I've officially become an international traveller

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I finally received our first passports ever.

Now what?...

I can't use the reason (excuse) that I don't own a passport for not travelling anymore. Now if I don't travel, the only possible reasons (excuses) are financial and fear. And I guess timing. But lets not come up with more reasons...

I've never left Canada before. Now that I could, it kind of freaked me out. Not a crazy freak out, just a little anxiety. Fear of the unknown. So baby steps...

I was discussing this with Dr. T, the fishies-rescuer, over drinks telling him that the shopping reason many Canadians use for a little road trip to the United-States doesn't appeal to me. Minimalism, you know... So he suggested that I "just go for ice cream in Ogdensburg!" I never even thought of that! Well maybe because I'm not a big ice cream fan, but I understood what he meant. I got excited at the possibility. I knew my daughter would be excited about it too. Even if it was just for ice cream.

So I was checking out Ogdensburg, New York, online. According to Google Maps, it's about an 1.5-hour drive from where I currently live. That seems feasible! I saw there was a local restaurant called the Dirty Gringo. I thought it was a fun name for a restaurant and it had good online reviews. So I decided that lunch at the Dirty Gringo was our reason and our destination for our first international trip. 

Friday, my awesome friend Christy escorted me to get some American money, because, you know, I needed a bodyguard and stuff. I was walking around with $100 of American money which cost me $131.93. The exchange rate is terrible at the moment! Good thing I wasn't planning on making many purchases.

So my daughter and I left around 10:30 for Ogdensburg on a beautiful Saturday morning excited and eager for our first road trip to the U.S.. I have a terrible sense of direction and I'm a little insecure about travelling to new places. However, I managed to get all the way to Ogdensburg without using my GPS. OK, it's not the most magnificent feat, it's pretty much the 416 to the end. But still, I did it.

We get to the border crossing. My daughter is anxiously giving me advice on how to interact with the officer. "Just say we're going for a visit." "Yes honey, I know what to do." Contrary to what I was told to expect (Sue ;) ), the customs officer was very friendly. I told him we were coming over for lunch, that it was our first trip out of Canada and that we got our first passports a few weeks ago. He told me I could have come over with just my driver's license and birth certificate. He gave me food recommendations for the Dirty Gringo and sent us off with a charming smile. "We got through!!" And off we drove all giggles and smiles.

I drove along just guessing where to go. "OK, maybe it's time to take out the GPS now." We get to a red light waiting to make a right turn not sure if we could make a right turn on a red light in New York. We pull into a Walmart parking lot - good ol' familiar Walmart. We set up the GPS for the Dirty Gringo and off we go.

We walk into this small town dingy sort of place. It feels like we're in a movie. Dirty windows. Bad lighting. We sit down at a table assessing our surroundings. A lady and a little girl were sitting at a table quietly eating. A family walked in after us. They went up to the counter to order their food. So I went up after them.

The woman behind the counter seemed a little impatient at my ignorance about the sauce options for the enchiladas I ordered. I was trying to be friendly asking about the options. I made my choice. Apparently it was the right one. She said it was her favourite and gave me a quick little smile that faded away almost instantly. I went up to the cash to pay. I told the cashier we were from Canada and it was our first time over here. She was much friendlier than the first woman. She smiled and welcomed me. I felt comfortable to ask her about the right turns on red lights.

After lunch, my daughter asked "Now what?" I wanted to visit the quaint little town. She wasn't interested. She wanted to find a particular American store that's not as common in our area. The GPS showed us that there was one in a mall in Watertown. About 1.5 hours away from Ogdensburg. "Can we go mom? Please? Please? Pleeeease?" Well, we're already in the States... What's another little step outside of my comfort zone... "YES!" she exclaimed.

I got her three shirts that she absolutely had to have. Teenagers! :)  In all fairness though, it wasn't an excessive purchase. The new school year is coming up and she could use new clothes.

In the mall, we stopped to check out the ridiculously cute puppies in the pet shop. A man that was in there with a little boy in a stroller remarked on the fact that we spoke French too. He was from Fort-Coulonge, Quebec. We had a quick exchange in French. After leaving, I felt a little disappointed in myself for not having more of a conversation with him. I admire people who can have conversations with strangers. It's something that I want to work on. I have a tendency of giving off a "don't bother me" type of attitude when I'm out and about. Maybe it's an old defence mechanism that I haven't been able to shake off yet. You know, the "don't talk to strangers" warning parents tell their children. I know I'll get there though, because I want to.

Crossing back over to Canada was way more intimidating. The customs officer asked more questions. I don't know if it's more common to be asked more questions when you're on your way back into your country than going into a country you're visiting. My daughter remarked that Canadian security seemed more serious than American security. I must admit that after that first and only experience, I'd have to agree with her. According to Dr. T, since no one messes with the American customs officers that makes them free to be friendlier. I suppose that makes sense.

So there you have it. I've officially become an international traveller. The trip was a little anticlimactic, but I'm glad we did it. Now I feel ready to tackle something a little bigger. I've also realized that I've become much calmer about stepping out of my comfort zone. I realize that I'm smart and capable enough to handle it. Not that anything major has happened, which probably adds to my confidence. What's next? I'm not sure. A Caribbean cruise or a European trip? We shall see...


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