Canada and South East Asia couldn’t be farther from each other. I mean that both geographically and in terms of day to day life. They are strikingly different. Spending 6 months (mostly in Vietnam) was certainly an adventure. I’m going to give it to you straight here: I loved it and hated it at the same time. There were moments that made me feel like I was living inside an exotic storybook, and there were times where I felt total and utter despair. There were major highs and mascara-smeared, teary eyed, rock bottom lows.
During this trip, I experienced something I’ve never really felt before… Homesickness.
Like, really bad homesickness.
To the point where I sulked around waiting desperately for the departure date of the ship that would return me to Canada. Every hour became a countdown that would get me one step closer to the familiar.
Which was weird for me because I am obsessed with travelling, and well, I don’t really have a traditional ‘home’ in Canada to begin with.
Was it living in Asia specifically that was giving me the travel-blues, or was it actually missing all the things I love about my home territory? Either way, it gave me a whole new outlook on my native country of Canada, the things I missed dearly about it, and the things I wish were different.
It’s funny how once I was removed from all the comfy, easy and convenient things about Canada is when I was able to truly see how BLESSED I am to have had them in the first place.
Whether you’ve never left the country, or you are an avid traveler yourself, this list of what I missed about Canada will hopefully open your eyes to how amazing this country is. The items on this list are a mix of shallow, first-world desires and actually important cultural and socio-economic issues, which must be a reflection of how equally divided my priorities are. 😉
What I Missed About Canada
Family and Friends
This one is a given, right? There is one thing I can’t get anywhere on Earth and that is the love of the amazing people who are in my life back home. While travelling is an exciting and rewarding lifestyle, I am constantly missing my friends and family. It sucks to miss out on birthdays, anniversaries, get-togethers, holidays and other celebrations. It makes me feel full of guilt, remorse, and major FOMO, but that’s the price I have to pay for living a life full of adventure.
Putting My Toothbrush Under The Tap
I squealed like a school girl once I was able to put my toothbrush under the running water of the tap at home. You mean doing this simple act in Canada won’t give me diarrhea, Hep A, cholera or typhoid? MARVELOUS!
I can even fill up a glorious glass of tap water and chug it down without having to walk in oppressive heat to source clean water. I’m all about this!
Did you know even the simplest of convenience stores don’t exist in many South East Asian towns? Neither did I! You might find someone selling Coca-Cola or Oreos out of the front of their home, or a small street cart, but that’s about it. Slim pickens.
I realized how conditioned I was to being able to grab quick and easy snacks on demand from 7/11 type stores. I desperately missed being able to grab a ready to eat meal (healthy or not!), a protein bar, and a sugar-free soda on a whim.
My first encounter with a convenience store in Canada resulted in more snacks, stevia drinks and treats than I’ve seen in over half a year! I was like a kid in a candy store!
I LOVE convenience stores. I never want to live in a place that doesn’t have one again.
I’m basically a popcorn addict. I could eat popcorn every day, all day long, and still want more. Canada has every type of popcorn I crave. The buttery microwave stuff, my vegan fav ‘Skinny-Pop’ from the grocery store, or even the stale stuff you get at a car dealership on a Saturday. It’s everywhere here!
For the last 6 months I craved popcorn like you wouldn’t believe. Why it’s not a thing in South East Asia puzzles me to no end!
Vegan, Low-Carb, and Sugar-Free Options
Canada (and especially the USA!) has an amazing plethora of health and diet specific foods. No matter if you are paleo, vegan, gluten-free, Whole 30, keto, whatever.. you can find tons of food in Canada to make it work. It’s everywhere! I missed being able to go in any restaurant and grocery store and being able to eat intuitively.
Travelling… not so much!
I don’t subscribe to any specific diet, but I like to try and eat whole foods when I can. Not processed, preferably organic, and yeah I like to throw a few vegetarian or vegan meals in there once in a while. Very EASY to get in Canada, very DIFFICULT to get in third world countries. Especially when there is a language barrier.
“I’m sorry, did you say there was DOG in here?”
When I can’t find healthy, nutritious, fueling foods, I tend to rely on the ‘carb, carb and more carb diet’.
Thank you Canada for offering so many options for any type of food I want to eat.
Stores (online and brick & mortar)
Do you know how easy it is to get anything in Canada? Seriously! We’ve been home for under a week but have been able to get everything we need at the drop of a hat. No matter how obscure. Either a local store has it, or somewhere online with next day delivery. It’s INSANE!
Finding even simple items in South East Asia can be kind of like a murder mystery. You have to uncover clues, interrogate people, follow leads and devise a execution plan.
