Back in 2006, Stuart Maguire left North Wales in the UK with a one-way ticket to New Zealand, a backpack and a vague plan to travel around the country with friends.
He was 20-years-old at the time and studying to be a personal trainer.
Now, he’s 35 and living in Kelowna in British Columbia – Canada’s answer to Napa Valley.
How did he end up in Canada after setting off for New Zealand? The short answer is for love.
Stuart met a Canadian girl in New Zealand and followed her across the Pacific Ocean in 2010, first living in the prairies in Saskatchewan before relocating to Kelowna.
The rest, as they say, is history and Stuart is now firmly established in Canada where he manages a restaurant while training to become a real estate agent.
Here, he tells us about life in Canada, how he overcame initial challenges to appreciate the opportunities and dispels a myth that all Canadians live in igloos.
How did you find the first few years in Canada?
Challenging. After the initial six months in Canada I then had to leave the country for six months to get my visa re-issued. During this time, my girlfriend and I – the one I moved to Canada for – broke up. When I eventually received my permanent residency I had to figure out Canada on my own and it took a while to get my life in order.
Over the years what has been the biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?
Making Canada my home whilst my family lived abroad was my biggest challenge. But coming to the realisation that I could either make the most of this opportunity or go back to a country (the UK) that I didn’t want to live in made me want to overcome my challenges. I decided that I had been given a great opportunity to live in a very prosperous country and that it was up to me and only me to make it work.
What have you learnt about yourself in the process?
That I have a super strong work ethic and a drive to succeed. That I’m very independent and self-sufficient and that I can actually do anything when I put my mind to it. Everything I have, I have provided for myself. I literally started from the bottom and now I’m here in Kelowna enjoying a full life.
What has been the most surprising thing about living in Canada?
It’s not as cold as people think and Canadians don’t live in igloos. Also, Moose are very hard to find.
Has the pandemic impacted your life? If so, how?
Yes, but not as negatively as many others. I haven’t been able to see my family for a long time now, and Zoom is just not the same. Yet I’ve managed to grow a very strong bond with my niece who we ended up looking after for three months last year during the lockdown. And my fiancée and I have actually managed to become more financially secure through the need to budget and by COVID putting a stop to things like daily take away coffee. The pandemic has really brought down our consumerism.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone planning to move to Canada, what would it be?
Do it. You won’t regret it. And the West Coast is the best coast.
You left the UK a long time ago. Do you still feel British? Or do you feel more Canadian now?
I do still feel British but I definitely know that Canada is currently home. I haven’t fully embraced Canada in terms of sports or picking up the accent though. I do still hang onto those things from the UK. So it’s probably fifty-fifty.
Anything else to add?
Apart from the lack of seeing my family I’m very happy in my choice to move to Canada. This country has so much opportunity and room for growth. I feel I have really grown as a person and a man since moving out here and I can only see myself continuing to move forward with the help of my fiancée who I met over here. Life is good and long may it continue.
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