Oh Canada. Or where it all started

Imagine a teenage girl, going on her first solo trip. She’s waiting to be picked up at the airport in Vancouver but nobody shows. This 19 years old girl was I and this is how my travel adventures started.

I needed a break from school before starting university and saw myself travelling. Well, I knew that I needed money to travel… so I started an internship and saved up that money.

My plan was to spend 8 months in Canada. I finally booked 4 months of language school in Vancouver as well as a 3 months stay at a horse-breeding farm in the Calgary area. This would leave me a good month to travel the country. That was the plan, if I’d even make it to Canada.

Visa and Flight Issues

Imagine my shock when I arrived at the airport in Zurich and they told me that I couldn’t check-in because I didn’t have a return flight within 6 months.  Let me assure you: I knew that Swiss citizens may enter Canada without visa for 6 months. I even researched the Canadian embassy and filed a visa application. To my surprise it was returned (including the
fee!), saying that I didn’t need a visa. 

Thankfully, the airport staff was very helpful! They rebooked my return flight for 48h, so that I could enter Canada. Warning me that I would need to find a solution there. 

Arriving Alone

Finally I was on the plane, curious to meet my host family who would pick me up at the airport. Full of anticipation I passed immigration and went looking for them. But nobody was there. „What happened?“, I asked myself. After waiting for a while I searched for their number and found a phone to call them. „What happend?“, they asked.

Turns out the organisation didn’t inform them that my flight had been rebooked because of an announced strike. So they were waiting for me at the airport 2 hours prior to my arrival, worried sick because I didn’t show up. Either way, they rushed to the airport and I finally got to meet them.

Border Odyssey

My host family in Vancouver was super nice. So after a while I told them about my visa issues. They even offered to drive me across the closest border so that I could re-enter the country. Done and done. 

Ha ha ha, no. That would’ve been too easy. Coming back from the U.S. they simply waved us through.  I, however, needed a stamp in my passport that showed my entry date. So we stopped and talked to the officer. And guess what? He told me that I was illegally entering the country now and that I needed a visa. 

Crying and in shock I don’t remember much he said. They issued me a document that allowed me to enter Canada for 24 hours. Within that time I had to rebook my flight (for real this time) and travel back to the border to prove my case. Only then was I given my visa for 6 months. 

Why am I telling this story you wonder? 

  • Because the travel bug definitely bit me during these 8 months.
  • Because it was proof that I could solve problems and it made me that much stronger.
  • Because despite everything it was and still is one the most remarkable experiences.

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