Botched Border Crossing: What not to do when entering Canada.


Canada and I have shared a border my entire life and I finally decided it was time to pay it a visit, for no particular reason other than to take a peek at what’s on the other side.

My original plan was to make a day trip to Thunder Bay, since it’s only a four-hour drive from Minneapolis. A small amount of research and some first-hand accounts from my fiancé Luke regarding his underage drinking days revealed that Thunder Bay would be more about the journey than the destination. Instead, we decided to clear our calendars for a long weekend and head northwest to Winnipeg.

Did you know the concept of Winnie the Pooh originated in Winnipeg? I found this little nugget of knowledge during my requisite pre-trip internet research. Within the space of an hour, I also learned that Winnipeg has a sizable population, unique downtown, interesting neighborhoods and its fair share of cultural activities. I had more than enough ammo to justify a spur-of-the-moment 14 hour round-trip drive.

And just like that, our bags and passports were packed and we were on the road. I was psyched to not only get a new stamp in my passport, but check off another state visited – North Dakota! I quickly learned that North Dakota’s most interesting geographical feature is the horizon. At one point, the same stretch of sky contained the setting sun to our left, angry black storm clouds to the right and a double rainbow in the middle.

Finally, after a day of staring at flat, flat farmland, we approached the Canadian border. I insisted on driving so I could achieve my goal of driving across both borders in North America. (I checked off Tijuana early in my adult life. Spring break, y’all.) I pulled up to the border patrol agent’s window, handed over our passports with a silly grin, and eagerly anticipated the questions she was going to ask me. 

She started off easy: “Where are you going?”

I drew a blank. I’m going to blame it on cornfield hypnosis because I literally lost all brain activity. The nervous expression on my face accompanying my silence prompted Luke to answer for me. 

Her second question wasn’t much better: “Where are you staying?”

Dammit! Quality Inn, Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn, La Quinta all flooded into my brain at once. “Luke, where are we staying?” I asked in a tiny, panicked voice. 

The agent was now looking at me through narrowed eyes: “Why are you coming here?”

“As tourists!” I shot back instantly, but she didn’t hear me.“We’re tourists!” I repeated, louder this time.

“What kind of tour are you doing?” She was confused.

“No, we’re coming as TOURISTS!” I all but shouted at her.

This was going badly. Very badly. Not surprisingly, she asked us to come inside for further questioning. Luke remarked that we looked like drug runners and the mule was slowly but surely losing her shit. We walked into the station and approached a large man in a bullet proof vest. He asked Luke to sit down while I remained standing to answer some additional questions. This time, I knew exactly where we were going and staying. 

The officer kept looking at my hands as I spoke and I realized I was wringing them – a sure sign of nervousness. In an attempt to control my guilty-looking body language, I placed my hands flat on the counter and relaxed my rigid stance. I even threw a joke or two out at him. Shockingly, he laughed! Okay, this was going better. He instructed me to sit while he ran our records.

A few minutes later, we were given back our passports and told to drive safely. The female agent reappeared and gave me one last look, which read a lot like, “be safe in our country you simpleton.”

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