Life Living on Vancouver Island, B.C Canada
Updated: Apr 20, 2019
There are some times in life where things just seem to fall into place... My experience living on Vancouver Island has been one of those. I arrived on the island not really knowing what to expect. I hadn't met my Au Pair host family who I would be living with or done much research into what there was to do in the area. But luckily, I pretty much instantly fell in love with the place. I have spent the last two and a bit months living and working on Vancouver Island and loved every minute of it!
After working at a summer camp in Ontario and travelling the Canadian Rockies, I arrived on Vancouver Island to begin my contract as an Au Pair for the fall. Most Au Pair jobs that I looked at required a minimum stay of 6-12 months. I was hesitant about committing to a job for that long as I get itchy feet easily and wanted to move around a lot and experience living in different places during my WHV in Canada. Luckily, I found the perfect position - a 3 month contract with a lovely family with 3 kids - and wound up living in Saanichton on Vancouver Island.
I wrote a blog post detailing how I found and secured work as an Au Pair see:
Vancouver Island is a large island (roughly the size of Belgium) off the west coast of mainland Canada. It is separated from Vancouver (B.C mainland) by the Strait of Georgia to the east and from Washington State (USA) by the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the south. I am living in Saanichton which is an area 25 minutes north of British Columbia's capital city Victoria.
I've been really lucky to have had a such positive experience working as an Au Pair. My role involves me picking up the kids from after school care and daycare 4 days per week and driving them to activities, cooking them dinner and babysitting. The three kids I look after are really polite and fun to look after.
I got so unbelievably lucky with my role as an Au Pair. Not only do I get to look after 3 really great kids, I have been living in my own guest house on their property with ocean views. After living in a tent for two months at camp and spending lots of time in hostels, having my own space has been AMAZING! The best parts - being able to cook my own healthy meals after months of camp food/take out and having a double bed with a decent mattress all to myself. My host family also gave me a car to use to transport the kids when I'm working and for me to drive in my spare time - it also just happened to be a super nice BMW. This means I have the freedom to explore the area whenever I'm not working. I've also had to learn to drive on the other side of the road. It was scary at first, but actually easier to adapt to than I thought it would be!
I am definitely making the most of this experience as I feel like it will be a while before I live in my own ocean-view villa and drive a BMW again!
Perhaps the coolest thing is that the house backs onto the Saanich Inlet and has its own private beach! I can go kayaking right from my backyard - it's a shame it's too cold to swim as the water always looks so inviting. The sunsets are really beautiful and we often see otters and seals playing in the water right out the front.
What I love most about living here is that you feel so close to nature, but are only a 25 minute drive from a capital city and a 5 minute drive from local shops with all the necessities! I also live a 20 minute drive from Whole Foods (my favourite store in the world!). However, this area of Vancouver Island has one of the highest costs of living in Canada - groceries, fuel, takeout etc are all quite expensive.
Kayaking in my 'backyard'
Kayaking in the bay
The closet town to me is Brentwood Bay - a 5 minute drive down the road. In my 3 days per week that I'm not Au-Pairing, I work at a local cafe as a barista. I have previously worked as a barista at home but I have found there to be so many differences in Canadian vs Australian coffee culture. I've had to learn how to make things like a shot in the dark (an espresso shot in drip coffee), wet/dry cappuccinos (less foam vs more foam on a cappuccino), a London Fog (earl grey tea with a shot of vanilla, topped with steamed milk) or an americano misto (an americano filled 3/4 full, topped with steamed milk) and no one knows what a flat white is here!
The combination of working as an Au Pair and at the cafe has allowed me to work more than full time hours and be saving quite a bit of money for the next portion of my trip. I've also learnt the value of tipping - wages are so low here and people in hospitality really rely on tips to make a decent wage!
Working at the cafe has enabled me to meet other people my age and interact with people in the community which has been a great experience. The owners are the loveliest people and even invited me to thanksgiving dinner with them. I also get to work on a pretty unique coffee machine!
The awesome coffee machine I get to work on!
Brentwood Bay marina
I've found the west coast of Canada to be way more chilled out than eastern Canada/Ontario. The surrounding area is home to lots of local organic farms. Many people set up farm stands at the end of their driveways to sell the produce they've grown! Also, everyone is really environmentally conscious - which I love! Everyone sorts their recycling into different boxes for paper, plastic, cans etc for collection and the local council even gives each household a compost bin. You can return cans and bottles to the local depot for cash and plastic bags are banned! Australia really needs to catch on to this!
Farm stand on the side of the road in Salt Spring
In my spare time, I have been working hard to get my blog to where I want it to be by catching up on documenting past trips. I also just finished an 8-week 'Spanish for travellers' course at the local rec centre in preparation for my next trip. I've never had the spare time to do something like learning a language before and have really enjoyed my classes!
I've also tried my best to explore the local area as much as possible. There are so many beautiful beaches, hikes and local cafes in the surrounding area. Some of my favourite spots have been watching the sunrise at Island View Beach, hiking in John Dean Provincial Park, visiting Salt Spring Island for the day, walking along the waterfront in Sidney, the awesome view over Victoria from Mt Doug and exploring downtown Victoria.
See: A Day Trip to Salt Spring Island | Exploring the 'Hippie Capital' of Canada and Exploring Victoria B.C | 9 Top Things to do Downtown and 12 GREAT Things to Do in Greater Victoria - Saanich Peninsula | Hikes, Cafes, Beaches + more!
Island View Beach
John Dean Provincial Park
John Dean Provincial Park
Salt Spring Island
Mt Doug - View over Victoria
While I've been here I've also been able to experience a real autumn/fall (Brisbane doesn't really get a massive change in seasons). I arrived mid September and have gotten to watch the leaves change colour and fall off throughout the months of October and November - it's so beautiful! I also got to experience a real Thanksgiving dinner (minus the turkey) and dressed up and took the kids trick or treating for Halloween!
Another great thing about living in this part of Canada is that it has the mildest climate in all of Canada. Where I was at camp in Ontario is currently covered in snow and has temperatures in the negatives, while here on Vancouver island we've had highs between 10-15 degrees each day and it most likely won't snow until late December (although, fingers crossed it will snow before I leave!).
Unfortunately, my time here on the island is almost up. I have just over a week before I'm back on the road for the next portion of my trip! I know I'll be super sad to leave, but grateful to have had such an awesome experience here.
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You can read more blog articles about my adventures in Canada here!