Jonathan De Keyser (29), or simply Joe, is one of those guys working really hard to make their dreams come true. 11 years ago he did an exchange program for 1 year in Vancouver with the Rotary club. "After that year I knew I would move out here", he says.
"Having seen the world somewhere else and experienced a different lifestyle from the Belgian one, it made perfect sense to leave Belgium. Without going into too many details I think Belgium has been dealing with too many issues the past 10 years. It’s not the country it used to be anymore. Cities are unsafe, stress levels are higher than ever on youth, taxes are the highest in the world, no opportunities for young dynamic people to make money anymore, massive immigration issues, endless list!"
"It's just the most beautiful city where everything is focused on health and outdoors lifestyle! Located in the middle of nature, surrounded by water, beaches, mountains and parks. And the people here are very social and kind."
How did it all start?
"I quit my job home, packed my bags and left. Didn’t know anyone in Vancouver at the time. No job, no place to stay, nothing... Sure it was scary the first 2 days I was here! But I found a place real fast. Lucky or just meant to be? Being a social person it hasn’t been difficult to make friends. At first I took any job I could get, which allowed me to meet people and make friends throughout different jobs."
"Although the first months were so much fun, there was doubt after 8 months. I missed my family and friends very much and ended up back in Belgium. But after 5 months I realized I needed to be in Vancouver. All the reasons I disliked Belgium came back up and that frustrated me so much! I stayed for a total of 1.5 years in Belgium saving up money."
"I've been back in Vancouver since May last year, about 1.5 years. And now I’M STAYING! I’m a permanent resident now and will apply for citizenship in 3 years."
What do you do in Vancouver?
"In Belgium I studied physiotherapy, but to be allowed to work here as a physiotherapist I had to study again. Taking online courses and going through two national exams. Extremely stressful and a long journey! But 1.5 years later I’m finally working as a physio in two private clinics downtown. Worth every stressful moment I went through!"
"I also always had a dream to do something else besides physiotherapy. So last year I started up a BBQ boat rental company. I was the first one and still am the only one doing this in Canada. It has been an amazing success this summer! People love it! We had tremendous amounts of media attention, from the biggest TV stations to the cover of the most renown news papers. Just amazing!"
What will you tell your kids about moving to the other end of the world?
"This is the best and yet most difficult choice I've ever had to make. It's not easy to leave everything behind and start all over again somewhere else. You have to be made for this. Missing my family and friends is the hardest part of living half way across the world, but I don't regret it. Vancouver is where I'm truly happy! I think I would have needed 10 years in Belgium to learn what I've learned here in 1 year. It changed me entirely as a person."