By Ruby Smith, University of British Columbia, Canada
Prior to my arrival in Canada, I had ambitious plans to travel before returning to the UK. However, due to a series of unfortunate circumstances relating to my visa I was unable to get a job and was therefore was left with a very small budget to travel with. Regardless of the troubles I faced trying to get a job, I eventually found some great options that didn’t leave me broke and ended up having a sweet end to my year abroad.
Firstly, I realised there was no rush to leave the city I’d been living in and soon discovered a bunch of stuff I hadn’t yet seen. I hung around in Vancouver whilst my friends were still there and saw a different side of the city in light of freedom from uni work. After everyone had departed my sister came out to visit and we travelled to Tofino on Vancouver Island – a quaint surf town with a laid-back atmosphere and stunning views. We rented a car to get to the West Coast of the island, which was a lot cheaper than getting the coach and gave us flexibility to explore Tofino. We stayed in a cheap Guesthouse called ‘Tofino Travellers Guesthouse’ (highly recommend) where the staff were super friendly and gave us the inside info on best spots to visit. One of the best experiences of the trip was whale watching which you can do for about £60, giving you the chance to see local wildlife such as whales and otters among the small islands and beaches. The island also has numerous hikes and trails with picturesque landscapes and ancient forests.
Following this trip, I took a cheap flight to LA and joined my friend at a music festival in Central California called Lightning in a Bottle. Instead of splashing £280 on a weekend ticket, we volunteered for a free ticket which I would highly recommend as the work was fairly easy and we met a bunch of interesting people from all over the US. The festival production and music was incredible and it was really great seeing how it differed from the UK festival scene – mainly a lot cleaner, no rain and a friendlier vibe. For food, drink and travel the weekend cost me about £100, so overall it was great value for money. After the festival, I stayed at my friend’s student house in Santa Barbara (she was also on exchange) which cost me very little in terms of food and travel as, unlike LA, SB is small and doesn’t require a car to get around. So, if you have somewhere to stay for free in California I would highly recommend utilising it, especially if you have a car as public transport is practically non-existent.