Welcome to this week’s edition of out ongoing series on #LlanitosAbroad and our 8th article. As always thank you all for reading and following, please feel free to share this article to show how Llanitos are embedding ourselves all around the world.

Gideon was born and raised in Gib but by around 15 years of age left to Manchester UK to continue his GCSEs and complete his A Levels. After finishing school at 18, as a Gibraltarian Jewish tradition, he left to study about his Jewish background in Israel. Unfortunately due to local bombings and the dangerous environment, Gideon decided to cut the year off short and returned to Gibraltar after 6 months. (Finding out a pizzeria he had been in the previous day for lunch had been bombed made it very obvious how close the danger was).

After some difficult circumstances Gideon decided to take a leap across the pond to Canada and throughout all it all continued to chase his dreams and pursue what he was passionate about. I could not help but feel inspired after reading everything he’s accomplished since his time away . . .

“. . . the only reason people refer to their goals as their ‘dreams’ is because they are still sleeping. Once you wake up . . . nothing is impossible.”

GL: Why did you leave Gibraltar?

At the time, my parents were going through a rough divorce, and I knew other friends who had left to UK to study so to get away from the family stress I left Gib by 15 years old and continued my GCSEs in Manchester at a school I knew a friend was studying in.

GL: What was it like re-adjusting to life in Manchester?

It was tough at first. It was weird enough lodging as a foreign student in different family homes at such a young age, but the way of life was also so different there. I had never been exposed to such an extreme polarity of cultures . . . a Sephardi (Mediterranean) Jew from a tiny community now in a large community of Ashkanazi (Eastern European) Jews, all while living in a city seemingly filled with gang life and anti-Semitism. The crappy weather didn’t help either.

My Jewish high school just happened to be situated in one of the lowest income and dangerous areas notorious in Manchester, called Cheetham Hill, where muggings occurred regularly.

Violence seemed to be a common theme of the city. Every weekend you could guarantee you’d see (or be in) a fight if you went out at night downtown.

The Mancunian accent can be quite different and it took me a while to understand what some people were saying especially with some of their local lingo, but coming from Gibraltar, my accent definitely raised eyebrows too. It seems as though llanitos speak English in a ‘sing-song’ way, but soon enough I was speaking the local lingo myself and adopting more of their accent.

My classmates were very funny characters and instead of calling me a ‘Gibo’ jokingly nicknamed me ‘Gipo’ whenever we played football, short for gypsy.

Manchester was the first place I lived in outside of Gibraltar, and I was practically on my own as a kid, so I had freedom but some loneliness too. Luckily for me, a Gibraltar community began to develop there as more students from Gibraltar went to universities, allowing me to eventually rent a home with my cousin and friends I had known since I was a child.

I lived most of my teen years in Manchester, and as a growing teenager I made many friends and memories so I’ll always have a fondness for the city… But was it a good place 20 years ago? Probably not. I wonder what it’s like now.

GL: How did you feel about leaving the UK to live in Israel for a year?

I have never been a big fan of religion so knowing that my trip was for the purpose of enrolling in Jewish studies for a year really didn’t excite me. On the other hand, it was my first year out as a legal adult and had an opportunity to reconnect with many friends and people from Gibraltar who lived there too. So although my feelings were mixed, I was already planning on having a good time and excited to experience a new environment and culture.

Performing in a club in Israel

It wasn’t easy leaving the life I had developed in Manchester, but any year off is exciting and I hadn’t said goodbye to Manchester just yet.

GL: What were the main cultural differences? 

From the moment you land, you instantly become aware of the tougher and more impatient attitude almost everyone seems to have there. People are very expressive and voices are raised often. Guns are everywhere with military and police armed and patrolling often to protect common civilian attacks. An air of tension is present in populated places. Food is incredible. I lived in Jerusalem so being a young kid getting up to no good in the same city I studied about in the Torah was so amazing and surreal. Given the religious and spiritual importance of Jerusalem, you do bump into a lot of interesting characters too.

GL: Did any part of you feel like you’d made the wrong decision leaving Israel?

When I was in Gibraltar on holiday, a suicide bomber exploded in a Jerusalem pizzeria I frequented and it definitely was a reality shock so I had no argument when my Dad told me not to return. It just meant I got to be in Gibraltar before returning to study in UK. Israel was simply a place for my year off so given the increasing violence it only made sense to leave then.

GL: What was the re-adjustment to Canada like?

People are pretty easy going here but something I still find challenging in Toronto is the extreme winters and the large distances. This is a really big city and if you’re not rich enough to live close to downtown, you usually have to travel quite a bit to really enjoy the city. Coming from Gibraltar where it’s hard to avoid a familiar face and everything is nearby, this city is the opposite, so seeing a familiar face is rare. That’s something I miss.

Toronto is a beautifully multicultured city and in turn, quite accepting of others. I love how I can get authentic cooking from any origin and cuisine, and experience festivals celebrating countries and cultures from every part the world. There’s practically nothing this city doesn’t have at least one of.

Something else I appreciate here is their tolerance to cannabis use. Coming from places like Gibraltar and UK, one has to be REALLY careful smoking a joint anywhere in public for fear of being reported or arrested. It’s seen more like a serious offense, which is silly.

In Toronto, given the massive size of the city and the vast range of crimes happening on a daily basis, personal cannabis use isn’t as big of a deal and chances of bumping into a cop are slim. Given grey areas in smoking laws, a handful of “vapour lounges” even exist that provide a cafe like environment where people can bring their own cannabis to smoke or vapourize. With British Columbia having always had much more relaxed laws on cannabis, Toronto has always had a large cannabis advocacy group pushing for more legal access, with dispensaries opening up around the city. On April 20th (international marijuana day) and on one day in May, the city actually allows the public to gather downtown and smoke cannabis without fear of getting arrested!

