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Why you should consider spending your gap year on a working holiday in Canada

Canada Gap Year Working Holiday - Banff National Park | KILROY

Shake up the ordinary and throw yourself at a new adventure

Are you stuck in a rut, and you truly want to get away from your daily grind and routines, but don't have the budget to travel for many months around the globe? Or are you feeling like you want to experience working in a different country, and with coworkers from all over the world? Planning a working holiday might be something that suits your wishes. There's a grand adventure waiting in Canada if you think you're up for it! Let us take you through why a working holiday in Canada is a fantastic experience that you will remember for the rest of your life.

Benefits of a working holiday

You might be thinking, what exactly IS a working holiday? Well, the name kind of gives it away, but it's a period of working abroad, ranging from a few months to an entire year. On a working holiday, you still get to enjoy a destination for a longer period of time, but with the added benefit of financing your adventure while you're at your destination. This means you only need a relatively small starting budget, as you'll earn money working to sustain yourself. A working holiday can be for a season or even an entire year. It's a great way to experience all the seasons and holidays in a country, and the ultimate way of slow travel since you truly get to know the people and the culture. You will have the possibility to go past the tourist traps and stereotypes about the territory and culture. While you'll be working part of the time, you'll have plenty of free time to enjoy your destination. Since you will meet a lot of new colleagues it's easy to make friends, and you're guaranteed to meet like-minded souls to go on adventures with.

Going on a working holiday is also a great way to learn to interact with people of all kinds of different nationalities and with diverse backgrounds. While it may take some getting used to navigating the cultural differences, there's a lot of fun to be had, and you will definitely learn a lot. This is food for great adventures and stories! And if you're looking for more exciting experiences abroad, meeting with so many individuals from all over the world is also a great way to grow your professional network.

Things to consider

As always, there are some drawbacks to consider too. While we're pretty sure you can have fun in any country you decide to go for, you need to feel certain it is the right destination for you as you'll be spending quite a few months here. If you've got one shot at making your perfect gap year happen, you need to be sure about this. When travelling you could always hop on a flight or continue to another country, whereas if you choose to do a working holiday, you'll most likely stay in one place. Therefore, we recommend doing research when planning for a working holiday. If research sounds boring to you, then maybe we'll make it worse by mentioning the paperwork you'll need to do to get your visa, bank account and tax documentation. If you arrange your working holiday through us, we will of course assist you with all the practicalities and the tedious stuff making everything as smooth as possible.

As always when travelling to a completely new destination by yourself, it can be exhausting because of all the new impressions. While this can already cause a heavy mental load for some of us, starting a new job in a new country only adds to that. This means it can feel draining in the beginning, but it will be hugely rewarding down the line and you will get to know yourself a lot better in the process. We'd say the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, but you should think about whether this is the right type of travel for you.

Why Canada is perfect for adventure-hungry travellers

What comes to mind when considering a working holiday? Perhaps what kind of job you will do, where you will live and what language is spoken? But we'd wager question #1 is your destination. There are many possible working holiday experiences to choose from, but have you considered Canada? This gem of a country has so much to offer, you won't know what hit you. Nature-wise, Canada is the gift that keeps on giving, and it's one of those countries where all the seasons distinctively differ from each other.

In winter, there are snowy peaks all around, and travellers from all over the world flock to Canada to enjoy winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and even ice climbing. This last one is not for the faint-hearted, but still is a seriously cool way to experience the many frozen waterfalls and gigantic ice formations up close. There are more icy activities though, sporty and recreational. The Canadians are pretty serious about ice hockey games, so definitely try to catch a match or two and join the party afterwards. You should also try it out on one of the many frozen lakes or ponds: there will always be people wanting to play. Afraid of injuries and the like? You can try ice-fishing instead. Even if you don't eat fish, the whole process of drilling an ice hole, the little fishing shacks to (sort of) keep warm in and the suspense of what will be caught sure is interesting. Though we also get it if spending a day out sitting on the ice isn't everyone's cup of tea.

In summer the scene is completely different. And we mean an absolute 360 turn. Temperatures can easily rise into the high 20s, and everything comes to bloom and the outdoor fun continues. Hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and kayaking are a few of the many activities in the warmer months. You might not believe us, but there are even a lot of beaches and a surfing culture as well, specifically around Vancouver Island. Did you know Canada actually has the longest coastline in the world, totalling a whopping 243.000 kilometres?! Camping by a lake is a Canadian experience you don't want to miss out on. There's simply something magical about spending a night in nature after swimming, barbecuing and watching the stars before zipping the tent for the night.

Festive in every season

Canadians are big on events, year-round, as they try to make the most out of every season. During winter, there are several festivals centred around lights with the ones in Montreal and Niagara being the cream of the crop. Over three million light installations illuminate the falls and plenty of locations around Niagara Falls making for a truly spectacular sight. If you love cosy winter events there's also Winterlude in Ottawa, a festival focused around celebrating all kinds of winter activities and culture. There are ice sculptures, ice skating on the canals and tubing down snowy slopes. Of course, there are performances and great food and drinks as well so all in all this will provide for a great day of winter fun.

In spring, Calgary is the place to be, as the first weekend of May the annual Calgary International Beerfest takes place. It's the largest beer festival in Canada, with over 700 beers from more than 200 breweries brought together in one place. There are also seminars, tastings and workshops so the real beer aficionado will be giddy with excitement for this one.

