Home, Immigrants, Living Abroad, Moving, Speaking from Experience

Driving across Canada, 2009

lake superior

Welcome back blog readers,

Yesterday’s topic inspired another idea for a blog post; that idea was to share my experience as I drove over 2,000 miles from Massachusetts to Calgary after being allowed entry as a Permanent Resident. I think sharing my learning curves is also worth mentioning.

While my husband is originally from the Ottawa area, he had moved out to Calgary two years prior to us meeting. During our dating/engagement period he made several trips down to Western Massachusetts to visit me. Sometimes for a couple of weeks, sometimes for a few months at a time. As you might expect, traveling over that distance does get expensive; he made the choice to stay with his grandparents in the Ottawa area to help bridge the gap and allowing me the chance to drive up to visit him.

When we finally received my passport with the Visa we could start making solid plans to pack up and decide on how we were going to get to Calgary. I decided to leave on the weekend after Thanksgiving (US/November) and I “landed” as a permanent resident at the Alexandria Bay border between Watertown, New York and Mallorytown, Ontario. Since my husband’s grandparents were only a 40-minute drive away, we stopped by so that he could pick up a few things and we could spend the night before making our long journey west.

Since we were in the winter season, we kept a close eye on the weather that was tracking from the west to the east. Calgary had just been hit with a massive snow storm, if memory serves me correct, I’m pretty sure it was a blizzard or what Canadians call an Alberta Clipper and it was making it’s way east across Canada. My husband’s grandparents suggested that we stay a few days to avoid driving in those harsh conditions. We agreed that was a good idea and we kept an eye on the weather and the news before heading out four days later once the storm passed us.

Just to give you a sense of time and distance:

  • From Western Massachusetts to Ottawa, Ontario- Driving time roughly 6-6.5 hours and 400 miles/644 kilometers
  • From Ottawa, Ontario to Calgary Alberta- Driving (non-stop 36 hours) we stopped every 8-12 hours, spent the night at a hotel and switched drivers, it took us 2 days to get out of Ontario and another 3 days to drive to Alberta. From Ottawa, we stopped at Sault Ste. Marie, ON and Thunder Bay, ON then Winnipeg, Regina and finally Calgary for a total distance of 3,500 miles/5,632 kms having followed the Trans-Canada highway for most of our journey.

The scenic mountain picture with the green trees was taken at Thunder Bay when we stopped for the day. The other picture is of Lake Superior as we still making our way through Ontario. Due to the lack of snow in both pictures, I suspect those were taken on our drive back 2 years later (in July 2011) after we learned NOT to drive on the Trans-Canada highway in the off season (many gas stations are closed) which is a stretch of highway mainly used by truckers.

The scenery through Ontario, beautiful with lots of green trees and a view of the Great Lakes for two days. Lots of steep hills and hair pin corners with plenty of places to stop, eat, refuel along the way (during the open season). It was a little unnerving driving through, knowing that your getting low on gas and hoping the next gas station would be open. Part of my nervousness stemmed from the fact that I was so familiar with miles/gallons and all of the signs were reading kilometers/litres and knowing that the gas gauge reading may not have been accurate as we were climbing steep inclines. Once you get into Manitoba the land gets flat as you’ve entered the Prairies. It’s pretty much the same in Saskatchewan except you can start seeing the Rocky Mountains in the distance as you get closer to Alberta and steadily climbing in elevation. All of a sudden you see city lights, lots and lots of city lights and the closer you get the more lights you see. That’s Calgary! After 5 grueling days of driving through the snow, stopping at hotels along the way, we had finally made it.

For anyone considering making the same journey, avoid traveling in the winter if you can help it. If you can’t help it, make sure your vehicle has snow/winter tires (I did not). Also, make sure you have plenty of windshield washer fluid, not just topped off under the hood, but have extra available because if the wintery slush doesn’t cover your windshield the large bugs will.

Anyway, that is all that I have time for today.

Safe travels~ Hannah

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Immigrants, Immigration Process, Living Abroad, Moving, Need to prepare, Speaking from Experience, What to consider

My Immigration Process, Part 2

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Welcome back blog readers,

Here is the continuation from yesterday’s blog post. I left off just having received my Visa that was permanently affixed to my passport and I was getting all of my ducks in a row before making the big move across the border.