Example: Trevor broke his hair clipper while abroad and there is no Walmart or chain hair salon to pick one up in. He had to do a lot of research, take a lot of taxis, and get over a lot of language barriers to find one. ONE being the key there. Once he found one, there was only a single option to choose from, whether he liked it or not. In Canada, it’s so easy to have a million different options at your fingertips.
I missed the ability to easily find what I needed at the drop of a hat. Even though I am a minimalist, I still need to buy things to replace old/broken items. I think this is even MORE crucial for me being a minimalist because everything I own/carry with me is greatly important! Canada is a place that makes it fabulously easy to buy necessities.
I missed Amazon y’all. After not having access to it for months, it’s become my new guilty pleasure.
Canada’s air is SO clean, it even smells pristine. I missed being able to take a deep breath without being choked by motorbike exhaust or burning garbage. Being surrounded by clean, un-polluted air is something I have definitely taken for granted in the past, but never again.
Fun Fact: Did you know there are companies that bottle up Canadian mountain air and sell each canister in Asia for around $20? That’s how good the air is here!
Living in Canada my whole life had me believing something as normal as tampons would be readily available worldwide. Wrong! They are almost impossible to find in South East Asia. I did find a box of 10 in Bali for $14 USD, so that’s basically the same thing as not being available at all, because who in their right mind would be scammed like that?
The streets in Canada are – especially compared to third-world countries – sparkling clean and free from rotting trash! I have no qualms using the ‘5-second’ rule at home, which is more like Russian roulette in foreign countries. Canadian ditches are free from garbage, the beaches don’t have uncontrollable mountains of plastic washing up on them and the rivers aren’t routinely used as dumping grounds. The streets are so clean and litter-free, with both trash bins AND recycling bins everywhere you look.
It’s heartbreaking to see the sheer amount of trash and waste carelessly strewn all over the place in developing countries.
Electric Toothbrush Heads
My husband got me hooked on using an electric toothbrush and there is no turning back. In Canada it’s easy to get all kids of replacement brush heads, even for sensitive gums, but not while traveling. They were non-existent in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand – so I went back to an old-school manual brush.
Canada is SAFE. It’s always coming up in the ‘Top 10 safest countries in the world’ lists, plus it’s home, which makes it feel extra familiar and secure. While traveling through new countries, I missed having that strong and silent reassurance that I was totally safe. I was always kind of cautious. I’m not saying the countries that I travelled to were dangerous or made me feel at risk, but there was always a state of being on-guard that gets tiring after a while.
Vapid, right? I care not! The absence of Sephora can get quite interesting after a long period of time. Long story short, I don’t have space to carry around months’ worth of products and things start going downhill as I run out of my core favs. I missed not being able to have easy access to a Sephora in every city or at least online.
I LOVE the big, wide, spacious and clean sidewalks in Canada! Walking is one of my most favorite pastimes and it’s how I prefer to explore a new city. During this particular 6-month tour through Asia, I did not see ONE wide sidewalk that could accommodate 2 people walking side by side. They were either non-existent, blocked by motorbikes, or so badly damaged and clogged with debris, it rendered them useless. That means I had to walk down the actual road, with seemingly millions of motorkbikes whizzing past me with mere millimetres between us.
It’s so nice to come back to Canada and be able to walk down the street without fear of being smashed by oncoming traffic. There is a place for pedestrians here!
Flavoured Soda Water
I missed all the flavoured soda waters! You know, the ones without any sugar/sweeteners and are just carbonated water and natural flavour. La Croix, Buble, Perrier lemon, whatever brand! 99% of stores in South East Asia have Coke, Pepsi, Diet Coke, Fanta and that is about it. If you don’t want a major sugar bomb, or a nice dose of aspartame, you’re SOL.
My pantry in the RV is currently overflowing with grapefruit flavoured soda water.
Freedom Of Speech
Being a Canadian, I was born with the privilege of being able to express my opinion, without persecution or fearing for my life. Not everyone is born with the same privilege. Travelling through communist countries or areas with more oppressive regimes have taught me to be grateful about living in a country that values free speech.
I missed being able to speak my mind, even if it was something that would come across as uncomplimentary. In Canada I don’t have to worry about being thrown in prison for saying something critical about the government.
I never imagined I would be typing this… I love the cooler weather in Canada. I used to think I hated anything under 25 degrees Celsius, but now I’ve realized that 15-25 degrees has been wrongly under-appreciated.
Being abroad in oppressive heat made me yearn for those cool summer nights when you need hoodie to warm up by the campfire. Or, you know, just not having soaking wet underwear 24/7.