GL: Tell us a bit about what you’ve been doing in Canada.

The problem with immigration in Canada is that you usually have to be enrolled in school or be employed first before being able to acquire a study or work permit, so once my studies were over, local customs only gave me a week to find a job and get a work permit before I’d get deported. As you can imagine, I wasn’t able to find many opportunities within such a short time frame, so by the end of the week it was between delivering packages for UPS or being a webmaster and graphic designer for the infamous Naked News, where TV reporters would disrobe on air while reporting the news. You can say my entry into the professional design world was quite an interesting experience to say the least, of which little of it can be put into my portfolio!
With graphic design and music production education under my belt, it was time for me to begin taking my rap hobby seriously. Writing rap songs since I was 16 years old, I had always wanted to record some of my songs and produce Hip Hop, so when I’d get home from my design job, I would develop my home recording studio, produce music, and record tracks with other local artists.

My design skills came in handy, allowing me to design and provide branding and marketing for myself and other artists. This became my own independent record label and design studio, where I produced several albums and songs and provided design work for many clients. One of the lucky contracts I landed was for creating a newspaper ad for Linkin Park in a national music newspaper.

After working at Naked News, I was fortunate enough to work as a graphic designer for a Rap record label within Universal Music Canada for 6 months. There, I designed album covers and posters for their artists and DJs which was lots of fun. Soon after, I landed a job working as a ‘budtender’ and in customer care for a local medicinal cannabis dispensary, educating and helping Canadians manage their pain and sickness with the use of cannabis. Here in Canada, you can obtain a license to consume cannabis legally as long as it is for medicinal reasons. I was already a fan of the plant, but I truly learnt a great deal on its several health benefits by working in that environment.

Since then, I’ve helped several clients with their music and businesses, as well as assisting people to launch and market their medical marijuana businesses by developing their branding, designs, websites, photography, consulting, and much more. One of my recent clients actually specializes in delivering beautifully wrapped gourmet gift baskets containing various tasty cannabis edibles and treats.

Given my experience in cannabis and my involvement in the industry here in Toronto, and given the boom within the industry due to its upcoming legalization promised by the Canadian Prime Minister, just over a year ago I asked my close friend (and holistic nutritionist) to join me in launching my own medical cannabis company. With my experience in medical cannabis and my partner’s background in holistic nutrition, we create cannabis elixirs and a topical balm that infuses cannabis with other medicinal herbs to help alleviate a variety of health issues by using the power of plants. Our first elixir was actually a recipe similar to cough syrups sold in pharmacies over a hundred years ago.

GL: There has been a bit of a debate locally regarding marijuana and it’s status as a drug, what are you thoughts on that?

2015 Toronto Pride March supporting cannabis legalization
With current talks in Gibraltar about possible cannabis legalization, I wish I could be there to participate in some of the discussions to share my views, and help the public become aware of the misrepresentation of this misjudged plant of which its only real danger is harming pharmaceutical businesses.


GL: What is the best thing about being a GibLad/Llanito abroad?

Being a Llanito abroad has always been a positive experience for me. Telling anyone that I am from Gibraltar has either a. sparked their interest and generated conversation, or b. resulted in an opportunity to educate the person about where and what Gibraltar is. Either way, you’re kinda automatically interesting seeing as there’s not that many of us around!

GL: What has been your proudest achievement since your move?

Recently I’ve been philosophising about how the only thing stopping each of us from living multiple lives is our own minds, because ultimately nothing in reality is stopping us from playing different roles within our lifetime. And now that I look back at my own lifetime and wonder what I’ve done so far, I am proud to see that not only have I achieved multiple things but very different things too.

So I’m not sure if I can say if there’s just one achievement I’m proudest of. I graduated with amazing grades in graphic design and music production, produced, recorded and distributed my own rap and instrumental albums, ran my own recording studio from home working with artists in the city, worked temporarily at Universal Music for an indie hip hop record label, helped my sister raise her kids as a single mother and recently helped launch multiple medicinal cannabis businesses and products. It’s been a wild ride!

GL: What are you goals for the year?

I’ve now lived in Toronto almost just as long as I have lived in Gibraltar, and staying in one place for too long is something I’m not quite used to. I’ve been pondering travelling the world for a bit, and even enrolled in a foreign English teaching course to possibly teach abroad if I decide to travel.

Aside from that, I’ve also been pondering moving away from the city to somewhere a bit less fast-paced and surrounded by nature, like Vancouver in British Columbia. Plus, the cannabis laws there are far more relaxed and would be more favourable towards independent and craft cannabis businesses operating there, allowing me to venture further into such a booming industry.

GL: Do you see yourself staying there, eventually coming back or have other travel plans?

I may have left Gibraltar a long time ago, but my heart will always be by the rock. My father and brother still live there, so I’m always considering returning to launch a business there and be closer to take care of my father.

GL: What would you say to any GibLads/Llanitos who are thinking of making a move abroad to travel or chase a dream or experience something new?

You only live once and there is a limit to how much you can experience in one location surrounded by the same cultures and environment. Even people with families have refused to live the conventional household lifestyle and have decided to home-school and travel the world with their children. I believe what one can learn from world experience can never be taught in any class and is far more valuable than any university course. The only thing stopping anyone from reaching their goals are their reasons. When one creates reasons to achieve their goals, they become achievable. I believe the only reason people refer to their goals as their ‘dreams’ is because they are still sleeping. Once you wake up and live with purpose and powerful intent, nothing is impossible.

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Are you a Llanito abroad or travelling or do you know someone that we should hear about? To get GibLad to feature you or your friend and get involved e-mail us on getinvolved@giblad.com!