We left Acadia and headed towards New Brunswick. I wasn’t exactly sure where we would be staying, but there seemed to be camping available in Fundy National Park. The prices seemed reasonable after the expensive camping in the Northeast, but I was hoping to find some free camping somewhere. As we drove through the scenic areas of US 1 from Maine to Canada, I was continuously blown away by the kaleidoscope of colors dancing past us. It was a beautiful day out and the sun was shining boldly, so the leaves were out playing in the light like children on a playground….. I could almost hear the playful laughter rolling off the mountainsides. I quite often use longer drives to catch up with friends from home and this day was no exception.
I chatted with a few friends and deeply enjoyed the connection with each of them and felt my heart filling up with each word exchanged. I am consistently reminded of the AMAZING friendships I have back in Florida. This reminder both warms my heart and send tears down my face all at the same time!!!
We closed in on the border of Canada and I felt so good since we would be making it to the area of Fundy National Park in daylight to figure out where we were going to set up camp for the next few days. We pulled up to the window at the border crossing and handed over our passports and answered the same set of questions we answered going into Ontario near Niagara. Q. What are you doing in Canada? A. Seeing your beautiful country. Q. How long will you be here? A. 10-12 days. Q. Do you have any weapons (guns, pepper spray or tasers)? A. No sir. Q. Do you have any drugs or alcohol on board? A. No sir (smiling) Q. Does the father of the child know you are bringing her into another country? A. Yes, he is aware. Then he sent us around the corner and into the Border building with a piece of paper. We arrived skipping into the building with big smiles, filled with excitement to be spending a little bit of time in Canada. The agent at the counter greeted us with a smile and then asked the same set of questions, yet all worded in a slightly different way. I remember thinking “hmmmmmm, either they don’t communicate well or they want to see if I’m answering the same” i.e. Am I telling the truth? (I know this from all the discovery questions I ask clients). I answered all the same and then he continued with further questions. Q. Where are you staying? A. I’m not sure, somewhere at or near Fundy National Park, I’m not big on plans (laughing). Q. You mean you have no reservations? A. No sir, we are (Sienna continues to interject answers to all his questions like here she says, “no reservations, our plan on this trip is to have no plan”) I smile with pride in her interaction and accuracy. He eventually asks Sienna to go have a seat on the bench so he can ask me more questions. He asks where I live and I smile again and answer that “officially” I live wherever my camper is. I noticed at this point he was not really engaging in this conversation and the level of questioning was increasing with a tone of concern in his voice. He asked where my legal residence is, I tell him for all practical purposes Florida is home. He asks what I do for a living. I tell him I’m taking some time off to recharge but that I have worked in mental health for the past 16 years. Again with concern he asks how I am supporting myself and how I am funding this trip. I explain it’s been planned and we spent a lot of time saving pennies to make it happen. He switches gears and begins the line of questioning about Sienna and where her father is and if he is ok with me taking her out of the country etc…. I assure him everything is fine and I understand there is always a concern of parents absconding with a child and let him know that is not the case. He tells me that it’s nice I know that but how can he be sure that’s not what I’m doing. He looks at Sienna and says he can see she is happy and excited about the trip, but he can’t just take my word and asks if I have documentation giving me permission to leave the country. I look in shock at him and tell him that I have traveled to Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay, etc…. and I have NEVER even been asked and I apologize for not being better prepared. I was sincerely apologetic for not having all I needed to make his job easier. I told him we could certainly call Sienna’s father if he wanted. He just nodded his head. Then began the line of questioning regarding drugs and weapons and alcohol. I assured him that I had none of these things. He looked at me with raised eyebrows and a side-cocked head, lowered his voice and said, “Are you SURE?” I smiled and sweetly responded, “YES, I am sure!!” This went back and fourth for a bit and then he told me to have a seat, as he would be searching my car. Sienna and I chatted and laughed and played games as we waited. I looked at the clock and realized it had been almost an hour. UGH!!!! So much for us making good time…… I wondered how long this was going to take.
“Excuse me ma’am…. Hello ma’am…….” My brain began to tune in and I looked up to ask “me ma’am?” Pointing at myself….. “Yes, you. Agent such and such needs you out by your car.” I oblige and walk outside. The car topper is opened and the contents of my car have clearly been gone trough in a very thorough manner. He asks Sienna to go stand near the front of the car and brings me towards the back. I can sense the seriousness of his body language and confusion washes over me. He shows me his closed fist, palm down as if I was to guess which hand had the penny in it, then flips his hand over, opening his palm to reveal a tiny keychain sized bottle of spray clearly marked “animal repellent”. He asked me to explain it. I was in shock…. I told him I honestly didn’t know that was in my car. I began scanning my memory bank to know where it came from….. I got nothing!!! I was quickly beginning to feel like a criminal and couldn’t understand why. I do remember seeing that bottle in my Jeep glove box, (which I owned over 6 years ago!) but NO clue where it came from and I know I NEVER purchased it. Someone must have passed it along to me at one point and in the purchase of this car I must have just moved it from the Jeep glove box to the Subie glove box and it had been long forgotten about…… it was about 5 years expired anyway. The agent told me it was a $500 fine to try to bring in pepper spray and continued to question me hard about where I got it and why I was carrying it and what I indented to use it for!!! OH MY GOD….. I continued to patiently respond with the same answer…. “Sir, I had no clue it was even in the car, I apologize for for not being aware of the contents of my car! I assure you there was no intent whatsoever!!” This went back and fourth for quite sometime. Then he walked me over to the car topper and told me that when he opened it he smelled pot. He told me he knew it was there and suggested I just tell him where it was to make everything easier on everyone. My jaw literally fell open….. I mustered up the composure to close my mouth, yet a small laugh escaped before it was shut. I again told him there were NO DRUGS anywhere, to to feel free to search