My early childhood was as free as it could get. I grew up in an environment that fostered my curiosity. My backyard was my playground. At an age where most little girls were playing with dolls, I tossed mine as far away as I could, and instead, spent most of my time outdoor dissecting insects, –for some weird reasons I was really into learning about the insect life– climbing up guava trees, running and playing with toy cars. I was a bit of what you might call a tomboy. But from this childhood, I developed early on a free-spirited character and a thirst for adventure.
Today, the world is my new backyard, my new playground.
I belong to a not-so-rare breed of people who are on a quest. Mine just happen to be traveling and experiencing new cultures. As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, Toronto seemed to tick all the boxes at first. I was already fortunate before moving to The Six to have lived in 4 different countries, located in 3 different continents: Cameroon, France, the US and Canada. Because I lived and worked in Vancouver from 2008 to 2009, I was very confident that I was going back to a safe and familiar country. As a seasoned traveler, I anticipated the challenges I could possibly face as a newcomer and used my resources to succeed. So, I did my homework diligently and reach out to people on LinkedIn, visited Toronto twice before moving, connected with recruiters and potential hiring managers, and scheduled interviews. My efforts paid off and it only took me 3 days to find a place to live and 2 weeks to secure a marketing job after I arrived in Toronto, mostly because I got my mojo working. Not too bad for a beginning. Some might even call it a success.
But, no matter how prepared I thought I was, nothing could have prepared me for this biting reality: moving to a new country –even a familiar one– in my early 30s was so much harder than in my early 20s. There is something about a decade of life experience that completely shapes us and teaches us to see things from a new perspective. When I first moved to Vancouver in my early 20s, I was a young graduate from my business school with a cheery personality, a backpack, some international work experience and a great deal of enthusiasm to learn new skills. I could have moved anywhere in Canada, as long as I was able to improve my English. Improving my English was literally my only concern.
Moving to Toronto this time was a whole different story. I carefully weighed up the pros and cons. I was well aware of leaving behind a good life both on a professional and personal levels. A life that society and family members would label an accomplishment. I could have settled for this ‘good’ life, but ‘good’ was not good enough for me. I wanted more, I wanted something else, so my free-spirited self chose the unknown, the challenging, the great life adventure.
People often ask me why I left Paris for Toronto. What they usually mean by the tone of their voice is how crazy was I to leave this beautiful, romantic City of Light. My answer is probably one of the most boring they get: I just wanted some change in my life. I have met so many people with fantastic reasons to move to Canada. Most were hoping to get a better life for themselves and their loved ones; striving to build a safe, secure and bright future for their family.
But no matter our reasons for traveling, no matter how long our traveling journey is –either a life changing adventure or a simple gateway– I commend my fellow world travelers for embracing this journey. In our darkest moments, when things get tough, when we face challenges we were not prepared for, when we start second guessing ourselves, the ones who make it through are the thirsty ones.
Life itself is a journey, so let’s be thirsty for life.
This September marks a year and a half of adventures in Toronto. Cheers to the many months and/or years to come! I look forward to calling Toronto home someday.
This post is an ‘Invitation au Voyage’, to plagiarize French poet Charles Baudelaire. It’s an ode to travel. To the explorers, the world travelers, the expats and the migrants, to those who believe that the adventure is worthwhile: now and always, the world is your oyster.
“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give. To roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live.”-Hans Christian Andersen