When summer hits, all of Canada is looking forward to July 1st: Canada Day! This day is what the 4th of July is to the USA: there's live music, parades and shiny happy people all around. During summer there are also plenty of music festivals around, allowing you and your working holiday friends to let loose and party together. Our recommendation: Osheaga in Montreal, a three-day festival with something for everyone. It's a great place to discover up-and-coming artists as well as enjoy the big names of today.

Best places for a working holiday getaway

By this, we're not talking about jobs. Let's be honest, the work you'll be doing is fun, but ultimately just the means to an end. The location and adventure Canada offers is the main reason we're here. There are plenty of possibilities, but here are a few good suggestions anyway:

  • Whistler: Located just north of Vancouver, the town of Whistler is home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America, and houses heaps of tourists every winter season. Whistler was one of the venues for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, which pretty much guarantees one of the best possible winter sports experiences you can get. It's also pretty nice to look at, snowy white peaks as far as the eye can see make it a view to die for. There are lots of spots for snowshoeing too, like the Whistler Interpretive forest which is a nice change from skiing and snowboarding. 

 

  • Banff NP: This national park is home to many of the picturesque sites you'll find when Googling for Canadian nature, with the famous Lake Louise being one of the main draws. But this isn't the end of the pretty lakes. Try lake Minnewanka: It's beautiful, but there's also a hidden side to explore. All the way back in the nineteenth century, there used to be a pretty popular resort town here drawing tons of tourists. In 1941, a new dam was constructed, which raised the water level and completely submerged the town. The cool thing is that nowadays, you can scuba dive to the underwater ghost town, which is still fairly well preserved. Not so much into scuba diving? Maybe the Banff Upper Hot Springs are more your thing. This geothermically heated spring contains purely natural mineral water and is nice and warm all year round. Let's move on from all the lakes now, as there's more to Banff than just water. There's plenty of hiking to do in Banff, but if your feet are weary from all the adventuring, we suggest taking the cable car to the top of Sulfur mountain for one of the best views of the entire national park. Once you're ready to move on from Banff, drive the 230 km long Icefields Parkway to the next destination on our list, Jasper National park if you get the chance. It's one of the best road trips in the world, you don't want to miss this.

 

  • Jasper NP: One of Canada's most famous national parks, together with Banff. The scenery is simply stunning around here, and you can hike and climb for weeks. It's also a great place to spot wapiti deer (confusingly called Elk in American English), as Jasper is home to a fairly big population of these majestic animals. There's more wildlife though. You might spot black bears around Medicine Lake and there are moose, wolves and coyotes present in the valleys. Always be careful and follow the national park guidelines, as these are of course wild animals. Even if you won't spot any wildlife,  there's plenty to like here about the landscape here. Our favourite hikes include the trek to Whistler's summit and hiking through Maligne canyon. Close to the latter, you'll also find Maligne lake, one of the prettiest lakes in the Rockies and perfect for an afternoon of canoeing. Always wanted to walk on a glacier? You're in luck, as the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper national park is one of the most accessible ones in the world. You can take part in organised "ice walks" or take a tour in an Ice Explorers "all-terrain bus" where in the middle of the tour you'll get off for a nice and easy stroll on the glacier. 

 

  • Lake Louise: While it's part of Banff national park, it deserves its own mention. Lake Louise is the absolute pinnacle of pretty blue lakes, and with a backdrop of ginormous mountains and Victoria Glacier, we understand why. It looks perfect for a swim, but the water rarely gets above 4 degrees, so even Wim Hof wouldn't recommend staying in the water for long. Staying ON the water is an entirely different story. You'll find plenty of kayak and canoe opportunities here, taking it slow while enjoying the sights. In winter you can ice climb near the lake, or enjoy some ice skating on the frozen lake.

 

So, who should consider a working holiday in Canada?

Throughout this blog, we tried to give you many impressions and ideas regarding a fantastic working holiday adventure in Canada, but if you're still unsure let's sum it up like this: if you're all about self-discovery and adventure, topped off with loads of new experiences and friends, a working holiday is perfect for you! It's all about trying a new way of life and seeing something of the world at the same time. And if love nature, active travel, exploration and winter action we just know you'll fall in love with Canada, as we did.

During summer there's something for almost everyone. You can canoe or kayak on the many lakes and go on fantastic hikes. Those of us without a fear of heights should definitely try climbing or canyoning. The aforementioned lakes also make for great scenic swims, though the water will still be cold, it's absolutely refreshing after a long hike. In winter Canada is a total snowpocalypse, so anyone experienced with winter sports or wanting to learn the ropes will have a great time here. Hiking in winter is a thrill too, some trails turn next-level gorgeous once the snow starts to fall. After reading all this, you probably know whether a working holiday in Canada excites you. If it does, all you got to do is decide how long you'll stay!

Imagine your nine-to-five!

Wake up early, eat some eggs and toast for breakfast and hit the slopes early so you can get some skiing in before your shift starts. Since you're early, no one gets in your way and the snowy ski slopes are almost untouched. One last round, and then it's time to head to the store, where you will be helping winter sports enthusiasts and newcomers with finding the right equipment. After your shift, head to the bar to play some pool with a few beers and the great company of your working holiday friends. On your days off, you will make trips to explore frozen lakes, mountains or ice caves together. Or you can choose to perfect your ski techniques on the snow. On Monday, it all starts over again for a new week of fun!

Excited now? We got ya! Check out our Canada working holiday page to find out more practical info and how to get started. We've also penned up some info about working holidays in general with a list of all the exciting possibilities to consider. 

Ready to go?

Want help with planning your perfect working holiday, or need a little extra help to figure out if this is the right adventure for you? Get in touch with our travel experts. They will answer all your questions and help you on your way!

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