as long as he would like. He shook his head at me in what I perceived as annoyance that I was not making his job easier by “giving up my stash” (which there wasn’t one)! Then he told me he would be emptying the entire contents of the car and camper and asked me to think long and hard about how I wanted the day to go. I told him I wanted the day to go smoothly and swiftly, but that didn’t seem to be how it was going to happen. I asked him what I could do to help him and he excused me back to the building. I couldn’t help but feel nervous and a slight panic set in about what he was going to find and if I was going to end up in Canadian Jail with social services called to remove Sienna from my custody. UGH!!! I hated these thoughts, especially since I had done NOTHING wrong and there was NOTHING to be found, but the thoughts and feelings still surfaced. Sienna and I held hands walking back to the building and I noticed her grip a little tighter than usual on my hand. She looked up at me with a bit of concern and asked what was going on. I told her what was happening and with complete disgust she shook her head and said, “this is so ridiculous, we don’t have anything that’s against the law…. maybe someone is setting you up mama” and then her brain started to work overtime trying to make sense of it all……. She asked if we would get in trouble for the saw I had in the camper for cutting wood, she asked if we could get in trouble for the small hand axe for cutting kindling, she asked if we would get in trouble for the sparklers in the back seat, she asked if we would get in trouble for the pocket knife we had and on and on she went with worry about what was going to happen to us. She asked if we would go to jail, she asked if we went to jail would we be able to stay together. I patiently told her we had nothing to worry about because we did nothing wrong, but couldn’t help thinking about all the people who do nothing wrong that end up spending time in jails because someone decided they looked like a criminal and they fit a description and BAM….. life was forever changed!! We both nervously played for ANOTHER hour as the search continued. We would look outside occasionally and see the hood popped or the topper contents emptied and I had to go outside to pop up the camper and watch them going through all our stuff. I was asked the code to unlock my phone which I gave up because I had NOTHING to hide!!!!
Once again I was summoned outside, I was taken around the side of the camper and the agent once again gave me a very accusatory look pointing at a pile of campfire wood asking me to “please explain this ma’am!!” I couldn’t help but chuckle and stated, “well, it’s campfire wood”. He asked why I was trying to sneak it in the country and again I sincerely apologized and told him I didn’t know it wasn’t allowed, there was no criminal intent at all! He told me he would have to confiscate it. I told him no problem. He then informed me he couldn’t find my pot and he couldn’t even find my rolling papers or any other paraphernalia. I assured him it was because there wasn’t any. He just looked at me in disbelief. He asked me if I wanted help putting things back in the car and the car topper and getting things settled back in my camper. I accepted his offer and we worked together to put things back in their proper place. I often gave him instructions of proper placement and he just followed the directions….. it was so odd!! I noticed he seemed to be moving with an air of defeat. I told him not to feel badly about not finding anything because there simply wasn’t anything to find. He didn’t seem to believe me still. We got everything put away and inside we went. Again, the line of questions started about Sienna and what I was going to be doing in Canada. He informed me he looked through my phone and saw my various Instagram pages and noticed I was into yoga and asked if I was a teacher. I told him I was and that didn’t help my cause. He asked me if I planned on entering Canada to teach yoga and live in my camper. He asked if I was fleeing the US. He asked if I was planing on establishing a life in Canada. He asked what I had in the states to pull me back. He commented that I had no property, no real job, no husband and that was EXTREMELY concerning to him. He stated that since I did not have any of those things he didn’t see any reason for me to return to the U.S. I assured him there were MANY reasons to return…. I began to list them ALL!!! Gently smiling as I mentioned each friends name! As the list continued and I added various places that were of value to me and all the places we have yet to see on our trip….. I just continued to ramble, finally he cut me off and said “I get it”…. I assured him he didn’t “really” get it, but I was feeling proud that my list of reasons to return was so long that he got bored and needed to cut me off. He grilled me for about another 30 minutes, passively threatening to NOT let me in the country, all the while I smiled and calmly answered his questions. I was actually surprised by my own grace and calm, a situation like this would usually tweak me out and I would be tight and short and edgy with all those around me, especially Sienna, making it CLEAR to everyone that I was NOT happy with the inconvenience of being OFF schedule etc….. Note to self: a shift is occurring!!! I was excited at the thought that the softening I have been working on may be taking hold!!!
FINALLY he told me he was going to let us in the country after one last attempt to pull a confession of drugs and weapons out of me!! As we pulled away I watched the last of the sunlight drop behind the horizon and wondered where we would sleep for the night with this huge delay. We drove to get closer to the National Park and found a sweet little diner with wifi where we stopped for dinner. We had delicious burgers and to my complete joy they had gluten free buns and sweet potato fries!!! Instantly all was right in the world lol…… Our waitress was so kind and heard me talking about our experience and assure me it wasn’t me and that the border here was VERY tough!!! It was a shock to me since the border in Ontario was a complete joke!!! She let us sit in our booth and use the wifi as she cleaned up and shut down for the night. We continued on our path for a bit, as I was hoping to make it to a campsite. As the miles went on I felt my eyes getting heavy and we were passing through a large town, so I took a random shot that there might be a place for us to sleep for the night. Low and behold there she was, all lit up…… Our familiar friend Walmart!!!! I wasn’t sure how Canadian Walmart’s would be and felt extreme relief when we turned the corner into their parking lot to see 3 other RV’s popped out and set up for the night. Whoooooooo Hooooooooo!!! So we pulled in and made ourselves at home and decided we would figure out the next part of our visit in the morning. We both drifted off gazing at the beautiful moon beams shining through our window, softly snuggled in our cozy bed!! I felt a smile wash across my face and my heart was happy….. Looking forward to seeing what else Canada has in store for us on our adventure!!
Love & Light