Home Sweet Home
Our home in Rochester is nice, new, and easy to maintain. It’s nothing grand, a simple split level. We bought it to stop renting. Then, we realized that nice as it is, it doesn’t quite fit the life we want to live. It’s now available to Airbnb.
The Start of a Plan
Chris and I discussed finding a home and lifestyle that better fit us. I wanted to live closer to acting and writing opportunities. Chris pictured us walking to restaurants, to get our morning coffees, and to pick up groceries. It’d be better for the environment and our health, he reasoned. I agreed.
Back in February, we set out to find a place in Minneapolis with everything we wanted nearby: The Loft Literary Center, Brave New Workshop, Agency Models and Talent, Caribou Coffee, Whole Foods, Hell’s Kitchen, Zelo, and an assortment of eateries. We wanted to be close enough to Rochester, so we could see family, and spend time with friends.
Watch I Made My Husband Do the Mary Tyler Moore Hat Toss to see more of what we love about Minneapolis.
Life Heard we were making plans
Then March and the Pandemic arrived. Combining households, visiting family, and spending time with friends all became verboten. We reconsidered our plans. Instead of focusing on a location where we could balance our family and social life with career goals, we decided to lean on the latter. What dream(s) could we stop deferring?
Chris and I want to make The ChriMel Show a popular channel and a go-to resource for people looking for travel, leisure, and food fun. Chris sometimes dreams of owning a production company. I have always wanted to go to school and finish a program in an art form I’m passionate about: acting, screenwriting, and/or writing.
After researching programs and their locations, we found a screenwriting program in Vancouver that seemed promising for my education and that fit the lifestyle we imagined we’d like.
The Big Crazy Timeline from Point A to Point B-ish.
important dates leading up to our big plans:
- June 24th, 2019: We apply for passports, because we’ll need them for our honeymoon.
- July 1st, 2019: My passport arrives.
- October 13th, 2019: Chris and I tie the knot. We leave for our honeymoon in London and Paris. My last name changes.
- February 2020: We begin The ChriMel Show, a YouTube Channel dedicated to crusading against bad meals, drinks made from cheap mixes, and boring times.
- March 2020: The pandemic arrives in the U.S.
- April 2020: I send in my U.S. passport to change my last name to my married name. I mail it from our house, not the post office. It’s within a year of when I first applied for a passport, so no payment is required.
- Early May 2020: It sets in that the pandemic will be impacting life as we know it for a long time. We scrap our Minneapolis plans. I research screenwriting program options.
- June 4th, 2020: I am accepted to a screenwriting program in Vancouver, B.C. that begins in October 2020.
planning our move to canada (we hope):
- June 10th, 2020: We list our home on Airbnb, advertising it as available on August 14th. Read Should We Airbnb Our House?, or watch We Just Put Our One and Only House on Airbnb! for the details. If we can’t cross to Canada in time for school, we decide we’ll spend the year traveling to places where we can enjoy the outdoors.
- June 11th, 2020: Passport offices begin reopening in the U.S. Why didn’t I realize they’d be shut down like so many other things? There’s a backlog of 1.7 million passport applications. How am I going to cross the border for school? I regret sending it in for the name change.
- June 20th, 2020: Chris and I hire an immigration specialist to assist us with my study permit and his visitor visa. The specialist explains that an exception regarding my passport is possible if I can prove its location. Since I didn’t go to the post office, or make any payment for it, I call the State Department to see if there’s any way to establish my passport’s location. No luck.
- June 26th, 2020: Thanks to a thread on the U.S. Department of State: Consular Affairs Facebook Page, I learn that U.S. Senators’ offices are able to assist constituents struggling to get what they need from government agencies. I reach out to Senator Tina Smith’s office and explain my situation.
- June 30th, 2020: I complete and submit the necessary forms to Smith’s office. I include this statement to explain my urgency. “The person I’m working with on obtaining the study permit said that getting the permit can take anywhere from 72 hours to 11 weeks and is most efficiently obtained with a passport. Without a passport, I need proof that the Department of State has it. Due to there being no fee for the name change and mailing it from home, I’m guessing I’ll need more proof than I have at the moment.”
