Befriending the Great White North

Michelle De Alva gets to know Canada through outdoor adventures.

Michelle De Alva

Michelle De Alva gets the hang of it at Chutes Coulonge.

Arriving in a new Country is a difficult thing for anyone, especially when it comes to Canada and its frosty Winters. For Michelle De Alva, diving into outdoor activities helped her to befriend both the Great White North and the adventurous people she met there.

De Alva came to Ottawa in 2018 with her husband Victor, who was pursuing an MBA. “He wanted an International experience,” she says. After weighing out their options, they found that Canada was the best place for her to find work while he went to school. De Alva is currently the Lead Motion Designer on the Five2Nine Team.

Though the pair arrived in July, as new Canadians they already had Winter on their minds. De Alva says asking people about Winter gear in the middle of Summer proved difficult. “[People said] you’re crazy, take advantage of the sun!” De Alva says, laughing. “But I didn’t have boots, I didn’t have anything.” Finding the right clothes ended up being a bit of trial, error, and online shopping. 

Perhaps even more importantly, De Alva wanted to make friends before Winter set in. Though she says it can be a challenge to think and interact in a second language, this is her main piece of advice to new Canadians. “Here, there are a lot of events after work,” she says. To De Alva, it’s important not to get into the “work, sleep” cycle because in the colder months you’ll end up staying home all the time, which can be depressing.

Michelle De Alva

Michelle De Alva adventures in Chutes Coulonge with the Five2Nine Team.

“If you start in the days of summer, and you start to be more open to meeting people, that will help you in Winter when you’re home alone,” she says.

De Alva started to meet people through Victor’s networking events, and after starting at Five2Nine, she found herself on all kinds of outdoor adventures. De Alva’s first shoot was with creative director Mike McKay for Paddle Canada.

“We get there, and we’re in the lake. I’m just shooting in the middle of the lake,” she says. “I was like ‘this is crazy! This is the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done.’”

After literally taking the plunge and working out of her element, there was nothing to stop De Alva from going on more adventures with the crew. Since then she’s been kayaking, canoeing, dog sledding, on via ferrata climbing routes, and more!

She recalls some time spent with the team at Chutes Coulonge- where there are ziplines, obstacle courses and other experiences to be had in beautiful Québec scenery.

With outdoor activities you form an unspoken bond with the people around you, so a language barrier isn’t such a big deal.

“You know what the other one is talking about because you’ve experienced the same thing as them,” says De Alva.

Michelle De Alva

Mike McKay and Michelle De Alva enjoy the scenery at Kenauk Nature.

As for the Winter weather, De Alva says nothing could prepare her and her husband for it; But they find ways to get excited about the freezing weather. They live close to a Canal, and De Alva knows how to ice skate, something not everyone in Mexico takes on as a hobby.

“It was my fun fact in Mexico, but now it’s also my fun fact here” she says.

Thanks to the nearby canal and De Alva’s experiences with the Five2Nine crew, this new Canadian couple find themselves out and about in all kinds of weather meeting all types of people. 

It may be a challenge to get used to Canadian weather- but with an adventurous spirit, the right people and the right gear- Michelle De Alva has cultivated a sunny attitude toward her new home. Michelle is continuing her work with Five2Nine and is also a valued member of the OAFF crew.