Travel Confessions: Brenton Hall on his gap year in Canada

Published June 25th, 2014

Student Flights Curtin Store Manager Brenton Hall had a pretty epic gap year in Canada. He worked in a 5-star French restaurant in Banff, pulled beers at a brewery in Toronto, and worked as a canoe instructor during the summer season. But, most importantly, he got to ski every other day and travel extensively throughout Canada. Keen to go on a gap year yourself? Brenton gives us the scoop on what to expect on a working holiday in Canada.


Brenton in Banff


What sparked your decision to move to live and work in Canada?

I'm pretty passionate about my snow sports and had always wanted to live abroad after having experienced one semester on exchange about five years earlier. Canada was a no-brainer - easy visa process, easy to get jobs through TWHC (The Working Holiday Club) at Student Flights, amazing friendly people to meet, and one of the most phenomenal landscapes in the world to explore!


Blue canoes on the Bow River, Banff.


What jobs did you have in Canada?

Some great ones – I was a server at a brewery in Toronto, I worked in 5-star French restuarant in Banff, but the best job I had in Banff was on the Bow River as a canoe instructor over the summertime.


What did you enjoy most about your jobs?

A real sense of helping people do something different in their lives was great, but the scenery and wildlife made my day, every day. Paddling around beavers or rowing down a stream watching a bear eat berries and always being amazed by the changing landscape were the real reasons I loved that job!


Brenton with a dog sled.


How does Canada compare to Australia?

The people are so similar in a lot of ways; welcoming and hospitable, always with dry sense of humour, a laidback nature, sensible attitudes and so on, making it very easy to get along with everyone - and they love camping and sports! Not much else is similar though, from the landscape to driving on the right-hand-side and their forward-thinking political parties.


A bear at Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta.


How did you spend your days off?

Skiing and road tripping - quite often on the same day in winter to find fresh powder! Sometimes summer was spent hiking or canoeing or travelling to another wonderful part of the country.


Where else did you travel in Canada during your gap year?

After spending most of the time in Toronto and Banff for work and living, I covered all of Highway #1 from Halifax through to Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa and Niagara Falls. I then went to Calgary and Edmonton, Jasper, Lake Louise, Kicking Horse, Panorama, Okanagen Valley, Vancouver, Vancouver Island (Victoria and Tofino) and up through Prince George and Whitehorse into the Yukon to see the Aurora borealis (Northern Lights).


Cascade Mountain in Banff National Park, Alberta.


What were the biggest challenges about relocating and settling into life in a different country?

It's getting used to the other version of 'normal' and what is commonly expected in mundane settings that throws you right out of your comfort zone. The biggest challenge I found was selling off everything I owned, and then to obviously coming back having nothing was a bit of a shock. I miss the 'Brenton groove' from my old couch!


Brenton fishing at Tofino on Vancouver Island.


Any words of wisdom you can give fellow Aussies thinking about doing a ski season in Canada?

Do it ASAP - it's a blast! Seriously though, get your jobs sorted early - 10,000 people vying for about 1,500 jobs is a good way to burn through your savings quickly! I also think getting most of your travel plans out of the way before working is a great idea so that you can either go back to places you liked, avoid others, and not get bogged down in the daily grind of earning a crust and then miss out on some of your favourite spots when you need to come home.


Rachel Surgeoner

A self-confessed 'food-tourist', I take hunting for the world's greatest sandwich very seriously, my quest has taken me from Berlin to Hoboken. Stopping off only for vintage shopping, craft beers and Mediterranean sunsets.