Henry, 25, moved from the United Kingdom to begin his Working Holiday in Canada this summer, beginning his stay with friends in Toronto.
He chose to use some of his savings to take a short road trip across Eastern Canada before settling into his first job. This is his story.
The Dream Becomes Reality
I’ve dreamed of moving to Canada since I was fifteen years old. The world is a big and beautiful place, and I want to see as much of it in my lifetime as I can. Even in the UK, I moved around a lot—from my family home in North Devon to Cardiff for university, and then to Bristol to live and work.
It was in Bristol that I met my friend Dan, who had moved from the UK to Toronto on a Working Holiday Visa. It was through speaking to him that I realized a Working Holiday was an option for me, too.
After all the stress and patience of sorting out my IEC application, I’m finally here and it feels amazing.
You may check if you are eligible too online:
Dan and I spent the summer in Toronto before pursuing our plan to drive to Cape Breton Highland National Park for a camping trip, with stops in Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City along the way. We mapped the route and booked a rental car (which was upgraded at the last minute to a brand new red Jeep!), our campsite, and some cheap Airbnbs before setting off full of enthusiasm.
Quebecois Charm: Montreal and Quebec City
Our first leg was an 8-hour drive to Montreal, by nightfall a stunning island city with bridges arcing over the river, brightly lit and busy. We grabbed a late-night dinner of poutine (a Quebecois dish consisting of what I would call chips—french fries—topped with gravy and cheese curds) and walked around Saint-Louis Square before returning to our accommodation.
By daylight, Montreal’s unique European vibe was obvious. The city is a mish-mash of old-world charm and cool, youthful energy.
Metal staircases spiral down to the street level from the apartments, and shopping has more of a high street feel than the massive shopping malls I’d grown used to in Toronto and its suburbs. I loved getting lost in the different neighborhoods, curious to see as much as I could.
Hiking up Mount Royal one rainy afternoon gave us a view of the city beneath us, ringed by rivers and bridges with a landscape of mountains and forests beyond. It was so different from the sprawling metropolis of Toronto, where you can’t see beyond the city unless you drive for an hour to get outside of it.
Before arriving in Canada, I’d spent a fair bit of my time scrolling through Instagram accounts focused on Canadian tourism, and one of my favorite posts had been a photograph of Rue du Petit-Champlain, strung with lights and crowned by Chateau Frontenac up the hill, looking over the mighty St Lawrence River.I got to experience this enchanting scene for myself: cobbled streets, quaint shops, and the smell of fresh crepes cooking. So, the next on the route was Quebec City.
The Long Road To The East Coast
At this point, my impressions of Canada had changed a lot. I’d guessed that Toronto was representative of the whole country, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
Quebec felt like a nation of its own, and it was amazing to me that Canada could include such distinct regions and cultures.
We prepared ourselves for some seriously long days of driving as we continued into the Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. These provinces revealed not only how big Canada is, but how far apart its towns and cities are from each other.
Driving for 8 hours in England, you would travel the length of the entire country, but in Canada that time can barely cover a single province!
The highways seemed to go on endlessly, and even the beautiful scenery could grow repetitive during a 10-hour day on the road. Dan and I entertained ourselves by listening to quiz podcasts and playing games like Twenty Questions, which made me feel like being a kid again on a long car journey. It helped me to appreciate the experience and was better than staring at my phone when it was my turn to be in the passenger seat.
Along the way, there were unexpected surprises. There didn’t seem to be much going on in the town of Moncton when we stopped there for one night, but we discovered an incredible Korean restaurant for dinner that night, which turned out to be one of the best meals we had. We went to sleep exhausted that night from all the driving, but content and well-fed.
I won’t lie, spending each night in a different town only to pack up and leave is not something I could do forever. Even so, I woke up every day feeling free and excited, looking toward our next destination and not knowing what to expect, building our day around fuel stops, and Tim Hortons coffee breaks. All we needed was gas in the tank and an open mind to make the most of every day.
Maritime Canada: Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island
On our first morning in Nova Scotia, we took a detour to Peggy’s Cove, a picturesque village that looks like it belongs on a postcard. The quaint coastal homes and winding roads along the way reminded me of the North Devon village where I’m from.
There was a simplicity to the lifestyle here that I appreciated, and Peggy’s Cove itself was a lovely, colorful example of it. We tried a taste of Atlantic smoked salmon and took a few pictures of the famous lighthouse before getting back on the road.
It took three hours to drive the length of Cape Breton Island in the dark, along narrow roads that wove through the woods. When we finally arrived at our campground, we realized we’d made a mistake: according to the park’s website (which we hadn’t checked), we were supposed to check in before 5 pm to get our keys. By now the visitor center was closed, there was no park employees insight, and we didn’t know the site number for our cabin. Not good.
We thought we’d have to sleep in the Jeep, but luckily Dan thought to phone the emergency Parks Canada number, and we were told where to find the cabin, which was unlocked with our keys inside. What can I say? Setbacks are part of what makes a trip memorable.
Cape Breton was certainly memorable. We barbequed sausages in the rain, survived the lack of wifi or mobile phone reception by playing hand after hand of cards, and woke up each morning to the gurgling of the brook that flowed just outside the door of our cabin.
We drove the stunning Cabot Trail, which zig-zags through the forested mountains of the highlands and along breathtaking coastlines. But the highlight for me was the Skyline hiking trail, one of the most popular in the park because it is home to wildlife like bears and moose.
Let me tell you something about me: moose are my favorite animal. I’d spent months telling my friends that I’d be highly disappointed if I didn’t see a moose during my time traveling in Canada… Let’s just say I don’t need to worry about that anymore.
Not twenty minutes into our hike, I spotted a female moose in the middle of the trail. I couldn’t believe it! She was eating leaves from a tree on the path, not bothered by our group of hikers. We soon realized that she had her young with her—adorable baby moose with their big noses and ears and skinny, awkward legs. We knew that it could be dangerous for us if the father was nearby, so we watched them for a while and passed by as quietly as we could. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
The End Of One Adventure Is The Start of Another
After Cape Breton, we turned back toward Toronto and spent our last night on the road in Gatineau, the part of Quebec just across the river from the Canadian capital of Ottawa. Our accommodation was a tiny cabin owned by a local, situated on the shore of a small lake. We spent the evening on Parliament Hill and walking through downtown Ottawa, then ended the night enjoying a few beers under the stars, in front of a roaring campfire.
The next morning, I walked across the beach to put my backpack in the car and watched as a flock of Canada geese flew overhead against the dawn sky. It would be a five-hour drive back to Toronto, where I would look for a job and a proper place to stay… at least until I move on to another part of this beautiful country.