Shifting base - Becoming a Non-resident Indian in the most unexpected way

Today marks the 1st anniversary of us landing here in Canada 🍁and it's still just a subtle realization that we have taken this drastic step of packing our lives into two 50 pound bags to fly into unknown lands with little expectations and nothing but only uncertainties.The plan initially was that... there was no plan and to this date it is difficult to explain how we shifted here all of sudden and became "immigrants" or "NRIs" ... Hell it's difficult to even explain ourselves how we treated our lives with in the past year especially because Canada was never a Plan A or B or Z.
Fall Colours in Mississauga,Canada

The seeds were sown in August 2017 when one of our friends immigrated to Canada and for the first time someone that we were quite familiar with, showed us the Canadian life, the place, the weather, the jobs, the chores and the like. It was precisely the time when we had purchased a new appartment back in our hometown and were giving it all our time and efforts to gift ourselves the interiors and furnishings of our choice. Life was comfortable for both of us Bankers and working in our home cities, each day started with a morning walk and ended with plans of our next vacation trip and about making this blog more exciting.
Toronto skyline

But then, as we read more about how Canada has some of the best cities to live in, how it is one of the more developed countries with high standards of living, free healthcare and education, we started comparing the traffic, pollution, work life balance of big Indian cities with Canada which would obviously tilt in the latter's favour and eventually we decided to try for a Canadian Permanent residence and have it for us "just in case".

View From Plane-CN Tower & Toronto Downtown

Long story short, fast forward to July 2018, we took a couple of months of leaves from our banking jobs (thanks to our generous bosses!) to test the Canadian waters. It was all in a hurry decided precisely two weeks before departure and mainly to attend a 4 week immigration job orientation and training programme organized by a government funded immigration settlement agency. So the plan was to do a soft landing, get done with the orientation and fly back home with some flavours of Canada and eventually immigrate later if at all we would want to....but we booked a one way ticket just to keep our options open.

Night View, Downtown Toronto, Canada

Things didn't turn out the way we were expecting it to be, the program we were about to attend was already full and with no Plan B, we just started exploring the city and the job market pondering over when to book our return tickets. During this time we also realized how beautiful a country Canada is! It took us some time to accept the change and settle down and once we did and once we got some responses from employers here, we gave a thought about - why exactly do we need to go back home immediately? For our jobs, was the answer. And what if we got a job here and resign over email? Not a bad plan B for sure! So this is how our Plan B was formulated without a Plan A. We are grateful to our friends who hosted us here initially but now it was time to move. We rented one of the cheapest options available given the fact that we were spending Indian Rupees for Canadian dollar rent and bill payments which seemed exorbitantly expensive to us.

Hustle Bustle of City-Toronto

Explaining our resignation plans to our bosses back home was another challenge, it must have come as a shock to them. It took us a long time and hassle to have our resignations accepted and along with it we were experiencing our first Canadian winters (the harshest in last 5 years, locals say) and also understanding our new bosses and colleagues here in Canada as we tried to "fit in". It was all too much going on at the same time and a lot of our friends and family were asking us about what's going on with us, and honestly we had no clue.

Winter in Mississauga, Canada

Good Summer Days-Toronto

... And we still don't, but perhaps the only answer to it is - God's Plan (Drake is a Canadian btw!lol). But looking back at it now, we feel this could have been the only way we would have immigrated to a foreign land because the toughest thing is not to start a new life overseas but to let go of all we have back home- family, friends, the place called home, the joyride called car, the favourite food, the favourite places and the comfort of knowing and relating to everything and everyone around you.

Downtown. toronto

Life isn't perfect yet, it never is and neither does it come with a guarantee. But the good thing is we don't regret our decisions and look forward to the many new adventures and challenges that life has in store ahead of us. And our blog to, doesn't come with any guarantees lol, our last blog post was almost two years ago and so we can not guarantee our next post, but we look forward to making more posts especially for folks back home who have been considering shifting here and have many unanswered questions just like we had, a year ago. The good thing though is that there is finally a new blog post and our blog, just like our lives here, is moving slowly, but northwards... We the north!
We The North

Have a look at our Instagram photos and YouTube videos to get a glimpse of our lives here. Apologies for the delayed updates and posts!! But just to make an excuse, it's tough to make time for blog posts when so much is happening around in our lives! But do let us know if you have any questions in the comments!! πŸ˜€  August has just begun, have a great month ahead!! Cheers and have a Good Life!
View from CN Tower, Toronto

Thank you for your time!
Khushbu and Pranay

Exploring The Andamans - A long awaited trip!

We'd recently been to one of our most awaited trips - the enchanting, amazingly breath-taking, historic and splendid islands of Andamans! We'd been keeping to busy to share our incredible experience and we didn't want to post something in a hurry- and there's a big reason for that - we wanted to post a series of well-thought out posts, blog posts that match and do justice to the exotic memories the Islands gave us!
Neil Island , Andaman, India 

Oh thou Exotic Islands!

