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Showing posts with label expat life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label expat life. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

That Elusive Thing Called Balance

Lately I've been pouring a lot of energy into some new projects, which inevitably has also meant neglecting other areas of my life. 

I know that it’s been too long since my last post when it gets to the point where it feels like words are tumbling out of me and I have to write them down. It may be because it’s the start of my favourite season, because I’m gearing up to pivot/relaunch my business, or maybe it’s just because it’s been so damn long since I was last in the blogging groove, but I’m ready to step back into this online space of mine.

So… let’s catch up, shall we? It’s been four months since I moved to the States. Sometimes I feel like I’m so past the ‘I just moved to a new country thing’ because it’s not nearly as difficult an adjustment as, say, moving to Korea without knowing anyone or speaking a word of Korean. Moving from Canada to the US isn’t that big of a deal, right?

There are other times though where I’m like, damn girl, take a second to acknowledge where you are (<— talking to myself, of course). There’s obviously going to be an adjustment period with living and building a future here. Sometimes it seems like there’s still so much to do in terms of making connections all over again and feeling truly settled in. This Canadian girl now lives in a suburb outside of Nashville, TN, where I see jacked up pickup trucks, cowboy boots, and soldiers on the regular. It’s quite an interesting mix!

We’re renting a cute townhouse and I have my own home office which is pretty rad. I still need to finish decorating in there — nothing is hung on the walls and I’m failing miserably in my search for the perfect accent chairs. The space is more than functional, though, and I really do enjoy working from home. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to supplement our income with my freelance projects, but lately it’s become more apparent to me that my heart isn’t into freelance writing and editing anymore. Though I’m so grateful for the clients I’ve had, that type of work involves a lot of things that, to be honest, no longer excite me. Finishing my projects and figuring out what’s going on with me career-wise has been another big part of adjusting to life in Tennessee. Do I want to go back to full-time traditional employment, maybe something related to my degree? (I have a bachelor’s in criminology and psychology.) 

Or… should I listen to this little voice that’s telling me I could start my own business and do something that fulfills me creatively? 

Travel inspiration from

I’ve been so inspired by podcasts lately, particularly the Being Boss podcast for creative entrepreneurs. I listen to episodes in the mornings when I walk my dog and it’s a great way to start the day. I’ve turned my dreaming into planning and soon I’ll be ready to share more, I promise. In the meantime, I’m so so sorry for doing that damn blogger thing of referring to something obscure in the vague future! I think that writing about this venture is my way of putting my intentions out into the world... let’s hope good things happen :)

But, back to life as it stands right now, I’m being sensible and striving for that elusive thing called balance. I’ve decided to apply for part-time positions and build up my business on the side. I’ll see about full-time transitioning either way when/if I get there, but this is what feels right for now. 

I’m excited. In a tingly, can’t-stop-smiling kind of way, and that’s when you know it’s something really special.

This summer has been good to me, but whenever these cooler temperatures hit I’m always reminded of how much I love the fall. It’s a new season (the best season — hello layers!), a time for change, and a time for growth. 

What are you up to now that summer’s coming to its end?
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Things & Stuff: Thoughts on Minimalism

Are you a minimalist? Thoughts from a 20-something on

Does it seem like over the past year “minimalism” has become one of those buzzwords that we’re hearing everywhere? 

I like to think that I’m on the “minimal side” of both travel and life but let me tell you one thing that I know for sure: there’s no better way to determine whether or not you’re truly a minimalist than by packing up everything you own and moving to a different country with all of your possessions in tow.

When we left Ottawa in 2013, my husband and I were like, “Let’s throw away everything! The desk, the couches, the floor lamp, the bookcase  they're outta here. Moving to our next place will be so much easier!" 

The bar was set pretty high  which items were good enough that it was worth it to pack them up, put them in storage for over a year, and eventually drive them 1600 km south to our new home in the States? A lot of our items were older, mix-matched, and on their last leg anyway so it wasn't too hard to say goodbye.

Oprah you get a car gif
Moving day was like an Oprah giveaway episode for Goodwill
I've been sort of travelling and sort of living transitionally since December 2013, so admittedly I felt like quite the minimalist last year. I didn’t buy anything expensive (with the exception of this beautiful lens that I still use all the time). I had limited clothing and rotated the same key pieces. M and I shared a cell phone, scaled down our travel, and didn’t splurge on pricey activities. 

Things feel like they're changing now.