I feel like I have to make this point again, you can’t just show up at the border with your belongings and expect entry and start your life in Canada without having gone through the proper process.

Here’s the link that I shared in the previous post, it’s the link I highly recommend that you use as your main resource for information.

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada.html

There is so much to consider when you now have the OK to move to another country.

  • Finding a place to live, establishing a permanent address.
  • Updating your address with the government, IRS, Banking, Social Security, Credit Card companies.
  • Having your mail delivery put on hold for a couple of weeks while you get settled/established.
  • PAY OFF YOUR DEBTS! I chose to consolidate all of my debts into one easy monthly payment. Back in 2008-2009 online banking and e-transferring was not as popular. I had to figure out how I was going to pay my debts in US funds while in Canada. I ended up creating two PayPal accounts, one attached to my US bank account and one in Canada attached to my new bank account. I was then able to transfer myself money back/forth until I no longer needed my US bank account (about 2 years later). I had to keep it open for pending tax returns and making automatic monthly payments to pay off my credit card debt in the USA.
  • Make sure you have enough money to cover you for a few months as you look for work and wait 2 weeks for your first paycheck. Most jobs pay bi-weekly in Canada, something to keep in mind. My first job up here paid on the 1st and the 15th, that took a bit to get used to after being paid every Friday. You’ll also have to show proof of the funds in your bank account(s), so have a print out of your last statement handy.
  • Downsize, sell or donate items that you can live without. If money is no object, then rent a U-haul or POD. In any case you will have to figure out which is the best way to move your belongings across the border. As for me, I was on a super tight budget and chose to sell the bigger furnature items. Actually, my husband was down with me helping me pack during this process. While I was at work, he was at my apartment wheeling and dealing selling just about everything that wasn’t nailed down. In fact, I came home on day from work and found that he had sold my bed, curtains for the bedroom window, my microwave and the cart, my TV and my couch. While the extra money was needed, I still had 2 weeks left before I was ready to move. We ended up sleeping on a twin air mattress and a pile of folded bath towels on the floor.
  • Schedule to cancel your utility services, Internet/cable/phone and make sure you pay your last bill.
  • Cell Phone: While I didn’t own one at this time, I suspect that you may want to look into an International Plan or buying a new SIM card once you get into Canada. Roaming charges will add up quickly unless you’re using skype, magic jack or a messenger app.
  • Tax Returns: Make sure that you have a copy of your tax returns (going back at least 7 years). I didn’t have the luxury of having them saved onto a USB drive as they were paper copies from H&R Block. In any case, make sure you can access them as you will be asked for that information when you apply for any line of credit in Canada.
  • Important paperwork: Birth cerificate(s), Social Security card(s), Marriage Certificate(s), Adoption Certificate(s), Divorce or other court documents of proof, Driver’s Ed proof of completion, Diploma(s), A copy of your medical history and refill your prescription(s), Vaccination record(s).
  • Pets: If you’re bringing your pet(s) they also need to go through the Import/Export process. Have their Vet/Medical history, make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations and refill their medication(s).
  • Vehicle insurance: Get a copy of your driving record as proof of your driving experience as you will need to have vehicle insurance in Canada. If you have a Drivers Education certificate, make a copy of that as well as that will be handy when applying for your new Canadian drivers license. Inform your insurance company of your intention to move and coordinate with them as far as making your last payment, returning your plates and cancelling your policy once you’ve established yourself in Canada, especially if you plan on driving your vehicle across the border.
  • Import/Export: While I did my best to research this before I packed up my car, there is a lot of misleading information as well as information that was not clear at the time. Learn from my experience and take from it what you will. You will need a complete itemized list of everything you are bringing across the border. Keep a copy for yourself and you will turn in a copy to the Customs agent. I chose to pack small boxes and with each box, I numbered the outside. I wrote down the contents, on the outside of each box I attached a copy of the contents, the second copy I kept together with the rest to hand over to Customs. The same thing with any backpacks or luggage, I attached a copy of the contents to the bag for my records and another copy of the contents was placed in the packet of the other lists of contents to be handed in to Customs.
  • Import/Export of your vehicle: Please keep in mind that this took place in November 2009, so it’s possible laws may have changed since then. I was able to find information about having to IMPORT my car into Canada, but I didn’t find anything solid about EXPORTING my car from the USA. I learned quickly once I arrived at the border. Canada did not require that I EXPORT my car from the USA before IMPORTING it. I was warned that the USA prefers that I do EXPORT my car and the issue that may come up from not EXPORTING my car from the USA is that if I cross the border (driving) into the USA and happen to get an agent that specializes in the IMPORT/EXPORT of vehicles after they notice my US passport with Canadian plates on my car, I may get fined and may be denied entry into the USA until I follow the EXPORT process. So, I simply didn’t cross the border in that car, crisis averted.

