for that matter, being in a country where I can drive). I like being in close proximity to my family. I’ve never even been on a plane before!

Other questions started to creep into my mind. Would I be able to find a job or a place to live? What if I got hopelessly lost trying to navigate the airport or London when I arrived? What if I arrived and discovered that I really don’t like travelling? What if I discovered that I didn’t like England at all? What if I got there and immediately decided I wanted to go home? I’m not the kind of person who willing travels to unfamiliar places!

You can probably see my list of objections for what they were – excuses based on fear. You see, I’m not the kind of person who makes decisions easily. I’ve improved over the years but it still tends to be a long and tedious process; especially when it comes to big, life changing decisions. Despite this, I made the decision to go on a long-term trip to England quickly and with little deliberation. I have made quick decisions in the past but not on such a large scale, and never with such a gap between the decision and the corresponding action. This time fear had plenty of time to take hold. Had I really decided to undertake such a big adventure with so little internal debate?

In the months after I finished my masters I found plenty of time to debate my decision and the list of reasons not to go to England steadily grew. I told people of my plans and always ended with the phrase “but anything can happen between now and then.” I still say that (because I think it’s a good idea to make room for unexpected events) but during those months, I held onto a hope that something, anything, would happen to keep me here in Canada. After all, I really wasn’t the type of person who moves to unfamiliar places for a month let alone the year I was planning.

I stopped planning my trip – even though I kept talking about it. Since part of me hoped I’d never leave the country, I certainly couldn’t write about my travel plans. So my blog went on a six month hiatus; a hiatus that has now ended. I am once again planning and dreaming about my trip to England.

So what changed? I read a book set in England and felt that all familiar pull. I heard someone talk about a place in Europe and mentally added it to my list of places to visit while there. I realized that, as much as I try to convince myself that I’m not the type of person to enjoy going to new places, it’s just not true. I am that type of person. I was in a co-op program at school the first few years of my undergrad and, though I never ended up moving far away, not one of my five work terms was in my hometown. “Going home” always meant back to my hometown (and I was close enough to go home regularly), but looking back I always settled into my temporary homes quickly. I also always enjoyed the exploring that came with living in a new place, even if the extent of that exploration consisted of which bus route to take to work.

Am I completely free of fear? Not at all. I still have my doubts, worries and concerns. But that fear doesn’t have to stop me. It can, if I let it, but it doesn’t have to. After all, “courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; the brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.”* Something may come up that keeps me in Canada, but I don’t want that something to be fear. I am determined not to let fear keep me from living life.

Life’s an Adventure!

*This quote has various forms and attributions but in this instance I’m thinking of the movie the Princess Diaries.

Update: I have not abandoned this Blog!

Just over six months ago I wrote my first (and so far only) post on this site. If you missed that post (and who could blame you if you did) you can read it here. At that time, I informed every one of my plans to head to the U.K. on a working holiday in June 2014. I also described the purpose of this blog: to write about all the travel related topics that I was sure would come up during the lead up to the trip and then, of course, to chronicle the trip itself.

After that tantalizing post, I promptly abandoned the blog. At least, that’s the way I’m sure it appeared.

I am here today to tell you that I have not abandoned my trip plans or my intentions to chronicle the entire process. It’s just that life got in the way, I got a bit stalled in my plans…<insert a myriad of other tired and lame excuses here>…and plans changed. I am happy to say that my plans are back on track (though for the fall now, not June) and I am in full swing with travel planning, budgeting, dreaming and scouring the internet for tips, tricks and suggestions.

Though I’m not quite ready to promise a strict schedule of updates and content on this blog, I am once again committed to writing content regularly. I hope that over the next few weeks and months we will arrive at something of a regular schedule. I already have a list of topic ideas to write about and even at one a week that should almost take us from now to departure (assuming no other changes to the aforementioned date).

For those of you who have stuck with me during my long hiatus, I really can’t thank you enough and I assure you that I never intended to stay away so long. Eventually I will get the hang of this thing we call blogging!

Stay tuned later this week for a more detailed account of why I stopped blogging about my trip and delayed my plans.

Life’s and Adventure!