After having my green card application approved last month, I moved to the South and am now living in a suburb outside of Nashville. M and I moved into our new townhouse and  and how's this for awesome randomness  when we went to pick up the lease and our keys, we found out that our rent had been reduced by $30 a month and that we were getting the first month free. When does that kind of thing ever happen?? What a wonderful surprise.

I thought we’d be settled in pretty quickly considering that we barely brought any furniture with us, but it’s hard to put things away when you don’t actually have any pieces to put them into in the first place, ya know? The rational part of me understands this but the organizer in me finds it quite frustrating.

The only furniture we brought with us to the States was our bedroom stuff and a custom coffee/side table set that we received as a wedding present. In the past several weeks we’ve purchased a washer dryer set (used, thankfully, which saved us a bunch), sectional couch, bar stools, patio table and chairs, desk, office chairs, shelving… seriously my head is just spinning.

After going for so long without having the latest things and stuff, I finally have the means and justification to do so now but it feels weird spending all of this money. Do you know how much good couches cost these days? Way more than the $600 I thought they would, that’s for sure! On one hand, I kind of love getting to decorate our home and I have all of these ideas about how I want to make the space our own. There’s a whole new world of home decor shopping that’s open to me, not to mention all the online shopping to be had. With free shipping! In two days! It really is easy here.

On the other hand, we’ve also spent hundreds of dollars at freaking Target and similar stores like that who obviously don’t make their products locally. Or sustainably. Or small business-y, which is how I prefer to shop. It's a struggle but sometimes you just need a vacuum and a garbage can and jumbo rolls of toilet paper, you know? 

I think that’s part of growing into adulthood, though. The older you get, the more you’ve developed your personal style, the more you’re in tune with what you’re looking for and what you really want. Hopefully it also means being able to afford a little bit better and knowing when you’re not willing to compromise. We're learning to balance it all. And maybe that’s the key to minimalism right there  not going overboard, not being excessive, but intentionally spending money on things that are comfortable, get used often, and quality that you know is going to last. 

Could I live with less? 
Yes, absolutely. 

I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, but a simpler and more authentic kind of lifestyle is one that I’m working towards.  

What about you  would you consider yourself a minimalist? Do you think minimalism is something worth striving for?
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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Life Lately

Have you ever had one of those days where there is so much to do and you know you need to be immensely productive but somehow you end up doing nothing at all?

Yesterday afternoon that was my way of coping with the stress and overwhelm: just do nothing.

Spring Outfit Inspiration: Chambray + Pixie Pants >>
Madewell chambray shirt / Everlane t-shirt / 
Old Navy printed pants / Caribbean Joe sandals via Sears

Once again I find myself surrounded by suitcases and backpacks and boxes and lamps (and really I could go on but I think you get the point). My husband and I are moving into our new townhouse tomorrow and we are so ready. Not literally, of course, as described by my inaction above. But mentally we’re definitely 100% there.

My in-laws have kindly let us stay in their garage apartment since we came back from Central America and we’ve been incredibly grateful for that. Now that I’ve got my green card and officially live in the States, though, it’s time for us to move into our own space.

It seems like most people our age are already homeowners but M and I aren’t there yet. And you know what — we’re okay with that. I’m 28, he’s 30, and we’re not ready or able to commit to buying a house right now. We don’t even know where we’ll be next year! Hopefully it’ll be continuing with the path we’re currently on but flexibility is key in our lives right now and renting allows us that maintain that maneuverability.

Not being homeowners hasn’t stopped me from planning the shit out of our interior decor in the new place though. If you follow me on Pinterest then you may have noticed that I’m all about the neutrals — grey and white are my jam right now. We finally have TWO bedrooms, access to our own backyard, open concept living space, stainless steel appliances — I’m so excited! Moving from a one bedroom apartment into a two bedroom townhouse is a huge upgrade. I think this’ll be a really good step for us and, once and for all, will be a way to kick any lingering winter blues to the curb. Nesting feels good.

Anyway, that’s the latest with me. Life is good and the weather is warm and there’s much to do. We’re moving tomorrow and this time I’m determined to make it a smoother transition than when we left Ottawa as I was literally painting my nails the day before instead of packing away our kitchen. Not the smartest decision but I’ve since learned haha! This time we’re doing things a bit differently: we’re only moving 20 minutes across town which really helps to take the pressure off of doing everything in one trip and we don’t have any living room or kitchen furniture to move so that helps to simplify things.