Here is the website I was directed to use from the Canadian Border agent to properly IMPORT my car.

https://www.riv.ca/importingavehicle.aspx

You may have more things to consider, especially if you have to sell your house, have other real estate or own your own business that you may have to dissolve. I can’t offer any advice on those concerns.

Now that we’ve successfully crossed the border and are ready to start our life in Canada, we’re not done yet. We still have to apply for a Permanent Resident Card which is mandatory to carry with you and have to show with your passport anytime you reenter Canada should you leave for any reason. This form of identification expires in 5 years and you will need to reapply/renew before it expires.

Being a permanent resident grants you all of the same rights as any Canadian citizen, with the exception that you can’t vote or be summoned to serve jury duty. You also can’t serve in the Canadian military and there are some government-funded benefits that you may not qualify for.

You also have to apply for your Social Insurance Number (SIN) which is the equivalent to the US Social Security card. You’ll need your SIN card to apply for jobs, open a bank account, apply for credit just as you needed your social security card for similar things. Keep your social security card as you will also need that, or at least the number to file your tax returns.

There is another important piece of information about filing taxes that needs to be clarified. Many Americans living abroad are under the misconception that they don’t have to file a tax return to the USA. This is only true if you renounce your American Citizenship and by renounce I mean you have to follow the process, file the paperwork pay the USA a hefty fee (close to $2,000 last I checked), and receive confirmation. Then and only then will you be exempt from filing a US tax return.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/us-citizenship/Renunciation-US-Nationality-Abroad.html

Now it’s not to say that you actually OWE anything. If you are like me (most of us, middle class income) and you don’t own property, you don’t work in the USA, you don’t live in the USA, you don’t conduct business that results in income in the USA, then all you have to do is file a ZERO return. Filing basically states just what I mentioned above, you made nothing, you claim nothing, you owe nothing. This MUST be done when you file your Canadian (T4) taxes as a means of keeping the IRS informed, keeping them off of your back and remain in good standing with the USA because you are still a US citizen.

You are still a US citizen even if you apply to become a Canadian and obtain a Canadian passport. You will still have to file a zero return for the USA and file your regular taxes for Canada. You are now considered a DUAL citizen and hold 2 passports. You can stop renewing your permanent resident card at this point, but as long as you hold on to your US citizenship, you will be expected to file a tax return each and every year and yes, it’s still due April 15th even though you have until the end of April to file with Canada.

Renouncing your citizenship is a lengthly process as the USA wants to retain as many tax paying citizens as possible, even those living abroad. So they make the process long, costly and brutal. It’s just easier to file a few extra papers along with your Canadian taxes just to keep the peace.

As for me, I have thought about applying to become a Canadian Citizen as it makes sense to me. I don’t have any ties to the USA (besides a few family that I can visit whenever), I don’t own property, I don’t have financial ties (besides filing a zero return). Yes, I can still cast my vote for US Presidential candidates, but otherwise considering the state of the USA under its currant leader, I don’t see the point in maintaining my US citizenship. On the other hand, I don’t see the point of paying $2,000 (more like $2,600 if you consider the conversion from CAD to USD at today’s rates) just to get out from filing a few pieces of paper once a year. Even the cost of renewing my 10 year US passport is cheaper ($110 USD) considering that I might renew it 4 more times before I die or stop traveling to the USA. I’d rather pay the lesser fee and become a Canadian citizen, but that is my choice and not one that you have to make for yourself.

