Why Borders Are Difficult Concepts for Island Folks

Growing up on an island, you lose any sense of borders. There are none. If you keep walking in any direction, you’ll fall off a cliff into an ocean. Our island has islands and our island’s islands have islands. You get used to being isolated. Like that Simon & Garfunkel song. An island never cries. Oh wait, different story.

So when I went to visit my cousins April and Cindy in Ottawa, Ontario, you can imagine my surprise when one night we were driving around and April suddenly announced, “We’re in Quebec.”

I had expected some sort of ceremony.
Alarms ringing out. Flashing signs and armed guards posted at every roadway. Fireworks and choirs singing on the sidelines. SOMETHING to indicate the monumental occasion of being able to cross another Canadian province off my list.

In a way, it happened in the form of a beer store.

Yes, we went across the border to get beer.

My cousin could drive there with her eyes closed, apparently. We ended up at a tiny beer store in Hull. If the whole border idea wasn’t shocking enough, there I was, tossed into a beer haven. Half-cases for $8 and 2-4s for $15! EVERY IMPORTED BEER IN THE UNIVERSE!

My cousins and I giggled. We held hands in a circle and danced around the cooler. We took pictures. See?



And then, after 15 minutes of beer porn, in walked three of my other relatives. All from within Ottawa. I shit you not, I was in a beer store in Quebec and my relations just happened to show up.

Hes clearly underage.

He’s clearly underage.

These aren’t even my boozey relations. They’re the normal ones.

But I digress. That’s the funny thing about borders, they’re invisible concepts; yet, for an island girl like myself, it was difficult to grasp. I kept hearing my cousins talking about “driving across the border to the States” and it struck me as extremely fortunate to be able to do those little things. Newfoundland is a world onto itself.

(When we got back to Ottawa, we drove around a little more. Finally, April decided she wanted wine instead of beer, so we pulled up to a LCBO liquor store [“Lik-bo,” as they so fondly referred to it]. And, as we were pulling in, the same beer store relatives were pulling out.)

In other travel-related news, Corbin Fraser over at iBackpackCanada dubbed me as one of the 6 Canadian Travel Bloggers You Should Be Following. Well I’ll be damned! Thanks Corbin! Looking forward to meeting you next weekend, hopefully.

ALSO, really think you should vote for my trip. It has phalluses.

  • February 11 2010

    Completely agree with how uneventful provincial border crossings are. Its funny though that no matter how boring you know they are, somebody in the car always chirps up “we’re in [x] now”, usually followed by a depressing “woop”. Somebody in charge should make them more exciting. lol.

    U running into family reminds me of when i was 14 and I had this awesome idea for pulling booze underage. It involved not shaving for like a week and a half, then wearing a full business suit and buying a case of beer. Everything was going according to plan until my parents best friends walked in. I gave them the straight faced awkward smile nod that indicated “im so busted, but it’s cool, just let me get the eff out first”. Then somehow I managed to bribe them with a couple of my newly acquired kokanees. lol.

    But yea, long story short. I’ll FB you before next weekend and see if we can rendezvous for some drinks. And thanks for the mention! Appreciate it

    • February 15 2010

      Hahahaha, you are badass! Yeah, I don’t know, I expected…something. But it was still great. Hopefully we’ll connect over some beers!

  • February 11 2010

    I’ve had a similar experience growing up in Florida. The state is so damn long that it takes like 14 hours to get out of it. When I visited my friends in New Jersey, it was so weird to drive an hour and then suddenly be in Philadelphia or New York.

    I’m voting for you!

  • February 11 2010

    I love the prices of booze in Quebec. We pay so much in Ontario. It is like crossing the border to another nation, we always stock up before leaving without having to pay the duty when we cross the border. That is such a great Canadian moment. Family gathering surrounded by cases of beer in the beer cooler. Love it!

    • February 15 2010

      Hahaha, seriously! It was pretty cool. Next time, I need to REALLY experience Quebec though.

  • February 12 2010

    Love the family reunion pic in the liquor store. You always have such interesting things happen to you. I know you’re coming to Alberta later this year and apparently we have really cheap liquor prices. I’m not sure if it’s because there’s no PST/HST and that we have private liquor stores – are liquor stores in Newfoundland government run?

    I used to think when crossing a border there’d be some grand change in scenery to signal you’re in another province/teritory. But it’s always pretty gradual. I even remember in Europe going from Germany to Austria all to show we were in another country was a EU sign with Austria written on it.
    Even though border crossings don’t live up to the hype, I’m always glad to visit a new province or territory or country or state or whatnot. As a kid we had this tradition driving back from Saskatchewan to Alberta to listen to and sing along to the Eric Clapton Song ‘Alberta.’ Ah road trips with the family.

    Funny enough I find islands sort of cool. But I remember going over to PEI and being thrilled I had to go across water, I drove across The Confederation Bridge. Alberta’s so landlocked, whenever I see the ocean I always get excited.

