Travel blog

Europe to Canada: Our Latest (Long) Adventure

By on August 29, 2016

I was a little shocked when I checked out our last blog post. A combination of living off-grid, less-than-stellar connection, organization of our trip and the finality stress of actually leaving Europe has kept our hands full.

I wholeheartedly apologize for the lag between posts. Hopefully we’re getting back on track and back to our version of normalcy. Grin. Instead of going into vast details, I’ll try to give a short summary for each step in our latest adventure.

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Wwoofing next to the North Sea

 We stumbled across an environmental science station that accepted work in trade for stay. They were wonderful to us and we both enjoyed a foray into the physical side of life. I weeded strawberries and prettied a cottage; Armando hauled soil, cut grass and was pretty much a Jack-of-all-farm trades. We really enjoyed ourselves.

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Amsterdam #Vanlife Meetup & Stay

 We used Blablacar to get a ride from Bremen to Amsterdam from a friendly Iranian couple. It was a very tight squeeze, mostly due to the new dog carrier we’d had to buy for the flight.

We met up with Crom and Velina of Livin 4 Wheel, who had so kindly offered us a stay in their van for the few days we had to wait for our flight to Toronto. Those days were filled with engaging conversation, contagious laughter and it was a new experience to stay in someone else’s van. (Thanks again, guys!)

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Toronto & Halifax, Kind of

One of the numerous hiccups we’d had in organizing our trip: we couldn’t fly with Ziggy from Toronto to Halifax, but we’d already bought the tickets. They refused to refund them. Our solution: me and Ziggy to stay in Toronto at an Airbnb while Armando flew singly to Halifax to pick up Mork.

We’d planned on staying with Rita and Norm’s place (lovely, quiet and nice atmosphere) until Saturday, but Mork broke down. 3 mechanics and 2 tow trucks later, Armando finally made it back to Toronto Tuesday night. But there was still something wrong with our van, and the Canadian mechanics* had managed to make it even worse.

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On the Road to a T4 Specialist, We Hope (!)

 We’re next to the lakeside of X, which is close to a T4 mechanic. We’re meeting him tomorrow to see if we can (finally) get Mork fixed to feel we can safely make it to Montana.

We went to see Niagara Falls, which was bizarre. It was like a mini-Vegas on the walk to the Falls. Each door screeching to come in, arcades, haunted houses, casinos and a big ferris wheel. Not at all what we expected.

Free camping here is also not as easy as we’d assumed it’d be, but we’ve managed. A nice surprise was the vast amount of free WiFi that’s available nearly everywhere, even in teensy towns.

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Europe to Canada: Costly, But Worth It

Needless to say, the loss of the tickets (it wound up being $700 total for 1 one-way ticket, a 2-hour flight, from Toronto to Halifax); the mechanics, so far ($1,000+); the insurance; the shipping plus taxes (2000$) and the basics of fuel and food for a 4,000km trek across Canada has almost drained our cash reserves.

It’s been a rollercoaster of emotional turmoil and questioning if we made the right choice in coming over here. Those are the dark moments, the questioning. Yet most of the time we’re both content- even happy- to be able to explore North America.

It’s so different from Europe, with little and large oddities. Canadians are so refreshingly friendly. Everyone says ‘Good morning,’ or ‘Hello,’; a lot of people are curious about us and aren’t shy to ask; there’s absolutely NO bias against our Bulgarian plates; we’ve had more help than we can count already, from strangers; and they’re wonderfully chatty.

In Ontario, if you want to visit any wildlife refuge/reserve, you’ve got to get a permit. Nobody really walks anywhere, and in some places it’s absolutely impossible. Everything looks like a short trip on the map, but the reality is driving on. And on. And on. Ha.

It’s also a lot of too-too in some ways. The drinks, the portions, the 10-for-1 are a little overwhelming. Oh, and you can only buy beer and wine from specialized shops, plus having an open container (even if parked and sitting in the van) is illegal.

Those are all minor things. The people and the countryside have really impressed us, much more than expected. It’s a beautiful country and we’re back on track. Excited to have our next North American adventure!

As always, thank you so much for being part of our journey. It inspires us. Grin.

-Mel, Armando, Ziggy and Mork

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4 Comments
  1. Reply

    Pierre

    September 10, 2016

    Hi
    If you want to see another kind of strange canadians don’t miss Quebec.
    We are….hummm!
    You’ll see
    🙂
    Don’t forget you English-French dictionary….

    • Reply

      Armando Costantino

      September 11, 2016

      Unfortunatly because of difficult circumstances we miss it, but we’ll be back for sure!

  2. Reply

    Bill

    September 17, 2016

    Hello and welcome to Portage La Prairie Manitoba Canada. I noticed your caravan this morning at the coffee shop. Tim’s. I didnt want to intrude and didnt know what id ask or say anyways. True Canadian. I thought id give you some insite as to where you are. We are located in the bottom of a glacial lake. Lake Agassiz which when you travel west you will travel up the receding banks before Brandon. Lake Manitoba and Winnipeg to the North are whats left.
    The towns name is from the indians and travelers hauling freight and supplies from the Assiniboine River to the South to Lake Manitoba to the North. French – Portage La Prairie. Southern Manitoba is a rich agricultural area and Portage due to shallow rivers and lakes flooding over the decades is a big vegetable producer. Our diverse population is european immigrant farmers of old (German Ukrainian Icelandic etc) A First nations, first settlers population. Also of late a Mexican Mennonite population sponsered in by our strong Southern Manitoba Mennonite groups. We also have East Indian, Pakastani and Phillipines people coming here for work opportunities. We have some Sirian refugees as well.
    Canada is diverse and there is quiet smaller discriminations, we are a melting pot of Nationalities.
    So on a Beautiful Saturday Morning the local population is either farming, getting their yards ready for winter or at the Hockey rink ( the community hub of most small Canadian towns). Lol.
    Have a most plesant stay in Canada. And if you have any questions of where u are headed let us know. Weve traveled our west. Its flat (watch your dog run away for three days flat), Till you hit the Mountains. Sorry, i hope this was interesting. Bill Blanchard

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      September 18, 2016

      Hi Bill. Wow, what a nice surprise to get your message today! It was very helpful and informative, we appreciate it. It’s a beautiful area around Portage La Prairie and we enjoyed the surroundings, especially with the fall colors coming out and the geese gathering. We’re heading toward Brandon today, so we’ll keep an eye out for some of your tips. Thank you much for taking the time to write us and wishing you a wonderful Sunday (a bit of rain and all). 🙂 Mel and Armando (+ Ziggy, our dog)

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