If you are a US citizen living abroad and would like more information about renouncing your citizenship, what it means, what are the pros and cons for your situation, if you are behind on filing your US tax returns then I encourage you to click the link below and contact a representive there.

https://www.moodysgartner.com/blog/

Since November of 2009, I have had to renew my Permanent Resident card once and renew my 10 year US Passport once. I am allowed to travel outside of Canada as long as I follow the same rules as Canadian citizens, we have to remain in Canada at least 6 months each year to maintain our status. I have to carry my permanent resident card with me along with my passport when I travel or when I expect to show proof of my status.

Now I have 2 US passports, both of which I have to carry as the first has my VISA and immigration landing document and the new passport, well it hasn’t expired as I just renewed it a few months ago. I will have to continue to carry both until I become a Canadian citizen; at which point I’ll only have to carry that one passport going forward.

That about sums up the immigration process if your going from the USA to Canada. I had no idea what I was getting into, what the process entailed or how long it would take. Knowing all of what I shared would have been super helpful because the not knowing was more frustrating than the waiting.

I’m happy to answer any questions or clarify if something I mentioned didn’t make sense. The link for the Canadian government website is truly a great resource to help you find work, answer questions about living in Canada and reassure you that not all Canadians live in igloos. That was a running joke from my former co-workers before I moved.

Actually most of the people live close to the border up to 2 hours away. Unless you live further North, then you better like the colder weather year round. Research the different Provinces, what the climate is like, what jobs are available, what the tax rate is (Ontario has a 13% sales tax while Alberta has a 5% sales tax) before you decide on which Province to settle in. Canada has so much to offer and if you have the means of coming up for a visit or a few visits, you should.

With that said, that has sparked another topic for a blog post… I won’t spoil it, you’ll have to come back to find out.

I hope that my experience has helped you to make your choice on whether immigrating to Canada is for you. At the very leas,t I hope that you have learned what the process is like for those of us that go through it legally and you know it’s an on going process to maintain our status. Please feel free to share, like, comment especially if you know someone that may be considering such a big move as they will have a better idea as to what to expect before going into this blind, like I did.

Have a great weekend!

Hannah, the international traveller.

 

 

Immigrants, Immigration Process, Living Abroad, Moving, Need to prepare, Speaking from Experience, What to consider

My Immigration Process

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Welcome back blog readers,

Today’s topic is about immigration, what you need to know and consider should you be thinking about immigrating from the United States to Canada. I will share my experiences and tips to help you get through this process. But first, here’s a link that will get you started. Most of your questions will be answered here, so please use this website as it is verified by the Canadian government and other websites may contain misleading information or may be a scam.

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada.html

There is so much information that you need to know before applying as an immigrant. First, How do you plan to apply? Do you have family in Canada that are willing to sponsor you?  Are you married to a Canadian citizen that can sponsor you? Are you coming to Canada to study in which there is a special student/study Visa required? Do you have a special trade skill or work experience that may qualify you to be sponsored by an employer? Are you a refugee seeking a safe place for you and your family to live?

Again, I will refer you to check out the link above. I was able to immigrate by means of meeting a Canadian citizen and falling in love. I did look into the special skill process, but my set of automotive skills/knowledge wasn’t enough to qualify, even though I had an employer that was interested in hiring me.

The first thing I should make clear is that you can’t just show up at the border and expect to be allowed entry and start your life in Canada. There is a process, there is a ton of paperwork, there is proof and documentation that is required, there is a medical exam that each member of your family will have to go through, there will be fees costing up to $1,000 and most importantly, you need a valid US passport. Expect this process to take up to 9 months to complete, maybe longer.

There was a packet of paperwork that we printed off, one set for me (the applicant) and another set for my husband (the sponsor).  Both applications, various forms of proof, and payment were all sent in one large envelope to begin the immigration process.

Here are some things that needed to be answered or required more documentation (proof).

