On October 6, 2014, I hopped on a plane to embark on a 20-hour journey from Toronto to Sydney. This would kick start my trip to Australia, where I would work and explore Sydney, NSW, Perth, WA, Brisbane, QLD and Airlie Beach, QLD.
The trip was absolutely breathtaking. I loved being in this place literally on the other side of the world, far away from my personal phone and hours ahead of everyone else. It was like experiencing things one step ahead of everyone back home. Not to mention, what I was experiencing was pure joy – stunning weather, white sandy beaches, The Great Barrier Reef, Whitehaven Beach, downtown Sydney, Brisbane preparing for the G20 Summit and Perth along the river. Each time I opened my eyes, I felt as though I was looking at a postcard.
I could never forget the four weeks I spent down under. Still, when I tell stories of my journey, I never forget to include all the bits and pieces that made me feel truly Canadian; that made me miss home.
Here are the 16 ways I not-always-purposefully showcased my Canadian heritage while exploring the beautiful Australia:
1. I wore combat boots on the plane
It was cold when I left the country and it was cold when I returned, so I needed some type of footwear to keep me warm when required. Plus, I was preparing myself for potential stormy and wet weather. So, instead of packing my heavy combat boots, I put my feet in them and rolled up my Roots tube socks especially high, assuming others in Australia also do this.
Spoiler alert: They do not.
2. The moment I landed, I looked for sunscreen
Must. Not. Let. My. Pale. Canadian. Skin. Get. Burned. I bought the highest level of SPF sunscreen (50) and applied it all over me, all the time. Ultimately, I still got badly sunburned.
3. Each time I boarded a plane, I wrapped my fall coat around my waist (it didn’t fit in my suitcase and when I returned to Canada, I needed it to keep me warm)
Hence my voice, I was often asked “Where are you from?” When I replied, “Canada,” everyone immediately noticed my coat and giggled. They then said, “Did you pack all your warm clothes?”
4. I caught myself asking, “Why don’t you sell plaid shirts here?” and questioned whether packing four plaid shirts was a mistake
I met an Australian woman who has two sons, one living in Vancouver, BC. She sat beside me on a plane ride from Brisbane to Sydney. “I got me one of these shirts when I was last in Canada,” she said, as she gently pulled the left shoulder of my extra-large men’s red plaid shirt. “I haven’t worn it here yet, though.” Then, when I got on my plane to go from Sydney to Vancouver, all I could see was plaid. Literally, there were three people in my line of vision wearing plaid (excluding me).
5. When I had my first chance to put my toes in the warm beach sand, I squealed, “There aren’t any rocks!”
I would tell everyone, “I haven’t been to a non-Canadian beach in four years! There is real sand, here!” To which most people laughed at. “You don’t have sand in Canada?” Oh no, Australian friends, we do, it’s just really pebbly.
6. I showed Australians photos of the 2013 Ontario ice storm and emphasized the number of tights I wore under my pants during the polar vortex to keep warm
“You know the movie Frozen,” is how I would start this one off. “Yeah, it was basically like Elsa turned south-western Ontario into a giant block of ice. Then, for majority of the new year, it constantly felt like minus 40.” Cue many mouth drops and gasps.
7. I obsessed about news from the homeland
While I was away, a now worldwide scandal broke surrounding Jian Ghomeshi, the former host of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Q. A few days prior, a series of shootings occurred in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, near Parliament Hill. Shortly after these incidents, a new mayor of Toronto was elected. I was glued to my computer, reading first-hand accounts of women feeling uncomfortable in the presence of Ghomeshi, some having serious allegations against the former radio host, watching videos of Liberal Party leader, Justin Trudeau, talk about the shootings in Ottawa and refreshing my Twitter feed during the Toronto election. “Just one second, I’m reading about this Canadian news story,” was one of my most-used lines. That and, “I haven’t had maple syrup in weeks!” Winky face.
8. I openly discussed my fascination with Canadian Olympic Team mittens
While my coworker was telling me the benefits of swagman hats (they help to keep the flies away), I responded with details about how Canadians have this obsession with Olympic Team gear and that every year, a new style of winter mitten comes out that is more patriotic and homey than the last. After showing photos of these said mittens, I followed up the awesomeness that is Canada with a City and Colour playlist. I. AM. CANADIAN.
9. When I saw a “koala crossing” sign, I asked, “Do koalas really cross here?” I was disappointed when I learned it’s not very common…It’s nothing like the signs in Canada that literally mean, “deer crossing”
Sorry to burst your bubble, but I was in Australia for four weeks and didn’t see one koala or kangaroo in the wild. I only saw them at the zoo. I know, I was also kind of hoping I’d see one cross the road. Canadians stop while on a major road for Canada Geese. What do Australians stop for?
10. When I pronounced “Toronto” without the last “t” and nobody knew what city I was referring to
“Sorry, where are you from?” Turrono. “Where?” Tor-on-tttt-o. “Oh, Canada!” Of course, they haven’t heard the Canadian National Exhibition jingle, so how would they know? #ComeNCelebrateTurrono.
11. When I was on the phone with an Australian and she commented on the way I say “about”
The conversation went something like this:
Her: “I love your Canadian accent!”
Me: “Thank you! I guess I do have a Canadian accent.”
Her: “I can tell by the way you say about.”
Me: “Oh, is my ‘aboot’ showing?”
There was laughter.
For the record, I don’t say, “aboot.”
12. I talked about how the former Mayor of Toronto smoked crack-cocaine and nobody knew what I was talking about. It felt like Christmas
Unfortunately, though, they all thought I live close to Justin Bieber. Consequently, I love Iggy Azalea and constantly made jokes about her every time I saw an iguana hanging out in a green or forested area. Nobody really laughed.
13. I would say, “eh,” at the end of a sentence and everyone stared at me like their milk had just mooed
“Oh my goodness, Canadians really do say, ‘eh!’”
14. I desperately missed fall and Thanksgiving when I was away
As a result, I explained how beautiful the trees are when they change colour and how, though I was loving the temperatures down under, I kind of wished I could wear a knitted sweater and those tube socks I mentioned earlier without breaking out in a heat rash.
15. When I proudly proclaimed my understanding of measurements because in Australia, they use the metric system
Though I knew how long it would take me to get from point a to point b, I remained petrified of driving. Up until my last day, I was concerned about turning onto oncoming traffic.
16. I maybe proclaimed someone’s awesomeness by saying, “You da, you da best, you da, you da best…” a la Drake and no one really got it
It’s not that people in Australia don’t know who Drake is, I guess they just don’t quote him on the daily.