- July 11th, 2020: My passport arrives! I submit a copy of it to our immigration specialist.
Leaving home for the unknown
- August 13th, 2020: We head West. Our home is booked via Airbnb for August 14th. Why West? If we can cross over, we want to be close to where we’ll be living. If they allow us to cross, we must get to our quarantine location without stopping anywhere. No gas stations. No rest stops. No restaurants. It takes less than an hour to get from the Peace Arch Border Crossing to Vancouver, which makes it ideal.
- August 13th – 18th, 2020: We take our time traveling from Rochester, Minnesota to Tacoma, Washington. Highlights of our trip include: North Dakota, Bozeman, Montana; and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
- August 18th, 2020: We begin our month-long stay at a charming, clean Airbnb with a great view of Puget Sound. The space is as advertised and at first sight, we are delighted. Then, my asthma flares up. Maybe I’ve been exposed to something outdoors? By day three, I’m certain it’s something in the apartment. My lungs are working at 50% of their norm according to my peak flow meter despite taking all the medications I have (Advair, Prednisone, and Albuterol). Of all three, Prednisone is the worst. In addition to suppressing the immune system (I’m thinking that’s not a great thing during a pandemic), Prednisone, common side effects include: aggression, agitation, dizziness, irritability, trouble thinking, speaking, or walking, weight gain. In short, it makes it more challenging to explore and enjoy all the fun things we want to.
- August 23rd, 2020: We decide to visit Vancouver, Washington for a couple of days to make sure it’s the Airbnb and not something else causing the flare up. While in the area, we visit The Spruce Goose. My breathing improves.
- August 25th, 2020: I’m able to stop taking Prednisone. We hike Mount St. Helens and stay at a Hilton in Olympia, Washington.
- August 26th, 2020: We return to Tacoma, pack up all of our stuff from the Airbnb (desk, computers, my favorite pans, guitar, box of clothing, etc.) and go to a Hilton in downtown Seattle. We print off everything we think we’ll need to give the Canada Border Services Agency the next day. Unsure of which city we might sleep in on the 27th, we decide not to book anything.
A note on the Airbnb in Tacoma: the host was awesome. I have had allergic reactions and asthma flare-ups in the homes of so many family members’ and friends’ places that staying in anyone’s home is a bit of a dice roll.
August 27th, 2020 - The Big Day!
6:15 a.m. We pass boarded up storefronts, construction workers repairing damaged businesses, homeless people, and food vendors setting up shop on our way to the original Starbucks, aka The Pike Place Starbucks. Pike Place Market’s calm feels sorrowful. Before 6:30 a.m. we are first in line at Starbucks. Only one other person waits outside for its doors to open — a jolly, talkative man in Seattle on business.
I struggle to place my order, because I’ve been using apps to order coffee since mid-March. I forgot how to order person-to-person. The staff is awesome in its kindness, expedience, and drink-making skills. I’m glad we made the walk.
As we walk back to our hotel room, we talk about what we’ll do if we’re turned away at the border. It’s closed to nonessential travel, not to everyone. I am essential. Chris is not. We’ve been told that some in our situation have been allowed through, some have not. Chris is essential to me, I can’t cross without him.
8:30 a.m. I meditate in our hotel room following the guidance of one of my favorite yoga instructors. You can check out the practice I did by clicking here.
9:30 a.m. We leave Seattle. During our drive to Blaine (the last U.S. stop before the border), I’m calm. Chris is not. Meditation works.
11:30 a.m. we enjoy a lunch of Railway Clubs and chips at The Railway Cafe in Blaine. The sandwiches are massive and delicious. They might be our last meal in the U.S. for 10 months.
12:15 p.m. Chris calls Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Vancouver-Downtown to see if we can tentatively book a room for 14 days. Why book now? We have to show that we have a quarantine plan. Booking by phone when we’re about to cross seems like the best option.
Chris explains to the woman at the front desk that we’re in the U.S. and trying to get to Canada today. He says he can confirm, or cancel within a couple of hours. She is kind, but informs him that she doesn’t believe we’ll be able to cross. He lets her know that I’m a student. She books the room and assures him that there will be no cancellation fees so long as we let her know by late afternoon.
12:30 p.m. We arrive at the border patrol station.