We’re flying to England today! It feels a little crazy to say out loud (or write) that we are flying to England today. COVID-19 is not yet under control, and it may not be for a long time to come. But we have decided to get on a plane and move to a new location for a few months.
Why on earth are we planning an international trip right now????
Global Health Insurance
We are still using our existing international health insurance with IMG. In order to avoid disqualifying ourselves from our existing health insurance plan, we have to leave the USA in October and stay gone until early January. Our policy requires that we “reside outside of the US for six months or more in a calendar year.” At this moment in time all we have is our international health insurance and we don’t want to be disqualified from that plan. We also don’t want to be limited to high cost USA-only health insurance. We can’t stay in the USA for more than 180 days per year and we have been here for 157 days so far. Our policy is already paid for and it has worked really well for us so we are keeping it for now. We can certainly see the possibility of getting on ACA health insurance at some point next year, but for now we are happy with what we have.
We Are (were?) Happy as Nomads
We started our nomadic lifestyle in November of 2018 with the intent of traveling full time for years to come. We have really enjoyed living as travelers for the past two years and we are sad to think that lifestyle changing. We will be having lots of discussions over the next year about what we think nomad life is, and what it means to us, so there’s more to come on that topic in a later post!
In 2019 we were able to travel freely through 13 different countries plus the USA. That incredible year of nomad life changed us both forever. We had similar plans for 2020 with multiple trips to other regions, but since COVID-19 changed the world we have stuck to North America for more than nine months this year.
If we could still be safely enjoying a fully nomadic lifestyle right now, that’s what we would be doing. Taking this trip to England is the best thing we can do to make sure we both feel like our own personal priorities still matter. And our love of travel continues to have a place in our lives.
We Know How to Be Safe During COVID-19
Earlier this year in Mexico we learned how to keep ourselves safe with COVID-19 on the loose. After we started hearing about COVID-19 in January we stopped do as much exploring and we stopped spending time with friends indoors. We were already in the habit of cooking for ourselves so we just perfected our routine for safe grocery shopping, social distancing, and wearing masks when we leave home. That doesn’t mean we we are immune from COVID-19 – no person on earth is immune from this virus. We are doing our best to stay safe no matter where we are.
This Won’t Be Our First Flight During COVID-19
We flew back to the USA on May 3 to visit family, as scheduled. We wore masks the whole time, practiced social distancing as much as possible, and used plenty of hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes along the way. Upon arrival in the USA we did a self imposed quarantine period and then continued wearing masks and social distancing.
Flying from Mexico to the USA in May gave us a good idea of what to expect during travel. It also taught us the difference between countries that do or don’t require COVID-19 related precautions. In Mexico we were required to fill out travel documents that confirmed we had no known exposure to COVID-19, and no symptoms. We had our temperatures taken multiple times at the airport including at the ticketing counter, in security, and at the boarding gate. All airport staff, flight crews, and passengers were required to wear masks as well. When we landed in Houston and then in San Francisco we were surprised to see that airport staff and border control officers were NOT wearing masks, and no one asked us to follow any guidelines.
This morning when we arrived at the Las Vegas airport we were very happy to see all staff and passengers wearing masks and social distancing. We will be curious to see what it’s like at our quick layover in Chicago as we travel out of the USA today. And we are especially interested in seeing what it’s like to travel into England right now.
Traveling During COVID-19
Yes we are nervous about traveling while COVID-19 is still an issue. But we are also nervous about living in the USA while COVID-19 is still an issue. When we arrived at the airport we had to spend time in security lines, which meant being around other humans who might not be as cautious as we are. It felt a little bit like going to the grocery store and being around other humans (which is uncomfortable!). TSA PreCheck is closed (boo hoo), and the airport lounges are all closed here as well (big time boo hoo). With all of the things we usually do to separate ourselves from the larger traveling population being off limits today, we are at least glad to be traveling when most people are not. There are no crowds, we have plenty of space, we have our masks, and we have plenty of hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes.
It also helps to know that air travel is pretty safe since viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights. Even the CDC explains that airplanes are relatively safe places to be since they circulate and filter air constantly and very effectively. The air we’ll be breathing during our flights will be much cleaner than the air people are breathing in grocery stores or houses. And our two flights today are supposedly flying way under capacity.