The Andamans is not just one single destination - it is a destination within a destination - an archipelago of mesmerizing Islands - a place so vast one can spend a whole year to explore the beauty of the Almighty in true spirit! Ours was just a meagre 7 night and 8 days vacation, that's the maximum duration our regular jobs allowed us the freedom for! How we wish it could have been longer! 

Planning for and reaching the Islands:

We'd been quite concerned while planning our trip from our research about the limited connectivity, dicey telephone network and the almost non-existent internet in the Islands. Finally we thought it was inevitable to take help from a local sightseeing operator - a personalised and private tour was the outcome of our long-hour discussions. We struggled finalizing the itinerary too - so many places and so little time! - but here's what our final itinerary looked like:

Day 1: Landing + Cellular Jail with Light and Sound Show
Day 2: Neil Islands
Day 3 and Day 4: Havelock Islands
Day 5,6,7 till departure on 8th day - Base at Port Blair city with trips to Jolly Bouy Islands, Ross Islands, North Bay Islands alongwith the port blair local Corbyn's cove Beach.

Pearl Park Beach Resort Neil Island
Come to think of it now that we have been there, done that - Do we think it was a fair itinerary? Pretty much yes! But we might have well included the adventurous Baratang road trip which includes witnessing the tribals enroute if one is lucky and perhaps the Ross&Victor Islands in North Andamans alongwith limestone caves- but that's a tough ask - a 14 hour long bumpy roadtrip from Port-Blair followed by ferries . Someone who is prepared to spare additional two days must definitely give these places a try!  Indeed it is definitely worth repeating here again that there's so much to visit and it's well upto you to decide the places you want to visit given the time and budget constraints!

Winter is the most appropriate time to visit, that's what we thought and hence planned our trip in January - of course to coincide with our wedding anniversary. Locals though, shared that weather remains almost the same throughout the year. 

The Islands are a couple of hours flight from Chennai and Kolkata. So choose whichever is convenient. We chose Chennai as flight timings were convenient. The Veer Savarkar Aiport at Port Blair is not a  fancy airport - quite ordinary and understandably so given the remoteness of the place. Passenger ships are also operated from Kolkata/Chennai/Vizag but we're not sure if it is worth it given the time it takes - 3 long days for one-way.

The local tour-operator we chose was "Experience Andamans"! And what a wonderful experience it was with them throughout our trip. Professionals in a true sense, they ensured every inch of our journey and each minute of our vacation time was spent in comfort and joy. We'll talk more about them in our upcoming posts when we share our day-by-day detailed experience of our trip. 

View fro Neil Island Harbour

For now, here's a few things that research never told us, only experience did:

  • No matter what weather you plan to visit the Islands, you carry the same set of clothes - simply 'coz the weather stays the same throughout the year - its a typical tropical climate. We needlessly carried a handful of winter gears - how stupid does it feel now!
  • Carry lots of sunscreens - your skin will scream "save me"! Thankfully, we did. The sun is hot out there and the beaches so beautiful - you wouldn't feel like leaving them.
  • Shoes are as good as wasteful luggage - slippers and sandals all the way! Plus, t-shirts and shorts are all you need. Beach hats are pretty much available everywhere - better get them there as a souvenier instead of carrying them over the seven seas! Good UV protected glares, swim-wears and a small bag just enough to carry your extra pair of clothes for each time you visit the beach - that's all you need for this trip. Make sure to avoid carrying lots of luggage as there will be lots of movements - island to island - ferry to ferry - hop in and hop off - and all this with bulky luggage won't be a breeze in a slightly humid weather.
  • The scary essentials - Mobile connectivity and cash: Postpaid connections don't work here. BSNL, Airtel and Vodafone are the only networks that work here but not everywhere! Also, only BSNL is a reliable network as confirmed by locals. Airtel works in Neil and Havelock too. Both of us had only Vodafone SIMs and phone was as good as a dead for the three days we spent at Neil and Havelock! Vodafone worked well in Port Blair. Coming to the internet, it is as good as non-existent. Even the hotels provide free wi-fi only at the reception area . And the result - guests spending more time in reception than hotel rooms :D . Plus, carry CASH! How important is that here! As your credit cards can only be used as playing cards especially in the remote islands like Neil and Havelock. Nobody accepts cards and understandably so because there's no reliable internet. We didn't find any ATMs in Neil. Havelock has only two ATMs. However, in Port Blair there are lots of Banks and ATMs. Ironically, the ticket counter at Cellular Jail in Port Blaironly accepts card payment! No cash accepted here please !
  • The emergency kit : Ensure to carry first aid, emergency medicines, spare glasses and anything else you can't live without since the Islands are still not that commercialised - they are remote, barren and isolated from the rest of the developed human societies - and that is the exact beauty and sanctity of the Islands. Just to give an example, there's no optician in Neil and Havelock. Broken specs in Havelock? Take a 2.5 hour long ferry to Portblair your only option. or fevikwik perhaps. But we haven't been able to fix anything with fevikwik till day but that's a different story altogether lol!

Sunset enroute Havelock to Port Blair!

Join us in our excitment as we share what stood out, what we brought back with us, and why the Andamans will be etched in our memories for the rest of our lives!

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