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We Moved from The U.S. to Canada During the Pandemic

Melissa in Yaletown Vancouver B.C. Canada

On August 27th, 2021, after five-and-a-half months of pandemic-related lockdowns, Chris and I crossed the closed border into Canada. It’s a move we started to chat about over dinner at home in mid-April. The conversations were of the wouldn’t it be nice variety. Not serious. 

Our plan only a month before was to sell our home in Rochester, Minnesota and move 90-minutes north to Minneapolis. We were going to lease an apartment and see if we’d like city life enough to buy a condo. Then came lockdown. We paused our Minneapolis plans. Moving to Canada was something to consider someday. We had thought about moving there off-and-on ever since November 9th, 2016 for obvious reasons. 

Chris and Melissa Trying on our first masks in our home.
Trying on our 1st pandemic masks in our Rochester, Minnesota home.

After George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police on May 25th and chemical agents were used on lawfully assembled, peaceful protestors in D.C. so Trump could do a photo op in front of a church on June 1st, our desire to move to Canada became more immediate. We wanted options. For ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. Perhaps we could become permanent residents in Canada? It might help provide a path for loved ones who might want to make the move someday. We questioned our sanity, but pressed forward.  

Our research intensified. We learned that our best option for crossing the border was for one of us to go back to school. Chris runs a small software company and we depend on his income. I love to learn. My favorite subject is creative writing. I found a film school offering a writing for film and television track in Vancouver, B.C. Vancouver is considered the Hollywood North and is about a 21-hour up I-5 from Los Angeles.  

On June 3rd, I sent InFocus Film School a message inquiring about their program. I met with their Director of Admissions on June 5th. I registered for the earliest possible session. It started in mid-October. We hired IDEAS Immigration and Education to assist us with our visa applications. Could we have done it without the help? Maybe. With the border closure and everything else, it felt like a daunting task. Besides, paperwork is one of our weaknesses. 


Instagram Heading West Day One

The basics of our plan:

  • Airbnb our split-level home in Rochester. Our place was perfect for those wanting a quiet place to stay with family while undergoing medical treatments at Mayo Clinic. It booked up fast, so we hit the road a couple of weeks early. 
  • Cross over and do 2-weeks of quarantine at an Airbnb. 
  • If we weren’t allowed to cross and I had to withdraw from school, hang out in the west and travel south, so that we could enjoy the outdoors during the pandemic instead of being holed up at home in cold Minnesota.

How It worked out:

We ended up switching from booking an Airbnb to quarantine in to reserving a hotel room. 


In order to cross, we had to prove we had a place to stay. We couldn’t wait until after we crossed. With Airbnb, if you book and cancel, you’re often on the hook for at least 50% of the cost of your reservation. If we booked and weren’t allowed to cross, we’d be out a considerable amount of money.  

When I called the Hampton Inn & Suites in downtown Vancouver and explained our situation, the kind woman at the front desk allowed me to book the room for two weeks with permission to cancel by that afternoon if we couldn’t make it over the border. 

When it came time to cross, we were nervous. What if they wouldn’t let us cross over? I mean, we had a backup plan. It wouldn’t be dire. Just disappointing. With the help from IDEAS Immigration and Education all of our information was in order. We felt welcomed at the border. We were given our visas.

While in quarantine, we apartment hunted with Rent It Furnished. A leasing agent showed us around a couple of properties virtually, using FaceTime. We picked the spot we would be living for 8 months and loved it. Our neighborhood was great – Yaletown. The views were amazing. Each morning I watched the sunrise over the mountains while doing yoga, or PiYo. It was a bit limited on space, but that was fine.

Rent It Furnished View from Yaletown Apartment
My view each morning as I did my workout before class.

How did we like Vancouver?

If we could’ve stayed on our terms forever, we would have. It is a remarkable city. While it does rain a lot between November and April, it doesn’t get cold like Minnesota. We ate outdoors throughout the winter. Our go-to date night restaurant in Yaletown was Provence Marinaside. Their food was consistent and delicious and their service exceptional. I learned so much about wine from their staff. As a bonus, it was just a short walk from our apartment. 

Romantic Dinner Provence Marinaside
Date Night Dinner at Provence Marinaside.

Vancouver has a calm vibe. Drivers zipper merge with the highest level of consideration and patience we’ve ever seen. It’s a walkable city with great public transportation options and plenty of bike paths. Chris biked from our place to Stanley Park when the weather cooperated. I do not like bicycling. Besides, I had homework to keep up on. 

On January 6th, we felt confident in our sanity. The United States Capitol Building was under attack. Canada was calm. 

We took up hiking in a more serious way than ever before. The mountainous hikes of North Vancouver are phenomenal. Grouse Grind, Lower Lynn Loop, and sections of the Baden Powell were among our favorite spots. We went on one almost every Sunday of our stay in Beautiful British Columbia. Sometimes on Saturdays we’d take a water taxi (False Creek Ferry or Aquabus) from our Yaletown neighborhood over to Granville Island to shop its incredible food market. 


Vancouver Canada Aquabus

Speaking of food, before our Sunday hikes we’d go to Cartem’s for a donut (or two). Most of their donuts are vegan. All of the donuts we tried there are scrumptious. After our hike, we’d go to Rosemary Rocksalt for sandwiches served on Montréal-style bagels. Those were delicious days. 

Since we were there during the pandemic, there’s a lot we didn’t have a chance to take in. We weren’t able to get our first vaccination until late April. I’m sure that their entertainment and arts scene is pretty phenomenal. My instructors and cohorts in school were all quite creative and cared about community. 

When school was done, it was time for us to return to the United States. With the visa, we could stay in Canada 90-days past the end of my program, but we had important family obligations to attend in June. Once we crossed over, we knew we wouldn’t be able to cross back easily for awhile. The border was still closed at the time.

We stayed in North Vancouver this past March, met up with a couple of my former classmates, and visited our old Yaletown neighborhood. It felt like returning home. My eyes welled up a bit. I didn’t want to leave, but we had exciting plans with family and other adventures awaiting us like spending a month in Québec

Why aren’t we living in Canada full-time now?

Given our ages and levels of completed education (neither of us has completed a 4-year degree), seeking permanent residency is a bit of a challenge for us. I could go back to school again and then start a career in my field of study. Or, Chris could seek a work opportunity there. His skills are in high demand. But…

We want to build our travel content business together. To move on our terms, we’ll need to make more at this endeavor. We think it’s worth having a little patience. Besides, there are other countries for us to explore. In August, we’re heading across the pond to spend a weekend in Iceland and a few months in Ireland.  

I wrote this post, in part, because I have a feeling that right now, there are a number of people in the United States wondering if they should, or could move to Canada. Right now, if we could live in Vancouver full-time, we would. That said, Vancouver is expensive. Like lululemon leggings, it’s so worth it. 

Vancouver Canada Lululemon Sign
lululemon is headquartered in Vancouver.

To learn more about how much it costs to make the move to Canada check out our How Much Did it Cost Us to Move to Canada? video.  

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