  • All names (aliases) I have used, last names, maiden names, legal names
  • All addresses where I lived for the first 18 years of my life
  • Copies of my birth certificate, marriage certificate, copy of the picture page of my passport
  • I needed to obtain a copy of my fingerprints, FBI clearance to prove I didn’t have a criminal record or any outstanding warrants in any of the 50 states.
  • I had to seek a doctor (one approved by Canada which ended up being 2 hours away) to clear the medical exam, which was basically a physical, blood work and a “womanly exam” to ensure that I was not infectious and free of serious diseases and not trying to abuse the Universal Health Care that Canada offers.
  • Proof of our relationship, the marriage certificate was not enough, we needed to include photos, chat logs from skype and MSN messenger (2008), copies of emails that we exchanged, proof that our families knew/had met the other person. We sent in boarding passes and ticket stubs when my husband came down to visit me. We sent in receipts to prove that we bought joint items or gifts that we bought for each other. All to prove that we were in a legitimate relationship/marriage and weren’t trying to scam the government.

I suspect that if the proof we provided wasn’t enough to convince the immigration officer, that we would have been asked to come in for an interview. We were able to avoid that part of the process. Once we finally mailed out the large application packet and it was received, we were able to check the status online. My husband was approved to be my sponsor within the first week. Going through the paperwork (which we put in order, using paper clips as they requested) took them about 4-6 weeks. I did get a notification in the mail asking for me to resubmit my fingerprints as the first set were smudgy and there was a hiccup on one of the dates on the application. I inverted the last two numbers by mistake and had to correct it. Once completed, I sent that back to the immigration office. Another 4-6 weeks would pass before we received another notification in the mail, I was to send my actual passport in so they could affix my VISA to one of the pages before mailing that back to me.

Ladies, here’s a tip: Make sure that your passport is updated with your legal married name (if you took your spouses last name or hyphenated it). You want to send that updated version to have your Visa attached. Also make sure you get the correct sized passport photos taken. My first set were not taken properly and I had to get them retaken, wasting more time and adding to my frustration.

If my memory serves me well, I want to say that we started (mailed in the application packet) in February 2009 and I received my full passport back with affixed VISA in early October 2009, so about 8 months. Once I received that, it was a sigh of relief but it also meant I had a limited time to get my affairs in order, tie up loose ends, sell my belongings, seriously downsize and pack before actually crossing the border to live in Canada.

There is more information to share, but sadly the world of retail insists that I show up for my shift. I’ll come back tomorrow (on my day off) to share the rest of my experience.

Happy Friday! ~ Hannah

 

 

Moving, Need to prepare, What to consider

Planning a big move?

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I have a few friends that have been pondering whether or not to make a long distance move with their family. As a person that has made four cross-country moves, I have tips to share on this topic.

On a quick side note, I don’t make notes or write up drafts for any of my posts. Everything you read is a stream of consciousness and completely off of the top of my head. So in no particular order, let’s get started.

Moving, in general, can be stressful and most of us try to avoid moving at all. But life happens, sometimes our neighbors suck, our jobs might require a change of scenery, our past continues to haunt us in our current location. We know that there has got to be something better out there, but we may not have the courage to leave and take that first step because all that we know is right here. Our family, friends, and memories are right here.

Moving around town or up to an hour away isn’t so bad. Moving out of state, out of the province, or out of the country (I’ve done them all) and there is much more to consider and prepare before packing up your belongings and moving. In this post, I’ll discuss the out of state and out of province moves and leave the topic of immigration for another post.

Here is a list of things/items you will want to have copies (originals) of before you move.

