Even with passports and plane tickets in my hand—or rather in my bag and my mailbox—I’m always afraid that somehow, I won’t be able to leave and I’ll stay stuck in Canada.
I guess it speaks volumes about my current relationship with the country. But I swear I’m not just being paranoid—there just aren’t that many options to travel out of Canada.
We have a very limited number of airlines and airports, extreme weather known to ground planes, and a single albeit very long border with a country notoriously famous for tight border security. So when air travel services are being cut and when prices are rising, yes, I’m scared I won’t be able to leave the country easily if I want to or need to.
It’s not just me, by the way. I was chatting with a woman at the gym this week. She is British and she must be in her sixties—empty nest but a dog.
“Are you going anywhere this winter?” I asked innocently because I know for a fact she enjoys travelling.
“No way. I’m not taking the risk.”
“Yeah, what am I supposed to do if it’s a complete shitshow to come back after a 15-day holiday or cruise down south? I have a house and a dog, I can’t wait for weeks for a flight back to Canada.”
She must have been referring to the December 2022 snowstorm shitshow. Or maybe she was speaking from personal experience, I’ll never know, the class started.
So yeah, it’s not a completely irrational fear. The pandemic taught me that closed borders and travel bans can last months and that flights can be cancelled without notice and without a plan B for stranded travellers.
But so far, so good, we’re that close to be leaving.
Well, kind of.
We made it to Ottawa Airport. Our flight is 60 minutes late and technically, we could have shown up at YOW a bit later but my father-in-law didn’t want to drive after sunset. Besides, they showed up early at home so we already had the chance to catch up—Mark is too fat, I’m too thin, Feng should get a better job and really, we should plan Mark’s future better. So all in all, I didn’t mind waiting in peace at YOW.
The only problem is, there’s nothing to do at YOW except waiting and overthinking.
And I have a long, long list of worries about this trip.
Right now, I’m trying to cross them off one by one. There’s no snowstorm, for a start. In fact, it’s an unusually warm day, 8⁰C and sunshine. Our flight is late but planes shouldn’t be grounded due to extreme weather—blessing counted and acknowledged, one worry off the list.
We got our boarding passes and somehow managed to meet Flair Airlines’ insane baggage allowance policy—one free personal item each, one paid carry-on in the overhead bin (Mark’s bag was almost two centimetres too tall and 100 g too heavy), and two checked luggage at full price.
I just got the required tourist card and managed to pay the new tax—the website wasn’t working last night, Feng’s card kept on being declined.
So I’m pretty sure we can make it to step one of the trip. We should be here tonight around 12:30 a.m.
But this time, we’re taking flights, plural. It’s going to take us three flights and two days to get to the destination. I haven’t crossed the many worries about this off my list here.
And I’m typing this because I’m falling asleep.
It’s only 5:30 p.m. and our flight is now at 7:30 p.m. Feng and I are pacing the airport, taking turns or together.
It’s a six-minute walk from one end to the other.
Ottawa Airport isn’t exactly a big airport buzzing with activity and good travel vibes. There’s a steady trickle of passengers but it’s always very, very quiet. Like, right now, there are two passengers at the Air Canada counter—where are they going? Is there even a flight?—and maybe ten in line at Porter (one flight to Toronto and another one to Orlando, it’s easy to spot who goes where because half of the passengers are wearing shorts and t-shirts and the other half are bundled up in pricey Canada Goose winter gear). A guy sitting nearby is the perfect Canadian cliché—drinking Tim Hortons coffee, working through a box of Timbits, two hockey sticks sticking out of his duffle bag. Nobody is flying Canadian North or United. And that’s about it. You just don’t fly directly from Ottawa to Beijing, Tokyo, Rome, Buenos Aires or New Delhi. You can get to Nunavut, though.
Eventually, we’re going to walk through security and to the gate, then wait some more.
And hopefully, two days from now, I’ll be warm and happy again.
I’ll keep you posted.Share this article!