For now, though, I suppose it’s time to get back to this mess. I’m making a thank you dinner for my in-laws tonight so I should start prepping for that now. The ball isn’t going to roll itself... 

Hope you have a productive weekend! 

PS: Other ways I've worn this chambray shirt and these pixie pants (the love runs deep).
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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I'm Giving Up Free Healthcare and Moving to 'Merica!

It feels like my US immigration case has been dragging on forever, but when things finally did happen, all of a sudden they actually happened. Really quickly. 


Tuesday morning arrived like any other Tuesday morning, without the fanfare of Friday but also free from the drudgery of Monday. Little did I know that afternoon I’d finally be receiving the phone call that would literally change my life (and for once I am using literally in the correct fashion). 15 months ago I applied for my US immigrant visa and, after many delays and tears of frustration, last week I officially received the most important stamp in my passport.

Finally receiving my green card to the US! Read more about my immigration story on

Within minutes of having my documents in hand, I knew I wanted to leave by the weekend. Why not, right? My things have been in a state of half-unpacked since we left Ottawa so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to wrap up my remaining projects and possessions with a couple days’ notice. 

Um, yeah right. 

The clock began to count down and I felt the tension building in my shoulders whenever I thought about my to do list and the unanswered emails and wanting to see everyone one last time before I left and cleaning and seriously how was I going to fit everything in my car?

As I packed my clothing and knickknacks into suitcases and boxes I could feel more of my presence and personality begin to fade away from my bedroom. It was becoming blanker with every glance and my impending immigration started to feel very real very quickly. 

Despite the stress, I knew it was worth it to leave on Friday morning and get to spend the weekend wrapped up with my husband. Working in financial services, he had just finished his first tax season and was desperately looking forward to a two day weekend. I wanted to maximize the time off with him so instead of breaking the trip into multiple days I decided to drive straight through and arrive in Tennessee on Friday night. 

Clothing, linens, and the last of our unused wedding presents somehow found their way into my trusty Mazda 3. My dad helped me clean the car and made sure everything was in working order for the long drive (1200 km/745 miles). I spent the rest of Thursday afternoon filling out paperwork to import the car, wrapping up my immigration documents, paying the final fees, cleaning, printing backup maps, and transferring all my computer files onto my new laptop (I got a MacBook Pro! Yay! I’ve had it with all these PCs breaking on me every few years). 

Thursday night I had one last evening in Toronto with my girlfriends to say our “see you soons”. Since we’re all in our late 20s now, a night out isn’t nearly as raucous as it used to be but that was probably for the best. Friday morning I was up bright and early to begin my much awaited road trip.


I decided to cross borders through Niagara Falls instead of going on the shortest route through Detroit. From my experience, the Customs & Border Patrol officers in Detroit are a lot gruffer and way more search-happy so it was totally worth it to drive an extra half hour out of my way and deal with pleasant and polite staff who actually congratulated me on “doing things the right way.” I didn’t expect kudos for following the law but hey  I’ll take it! Things were off to a good start. 

I knew to expect at least an hour at the border as they processed my paperwork, and it proved to be a little bit longer as a CBP supervisor was teaching three juniors how to handle an immigrant visa case. Always fun being the guinea pig, right? I had two rounds of fingerprints and another set of photos taken to verify that I was who I said I was. Next it was off to the customs section for an officer to import my car. Fortunately they didn’t search my belongings, something that I was quite grateful for as I didn’t want to replicate the magic that was my packed car.

90 minutes later I stepped outside with relief knowing that I was now considered a permanent resident of the United States. An alien resident, but permanent nonetheless. Just as I’d finished reading through the stack of paperwork they’d given to me and began to pull onto the highway, I received a phone call. An apologetic CBP supervisor was on the line begging me to come back as they’d mistakenly given me a whole bunch of documents that they were supposed to keep for their own records. Such is the life of a guinea pig.

A few minutes later I was finally — really!  on my way. Every time I saw someone pulled over on the side of the road fixing their flat tire I’d say a little prayer and give my car a pep talk that we wouldn’t be next (fortunately we weren’t). With pit stops and traffic, the drive ended up being almost 15 hours long but was rather uneventful, which is just how I like my solo road trips.