  • Birth Certificate, long form if you have the option. Get copies for each person in your household. There may be a small fee and you may have to go in person to verify your identity. You may get lucky and have to option to get them online or by phone and have it mailed to you.
  • Driving Record from your insurance company. Especially if you have a clean record, no accidents or traffic violations. Talk to your insurance agent, let them know that you are planning to move out of the area and that you will require a Letter from them stating that you paid your monthly payments on time, you are in good standing and need a copy of your driving record. Also, if you completed Driver’s Ed and have a certificate, make a copy of that as well. These items will keep you in good standing, in the sense that you will not be treated as a new driver with no experience in your new location.
  • Marriage license/certificates, it’s a good idea to have a few copies just in case.
  • Vaccination records and Medical history, this applies to everyone in the household. Schools will require it when you’re ready to register your kids. These days your medical history can be transferred online, but it’s good to have the address and contact information from all of the doctors and specialists that you have seen. Don’t forget about the dentist, chiropractor, and veterinarian.
  • Pets, make sure they are up to date with their rabies, distemper and any other vaccinations. Most places will require that you register your dog(s) and you should find out if the new location has a limit as to how many dogs you can have.
  • Letters of Recommendation, If you are renting and have been a stellar tenant that has paid the rent on time and you’re not a slob, perhaps your landlord will provide a letter of recommendation for you. While this is not required to move, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have. Also having one from your boss, co-worker, a neighbor might help when looking to find a place to rent or come in handy when looking for employment. Again, not a must-have, but definitely good to have if you can acquire it.
  • Medications, while this doesn’t fit under the topic of copies, you should try to get a refill of your prescription(s) and have them ready for pick up a few days before you move, as you might not be able to find a new doctor right away. Expect to be put on a waiting list. If you can get a month or two months worth without an issue, get it refilled.
  • Tax Returns for the last 7 years, whether you have the original on paper or you can scan it to a USB drive, it’s important that you have this with you when you move.

 

Let’s move on to discuss things to consider before you move. Not so much about where and when as that is ultimately up to you to decide. Again, in no particular order…

  • Job, Career, Self-Employed, Business Owner: I hope that you will do a bit of research on the job market for the area(s) you are considering moving to.  It’s time to update your resume’ and update your Linkedin, Indeed, Monster, Workopolis profiles. Are you in a position to be able to transfer from your current job to another location with the same company? If you are a business owner, what is required of you to close/dissolve your business before you leave and what is required for you to restart your business in a new location? If you are self-employed or work from home, are you able to put together a portfolio to showcase your work? Can you continue working seamlessly? Would you benefit from customer reviews/testimonies?
  • Bank Account/Funds/Debts: Does your bank have branches in your new location? If not, then you will have to be creative in order to transfer funds in order to pay bills that are set to come out automatically each month. Luckily things have changed, technology gets better and it’s easier to transfer money from one account to another. Out of country money transferring is tricky and I’ll cover that in the immigration post. The point is, make sure that your debts/loans are able to be paid without too much of a disruption. If you suspect that you might have a hard time, contact the company (ies) and let them know and they will be more willing to work with you and they may overlook any late fees or interest payments because you contacted them first. Debt consolidation may be an option and will reduce multiple payments per month down to 1 easy payment per month.
  • Change of address/phone number: Changing your address online is easy, especially if you already receive statements online. If you don’t, I recommend that you opt in for that. Yes, it may be time consuming to go through all of the sites but the most important places to focus on are the DMV (Registry of Motor Vehicles) for your driver’s license and vehicle registration, Insurance (home, vehicle, life, boat, RV and health), Loans ( mortgage, student, vehicle), IRS ( Government for tax collection purposes). Lastly, WORK, make sure your employer or human resource manager has your new address on file so they can forward your tax forms and any other paperwork to you.
  • Utilities/Services: Water, Electricity (Hydro), Propane, Natural gas, Phone, Cable, Internet, Septic/Sewer. If these services are not set up online, I suggest that you do for easy automatic payments until you cancel your service(s). Don’t forget to notify all of them to let them know to either shut off the service or when to transfer the service to the new tenant. If the same company is available in your new location, you may have the option of transferring service out there when you are ready. On a quick note, if you require an internet connection (work from home, for example) do yourself a favor and make sure that you can get a good reliable connection with the speed that you require.
  • Moving Company/PODS/U-HAUL or Minimalistic: I suppose this depends on your funds and how much you intend to take with you. I won’t lie, moving can be very expensive, especially if your employer isn’t offering to cover the cost. There are pros and cons to each option, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.
  • Air Miles/Travel Points/AAA or CAA: Utilizing the benefits from any or all of these will save you a bit of stress. If you have credit cards that earn points/perks for gas or hotel lodging great! Are you a member of AAA/CAA the auto club that can assist if you get a flat tire, need a bit of gas, need a tow? Great! Use your memberships to your advantage if you need to book a hotel while you are driving to your new location or while you are finding a rental. Many people overlook these perks. I’ve used them to save money and earn free lodging during my long distance moves.

