Finally home: Toronto and changes / by Jessica Lee

Toronto is quite different from the state I left it in.

After my seven month jaunt around Australia and Asia- and briefly Montreal, I am finally back home.

I feel like I cheated the system. I left Toronto when it was at its coldest, enjoyed the warm weather in Sydney, and came back when summer was swinging.

It's been an incredible journey.

People always say when you come back to your own city after seeing the world, the way you see your city changes. And it's true. Four years ago I thought Toronto was the greatest city in the world. I was set on saving up a down payment to buy a condo on the Harbourfront where by the time I was in my mid-twenties, I'd have moved in, gotten a professional job and be enjoying the many cafes and breakfast/brunch places on my weekends and dining on patios for afterwork cocktails with friends. I thought Toronto was a great city because of its importance in the world- meaning that if a popular band was touring North America, they would definitely stop in Toronto. There are also many opportunities in this city. Businesses come to the city to make deals all the time, international film festivals are held here, the city is booming with arts and culture, and there is always something exciting going on.

But now that I've lived in Sydney and enjoyed the flexibility of the weather which allows for sailing all year long and soaked up some sun on a few of their many marvellous beaches, I'm having second thoughts about settling in Toronto. Surfing the waves at Bali, Indonesia, made me realize Toronto doesn't have a good surfing scene, and I miss the elegance of Montreal streets.

It's been strange coming back to Toronto. The city is the same, but different in many ways. I visited the movie rental place I used to work at and it is no longer a movie rental place. They only sell cell phones now. Lots of huge holes downtown have now been built into several story condos, and I live in a new condo myself now.

While I was in Australia, my mom sold our home and bought a new place uptown. It's a slick, new fancy apartment that looks like an upscale hotel. It is a sharp contrast from the sometimes dirty huts I was living in while in Indonesia. It's also quite a relief to be able to leave your stuff around and not worry about having to pack it up the next day.

While some things are the same in a comforting way; like the lazy pace I move during my weekends, or the familiar Canadian accents I hear in coffee shops, other things are completely different.

I picked up a new job as a waitress at a lounge/restaurant. It's something I've always wanted to do just to see what it's like. I've never worked in the food and hospitality industry so it's been a lot of learning. There is a restaurant lingo that I'm starting to pick up and its quite fascinating. I now know what chaffing dishes and heat lamps are. I also know how to properly set-up a table with salad forks and dessert forks and coffee cups at 90 degrees from the plate, etc etc.

The other night, I was working an event for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). The DJ put on a song which was on the mixtape we found in the rental car of our Australian road trip and I was reminded of my wonderful adventures which happened a mere two months ago. While listening to the song, I was suddenly feeling quite smug because here I was serving ridiculous people who were blowing their money on $250 bottles of vodka and paying even more than that for "private booths" which really were just couches with a "reserved" sign on them.

With a budget of $250 a week, I got to see Indonesia! Yes. That amount covered hotels and food as well as surfboard rentals and some modest shopping. That amount has also given me incredible experiences, street smarts and a confidence where I can say I navigated a foreign country all by myself at 21.

Different people have different priorities, but personally, I think it's much more enriching to spend your money on experiences which will make you grow rather than one vague drunken memory.

FYI: Cocktails in Indonesia average about $2.50/drink, a fraction of the price of alcohol in Toronto.

But though I am back in my hometown, this isn't the end of my journey here.

I will be updating constantly with missed blog entries and photos I haven't published. I wrote a couple of entries on the road but sometimes didn't put them up because I felt they were missing something.

I will keep posting moments from my trip and saving up for my next big trek around the world. Europe? Africa? South America? Asia again? Who knows...