Traveling to Canada in 2021

I don’t normally spend a lot of time in North America. I grew up in the US, but rarely stay for very long each time I come back. Because I move so often, from country to country, city to city, I don’t have many roots in one place. My roots are my people. The people I meet along the way, the people I connect with, the people I care about; maintaining those relationships drives me, very often steering the direction of where I visit next. In this case it is Canada. 

Canada opened its borders to American citizens on August 9, so the very next day I bought my flight to Toronto, where some of the most important people in my life currently live, although we all originally connected while living in South Korea many years ago. 

Since the start of the pandemic, Canada has been strict with rules and restrictions. Flying there now is no different, although I am happy to comply. While that means extra steps taken now before I go, they are steps that are worth taking to see the people I love. 

Travelers flying into Canada must be fully vaccinated, and if you are not, a 14-day quarantine is required. Fortunately I got my first shot in June, the day I arrived back to the US from Istanbul. My second shot was three weeks later. Like most international flights these days, a covid test is required within 72 hours of departure. Once you get your test results, you can upload this information, along with a photo of your vaccine card, travel information, and your just in case- quarantine plan into the ArriveCAN app. After entering the information, ArriveCAN will send you an electronic receipt which you’ll need to take with you to the airport. 

I needed to show my negative PCR test results only at the Denver airport when I checked in, but not in Toronto. At the airport and on the flight everyone was required to wear masks. The lines at the Toronto Pearson airport were definitely long and the system chaotic and inefficient. I first waited in line for my turn at a kiosk, which printed a piece of paper. Once I had that paper in hand, I waited in another line for the customs officer. He asked only to see my passport and ArriveCAN receipt, and asked a few questions about what I’m doing in Canada, and where I’m staying. Then, I was free!

The moment I passed through the doors of the international gate and saw my friend waiting for me, everything was worth it. The hours on zoom, the emails and messages through the years that kept us connected, now in the past, as we laughed and joked and hugged in person.

Later that evening, some other friends from our time in Korea came over for dinner and drinks. Reconnecting with these friends now, made every box to tick off worth it. I am exactly where I am meant to be. It’s my first time in Canada, but I feel I have returned home.