Back in Montreal…and reflecting on life changes
August 9, 2020
We left Montreal in 2014 (6 years ago) to travel full-time. Our returns to Montreal since then have very much reflected the changes we’ve gone through.
We weren’t happy to come back in 2015. That first year of travel was a trial run and we had known that we’d have to come back and “check in”. Back then we had tenants (we had rented out our condo), Lissette had to meet with her boss (she had worked remotely that 1st year) and we had to check our mail (which was piled up in a PO box). But after that first year we knew that we wanted to continue our travelling and after 6 weeks in Montreal we flew to Budapest for year two of our travels.
By 2017 we were “legitimate” full-time travellers/expats. We knew by then that Montreal was the past. We had decided to live in Croatia in early 2017. A few months later we were told by our tenants in Montreal that they would be moving. We had decisions to make. Did we want to keep the Montreal condo? How about our large storage locker? That summer I came back to Montreal, sold the condo, and had all our furniture shipped to our apartment in Split. So 2017 was the year we got rid of all our physical attachments in Montreal.
Our time in Croatia lasted until early 2018. Looking back, we (mostly I) wasn’t ready to settle in one place. And Croatia wasn’t that place. We put our stuff back in storage (this time in Zagreb) and were back travelling full-time. Later that year I was in Montreal again for another life change – my son was graduating from University. Watching him graduate I was proud, but also relieved. I had paid his tuition and lodging throughout his years at school so 2018 provided some financial relief.
And now 2020…
We had planned to be in Montreal this year even prior to the Covid outbreak. In late 2019 we decided that 2020 would be the year we settle somewhere. That country would be Spain. We just felt that we weren’t getting any younger (we’re both 53) and that we had to put down roots. Spain was the best choice.
We arrived in Spain on the 1st of February and explored a few places that we could potentially call home. It was on March 13th, when in Leon, that Spain announced a state of emergency over the Coronavirus. We ended up being stuck in lockdown in Leon for 3 ½ months.
We thought about what we would do once lockdown was lifted. We could theoretically have continued travelling. But going anywhere is complicated and ever-changing right now and it didn’t interest us. We also didn’t want to deviate from our plan – with all the uncertainty going on we came to the conclusion that finding a home and settling down in Spain this year is the right decision.
So on July 6th we flew back to Montreal to begin the process of applying for a Spanish Visa (which has to be done from the jurisdiction where you live). We spent the first 2 weeks back in mandatory lockdown. A few weeks ago we were finally allowed out and since then have been busy getting our paperwork in order for a Spanish non-lucrative Visa: criminal background checks, doctor’s letter, updated marriage certificates etc. We’ve had to get certain documents legalized, others translated…There’s a lot involved. I’ll be writing a post about that eventually.
We’re getting close to the end of the process and hope to submit all the required documents to the Spanish Consulate in the next 10 days or so.
And we’re hoping, if all goes according to plan, that we will have Visas in hand by mid-October. I’ve got October 15th marked on the calendar as the day we hope to get back to Spain.
Of course anything could happen this year so we’re not assuming anything.
Coming back to Montreal though makes us reflect on the changes we’ve gone through. 6 years ago we had a condo, a full storage unit, Lissette worked, and I had to pay my son’s tuition and lodging. We’ll never forget the excitement of that first year. But there was a lot of stress as well. Now, in 2020, Lissette is (also) officially retired, we sold the condo, and I no longer have financial obligations. We’re the freest we’ve ever been and we’re looking forward to the future.
In a way, being back in Montreal in 2020 is a reset on our lives.
Back in Montreal this time around
It’s strange to be back in Montreal, especially with the Coronavirus being the focus of everything.
Montreal is the quietest we’ve ever seen it. It’s eerie.
It’s usually a buzzing, energetic place that gets crazy in the summer when festival after festival is hosted by the city. This year everything has been cancelled.
Downtown is absolutely dead. We went for medical checkups in the heart of the city. The metro (ie the subway) was filled to about 10% capacity. It used to be that I would often have to miss a train because there were too many people. Now, even at rush hour, downtown Montreal is a ghost town. Entering a highrise, we had to clear security (appointments only!), get a temperature check, wear masks, wash our hands with gel, and speak to personnel through plexiglass.
We went to a shopping center to get fingerprints for our police checks. There was nobody else at the office. There were very few people in the shopping center.
This is not the Montreal we know. It’s bizarre. I know, talking to people, that many are working from home. But not all jobs can be done from home. Where is everyone?
Montreal metro…on a Wednesday morning
We have a park across the street from the apartment. People have picnics, they bring bottles of wine and they sit there for hours with family and friends. It’s the thing to do during these times. We’ve done the same.
We’ve been struck by both the friendliness of people and the adherence to the Covid rules. I previously mentioned that during our first week we had delivery men coming to the door without masks on (our 14 day lockdown required us to have everything delivered). Since then things have gotten stricter. Delivery men now wear masks. In the stores there are strict social distancing rules (kind of strange seeing a big store where a maximum of 4 people are allowed in at any given time). In the street people are aware and make room. There’s no questioning of the rules and everyone is being respectful of space and the required etiquette. We’re impressed. And the numbers show that it’s working: the number of covid cases is in the hundreds (and not tens of thousands) and deaths in the single digits for all of Canada (on most days less than 10 people have died per day). Under the circumstances Canada has done well so far. But like everywhere else, Canadians are being warned to stay vigilant ahead of a possible 2nd wave of the virus in the autumn.
So we’re having a very different Montreal experience this time around.
I’ve mentioned previously that while I’ve returned a few times over the years, Lissette hasn’t been back in Canada since 2015. She wasn’t looking forward to it, most likely because it reminded her of work and people she didn’t want to run into on the street. In actual fact we’ve enjoyed Montreal more that we expected. Montreal is familiar, safe, and with everything going on right now it’s a good place to be. We’ve got some nice parks in Montreal and we’ve just enjoyed walking. We’ve also got a comfortable apartment, a nice place that we found on Airbnb but that we booked off-site (saving a lot of money).
So we’re good here and will enjoy Montreal until we (hopefully) leave in October. And as has always been the case, we’ll most likely look back at this visit as yet another leading to changes in how we live and travel.