With Christmas holidays approaching, Gregor and I are thinking about our families back in Canada. We last saw them this past August when we flew back to Winnipeg for two family weddings. During our month-long visit, our relatives showered us with love and support and reminded us that – no matter what – we will always have a home in Winnipeg (or a parking spot with access to a bathroom, at least).
My time in Winnipeg was particularly special because it brought me closer to my little sister, Nicolette. Nikki asked me to officiate her wedding (conduct the ceremony that is normally done by a priest, pastor, or Justice of the Peace). I felt very honoured to marry Nikki to her soul mate, Alan, and I’m grateful that I was able to witness their marriage from the other side of the altar.
The ceremony at Pine Ridge Hollow was absolutely beautiful, but what I enjoyed most was the quality time I spent with Nikki and Alan at their house during the hectic days before and after the ceremony. Watching them problem-solve through pre-wedding drama and seeing their creativity and positivity shine through was really inspiring to me.
As Nikki ran around preparing for the wedding and honeymoon, I helped around the house and tried to make sure that my sister was rested, hydrated, and fed. I even pre-cut Nikki’s food into little chunks so she could shovel it in her mouth between all her tasks and appointments. I actually used to feed Nikki when she was a baby. I guess once you’re a big sister, you’re always a big sister.
Gregor’s big sister, Gesine, is like a big sister to me, too. Whenever we’re in Winnipeg, she spoils us rotten when we stay at her place. Gesine and her husband, Reg, will do whatever it takes to make us feel welcome and comfortable. They also love to share good food with us – bonus!
Gesine was really helpful to me and Gregor during our stay in Winnipeg. For example…I absolutely hate shopping. It stresses me out because I have a hard time making decisions. After landing in Winnipeg, I had only one day to buy an outfit and other important ceremony items for my sister’s wedding. Luckily for me, my sister-in-law is the Shopping Queen.
Gesine planned out the most efficient shopping route (on the roads and in the mall), she was quick to make fashion decisions, AND she made sure we took regular food breaks so that we wouldn’t lose our shopping mojo. For the first time since my teenaged years, mall shopping was actually stress-free and fun (Thanks a bunch, Gesine!).
Gesine’s daughter, Kira, also got married in Winnipeg – her wedding was at the picturesque Fort Gibraltar historic site. Gregor had the honour of giving a speech for his niece at the reception and welcomed her new husband, Jason, into the clan on behalf of his family. (Following photos by Megan Steen Photography)
A family gathering is just not complete without The Twins. I’m talking about Gregor and his identical twin brother, Gerald. Both of them have a wicked sense of humour and they share the same loud laugh.
Thanks to Nikki’s and Kira’s weddings, Gregor and I had the opportunity to connect with our families and rediscover Winnipeg, too.
During our Winnipeg visit, we were asked many times: “When are you coming back to Canada?”. Back then, we weren’t sure, but now the universe is telling us that we need to get back home as soon as we can.
Our original plan was to extend our overlanding adventure to Europe and Africa, opting to ship Lucky from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Hamburg, Germany, in spring of 2017.
Due to a series of logistical glitches (which I’ll explain soon), we’re now returning to Canada next year. The plan is to ship Lucky from Chile to the USA in February 2017 (ports to be determined). It takes 30-40 days to ship the van to North America, so we should be back in Canada by around May 2017.
It’s a long story, but this is why we’re going back home…
Gregor and I both grew up in Winnipeg but our place of residence is Calgary, Alberta (we don’t actually own property in Calgary any more, but that’s where our mail goes). By this New Year’s Eve, we will have been traveling internationally for two years – a wonderful thing according to us, but not according to the Establishment.
Apparently, when you’re away from the province of Alberta for over two consecutive years, you lose your Alberta Resident status. This means that you also lose your Alberta Health Care status (Canadian Health Care is managed on a provincial level).
Traveling more than two years makes it harder for us to purchase private Emergency Travel Medical insurance. Our current insurance company won’t extend our medical policy after the two-year mark because it’s too risky for them. Other insurance companies require us to have valid provincial health care, which we will soon lose at the two-year mark. The remaining companies that are willing to insure us will charge outrageous premiums or lower our coverage to unreasonable amounts.
We can’t really lie about how long we’ve been gone – our blog clearly states the date we left Canada and any investigation into an insurance claim would reveal our extended absence.
The responsible solution: Re-instate our Alberta Health Care by reclaiming our Alberta Resident status. That means we have to live in Alberta for at least six months per year for two consecutive years.
There is another option: Go without emergency medical insurance in Europe and just pay hospital bills out of pocket. The problem is that health care is much more expensive there and an emergency treatment could break us financially. It may actually be worth it to pay the outrageous premiums now, but there’s another glitch…
If we go to Europe like we planned, we’ll burn through our savings because things are generally more expensive there than they are in Latin America. When we return to Canada in another two years or so, we won’t have much left for a decent down-payment on a condo or house. With Gregor only working part-time and me not working at all, there’s a good chance that banks will refuse to give us a mortgage. This happened to our overlanding friends Travis and Amanda, and they talked about it on their blog Freedom with Bruno.
Rebuilding our financial status in two or three years’ time is not very palatable to us right now. So that’s why we’re coming back to Canada in 2017. We’ll make some more money, put in our two years, and hit the road again.
The insurance companies, the banks, the government…they don’t make it particularly easy to be a long-term nomad. Gregor and I are sad to be cutting our world travels short, but we are clearly being signalled to come home. How it will all play out, we’re not sure yet. At the very least, we know we have a parking spot somewhere with access to a bathroom 🙂