I had been "going to Canada" for what felt like an eternity. A delay with my visa meant I was in the UK for a year longer than I had originally planned, which actually turned out to be a good thing. During that year I got a promotion at work, moved into a nice flat in Manchester and generally had a great year. The whole "Canada thing" became a bit of a long running joke. "so, when are you moving to Canada?" people kept asking me. I almost became sick of the whole idea, this whole "moving to Canada thing". From what started as an exciting adventure now felt like an inevitable chore.
But eventually the time came. My final weeks consisted of me leaving my job, moving back to my parent's house, attending several leaving parties and attending Secret Garden Party, which was a great way to end what had been a great summer.
The flight was long and somewhat uncomfortable. I had opted for the cheapest flight possible, a budget flight for a budget traveller. By morning we were approaching Halifax. This would be my first contact with Canadian soil and also where I would have to go through immigration. The process was straight forward and only took about 10 minutes, most of which was the border officer rummaging around her office looking for the "right stamp".
The flight from Halifax to Vancouver felt just as long as the flight across the Atlantic. I remember looking out of the window to see vast swathes of flat land divided into squares and rectangles. I slept for a few hours and woke up to see exactly the same. Canada was just one huge flat patchwork of green and brown. Eventually this eternal quilt was replaced by mountains, we had arrived at the Canadian Rockies. By this point I had exhausted the in-flight entertainment, watching every mediocre film I could tolerate. The mountains kept my attention for a bit and soon we were on our final approach into Vancouver.
The city seemed to roughly resembled what I was expecting. A modern clean city, sea on one side, mountains on the other, although it was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. We passed over Fraser River, a wide slow flowing river which marked the southern border of the cities extents. Hundreds of logs were floating on the shores of the river. The river was being used to ship and store timber and gave the city a more rustic mountain feel.
I was excited to leave the plane, I had that new city feeling and wanted to explore but my first task was to find my accommodation. Vancouver was an expensive city and I had opted for the cheapest reasonable place I could find via airbnb. "Share Big Room - Near Richmond Sky Train" for $20 a night. I was slightly apprehensive for what I would find. The advert made it seem that is was a large shared room, several bunk beds in a standard family home. A reasonable expectation given the price and description. But I knew it was going to be worse and I was correct. I arrived at a large family home, several kitchen appliances were rusting in the front yard. The front door was open and inside were at least 30 pairs of shoes sprawled across the small hallway. It wasn't just one room that was full of bunk beds, it was every room.
There was no owner to greet me, no "Elin" the host who I made the booking with and had been messaging back and forth. Instead some of the guests greeted me and explained the situation, the situation being that this place was basically a free-for-all and if you found an unoccupied bed in the house you took it before someone else did. Otherwise your only alternative was a sofa, the floor or in one of the many tents in the back yard. The back yard was a scattering of construction materials and tents, it looked like a suburban refugee camp.
After speaking to a few guests I got a tip off that one of the beds was free as someone left that morning. The bed didn't look free, the sheets looked very slept in but it was either that or the floor. I somewhat cautiously took the bed, half expecting someone to come into the room later and claim it was theirs. But for now at least, it was mine.
This place was pretty bad, but the saving grace was that the fellow travellers staying here were all nice. There was a communal spirit, a sort of "we are all in this together" camaraderie. The evening was spent drinking beers in the back yard, sitting on the broken chairs around a broken table, exchanging travel stories. To think, just a few weeks before, I was living in my nice flat in Manchester. This time in the evening, I would normally be sat on my balcony, overlooking the city, drinking craft beer after a busy day at my respectable job. Now, I was unemployed, staying in someone else's bed. Tomorrow, the job hunt begins. I need to climb back up the social hierarchy and get out of this place.