Moving to Canada via the rest of the world
After three years of work we needed a change of pace and place, so here we are 226 days into our world tour
Gillian Ackland and her partner Donal on day 155 of their trip in Vietnam
Day 203: Donal giving turtles a helping hand in Hikkadua, Sri Lanka.
Day 218: Fisherman operating Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi in Kerela, India.
I have always suffered from wanderlust, but it was only when my boyfriend and I decided to move to Canada that the opportunity to see the world arose.
My life after university followed a path familiar to many Irish graduates - job applications, opportunities arising overseas, emigration, and then career ladders to climb. With my job as a sales manager working all over the UK and Northern Ireland, and Donal as an offshore engineer, we rarely had the chance to just see each other, let alone go on holidays together.
After three years of work, and nearly at the stage of burnout, we decided we needed a change of pace and place. The career opportunities and outdoor lifestyle of Canada tempted us and we successfully applied for a two-year working holiday visa. When we read the fine print we realised we could enter Canada up to a year after receiving the visa. This sparked our imaginations. We decided to take the opportunity to see and experience more of the world than would be possible during a lifetime of 28 days a year holidays.
We have seen lions hunt and kill wildebeest on safari in Tanzania; wild orang-utans playing in the Borneo jungle, and a traffic jam caused by crossing elephants in Kerala, India. We have laid our eyes on famous world wonders, our favourites being the powerful Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and a stunning sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
We trekked through the rice fields of northern Vietnam’s tribal Sapa for four days, living in communities and fighting off wild dogs, snakes and amorous men who had enjoyed too much rice wine (me rather than Donal on the latter!). We had a more relaxing experience cruising up the Mekong River in a traditional teak wood boat in Laos, taking in rural life on the banks.
We committed to challenging ourselves and learning new things as we travelled. In Thailand we learned how to freedive, and quickly became addicted. The course included intensive training to teach our bodies to dive to a depth of 30 metres with no tanks, just a single breath. Donal can now hold his breath for five minutes.
Other activities we didn’t quite master. We left Bali bruised and waterlogged from trying our luck on over-ambitious waves. In Koh Samui, I learned that I’m a lover not a fighter, when I had to make my escape from a Muay Thai boxing class.
I somehow convinced Donal to do some soul searching with me too. We spent a week in Thai forest meditating with Buddhist monks, immersed ourselves in Indian yoga with a formidable German guru, and hugged the famous Amma or “hugging mother” at her “ashram” in Kerala.
We have been through the emotional highs and lows of visits to the killing fields in Cambodia, a tour with former inmates of Robben Island, laughing, singing and dancing with Massai tribal people in Tanzania, and releasing one-day-old turtles into the Indian Ocean in a Sri Lankan sanctuary.
We are lucky to have met lots of different people along the way, some of who have become friends for life. We shared Christmas with my wonderful aunt and her family in Western Australia. My parents booked a spontaneous trip to Sri Lanka to mark my dad’s retirement by embracing the backpacker lifestyle with us for two weeks. Chris, our best mate from the UK, put up with us for a month through Indonesia and Australia. Homesickness is impossible with such great company.
We still have two more months to look forward to in India before we head back to Ireland for a brief catch up with friends and family. After that, we will re-enter the working world in Canada to make some much needed money and start saving for the next trip, to South America this time. No one told us wanderlust is incurable and insatiable.
Gillian has documented a “pic a day” of their travels on Instagram @galandian