Becoming an expat again >>


My reunion with my husband was sweet and joy-filled and everything you’d expect it to be. We’re now able to live in the US together without a countdown ticking in our ears and I’m able to legally work here too once I get my social security number next month. My green card is valid for 10 years after which point it can be renewed and/or I can apply for citizenship (but I only have to wait three years to do that). Due to American immigration laws, I have to keep proof of my residency status on me at all times, which I’m admittedly already failing to do as it’s a giant pain in the butt to carry around your passport everywhere. I won’t physically be receiving my green card for three months but honestly I’m not too concerned about it. Everything seems very legitimate now.

So, I suppose this technically isn’t the last chapter in my immigration story but it feels like it anyway. I imagine that over the next decade my visa status will be relegated to the bottom of my priority list and far from the daily thoughts in my mind, except every two years or so when it’s time for an election and I realize that I’m unable to cast a vote. 

I haven’t given much thought to whether or not I will apply for American citizenship, but I do know that I’m not keen on giving up my Canadian passport. Being Canadian feels like an inherent part of my identity. 

But that’s neither here nor there. 

I have a new home now. I'm an expat again.

And I’m so freaking excited.

PS: Our immigration drama from the beginning, the middle, and the almost end. 

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

We Regret to Inform You...

The process of getting a US Immigration Visa via

Oh man. Where do I even begin?

The last time we caught up I had just received my immigration interview date at the US Embassy in Montreal. Somehow six weeks have passed since then where not once did I manage to open up Blogger and finish a complete and coherent post, but we’re going to gloss right on over that and pretend that I’ve been here all along, okay?

The past week in particular has been a busy one. I flew back from Tennessee, picked up my medical results in Toronto (turns out that yes I’m immune to the chickenpox), celebrated my 28th birthday, nursed a wicked hangover that could only be cured by immense amounts of sleep and junk food, took a six hour solo road trip to Montreal and Ottawa (where I am now), and most heartbreakingly, received a denial of my immigration visa application. 

On Monday morning I found myself awake 90 minutes before my alarm as the anxiety knots in my stomach could no longer be ignored. I arrived a whole hour early for my appointment (a definite first for me!) which turned out to be fortunate because just to get through security at the front door took 20 minutes. No cell phones, cameras, MP3s, remote keychains for your car, purses larger than 10x12”, food or drinks... the list of prohibited items went on and on. 

After an excruciatingly long two hours past my designated appointment time (!!?!), I finally heard my number called over the loudspeaker and made my way to the back of the room for my interview. It was surprising how informal it seemed to just walk up to window eight and stand in front of the pane half-shouting my answers to the consulate officer on the other side. 

The officer double checked some of my documents and asked me a few simple questions about my address, my employment, how I met my husband, and what he did for a living. 

“So is your husband still working at the job listed here?” she asked.

“Yes, he is,” I replied.

“Okay, I’ll just need you to prove that. Do you have any of his pay stubs from this month?”

“Um… no. However, I do have originals of the ones we submitted with our application online and a confirmation letter from his employer,” I offered.

“Well, those are from 2014 so they’re outdated now.”

“And whose effing fault is it that my application has been sitting around for six months and the documents are now outdated?!” I wanted to snarkily reply. Instead I simply looked at her, hoping that the message would be conveyed through the subtle raising of my eyebrow. 

“Just a minute please,” she said as she walked away from the desk.

My heart started to sink. This wasn’t going the way I hoped. Why didn’t they just tell me I specifically needed to bring my husband's latest pay stubs to my interview? Why didn’t she want to see all the adorable wedding and travel photos I’d brought along? Why didn’t she care about the emails and itineraries and records proving the longevity of our relationship? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Immigration Update: One Step Closer to Not Being an Alien

Finally, finally, there’s some progress on our immigration case!

Immigration process Canada to US: finally success!
Photo thanks to Tracey Photography
After already having our processing date pushed back twice, I didn’t have any patience left for another delay with our application. (Quick update: my husband and I are in a long distance relationship as we wait for me to get my green card for the States. I live in Ontario and will soon be moving to Tennessee.)

We were told to expect news on Monday February 2, but our inboxes and phones were disappointingly quiet. I didn’t let myself get my hopes up that anything would be approved early, but am I foolish to admit there was a slight, tiny part of me that thought maybe this time things would at least move along on schedule?

I tried not to be heartbroken and instead channeled my frustration into planning exactly how much hell I would give the National Visa Center when I called their hotline to follow up. I decided to wait until Tuesday so I wouldn’t accidentally tell off the person on the phone who might be able to give me some answers.

