The story of how I ended up becoming an Expat in Toronto is a bit of a weird sequence of events. If you had told me this time last year that I would be living and working in Canada, I wouldn’t have understood where on Earth that plan had come from. Regardless of it being unexpected, my move to Toronto has been one of the best decisions of the life, and has taught me a lot about the art of following your heart.


Emma on her travels


Rewind to Christmas 2012. I was in La Paz, Bolivia, and donning my Christmas sweater and drinking beers at 11am in our hostel bar (you’re allowed to do that on Christmas day, don’t judge me). I had met a few Irish girls in Bolivia, and some brothers from Toronto. This was our tight knit group for the holiday season, so tight knit in fact that over a drunken conversation on Christmas Day, I turned to one of the Torontonian brothers, and proclaimed that I was moving to Canada. Glasses were clinked together and the deal was made. Little did I know, this was much more than a just a drunken promise.

A few weeks before this, I had decided to work Canada into my South America plans. I wanted to travel north, all the way to Mexico, fly to Vancouver to see friends, and then fly home. With my new found Toronto friends, I added this city into the mix. As 2012 came to a close and 2013 set in, I continued to travel and as I went on the idea of making Toronto a big part of my plan seemed more and more logical to me. I had been waiting to find somewhere new to live after having left my expat life in Barcelona, so why couldn’t it be in Toronto?




There was one day that changed my entire plan, one day that I will always remember so clearly. I was in Cuenca, Ecuador, and looking at the visa process for Canada. The 2013 application opened in just a few weeks, in mid-February. After having the time of my life through South America for 6 months, with the intention of carrying on north, I decided to call it quits, and go home. I called my mother on Skype and said those fateful words, ‘Mum, I’m coming home.’ I booked my flights, and a week later I was back in the UK.

Never before have I made a huge travel decision quite as quickly as that. Part of me felt like a failure for it, like I was giving up on my dream of South America and wasting the precious time I could have had there. However, my gut was telling me something completely different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it; even though going to Toronto was a decision made in a flash a few months ago, something was still pulling me there and I couldn’t ignore that.


Toronto Humber Bay Arch Bridge


Fast forward to May 29th, and I’m standing at Toronto airport waiting for that friend of mine I’d last seen in Peru to come and pick me up from the airport. After months of sorting out my visa, and preparing for this move, I was finally in the Great White North. I had packed up my life yet again, and taken a huge risk in a city I’d never even been to before. And yet, my gut did not falter. I still felt like this was where I was supposed to be.

Those first few months in Toronto were lonely. While I had some friends, they had been living here for years and kept themselves busy, with little time to constantly make sure I was settling in. I had sublet a room from a stranger for the summer, and each night I would come home from work and realize I had no one to call up to go for a drink, and the only people I did have were busy. I had to tell myself that it wouldn’t be that way forever, as I was looking for a house to rent with a few of my friends. But at those times when I really didn’t feel like I had anyone in this huge city, I really started to question my move in the first place. Why have I just moved thousands of miles away from the people I love?


Toronto Old City Hall


Today, I’m proud to say that life in Toronto has made me the happiest I’ve been in years and years. Maybe even the happiest I’ve ever been. I moved in with three girls, one of which was one of those Irish girls I traveled with in Bolivia, who had fallen in love with one of the Torontonian brothers. I have my dream job working in marketing in the travel industry. I have no love life to speak of, but now I have so many great friends around all the time, that doesn’t really bother me. I know that when it comes to love it’ll find its way to you when it’s the right time.

I guess the moral of the story with my move to Canada is that there really is no other indicator better than following your instincts. A few months ago I would have said that my gut feelings to move here were completely unexplainable. Now, I say that the reason I moved to Toronto, why I packed up my travels in South America, and left home yet again, was because it led me to the life I have now. I’m supposed to be here because this is where I’m truly content, and the only thing that knew that this is where my happiness was, was my gut.

I thank my lucky stars almost every day that I have a gut I can trust so implicitly. It took a long time to get in touch with it, but once I did I realized that it’s the most powerful tool I own. Following it has led me to more exciting, terrifying, life-affirming, and life-changing adventures than I could have ever imagined, not only in Toronto but during my last 4 years of travel.

If you’re really struggling with whether to take that leap of faith, I suggest you take a moment to test out your instincts, and in no time they will lead you to exactly where you’re supposed to be.


Emma Higgins is a travel writer who’s been on the road for four years. She loves to immerse herself in local culture and really get to know a place through its people and food. On her own website, Gotta Keep Movin, she focuses on cultural observations and voluntourism. Emma is also a regular contributor to Travel + Escape and We Said Go Travel, and is a Senior Editor for Green Global Travel. You can follower her travels of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


Have you or would you ever move to a city you have never been to before?