Sunday, July 7, 2024

Canada Calling - The Back Story - Part 1

This summer, we were incredibly lucky to visit Canada. There is so much to share (whether you like it or not!) that I’ve decided to split this story into a multi-part series:

  • The Back Story ← This post
  • East Canada - Toronto
  • Rest of East Canada
  • Family Reunion and West Canada

This trip holds a special place in my heart, and to understand why, we need to dive into the backstory and the unfolding drama.

The Back Story

My brother-in-law (BIL) and his wife have been living in Canada for about ten years now. We hadn’t visited them all this time. However, in July 2023, they had their first baby shower, which we couldn’t attend for various practical reasons. That’s when it was decided that all of my wife's immediate family—her sister (who lives in the USA), her parents (also in the USA), and herself—would meet in Canada at my BIL’s place for a family reunion.

As usual, after making the big decision, the nitty-gritty details like when to meet, how to travel, where to go, and how long to stay were left to me.

By October 2023, I discussed the idea with my parents to see if they wanted to join us. My parents, being older, prefer not to travel alone, and this was their chance to see Canada with us. I also had a strong desire to take Mom to Niagara Falls, which I knew she’d love, they agreed!

So, we now had a group of ten: four seniors (wife's parents and my parents), four adults (2 of us, my SIL and her husband), one young adult (my 19-year-old nephew, SIL's son), and one child (my Son). We were all set to visit my BIL, his family, and their firstborn—yes, by now, my BIL's family was blessed with a baby boy!

After a lot of calendar Tetris to manage everyone’s schedules and considering Canada’s unforgiving weather, we narrowed down our travel month to May of 2024. Everyone agreed, partly out of relief from my constant reminders and partly because May seemed far away back in November.

The Pre-Work

With the travel dates decided, we (read: I) began the preparations. Since it was our first time in Canada, we wanted to maximize our experience. We decided to spend the entire month of May there: exploring East Canada in the first part and Central and West Canada in the second part.

My Dad who is still working at 73, wasn’t thrilled about traveling for a whole month but relented when I explained that anything less wouldn’t be worth the cost.

From January to March 2024, we applied for visas, booked flights, reserved cars, and finalized the itinerary. Everything seemed to be falling into place. But was it?

The Twist

Mid-March, my dad started experiencing health issues—uncontrolled loose motions. This devastated his self-esteem, and he worried about such incidents during our travels. He began insisting on canceling his and my mom’s travel plans.

Most of the bookings such as flights and stays were non-refundable. My wife and I downplayed his concerns and urged him to see a doctor, reassuring him that this was common in old age. We really wanted them to join us, knowing that as they aged, their travel opportunities would dwindle.

Despite visiting multiple doctors, his condition didn’t improve, and his insistence on canceling grew. By early April 2024, one doctor identified the root cause: his diabetes medication. Changing the medication helped with his loose motions but caused his sugar levels to fluctuate, adding to his reluctance.

By mid-April, another tragedy struck: one of my dad’s trusted employee passed away from a heart attack at in his home town in Bihar. This not only saddened us but also caused a staff shortage at my dad’s factory, since 4 of his relatives who also worked in my Dad's factory, went to their native place to bid their goodbyes. This I though was the final nail in the coffin for his travel plans.

My dad, now resolute, he got another reason not to travel. We tried to reason with him, but it was too late. We had to accept that my parents wouldn’t be joining us, this pretty much felt like playing the game of whack-a-mole with problems.

We explored postponing their flights but found it too expensive and we had no confidence that they would travel even later, especially because they would have to travel alone.

The Turn

In the last week of April, my dad informed his long-term business partner, of his decision. Uncle blasted my Dad, assuring him that the factory would be fine with some planning. This boosted my Dad’s confidence immensely. Suddenly, he called to say they might make the trip after all. We were ecstatic, we were super happy for both of them but especially for my Mom!

Just like that, we were back on track. I had canceled some bookings a couple of days prior but rebooked everything (at a slightly higher cost, but I wasn’t complaining).

I don't say this very often but, this experience reminded me how lucky our family has been when it comes to finding amazing partners and friends, both in life and in business (true for both my Dad and Myself). We are truly blessed!

Next Time

In the next post, I’ll continue our travel story, exploring East Canada especially Toronto. Will read a tense story of how the car rental company almost denied us the car at Toronto airport and why cutting costs by not operating bank call centres 24/7 is such a bad idea!

Have some Fun!