Fortunately I didn’t have to make that call as the next day I received an email saying the pre-processing of my immigration visa application was complete! It’s now been forwarded to the US Embassy and I’ve been assigned an interview date in Montreal for March 23.

The feeling of excitement was shortly followed by the realization, “Wait, what?? March 23 - SEVEN WEEKS AWAY? Are you kidding me? We’ve already waited so long!” I was with a friend at the time who reminded me to be grateful because this was a major step in the right direction.

“You’re right, you’re right,” I replied, “This is good news. This means I can book my medical exam now and get the ball rolling with that. Yay!” We did a little happy dance in the kitchen to celebrate.

I was able to speak with my husband later that night and though we both lamented the fact that my interview was far away, at least there was finally momentum with our case: I’d officially moved into the last stage of processing.

Shadows at golden hour
Photo thanks to Tracey Photography

The next day I called to book my medical appointment and was fortunately able to get one within a week. I was a bit nervous as I didn’t know what to expect or exactly how critical this doctor would be. Fun fact: I’m immune to the chickenpox (so is my mom). What do the chickenpox have to do with anything? With all of the talk that vaccinations are getting in the media lately, I was worried because I’ve never received the varicella vaccination which is required if I want to immigrate to the States. 

I didn’t know how much of a stickler this visa doctor would be, but everything turned out to be okay. As long as my blood work confirms I’m immune (or, if I’m not, I get the vaccine later this month before he forwards my results to the embassy), this isn’t even an issue. The only problem I had was getting a $40 City of Toronto parking ticket during my appointment. Boo.

Now for the best news of all: I was able to confirm with a US Customs Officer that I can visit my husband in the States! And my parents offered me a return ticket with their rewards miles! And in March it’s usually 10 degrees (50 F) warmer in Nashville! I’m so stoked. I’ll be spending the next month in Tennessee, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa then, if my interview goes well, road tripping back down to Tennessee at the beginning of April.

So, cheers my friends! (I’m on my second glass of wine as I’m writing this.) Here’s to being one step closer to not being an alien!

(Sorry for all the exclamation points.)


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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Secret to Making Your Long Distance Relationship Survive Long Distance

The Secret to Making Your Long Distance Relationship Survive Long Distance //

When my husband and I first started dating we were in a long distance relationship for over two years. We met in the spring before my fourth year of university when I was a student in Ottawa, Canada. I was a dreamer who was finally able to become a planner and wanted to move abroad after I graduated. A working holiday visa in New Zealand and teaching English in Korea were my top two choices. 

Little did I know that at 21 I would fall totally in love with the man I would eventually marry, and I can especially tell you that I didn’t expect him to be a US Marine who was stationed in North Carolina. The distance from Ottawa to Camp Lejeune proved to be a challenge, but one that we were able to overcome. I juggled a co-op placement and full course load while M was training full-time, but he would fly me down every month or so and we would hang out like a “normal” couple, both of us trying to enjoy the present and push away that gnawing feeling of a looming departure date. Airports were our best and worst friends.

Soon it was time to make post-graduation plans, and though we’d been in a relationship for almost a year and I loved my boyfriend, I wasn’t willing to put my travel dreams aside. M found out he was going to be deployed later that spring on a seven month anti-piracy mission. I decided to move to Korea then travel around South East Asia.

Fast forward to today: after living together for four years (and being married for two of them) somehow my husband and I find ourselves again in a long distance relationship as we wait for my US immigration visa to be approved. This time we have it easy compared to before, something I try to remind myself whenever I get discouraged – we both have access to cell phones, cheap long distance plans, reliable internet, similar timezones, and the luxury of an occasional visit. 

In all of this time of being apart from the one I love, I’ve grown to consider myself an unwilling expert in doing the long distance thing. It really does take time, effort, money, and a deep sense of partnership to nurture LDRs, but the kind of communication skills you develop are invaluable in getting to truly know your partner and building a solid foundation of trust for your relationship. 

So, what can you do to help your long distance relationship survive long distance?

3 Tips to Help Your Long Distance Relationship Survive Long Distance //


Text messages are cute and emails are great, but ideally these should supplement, not replace, your Skype/FaceTime/phone conversations. Just as you would in a “normal” relationship, connecting regularly about your day, your feelings, your plans, etc. is an important part of involving each other in your lives. If your partner is deployed, for example, and not able to interact this way, consider writing letters for him to open at a later date. I have a stack of envelopes comparable to Allie’s in The Notebook from when M was deployed. The excitement you get when you receive letters in the mail is pretty amazing, not to mention all those love notes are adorable to flip through in later years.


