You would think that moving to another country would be something you’d think twice about. Not if you’re me. If you’re me, you’d just damn the torpedoes, full strength ahead, damn the consequences.
Back in 1998, my husband and I decided he would retire early. I put forth the idea of running a B & B, being totally ignorant of what it would take. We flew to Albany, New York and drove into Vermont to look at possibilities. We found one we liked – I liked.
We had an accountant look it over, thank God. She didn’t think it was a good idea for us at all. Disappointing, but true. I was left with a miasma of disappointment.
I got on the internet, searched out other B & Bs and came across Prince Edward Island, Canada. Back then, the US dollar was worth 1.5 times the Canadian dollar. So far, so good.
I got on a plane and went to PEI. I looked at both houses and B & Bs. I found a house big enough for all of us, but not a B & B. I called my husband and he agreed to buy it, sight unseen.
Before I bought this house, I had no clue about how to immigrate to Canada. I learned all about it. The hard way. My application was 4 inches thick. The fees were exorbitant. We had to have physicals performed by a doctor sanctioned by the government. They cost $760 cash. I had to include all my business records, because we were going in as a unique business. We sent off the application in April of 1999. We were told three months later that we would need to be interviewed in New York City, at the consulate and that it would be on December 15, 1999.
In order to take stuff over the border without paying duty, you had to move it within one year of purchasing the home. So my son and I followed the United Van Lines truck to PEI and unpacked everything. Then we found out we weren’t going to be able to stay permanently until the immigration people did their thing. We could have got visas, but then DH would be all by himself back in Michigan for 6 months. Not a good option. So we packed up the car and went back to Michigan for the winter.
We had to go buy a mattress for DH and I. We had no silverware or dishes and few pots and pans. I bought them. We lived with the few things left over from our huge estate sale. It wasn’t much. A ratty sofa and some books. I used boxes as end tables and bought a used chair.
We went to New York and were accepted. Joy knows no bounds. We just needed to sell our house. That took forever, even in the booming housing market. We did sell it and on July 11, 2000 we packed a U-Haul with my dad’s stuff and stuff we’d acquired and took off. We drove, once again, 1400 miles to PEI.
When we got there, one of the few people I knew on the Island explained to me that Islanders don’t like people from away coming to buy their property. Nice to learn that then. That was my first full day on the Island. When I went to the bank to have my husband put on the checking account, the bank clerk told me “We couldn’t afford to buy that house. No Islander could.” I laughed it off. She was serious. They were all pissed that we could afford it.
We hung out with other PFA. Some of them were interesting and entertaining. Some of them were downright odd. A lot of them smoked dope. Not being into weed, we didn’t fit in too well. They either smoked or drank – which when you think about it – is the only way to survive on a remote Island stuck in the 1950s.
We had internet. It was 28K dial-up and it was never going to get better. Downloading an album took two days. And since it was dial-up, you couldn’t use the phone.
We were used to shopping on the internet. We bought stuff from America and were shocked when we were charged duty for importing it. Since it wasn’t made in the USA, Canada Revenue got you for importing stuff. Even without duties, they still charged you GST – 7% of whatever the cost was at the time.
So how did this BIG MISTAKE turn out okay? We started selling our home in 2003. I was so ready to leave by then I could have walked back to America. It took only 4 years for us to sell our home. By the time it sold, the US dollar and the Canadian dollar were par. Which means the house I bought for .62 cents on the dollar became 100 cents on the dollar. We had remodeled our home and sold it for $218,000 more than we paid for it – we got that money at par. We took it and moved to Maine. To a little town, although one of the two largest, in Maine. We bought a colonial home built on the south side of a park. The houses front the park and go all around. We felt that being in the country for so long, we would need lots of green space. We got it.
Nobody asks me where I’m from. I’ve started to drawl out my R’s. As in weathah, not weather. As in Bah Hahbah not Bar Harbor. I have acclimatized. Everybody in the family likes it here. We should have moved here in 2000. But we got here anyway. And that’s a good thing.