Once the honeymoon phase of your Au Pair year has passed, you’ve seen the sights, taken pictures, and the glamour is wearing off, it’s very easy to get bored with your new area – especially if your host family lives in a smaller city or town. And we all know that boredom is the seed of discontent. It can be hard to stay engaged with your surroundings if you’ve been there – done that, and from there it’s a short slip into homesickness or dissatisfaction with your placement.
So as a small town girl myself – 16 years in the middle of nowhere, I have put together a few helpful tips on keeping busy and keeping the romance alive between yourself and your city.
- Write Down Your Plans
If I do not make a To-Do list for my time off, I will not leave the house – it’s very likely I’ll spend most of the day wrapped in a blanket on the couch. Now don’t get me wrong I thoroughly enjoy relaxing on the couch, but everything in moderation! 8 hours of being completely unproductive is pushing it – even for me 😉 So I think of a few things that aren’t too strenuous (it’s my day off after all) and jot them down on a post it note to keep me honest. Seriously, even if your plans consist of: walk to the end of the street, once you write it down you will feel a commitment to completing the task and it will get you out of the house.
- Be Open to Deviation
Embrace your adventurous side! I’m not talking about your bungee jumping and paragliding side; I’m talking about the unknown and unexpected side, even if it’s not exciting. For example: you never know what might happen on your walk to the end of the street – there may be a garage sale on the way, you might find the ideal spot to cloud gaze, it might start to rain – giving you the perfect opportunity to go puddle jumping (this is fun if you’re walking with an Au Pair friend or happen to be with your Host Kids). The point is, most people do not have the time or the appreciation for little opportunities such as these, but the truth is: if you can learn to appreciate the small moments in life, you can find happiness everywhere.
- Take Up Hobbies
A lot of the hobbies and skills I would like to acquire cost too much money for me to pursue (which is a real shame because I think I would be excellent at forging swords) but that doesn’t mean there are no interests or abilities for me to enjoy in the meantime, and surprisingly the inexpensive pursuits are often the most practically beneficial to me. For instance, over the years I have developed a great love of reading and am of the sincere opinion that it’s impossible to dislike this activity, and if you disagree you are reading the wrong material. Writing is another practice I have nurtured over time and some of my most agreeable afternoons have been spent in search of an inspiring place to sit with my journal and hot chocolate as I free hand my day away. This is also a great way to keep track of your year abroad and record your time as an Au Pair.
- Keep Your Ears Open
The locals know best, and if they’re smart they’re keeping it to themselves. How much or our lives have we wasted waiting in line at a big tourist attraction to snap a quick picture and clear out for the next group? Too much – that’s the answer! The locals will know the dreamy spot to watch the sun set, the splendid watering hole to swim in the summer, the unsurpassed hill to sled in the winter – and they will keep it on the down low so it stays that way, because as soon as a place draws a large crowd, it loses its charm. So how do you make them spill the beans? There are a couple a ways: befriend someone who grew up in the area – if your host family has lived there a while ask them for suggestions, strike up a conversation with small business workers (nobody opens a small business in an area they don’t know), keep your party small – someone is not going to tell a group of 5+ people about their favourite places, but 2 or 3 travelers visiting from across the globe… your odds have greatly increased, and as we said: keep your ears open. I am a culprit when it comes to listening in and have had the great pleasure of experiencing a few paradises I would never have discovered had the couple next to me not made plans over coffee.
- Enjoy Your Own Company
This can be especially difficult if you’re an extrovert but I promise, you are far more likely to meet and interact with people if you go out on your own than if you stay in because you have no one to go with. This is Canada, you can literally start a conversation with the person sitting next to you and end up skiing together the entire weekend. But even here, in the land of the friendly lumberjack, it can be difficult to make new friends; so if you don’t meet someone to join on your escapade, find a way to appreciate the time spent as an individual. This is the perfect opportunity to do exactly what you want – no compromises, no splitting time, only the uninterrupted joy of following your own desires at your own pace!
Your year as an Au Pair in Canada is a once in a lifetime opportunity – don’t get lazy! Make every effort to get out there experiencing, even if it’s on your own. You will make some of the best memories of your life and have an unforgettable year!