Volume I : Chapter XIII
It’s a little overwhelming trying to write down how we got from point A to wherever the hell we are now when so much happened in between.
The process was complicated and arduous, our lawyers had to do a lot of handholding along the way. We had to reach out to a lot of friends for help, so many people had to get involved. We thought the process would take three months but it took almost a year. It was no ones fault, it just played out that way (more on that later). We kept plugging away, travelling when we could and working when we had to (which was often).
When we first came back we lived on a sailboat but that wasn’t going to work long term. We ended up sharing a small one bedroom basement apartment, I lived in the hallway behind a shower curtain. When we weren’t getting travel jobs we worked elsewhere; I was a personal assistant and Jill worked in a restaurant. We didn’t want to but we had to, we agreed it wouldn’t be permanent. We weren’t allowed to settle in, our plan was always going to be to leave again, with visas this time. This is the kind of stuff we don’t put on the Internet. I think a lot about image crafting and what it’s like to curate a visual narrative of your life online. No one wants to see what’s behind the (shower) curtain. What we put out there is a “greatest hits” compilation of moments, not a complete picture of what this all entails. I know how lucky we are to get to do what we do but it’s not what it looks like. It’s a lot of work trying to be free.
I remember when we had a three day assignment in Italy, Jill left work on the Thursday straight to the airport. We came back Sunday night and Jill had to go to her restaurant job the next morning. Jetlagged and wearing an anatomically correct statue of David apron, when asked about her weekend she just said, “I went to Rome” while bussing tables. No one believed her.
We did this all year, worked full time and when we could afford a break we made a run for the road. We visited Italy, Dominica, London, Scotland, Belize, Nicaragua, Alaska, and dipped down into the lower 48 whenever we could. We cycled through every penny trying to stay gone as much as possible, coming back depleted and working back into the black again. It was a year of emotional and financial waves, but we were working towards an end; moving back into the trailer and legally living on the road in the US. We stayed restless and uncomfortable, I never bought a proper mattress or bedding, I saw that as a sign of settling in. We never decorated the apartment, never fully unpacked either, our living room was a mess of half full suitcases.
The email came around Jill’s birthday; her application was approved. We screamed and cried in the courtyard, we lost our damned minds we were so excited. I immediately started making a mental list of what we needed to do now to leave.
Give up the apartment, pack those suitcases again, say goodbye to our friends (and jobs). Our applications were mirror images but we had to apply separately, if Jill’s went through that meant mine would too. I didn’t let myself truly celebrate but I felt more secure than ever that things were finally happening for us. I spent the better part of the next week pressing refresh on my email but nothing came.
Once two weeks had passed, a pit formed in my stomach. I knew something was wrong. If my visa was denied, not only would that change the entire trajectory of our business, it would affect my ability to travel through the US for the rest of my life. I would never have an easy border crossing again; I would never be able to bring a camera without question. I would have found myself worse off than before we started with a big red flag on my record.
What I eventually received was called a request for evidence. It wasn’t a flat out denial but it wasn’t good. I didn’t have enough to prove my case and this meant more time off the road. I shut down, crawled into bed and didn’t come out for two days. Jill wrote me a card and slipped it through the gap in the curtain, trying to cheer me up. This was hard on her too, she wasn’t going anywhere without me so she was equally invested in my approval. The list of what additional information we needed to compile was exhaustive and impossible. On the third day Jill told me it was time to get to work and made a plan. We divided the list and started to rip through it. We got a pace going and as we checked each box off it seemed more feasible. I called people I had never met asking for favors, researched everything I could find about social media marketing, I became an expert in things I had never even thought about prior to that week. Hundreds of articles and scans later, we had it all together; a convincing case for the validity of my work. Off to the lawyers it went and I tried to distract myself the best I could.
The more time that passed the easier it was to forget about. I filled my days with work and friends and anything that made me feel good about being in Vancouver. I had to stop hating it since there was a good chance I’d be staying. I never used to hate it and I had the best friends any girl could want. That kept my chin up.
We headed down to New Orleans to clear our heads. Jill went ahead and met up with her family and I followed a week later. Excited to see Jen and my favorite city, my visa was far from my mind for once.
Early in the morning lying in a hotel bed, my approval notice appeared in my inbox. Jill and I were in separate rooms and I ran down the hall banging furiously on her door. We hugged, screamed and cried all over again. I felt relief for the first time in a year. We celebrated with oysters at Casamento’s and drinks on the river while I rewrote our to do list in the back of my mind. It was time to go home and leave all over again, but for good.
Volume III was about to begin.