I was 22 years old the first time I ever left Canada.
It was the second time I’ve ever left Ontario. (I’d been to Winnipeg, Manitoba once before.)
Growing up in a small town in Northern Ontario, three hours away from the nearest city, meant multiple small road-trips to see medical professionals, to do some back-to-school shopping, and to eat fast food (exciting, but hardly a vacation). It also meant a lot of 15+ hour-long road-trips across Ontario to visit family members and see the various landmarks and tourist traps along the way.
By the age of 22, I was excited to finally take a weekend vacation outside of Ontario, and without family.
I attended University in Southern Ontario, super-close to Detroit (I could see it from my house), and literally lived underneath a border crossing, but it wasn’t until the beginning of my third year that I finally left Canada – and went the whole 280 kilometres (175 miles) to Sandusky and Findlay, Ohio.
I had recently joined Phi Sigma Sigma (ΦΣΣ) sorority. Our chapter was small with less than 30 members and therefore we didn’t have a sorority house. (I didn’t even know there were sororities and fraternities in Canada until I accidentally moved in with a couple members!) So in October of 2005, enticed by the advertisements for Cedar Point’s HalloWeekend, six of us decided to pile into a car and drive down to meet our “sisters” from another chapter, and to hit up some rides and haunted houses!
Crossing the border was ridiculously easy because you didn’t need a passport back then. (It probably helped that we were a car full of white, Canadian sorority girls in our early 20’s.) We spent two nights in Findlay. The first night we went to a fraternity house, obviously, and played beer pong for the first time. We then went to Walmart because we wanted “American groceries” and didn’t believe that they actually sold alcohol there. (They do!) We hit up the cereal aisle for some Kix and Cookie Crisp and picked up some Totino’s Pizza Rolls, too. (Why aren’t these available in Canada?!?) We also made fun of Americans for calling Rockets Smarties, and not actually selling Smarties.
We spent the next day in Cedar Point. I don’t know what I was thinking when I agreed to go because I hated roller coasters. Since I didn’t want to wait around by myself while everyone else was in the hour-long lines, I sucked it up and went. Of course, the first ride we went on was the Millennium Force, where the first ascent leaves you swaying back and forth in the wind next to Lake Erie with only a little lap bar holding you in, and then drops you 80 degrees and 93 miles (150 kilometres) per hour. In short, it was scary! – but I lived. And kinda loved it. As in I rode it again before we left that day, and then came back in the spring to ride it again. The only other ride I specifically remember is the Wicked Twister, which was and probably still is, my favourite ride ever.
After returning to Findlay that night, I was dealing with a bit of what I dubbed “un-motion-sickness” and went to bed while some of the other girls went out to explore the campus. On our last morning, we drove for what felt like ever to go to IHOP for breakfast (since we don’t have those in Canada either), before heading home.
The personal finance blogger in me looked at my old bank statements to see if I could figure out how much this trip actually cost me. (Why do I still have my bank statements from 8 years ago?) Back then the USD was about $1.18 CAD, so the $35 ticket to get into Cedar Point actually cost more like $43, but that’s the only transaction I could find. I’m sure the cost of food in the park was ridiculous, but we didn’t do much shopping and had a free place to sleep, so I’m going to guess that even with the unfavourable exchange rate, overall it wasn’t too expensive.
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