Bronzer and Self Tanner
I told you some of these would be pretty #basic. In Asia, white skin is the beauty standard, so it’s actually a struggle to find products without whitening agents in them. (yikes!) This white girl doesn’t need any bleaching. I need a tan, but I’ve also recently developed a fear of the sun, so it’s going to have to be with healthy self-tanner, which is impossible to find in S.E.A.
I missed being able to find self-tanners, gradual tanners and other bronzing agents like I can find in Canada! Many of them on the market now are even organic and healthy! Who would have thought!
We really are spoiled living in a country with free health care. When you are sick, especially with something major, Canada’s got your back. I hear horror stories from people I meet from other countries (chiefly the US) about how they have to choose between paying hospital bills or survival. Many won’t even seek care for serious conditions because they know they won’t be able to afford the crippling bills. Not cool dude.
I missed not being able to comfortably, confidently, and complimentarily visit a doctor for any malady.
I missed treats that didn’t revolve entirely around gelatin/flan. Anything jiggly and gelatinous reigns supreme in Asia. They have foods, desserts, even coffees made out of Jello type squares. Typically it’s hard to get anything without gelatin. That’s a hard pass for me.
In Canada, I love eating and even baking my own treats, especially healthy ones! Every town has someone that makes sugar-free protein donuts, gluten-free cakes, or paleo energy balls.
What I DIDN’T Miss About Canada
Cell Phone Data Prices
Fellow Canadians, get ready to be (more) furious about your cell phone bill.
In Vietnam, I had 4GB of Data PER DAY, for only $3.50 a month.
Canadian’s pay some of the highest rates for mobile data in the WORLD! Coming back home, I checked Telus’s site and they want $90/m for 3 GB of data and a voice plan. WHAT!? With taxes and fees that is over $100/m for something I can get for under $5/m elsewhere.
It’s unreasonably expensive and the lack of competition and complete Monopoly on the industry here isn’t helping. Now that I know how cheap data is everywhere else (literally everywhere else: Europe, Asia, Mexico, etc) I refuse to pay that astronomical amount here.
Cost Of Living
Canada is mighty expensive for day to day life. I honestly wonder how many people are able to make ends meet in this country. We have hefty prices for groceries, rent, taxes and most recently gas!
I get there is a price to pay for being a safe, clean, democratic and modern country, but that doesn’t mean I’m not shocked by it upon returning home.
Since I have been travelling to relatively affordable countries for the last 5 years, my eyes pop out of my head when I see the price for things in Canada.
All The Rules
I know it’s one of the reasons why Canada remains a wonderfully safe country, but man oh man are there a LOT of rules here! Rules upon rules, regulations, laws, requirements and a lot of bureaucracy. There are a lot of restrictions and regulations that at times, can feel a little overbearing.
Lack Of Service
I feel really passionate about this topic. I find that service in Canada, especially from wait staff in a restaurant, is completely lacking in every way. Here is an example: Let’s say I go into a casual dining place (like one that rhymes with Boxie’s or Whirl’s) with the average bill being around $60 per person, but the server could care less if I am there. It’s a simple “What can I get ya?” and a “here you go”…if that. Almost as if I am a burden on their day.
No art of service, no pride in their job, literally the very bare-minimum of ‘service’.
Yet, they still expect 20% in tips? No thanks!
I can’t stand how entitled some service staff can be in Canada, especially for offering sub-par experiences.
Travelling all over the world, especially to less developed countries, servers respect their jobs as an art and it shows! They take time to greet you, talk to you, do anything they can for you, all while showing off personality and warmth. Then, when they get a tip, they didn’t even EXPECT it and are immensely appreciative to receive it.
I did not miss over-paying for secretly frozen and microwaved $28 entrees, served by staff who literally couldn’t care less.
Yes, I have a new appreciation of cooler temps, but that doesn’t mean I like a deep freeze. I definitely did NOT miss the sub-zero temperatures or huge dumps of snow while I was away. I’ll pass on the shovelling and shivering during the cold Canadian winters.
I do not, and never will, have a romantic connotation with snow.
As you can see, there were a LOT more things I missed about Canada than things I didn’t miss. More than ever before I am honoured/ecstatic/thrilled/grateful to be able to say that I am from this wonderful country. In the past, I was lacking in a sense of patriotism and felt the grass might be greener somewhere else. Now I can happily say I’m proud to be a Canadian and thankful that I can live a happy and safe life in this country. I will always have a travel bug, but the pull to spend more time in Canada can’t be ignored.
Sometimes all it takes is exploring beyond my comfort zone to realize what I already have is what I treasure most.