Flight Booked! Countdown to Canada and USA trip begins

My finger hovered over the purchase button, my heart was racing and my stomach was in knots. Why was I in such a state? Fear and uncertainty had crept in. But then I reminded myself of the reasons why I wanted to go travelling long-term and promptly clicked to book my flight to Vancouver.

Immediately I felt a great sense of relief and began to feel excited at the prospect of taking this six-month trip through Canada and the USA. The butterflies turned into more of a feeling of elation and I knew I had done the right thing.

I fly out on May 9th and plan to gradually travel east across this reputedly beautiful country. There are no solid plans at this point but I definitely want to spend some time in the Rockies, and Banff looks like a spectacularly stunning base from which to explore these mountains.

This will be my first time properly travelling solo. I have travelled solo before for a week in Sydney, Australia, but never for this duration. It will be challenging in a lot of ways, but ultimately I know the experience, both highs and lows, will be a beneficial learning curve.

Even if it just makes me want to run home, stick on my dressing gown, make a cup of tea and snuggle up on the couch, at least I have followed my gut feeling and given it a good go. However, my instincts are telling me that this will be the best thing I have ever done.

Why did I choose Canada and the USA?

To be honest, this was both a practical and an impulsive decision. Originally I was planning to backpack around mainland Europe. I envisaged travelling to Brussels from London via Eurostar before moving onto Germany and then heading east. I wanted to visit countries such as Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Croatia. I kept on swapping and changing my mind on the duration of my travels.

At first, I wanted to travel for three months and planned to use my journalistic skills to write some articles about my experiences, in order to make a bit of money. But ultimately I decided a safer option would be to travel somewhere that I could get a working holiday visa – enabling me to pick up some casual work if necessary. Australia was out of the question, as I had already had a working holiday visa here in 2005. New Zealand was a possibility, but I did not really want to travel here during this country’s colder months.

Then I thought of Canada. I knew people who had travelled here before and had loved every minute of it. This was a country I had never been to and is also a great gateway to the USA, a country I have always wanted to see more of. The only places I have travelled to in the USA are Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

Applying for my working holiday visa

I am in the process of applying for International Experience Canada (IEC) – the new name for the country’s working holiday scheme for those aged 18-30. There is a quota this year for the amount allowed into Canada on this type of visa, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that my application is accepted.

Have you travelled in Canada? Can you recommend the best places to visit, and interesting parts of the USA to see that are easily accessible from Canada?







  1. January 3, 2012 / 03:23

    Awesome! Looks like it should be a fun trip….even if everything goes wrong, you will always have a great story!

  2. January 3, 2012 / 08:15

    Hi Nick, thanks I hope it will be a fun trip. *Touch wood* nothing goes too wrong, but, as you say, hiccups make for good stories :-)

  3. January 4, 2012 / 02:24

    Definitely go to Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon if you can. Both are great cities, and right below Vancouver. Glacier National park in Montana is also gorgeous, and part of it is in Canada as well.

    • January 4, 2012 / 14:20

      Hi William, thanks for your tips. I’m really excited about visiting Washington as looks so beautiful from all of the pictures I’ve seen. I’m thinking of taking the Amtrak along the coast to Seattle. I’m going to look up your other recommendations now…

  4. January 4, 2012 / 09:35

    I agree with William – Seattle and Portland are both great cities! Washington is gorgeous and has a ton of coastline and national parks, so you can’t go wrong there, and Yellowstone is sorta close to Canada. I’ve also heard that the Badlands are pretty awesome, but I’ve never been. :) How do you plan to get around? Amtrak, plane, roadtrip?

    • January 4, 2012 / 14:15

      Hi Christy, Thanks for your advice. The Badlands looks like an amazing place, would love to go here. I hadn’t even considered Yellowstone but am going to see how far out it is and how much different transport links are, as this would be such a fab spot to visit. I will probably be travelling by coach and definitely Amtrak – which I know runs a great service along the north-west coast. I might get a Greyhound pass at some stage, but think limit on travel is 60 days.

