“Due to the current weather situation, we close at 6 pm today”. We exchanged surprised looks when we saw the handwritten sign at the entrance to the supermarket. Ok, the weather has been crazy for the past few days, but that seemed a little over the top.
First rain, then wind and now snow. Today was the second day of snow. No big flakes and not much as we were used to from Austria, but it snowed continuously. It seemed like nobody was prepared for this weather and especially the snow. There was no snow removal on the road, no gravel or salt was strewn. The result was that yesterday’s snow, pressed flat by countless cars, had turned into a massive ice cover overnight. The new snow had laid on this ice sheet like a blanket during the day. So several cars were standing sideways, not able to drive on the slippery surface or had driven a little further than intended.
With our tires, without any notable tread, we were one of those cars. Our trip to the supermarket was adventurous. We had to overcome a small slope on our way that I had never noticed before. Now with snow and ice, I felt like I was on a downhill track. As I had learned on skis when I was a little boy, the rule is the same – close your eyes and go.
We enjoyed the experience of the impact that so little snow had on a usually snow-free and, therefore, unprepared island: road chaos, continuous use for the rescue, fire, and police, closed shops, and schools. Nina’s yoga classes were also canceled due to the weather. The ferry service to and from the island was stopped again and again. So we were cut off.
Some information about Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is located in the Pacific Northwest of North America. It is part of the Canadian province of British Columbia. The island is 460 kilometers long, 100 kilometers wide, and 32,134 km2 in size. A little bigger than Belgium. Around 800,000 people live here.
The southern part of Vancouver Island has one of the warmest climates in Canada. In some areas since the mid-1990s, mild enough to grow olives and lemons. So if you want to be in Canada in winter and are not a fan of snow or -50 Celsius, go to Vancouver Island.
Rain and wind
Before the disaster with the snow, wind, and rain dominated the island for weeks. Storm warnings were advertised like sweets on Halloween. The fire brigade was in constant operation to remove fallen trees from streets and many a house. At that time, there was no thought of hiking. So what are we doing here on this island with this unwelcoming weather?
Why we are here
When we went for Japan over a year ago, we left all our things here on Vancouver Island. Our motorhome and our Fiat 500, which served as a tow car (a car that is dragged behind the motorhome), also stayed here.
The motorhome in a guarded parking lot, the Fiat, as well as all our belongings with our friends Cathy and Chris. So we came here with a plan to sell everything. We had advertised all of our things on various platforms since we left, but we encountered not much interest. Only two people visited the motorhome this year and no one bought it. This should change now. We reduced the price, did some repairs, exchanged batteries, and had a complete check carried out. And of course, we insured the RV again, so that interested people could take a test drive.
We decided to book an Airbnb to present the motorhome empty. A month, with many questionable offers, a few visits, and no test drive later, we were still the owners of our “Goldi” – as we had called our motorhome two years ago. So we decided to import our motorhome to the USA and sell it there. A new adventure started.
We import our motorhome
“I’m back in Canada,” John told us. “I parked the RV in a friend’s parking lot and am driving home now,” he added in a tired voice. I was speechless. I was driving to the shoulder. The phone pressed hard against my ear as if I understood something wrong. All sorts of things went through my head. That couldn’t be true, was the most explicit thought. “What does that mean?” I finally asked. John breathes heavily and started to tell.
John was our importer. After “googling” for a few days and contacting all sorts of official and unofficial agencies, we decided to have the import done by an expert. This had a significant advantage and two disadvantages. The advantage was that John could argue better at customs than we could. The import was partly dependent on the mood of the border officials, regardless of whether all the papers were correct or not. We imagined scenes in which the customs official stood in front of us with a raised eyebrow and asked us suspiciously:” I see, you are two Austrian, owns a Canadian motorhome and wants to import it into the USA for three months of vacation? ”
So we turned to John. The downsides were that John wanted to be paid for his services, and the RV had to be parked for 30 days. That was a requirement of the DOT (Department of Transportation).
For a week, we put together all sorts of documents and looked for various badges in, around, and under the motorhome. Countless emails and phone calls with John and the motorhome manufacturer later, the day of the import came.