The same way you’d schedule one in person, put aside a block of time for a virtual date night. For some, this means syncing up your favourite TV shows and “watching” them together, for others it’s hanging out on Skype while cooking dinner and drinking wine. If you usually talk on the phone, try to turn your video on for date night so you can actually see your partner’s cute face, funny mannerisms, etc. It’s a nice treat :)


This goal, to me, is imperative to figure out before you even agree to be in a long distance relationship because what’s the point if you can’t be together in the end? On the second day that M met me he told me he’d move to Canada when his contract with the Marines ended... I just needed to wait two years. I told him he was batshit crazy. He replied that we had something special that was worth pursuing and he would do everything in his power to make that happen. Sometimes when you know, you know. 

What about you – have you ever been in a long distance relationship? What advice do you have for couples who are living apart?
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Monday, October 20, 2014

You Know You're Back in Canada When...

You Know You're Back in Canada When...

You know you're back in Canada when...
  • your friends say, "Let's go to Timmy's!" and nobody is referring to a person named Timothy
  • somebody bumps into you and both of you immediately say sorry
  • nobody makes fun of you for the way you say sorry
  • you put on your snow tires by the beginning of November
Fall in South Eastern Ontario
  • it's after 10 pm and there's nowhere to buy alcohol except for overpriced bars
  • speaking of bars, you order a glass of wine and your bill comes to $8.50 + 13% tax + 15% tip
  • there isn't a dollar menu at any of the fast food restaurants
  • you buy a book and inexplicably have to pay at least $5 more than the price that's listed on the back cover
  • really, you can just sum it up and say pretty much everything is more expensive in Canada (don't even get me started on gas prices...)
Autumn in Ontario #travel #exploreontario
Smiling because of the scenery, not for the inflated prices
  • the leaves on the trees are fiery red and orange but you know it won't be too much longer until they're all on the ground and covered by a layer of frost
  • you have to figure out how to wear a winter coat under your Halloween costume
  • you follow style bloggers in Texas who are only now starting to wear scarves and boots and you think WTF
  • when those same bloggers start talking about spring at the beginning of March and wearing dresses with bare legs you seriously consider moving to Texas
  • the highest rating you ever see in a movie theatre is 14A
  • as you're stuck in traffic on the 401 you remember the joke that there are only two seasons in Canada  winter and construction
  • your friends start planning winter getaways to Cuba before it's even Christmas
  • somebody refers to Aunt Jemima and you scoff, "Ugh, that's not even real maple syrup!"
  • you're reminded how beautiful it is to be in an area with colours like these:
Fall scenery in Ontario, Canada #photography

What are the funny quirks that remind you when you're back in your home country?

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Does Home Mean to You?

Last week it was finally time for me to make the 14 hour drive up to Canada. M and I have said many goodbyes throughout our periods of being in a long distance relationship but (if I'm being totally honest) I still cry like a baby every time.

As we’ve had delay after delay with our immigration case, I knew my husband and I would be facing a period of separation. We’d already spent a month apart earlier this year as I was travelling through Central America but it’s different when it’s voluntary. This time the government is forcing us to go our separate ways as my tourist visa to the States has expired. I was trying to be optimistic last month but you know what? Let’s be frank about it  having to live in a different country from your husband just sucks.  

It’s hard when there are so many answers that are unknown. When am I going to see M again? Is my immigration visa going to face another delay? Are we making enough money for it to be approved? Will we be together for Christmas?

In the soft light of day break, we hugged and kissed a tearful “see you soon”. I got in the car and watched my husband’s figure shrink in the distance as I continued to drive farther away from my love. His reflection in the rear view mirror became blurrier as my tears refused to subside. 

Rainy day in Tennessee
It probably wasn't too safe for me to be driving when my vision looked like this
Why am I being so dramatic? I chided myself. I'm going back to Canada. I'm going to be with my family and friends. I'm going home. 

The last sentence gave me a lot to think about though as I continued to drive north. What does home even mean to me?

When I'm travelling I use the word very lightly. I'm so sweaty after this hike, I can't wait to go home and shower, I say, referring to my guesthouse.