  5. January 6, 2012 / 06:12

    Hey Alison,

    I’m just responding to one of your tweets on here (given the 140 character limit on Twitter, ha!). Vancouver is a beautiful city on the coast, and more urban based as well, so it’s definitely a good start! Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the main things to see there in terms of tourist attractions, or you could take a boat to Granville Island where they have various markets and more of a local sort of feel by the water. Downtown Vancouver has a lovely feel at night as well and certainly what one might call a “night life”. In terms of Alberta and the prairies, I would really only recommend Banff, and perhaps Lake Lousie (they have the bluest water ever!). The western provinces beyond Alberta though (i.e. Manitoba and Saskatchewan) are generally sort of dull, although I’m sure they have their merits. If you don’t have a lot of time, I don’t think you will miss too much by not seeing them. Ontario has Toronto of course (and the CN Tower, etc.), and if you want to see the city of Ottawa, they have the Parliament buildings with sort of an “old style” feel especially in the downtown area. Other than that, mainly a lot of museums/art galleries. Depending on the season, you could also visit the city of Kingston and the Infamous “Thousands Islands” via a cruise, which is beautiful, and only about three-four hours from Toronto. In terms of the eastern provinces (I’m not sure if you’re going this far or not), but Old Quebec City is about a six/seven hour drive from the Toronto area and is stunning. Montreal might be worth seeing as well if you’re in Quebec at all. Beyond that, all of the provinces (Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island) have sort of have a slower based pastoral feel but few “touristy” things, with the main exception being the harbour in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the Anne of Green Gables/Lucy Maud Montgomery exhibit in Prince Edward Island. Overall though, my recommendations would be Vancouver, Banff, Toronto, Old Quebec City and one of the eastern provinces if you are travelling in that direction. That’s basically it in a nutshell. Hope that helps!

    • January 6, 2012 / 18:05

      Hi Hayley, wow thanks for taking the time to offer all of these tips. I’ve heard Vancouver is a great place so am happy to be starting here and am planning on visiting Quebec, so will check out Old Quebec City. I have read a little bit about the Manitoba and Saskatchewan (I can’t pronounce this!) and heard them being referred to as the ‘flatlands’. The pictures looked a bit lack lustre but might have a look if happen to be passing through here. Really want to go to Ottawa and definitely montreal and the maritimes. Being half Scottish, I’m really intrigued about Nova Scotia as well. Thanks again.

  6. January 9, 2012 / 04:23

    Cool. I missed the window for a working holiday visa — so it’ll be nice to read about someone who’s taking advantage of it. Hope that you enjoy Canada — and if you are ever nearby Toronto, feel free to ring us up! We’d love to show you around!

    • January 12, 2012 / 18:16

      Hi Daniel, thank you very much for your kind offer, will definitely take you up on this when hit Toronto towards the end of my trip.

  7. January 9, 2012 / 19:07

    So glad you are planning to visit Canada. You will love it! I am from Vancouver so if you need any info, let me know. I also belong to the British Columbia Association of Travel Writers if you want to be connected to other travel writers. My husband came over from Yorkshire for a short stay 36 years ago, fell in love with the country (and me) and the rest is history as they say! Have you written any articles on The Tower of London? I am doing research for my next book.

    • February 7, 2012 / 19:03

      I found some great info on the Tower of London, especially the ravens which the kids will love. Check out the BC Association of Travel Writers http://www.bctravelwriters.com/ Perhaps when you are here you can connect with some of us. I would love to meet for coffee/tea or lunch. Hope your plans are coming along. Cheers, Darlene

  8. January 12, 2012 / 18:27

    Hi Darlene, Vancouver is my first port of call and probably be around here for a few months at least so it would be great to have somebody to seek advice from. As for the Tower of London information, I’m afraid I won’t be much use sorry :-) as I haven’t written anything on this and only have a basic knowledge from school history and visiting when I was a kid. Good luck with your research though, I hope you find what you’re after.

  9. January 12, 2012 / 18:58

    Sounds like a great adventure! If you find yourself in Calgary send me an email!

  10. January 12, 2012 / 22:10

    Thanks Claire, will do. I didn’t realise you were from Calgary, I got it into my head you were from the UK.

    • January 13, 2012 / 22:00

      Nope born and raised in Calgary, my Mom is from Devon so every now and then I think I slip in a “back home” when talking about it. Your trip sounds like it’s going to be amazing!

  11. February 7, 2012 / 16:13

    I loved your intro to this as I always feel the same knots-in-stomach apprehension before booking and then have an immediate sense of relief and excitement. I think I’m usually nervous that I entered in the wrong dates/times! haha
    Jessie recently posted..8 European Cities to Sightsee While RunningMy Profile

    • February 7, 2012 / 18:46

      Ha ha, do you know what I checked the details a ridiculous amount of times thinking I’d done something wrong! It’s a huge step booking a big flight as it makes things more definite. Afterwards it’s like, ‘phew’ glad I got that bit out of the way now it’s time to start looking forward to travelling :-)
      Alison recently posted..Swan Lake: Swans, Swans and More SwansMy Profile