While my adventure in Singapore may have come to a close (for now), my lifelong journey is far from over. Since I’m returning not returning to Ryerson University until the fall (I have two more courses before I finish my Hospitality and Tourism Management degree – a really heavy workload, I know), my next challenge was figuring out what to do with my life for an entire summer.
At first, I considered moving back to Toronto – it was a place that I knew had jobs waiting to hire me, friends waiting to be reunited and cool events happening on a regular basis. I’d lived off and on in the city for 2 years, so it would have been an easy transition (or as easy as one could be, coming from halfway across the globe). At first, the familiarity seemed like a good idea, with all the moving around I’ve done lately, going back to something familiar kind of seemed like a new experience in itself (in a strange, backwards kind of way).
Mostly, I was more concerned with making the most of the time I had left in Asia than with what I was planning on doing when I returned. However, I eventually realized that while school was going to require me to live in the city in the fall, I still had the freedom to go wherever I wanted over the summer. For some reason, it took a while for me to make this connection, but when it happened, it opened up a world of exciting possibilities (well, not an entire world, I was a bit late for applying for work visas in other countries, but I still had all of Canada – which, as far as one country is concerned, covers a good portion of the world)!
After researching jobs and destinations, I eventually decided that Fort Smith, Northwest Territories would be my final destination and I would spend the summer working in a museum. When I first started telling people in Singapore about my decision, everyone seemed to be taking the news rather calmly… too calmly! It wasn’t until someone said, “oh, that’s nice, have fun in Australia” that I realized they thought I was referring to Darwin and Australia’s northern territory, a not-so-exotic destination from Singapore.
Eventually, after setting everyone straight, I was met with the same blank and confused stares I would continue to face when I moved in: “Why middle-of-nowhere-Northern-Canada!?” Fortunately, I have a whole series of responses for this question, which I fire through until I turn my questioner’s blank face into an “aaaaah, that makes sense, I guess” expression:
1) I’ve done the whole hotels-and-restaurants thing in hospitality and really want to try out the museum thing. Now, these types of jobs (that actually pay money) are actually possible to attain in the Northwest Territories, unlike in Toronto.
2) I felt like an unofficial Canadian ambassador in Singapore and in this role, I realized I still have so much more of my country and my national culture to experience – including everything north of Jasper National Park, which is most of the country.
3) My mom lived in one of the nearby cities, Hay River, while she was in university and absolutely loved it, so I figured it was worth a shot.
4) The Slave River, which runs right along Fort Smith, is the site of the best white-water kayaking in North America.
5) I just wanted to be able to say I moved from Southeast Asia to Northwest Canada because it sounded more dramatic than moving from big-city Singapore to big-city Toronto.
To be fair, I have to admit that I did take a week and a half off in between the two places. However, all of the non-jetlagged and therefore passed out asleep time I had was spent getting ready for move with things like reassuring my friends and family that I was still alive and not insane for moving to the Northwest Territories and opening a bank account at the only bank in town (the Bank of Montreal, ironically enough). I made the stubborn mistake of not thinking this was something I needed to do a couple of summers ago and suffered through months of ridiculous transfer fees, but this time, I had learned my lesson!
Before I knew it, I was flying out of the (unsurprisingly) grey Hamilton airport and on my way to Edmonton, where I was catching a connecting flight right into Fort Smith.
Now, I knew Northwestern Air was a small airline, but nothing had prepared me for the complete and utter anarchy of receiving a plane ticket that let me claim any seat I wanted. After spending months being disallowed from changing my seat from one in the middle of a full squishy row to the one by the window in the adjacent empty row and having to wait until the seatbelt sign is turned off after take off to sneak over, I was glad to not have to hide the fact that I wanted full reign over seat selection.
After getting a prized window seat (all of the seats were window seats, but still) and a complimentary lunchable (aw yeah), I was officially on my way to (the northern part of) the Great White North!