    • February 15 2010

      Yeah, liquor stores are government run! I didn’t realize it was so cheap in AB too.

      Agreed though, crossing into a new province is still pretty kickass. I hadn’t seen any of Canada at that point and there I was…two provinces in one day! Wooo!

  • February 12 2010

    In my years living in Ontario I have never heard an LCBO referred to as a Lik-bo.

    • February 15 2010

      Hahaha, definitely just my family.

  • February 12 2010

    oh yes, border crossings are pretty uneventful here…even if you are going into another country. I live right near the New York border, and pretty much every other weekend of my childhood was spent going “over the river” because the US prices for gas and milk and whatnot were so much cheaper. ohh and their pizza and wings are so much better.
    my favourite thing about crossing the border though is the duty free…super cheap booze. mmmmm.

    • February 15 2010

      Hahaha, that’s hilarious….and also reminds me of how cheap everything is everywhere else in Canada. NL fruit is pricey!

  • February 12 2010

    Hey Candice,

    What an interesting piece – thank you! Being from California, you’d think I’d be alll passe about borders, but it’s not the case. I didn’t leave California until I was 10, then only twice until college. I STILL always expect flashing lights and a distinct change of scenery when I get somewhere new. I have also been known to annoy car companions when we get to one of those “now entering______” signs on the road. I always want to get out, or talk about the place we’re entering or honor the place we’ve been. They’re always like “pass the cheesy puffs and turn the ABBA up already…”

    • February 15 2010

      Hah, I know! Whenever I go somewhere new, I’m always in awe. Feels so weird to be hemmed into the corner of this country. I definitely look like a tourist wherever I go.

  • February 12 2010

    That’s a great story. It’s surprising enough when you run into someone you know just a kilometer away from where you usually see them. In an entirely different land, so to speak, that would be mind blowing. Something similar happened to me once, now that I’m thinking about it, and both of our minds were, in fact, blown.

    And I voted for you. At least I think I did. The site didn’t make me sign in, which gives me my doubts that the vote took. That would mean we could all vote for you 100 times, which is a great idea, actually. I’ll go back now and check and see if I can vote again.

    • February 15 2010

      Hah, I know! So random and funny. I love my family.

      And yes, you can only vote once, thank you! :)

  • February 13 2010

    heh, growing up we regularly drove from Ottawa to PEI, and there was neve rmuch fanfare to boarder crossing… except getting to the island (undecided on whether the ferry or the bridge is more exciting…)
    HOWEVER, one summer, on Canada Day, we decided we needed some alcohol and as we were legal in Quebec but not in Ontario, we walked over to Hull. There’s a line on the road marking Ont/Que… and I swear to god it was like crossing into a different WORLD. They don’t celebrate July 1st in Hull, and the road to walk over is right behind Parliment, where the biggest possible party is happening… so it was like we walked on over into a ghost town :S I swear tumbleweed rolled by.

    (also, when I went to NYC I went by greyhound from Toronto… there was much fanfare for that boarder crossing, let me tell ya… in high school we annually did band trips over to the states, and a boarder guard would come on the bus and only talk to the non-canadian citizens in the group… but on the greyhound to NYC, we all had to get off and get processed and get lectured and tra la la…)

    also. have never heard anyone refer to it as “lik-bo” :o we always just called is l.c.b.o.. or the liquor store. I used to have photo ID done by the LCBO, it has flower vines all over it, looked super legit ;D (I never had a driver’s licence until I moved here…)

    and. finally. i voted. ;D

    • February 15 2010

      Hahaha, thank you! Yeah, just my cousins would say it like that. Because we’re losers.

  • February 14 2010

    That’s almost enough beer to build a beer house.

    Which would be a sweet place to live.

  • February 15 2010

    Didn’t wanna go with the Milwaukee’s Best in the first picture? Classy beverage.

    I had the same thought about borders when I drove from Calgary to British Columbia and was expecting some trumpet fanfare when I crossed the border in a national forest…but alas, I was greeted by not even an animal…

    • February 15 2010

      Hah! I don’t think I’ve tried that one. They should offer variety packs, huh?

  • February 15 2010

    Voted for you. And congrats about being a kickass Canadian blogger. Wooohoo.

    I hear you on border crossings. I always felt like there should be fanfare: trumpet blowing, sparklers, balloons…At least you got some awesomely cheap beer!

  • February 17 2010

    Haha. I love it. The “clearly” underage kid in the beer area picture cracked me the hell up.

    • February 19 2010

      Hahahaha, he obviously couldn’t appreciate the glory of the moment.

  • February 19 2010

    Borders are a strange thing indeed. I always wonder how they chose them all?

    In Australia the states do have a visible vegetation difference between them, it gets more green on the east side.

  • February 20 2010

    I moved from Australia to Canada twleve months ago and I still laugh at the idea that you can DRIVE to another country. Sheer insanity. ;)

    • February 25 2010

      I KNOW! I still can’t wrap my head around it, and I’m Canadian.

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