It started at 5 am. We drove both cars – separately because cheaper by ferry – to Vancouver and to our meeting point – a pub in front of the US border. We explained to John all the storage spaces outside and inside the motorhome, as well as the combination of the safe and all the other locks – just in case customs officials wanted to search the vehicle. We were happy to be able to check this problem on our list.
Our planned trip to Vancouver literally fell into the water. As soon as we left the pub, water masses (here called rain) fell from the sky, and so we decided to go back with the next ferry.
As soon as the ferry had left, the phone rang. It was John. He informed us that the customs official refused to import the vehicle. The reason was our lack of legal status in the United States. We had no idea what a “legal status” was, so we sent John a photo of our visa that was proudly attached to our passport. So our 1 1/2 hour crossing started – filled with phone calls, emails, and messages and forms that we had to fill out. In particular, all items on board and their value. The phone rings just as we drove off the ferry. It was John. “I’m back in Canada”….
At the end of the call, we knew what we needed. A valid I-94. We had no idea what an I-94 is. John didn’t either. A short Google search later, I knew what an I-94 is. Long story short, every non-American receives an I-94 when he enters. Not entered – no I-94. Since we are in Canada and did not want to enter yet – 30 days without RV and 30 days lost from our visa – did not sound tempting. John got it.
The next day we talked on the phone a hundred times. John had contacted the DOT (Department of Transportation) in Washington, DC in the morning and made sure that there were no legal problems. His contact person said the subject was unusual but ok.
The second attempt
So John drove to the border again. Waiting for about an hour for import. Three hours of searching the motorhome and when he was loaded with all the documents in front of the border guard – he was rejected.
Why? We were the problem. The border official accused us of intending to stay in the United States illegally after our visa expires. This accusation didn’t make much sense. We knew it, John knew it, and presumably, the border officer knew it too. So we sent a letter of intent to the border guards by confirming that we would leave the United States after our visa expired.
The processing time of the email was longer than the service of the border official, and so our importer had to present his case to the follower. He declined, and John was returned to Canada for the second time. Bummer.
The next day, the same procedure. One hour in line, three hours of search and questioning by the same border officer and then – a successful import. John had earned his $ 1,500 flat fee. In 30 days, we could pick up our RV from its parking lot. Check.
What did we do in the meantime
How we became VISA experts
Since we arrived on Vancouver Island, we have been immersed in the world of visas and residence permits. We focused on Canada and the United States. We spoke to all kinds of people who had already immigrated, read official immigration regulations, and we did a lot of interviews with immigration lawyers.
We learned that immigrating to Canada was anything but easy, and there was a lot of fine print. Many lawyers have only had experience with one type of visa and are trying to apply this type to us. We didn’t want to immigrate as truck drivers or bakers :-).
We also came from a super bureaucratic country, which meant that we could not fake documents, which was suggested by some lawyers. All tips from friends and colleagues also turned out to be wrong.
In the United States, regulations are somewhat more precise and not as covered as in Canada, but the requirements are high. So we became experts on visa requirements and corrected many immigration advisers. So if you have any questions about visas in the US or Canada, send us a message.
Also, we worked on a business concept that we are thinking of implementing in the USA. I first had to learn that a business plan for immigration is entirely different from a standard business plan. I also had to learn that 20 years of business experience are of little value when it comes to another country. Presentations, calculations, accounting, taxes, insurance are different. How potential suppliers reacted, especially insurance agents apprehends, is different.
Of course, our travel planning was not forgotten. After all, the world is big, and the list is long. South America and China are now at the top of our list. What do you all mean? And what’s on your list?
What has never been ignored for a long time is our learning. Nina worked intensively on nutrition and attended various yoga classes twice a day to deepen her passion as a yoga teacher.
Besides, we had planned to learn something new every month. We complete various “master classes” of multiple topics.
I opened a new chapter in photography – portrait photography. A completely new topic and challenging. Now I suddenly have to do with people, and the light was no longer given – as in landscape photography – but could be made and influenced. With steady light, flash, reflectors, backdrops, diffuser, umbrellas, beauty dishes, V-flats, and much more. Fantastic.
We spend our last days before the end of the 30 days in Vancouver.
Would you like more about us, visit the About us site.