When I arrived in Tennessee earlier this summer and walked into a Starbucks with a sign on the door that said No Guns Allowed, I immediately took pause and thought, Well this isn’t like the Starbucks at home. 

When I lived in Ottawa and visited my family in Toronto, at the end of the weekend it was time to go back home ie: the apartment that M and I shared as he was finishing his university degree. It might’ve been small but it was our own.

Handmade Guatemalan ponchos
We're total nerds for buying matching sweaters in Guatemala, far less wearing them at the same time. Trust me, I was embarassed for us! haha
And now here I am sitting in my childhood bedroom. This house is familiar and comforting and home in a sense, but it’s not my home any more. My parents are getting ready to sell it next spring so when I pack up my things and leave this house, I’m leaving it forever.

2014 has been such a year of transition for me. Half of my clothes, my life, and my heart are split between Ontario and Tennessee.

The only notion of home that I keep coming back to is the one that we shared in our wedding vows: “My arms will be your shelter and my heart will be your home.”

As you grow older into adulthood, what does home mean to you? Do you use the term as interchangeably as I do?

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Morning Confess Sesh: Southern Culture Shock

The Lifestyle Project: Monday Morning Confess Sesh

I’ve been visiting the southern states of the US for the past four months and things are certainly different around here. It’s an interesting dynamic as America is so vast and multi-faceted. Parts of the US are undoubtedly cosmopolitan, progressive, and open-minded. 

Yet I think just about everyone would agree that, as a whole, the southern United States has not historically fit this description. 

I’ve written about my process of expatriating from Canada to the US but, aside from that post about guns in the bedroom, I haven’t really talked about experiencing culture shock since I’ve been here.

The funny part about arriving in the US after backpacking through Central America was that I immediately considered it akin to home. The signs were in English. The roads were maintained. There were fast food joints everywhere. “Yup, definitely not in Central America anymore,” I thought after my husband picked me up from the airport. Sure, there are differences between Canada and the US, but in general they are both developed Western countries that share a lot of similarities. 

Dealing with culture shock as an expat
Can you tell whether this is in Canada or the US?
I carried on daily life as though I was back in my home country only to be belatedly slapped in the face by culture shock the further I settled into life in America. 

The first time I did a double take was while I was shopping. I was picking up a spare battery for my camera and the customer in front of me had a gun sitting on his waist in a holster. I couldn’t help but fixate on it – why did this man feel the need to bring a pistol into a battery store? I know that a ton of Americans own guns but does that mean they should be flaunted in public? This was happening around the same time that Starbucks and Chipotle asked patrons not to bring guns into their restaurants and I think it’s obvious that I wholeheartedly agree with that policy. 

The next set of eyebrows to be raised were not my own but they were in my direction. Everyone thus far has been subtle, but I can’t tell you how many times there have been double glances in our direction when seeing a woman of colour holding hands with a white man. It was especially notable when I first came back from Panama and my tan was particularly dark. M insists that people are just checking me out because I’m hot, which I think is an adorable husband-like thing to say, but the realist in me knows there’s more to the story than that.

The Lifestyle Project: Antigua, Guatemala
In Guatemala I was often mistaken for a local
My biggest problem so far has been deciding when to stand up for my beliefs and when to stay quiet to keep the peace. My usual Monday Morning Confess Sessions tend to be more light-hearted but this one has really gotten to me. In fact, I’ve been putting off writing this post because of two reasons. First of all, selfishly, it’s easier to delay the things that make us uncomfortable. Second of all, I have a public website. People in my “real life” read and comment on what I write. I didn’t say anything in the moment but I’ll be damned if I don’t say anything on my own freaking blog. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Downside of Falling in Love with an American

Last week we were hoping to embark on an epic road trip up the eastern United States and find ourselves in Canada by this time. We wanted to enjoy a few weeks catching up with the family and friends we left behind before my husband starts a new job next month. New York, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and a week at my friend’s cottage were all on the list. 

As you can probably tell, that trip never happened. 

There is a huge downside of falling in love and marrying an American and that obstacle is dealing with the expatriation process. 

First dance lighting and photography
Completely and totally in love with this American
Considering that I’m from Canada, people have naively assumed that the immigration procedure would be a breeze for us but we’ve been going through the spousal visa process for over eight months and it seems never ending! I can’t tell you how many frustrated hours and tears have come from it. Even just visiting each other’s respective countries causes suspicion that we’re planning to sneak in our spouse illegally (remember that time I was detained at the border?). 

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