We have also decided to fly in the United Polaris cabin (woohoo!) on the Chicago to UK leg where we will have quite a bit more space as well as short walls between our seats and other passengers. We typically fly in coach but everything is on sale right now so we figured this is a great time to upgrade. We have an insane amount of travel rewards points saved up since our summer and fall flights were all canceled, and we definitely aren’t traveling on a regular basis, so we decided to grab these premium Polaris seats for only 60k points each.
As of today there are only nine countries, other than the USA of course, that are open to US citizens without restrictions. On that list the only option we would really consider today is Mexico.
There’s also a list of countries allowing US citizens to enter with restrictions, including quarantine and negative COVID-19 test results. Even though that list is long it only includes two places we would consider traveling to right now – Ireland and the United Kingdom. We decided our best option on that list is the United Kingdom, and England specifically. We have a few good friends in southern England that we can count on to help us if needed, and when we started talking about the possibility of traveling to England right now a couple of our friends were quick to volunteer to do our grocery shopping while we’re in quarantine. Thank you D & D!!!
Since we started 2020 in Mexico we decided to spend the last three months of the year in England. We had our hopes set on a housesit in southern England in December and that housesit was recently canceled. But going to southern England for the winter has been our plan ever since January so we decided to head to England as planned. We’ve never been to southern England before and we are craving a change of scenery, so we are pretty excited about this trip.
The list of countries completely open to US citizens: Albania, Belarus, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Zambia.
The list of countries open to US citizens with restrictions: Antigua, Armenia, Aruba, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bermuda, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominica, Dubai, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, French Polynesia, Ghana, Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Maldives, Malta, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Rwanda, South Korea, St. Barts, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Tanzania, Turks and Caicos, United Kingdom.
We’ll Feel as Safe in England as in the USA
Actually, we’ll probably feel more safe in England compared to how we felt in the USA. I think it will be reassuring to be in a country that has a national plan for handling COVID-19, and actual rules that are not optional and must be followed. We also have full confidence in the English healthcare system in case one of us does get sick.
But We Just Bought a House!
We just bought a house last month. That house is not a reason for us to stop traveling. That real estate purchase was actually intended to help us feel like we have more freedom to make choices, not less. It won’t prevent us from traveling but it will give us a home of our own to return to. It also allowed us to pack for this trip and leave our extra belongings behind in our own place instead of with our sisters this time. It’s clear that we are shifting away from full time travel to some kind of seasonal travel and that’s because of COVID-19, not because we are homeowners again.
But the Election!!!
The upcoming General Election is just 27 days away. That’s not a reason for us to stop traveling. We have voted in every election as overseas voters for the past two years. We were able to vote very early for this election on September 18 by email through Washington State, which is our existing residency location. When we return to the USA in January of 2021, we hope to be returning to a country with a new President in the White House and a very different Senate. We will also move into our new house, move our residency to Arizona, and re-register to vote in our new home state. We are looking forward to paying taxes in Arizona in 2021 and adding two more votes to Arizona’s Democratic Party. When the election results are official we won’t mind hearing the news from England. And if the news is bad, we’ll probably be really glad to be in England.
Off We Go!
One thing that hasn’t changed, even after COVID-19, is that we LOVE to travel. With COVID-19 still on the loose we will travel much less, to fewer locations, and stay in one place for longer periods. We know people who aren’t willing to travel to locations with quarantine rules and other mandated precautions, but we do not mind that at all. In fact we really appreciate that some countries have restrictions and we think the idea of a mandatory quarantine period makes perfect sense right now. We are happy to comply! And again, we are really lucky to have friends who volunteered to be our grocery shoppers during our quarantine period.
Travel is tough to arrange and emotionally hard to prioritize right now. And because of that I’m sure travel will be even more meaningful to us at this point. We will have the exact same behavior no matter where we are. We will quarantine upon arrival, we will wear masks when we are outside of our rental home, and we will practice social distancing when we visit friends.
We love the idea of being in England during the upcoming election, American Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It has been a while since we had to review our packing list, and this is the first time we have packed with mostly cold weather clothes. Our bags actually seem much more lightly packed this time.
So off we go! Think of us as journalists out in the field reporting live from the new world of travel and from England this winter. We promise to keep ourselves as safe as possible. And we promise to share our stories as we go.