Please keep in mind that the lists above just cover the basics. Cities, States, Provinces, and your families needs will vary from my experience (no kids to consider or health requirements). I trust that you will do the research and make the best choice for you and your family.

My cross country moves were from Massachusetts to Florida then back after two years. I went with the minimalistic approach and packed whatever could fit in the bed of my truck and drove. I was young (late teens early 20’s) and didn’t require anything more where I was staying. I did the same thing when I moved back two years later.

I’ve moved internationally from Massachusetts to Alberta, Canada (as a legal immigrant/permanent resident). I was in my late 20’s early 30’s living in a one bedroom tiny apartment, sold/donated the big items. I packed the important papers, photos, clothes, some towels/bedding. Basically whatever could fit in my Saturn SL2 while still allowing me to see out of all the windows and use the rear view mirror was brought over the border with me. That will be 5 days of driving that I won’t soon forget. For those of you planning that same drive, do it before the snow falls.

My move from Alberta to Ontario was a bit different. I upgraded the Saturn SL2 to a Dodge Caliber with a bit more room. While we opted to drive the entire way (again) that meant we had to downsize (again). This time it wasn’t just my belongings it was also my husband’s things and he insisted that we keep the 42″ LG flatscreen TV that we bought less than 6 months ago (at the time). We sold items on Kijiji, we donated items to the Goodwill down the street, we packed smaller boxes and shipped them (Purolator) to Ontario because we had a family connection and my husband spent the night before planning exactly how to pack the rest into the Caliber to ensure the TV was coming with us on the 5 day journey.

During our two years in Alberta, we acquired many air miles that we used to book our nights at various Best Westerns between Alberta and Ontario. I worked at a dealership and some of the associates got together to start a collection (knowing how expensive it is to move) and the money they gifted us paid for the gas for the 5 day drive across Canada. I think we even had enough in air miles to get a gift card for Shell worth $25 which also helped. We had family in the area (Ontario) that helped us acquire an apartment and secured it for us to ensure we had a place to move into when we arrived. We were smarter this time and made the journey in the summer, not the middle of Alberta Clipper season.

Our last few moves have been more local, a few minutes down the road to 30 minutes out of town. Both moves we opted to use a moving company. We have since upgraded from a 2-bedroom highrise apartment to a 3-bedroom townhouse, to a 2-bedroom +1/ 2 bathroom house. My point is, that while it will take time to refurnish and buy things to make your home feel like YOUR home, don’t be discouraged if you have to downsize. Keep the important things, the things that you can’t replace and take that with you because the rest is just stuff, unimportant stuff.

If you have to downsize it’s worth looking into the community buy/sell pages online to find what you need. Tag sales, yard sales, garage sales, flea markets, Salvation Army and other thrift stores are your new best friend if you are low on funds. It’s worth shopping at the Dollar stores for canned goods, pasta, sauces, snacks until you can get back on your feet. There are many great deals out there, you just have to open your mind and look for them.

Just know that one day a year or two from now, you will be a in a position to donate many of the items that you bought from the thrift stores. You will be helping folks in the same manner that others have helped you (indirectly). It’s all a matter of perspective. I’m happy to think that the countless items that I donated have helped others to get back on their feet. Maybe one of my items brought a sense of comfort to a young girl that is having a hard time adjusting to her first move, she spots the pretty unicorn lamp that I donated, turn out she needs a lamp next to her bed and now it brings a smile to her face each time she turns it on.

I can see that I’ve gone on for over 2,200 words at this point. As a self-proclaimed professional long distance mover, I am happy to answer any questions on this matter.

Just keep in mind that the family and friends that really do care, they will make an effort to visit you. As for the rest of them, there is Skype, Facebook and Facetime.

Good Luck future movers! ~ Hannah