Tarek Legat explores new paths. On the road in Canada the roofer tries new professions and faces the dangers of wilderness.
Tarek has only just left the last few houses behind, when he spots a dark shadow moving along the roadside. It’s a black bear, and not the first one he’s seen on this trip. “This is not a dangerous situation, though. I’ve spotted five or six bears already.” What is a roofer from Coburg doing around wild animals? There certainly aren’t any in Upper Franconia. In the Canadian Banff National Park, however, they’re a common sight.
Escaping the Day-to-Day
Tarek has worked in his profession for eight years. In 2023, he won the title of “Mister Handwerk” (Mr. Trade) in Germany. “I decided that I wanted to try something different.” Canada was particularly appealing: The log houses, the Canadian way of life, and the unspoilt nature all called to him.
He wanted to drift with the wind, work wherever he found work, and make the most of his time. “From the start, I refused to make a fixed plan for this trip. In Germany, everything is so rigidly organized,” he explained. In retrospect, that was a mistake: What works in many other popular work-and-travel destinations has turned out to be quite challenging in Canada.
A trip full of obstacles
“I actually found a job as soon as I got to Canada.” When he arrived in Vancouver, the young roofer was ready to get started, but his employer had since changed their mind. “They told me: ‘Sorry, we haven’t got any work for you. You’ll have to find something else.’” Finding work spontaneously is not that easy. The next problem soon presented itself: Canada is not cheap. One night in a hostel in Vancouver set Tarek back 150 Canadian dollars. “So I started my trip full of worries about finding work.”
Traveling from one place to the next like a nomad has its advantages – you certainly get to see a lot of the country. It makes it very hard to find a job and accommodation, however. “On the one hand, Canadians are incredibly hospitable,” said Tarek. On the other hand, profit is everything – especially in the trades. Many employers don’t see the point in hiring someone for just a few weeks. “It’s all very business-focused. I’m sure that’s partly due to the fact that Canada is extremely expensive.”
Tarek’s experience with the Canadian cost of living has revealed the country’s dark side to him: “Vancouver has an unbelievable number of homeless people.” In some areas not far from the glamorous business district, he explained, people live on the streets, openly begging and using drugs. “It was sobering to see how fast your life can get derailed,” he observed. The social safety net we expect in Germany simply does not exist over there.
Experiencing other professions
Tarek was especially impressed with the Canadian tradition of log houses, and the solid construction method was one of the things that drew him to North America in the first place. He was delighted when the owner of a large construction company took a day to show him the ins and outs of this trade. Of course, Tarek got involved: “I used a paring knife to strip the bark off a tree,” he recalled. “The work they do is incredibly detailed. You rarely see a machine – maybe a power saw, at most.” Log construction experts debark the logs at record speed: They are paid by the tree.
The German roofer also faced linguistic challenges on his trip. After all, his English classes at school never taught him the jargon of the trades he dipped his toes into here. “And they don’t use the metric system either. That was really confusing,” he admitted.
Ropes and harnesses
Besides log construction, Tarek also explored other professions in Canada. He briefly worked in framing, the construction of wooden support structures for buildings. “That was super exciting: I got to put together the entire base frame of a house for the first time.” In Canada, professionals can erect entire houses within just a few days.
Tarek only spent a brief period working in his own profession, roofing. “The safety aspects were a bit unsettling,” he recalled. “Scaffolding isn’t used much, just ropes and harnesses.” At least this was the case on commercial building sites: “Once you get to the countryside, there’s even fewer safety measures. The roofers in rural areas just work on ten-meter roofs without anything.” He knows from experience that slips and falls happen faster than you might think. Tarek had no interest in taking such a risk.
Moraine Lake at Dusk
Out of the city and into nature – it’s only a matter of minutes in Canada. Tarek spent every free minute hiking, with the beautiful Banff and Jasper National Parks being his favorites. “The craziest thing I did was the hike to Moraine Lake.” Even armed with deterrent spray and making lots of noise, he hiked in constant fear of bears. “You have to be careful and always pay attention: Is it a black bear or a grizzly?” The latter are much more aggressive. But the anxiety paid off: Tarek was rewarded with spectacular views over the glacial turquoise lake. With a few friends in tow, the Coburg native also got to tick a road trip in a camper van off his bucket list. “We made so many incredible memories. It was the best time,” he remembered fondly.
Tarek has returned to Germany, but he will never forget what he experienced in Canada, despite the initial teething problems. “It was such an exciting journey. Canadian nature is mind-blowing, and it’s easy to relax. I would recommend it to anyone. It really makes you grow as a person, and I got astonishing insights into the manual trades over there.” Surrounded by the tranquility of nature, he had plenty of time to reflect on his life and think about the future. He is determined to put his new experiences in log construction to use back home.