Sarah Emery American Expat Singapore
Expat lifestyle,  Home,  Travel

Finishing 2021 and Starting 2022 | Travel has re-entered the chat

Two years without travel is a long time for those with itchy feet. So, when the time came to cross the pond (because it was less of a logistical and financial burden). We took this shiny beacon of light as THE signal to go and see our long-awaited families.

The Plan and the Purpose

The plan was simple; take 2 months for an epic road trip in the U.S. to see as many friends and family as possible.

The plan sounds a bit nutty. With regards to space. After spending years cooped up in a 700+ sq. ft. apartment and never being apart from my beloved for more than 6 hours. We chose to drastically reduce our shared space down to a measly 20 sq. ft in a four-door sedan. I’m chalking the oversight to having a strong case of cabin fever madness. That the enthusiasm for the open road overpowered the minuscule details in our plan.

Traditionally, American road trips are set for destinations. In this case, seeing America’s biggest ball of yarn or one of the many stunning National & State Parks would be put on the back burner for another time.

We wanted to recapture disconnection from lost time. And if covid taught us anything, it’s choosing how to spend it.

Our route started in Los Angeles, we then headed north to San Francisco, back down towards Palm Springs, and east towards Virginia and Maryland. Making all the pit stops along the way.

When it was all said and done, we ended up driving a little over 8,000 miles, visited 17 states (not including the ones we drove through), hit up 35 cities and towns, and stayed in 24 hotels.

Getting Prepared

Travel, in general, takes a bit of organizing. Traveling internationally in a pandemic; takes patience, diligence, and pragmatic thorough planning. Staying abreast of the constant changes for different countries and airlines’ regulations is like trying to hit a moving target.

This took the daily task of reading up on the rules, adjusting to changes, and researching where, when, and how to get certain documents. And that was just to leave and re-enter Singapore.

Additional considerations that went into our risk-benefit calculation, was knowing what we have control over. We avoided large gatherings, detoured from high-risk hot spots, wore high-quality masks, and washed/sanitized our hands after we touched anything in public. And the first thing we did when entering a home, hotel, or restaurant, was wash our hands.

We also took self administered covid ART tests every week, since we were constantly in new places and seeing new faces.

Mental preparation and pleasant surprises

Before leaving, I stupidly allowed media highlights of people behaving poorly on airplanes, non-maskers having tantrums against mask mandates, and strangers blaming (verbally and physically assaulting) Asians for the pandemic. To misguide my perception that this gross behavior was happening everywhere and all the time.

To mentally prep for this trip. I prepared myself to what I would say and do if I were confronted about wearing a mask, and/or being blamed for covid because I’m Asian.

Yet, my experience couldn’t have been more opposite than what I was seeing on the news.

While I know these unfortunate events do happen. Our experience was filled with greetings of warm hello’s, strangers opening doors for each other, and friendly chit-chat. It’s the friendly America that I’ve always known and adored.

Life doesn’t always go as planned

Every great plan (a) has a good backup plan (b), and each good backup plan (b) has a contingency plan (c). At least it does when traveling in a world of pandemonium.

Besides brain-dead moments (like me leaving my cell phone in a hotel and not noticing until we had driven an hour away), which will be told for another time. The major curveball that hit us was, I got covid.

Obviously, the first thing was first. I immediately checked into a hotel to isolate myself. I texted everyone I saw over the past week letting them know, and I canceled future meet-ups. By a sheer (Christmas) miracle, everyone who I met with DID NOT get covid. And thank goodness for that.

This was the one thing that we were so heavily focused on. To not get covid. From Singapore, we brought over 20 testing ART kits. We thought were so vigilant, but somehow the virus got me.

Of course, this cascaded into subsequent derailments. The major challenge being, we needed to get back on the road. At this time, we were in Maryland and had to return the car rental in California (a 3,000 + miles drive). Or we’d face an outrageous additional fee ($3K) for leaving it at a different location. The next challenge was how to travel with one passenger with covid and keep the other safe aka negative.

As the (testing) positive passenger I double-masked, we drove with the windows down, I kept myself medicated and hydrated, and we slept in separate beds. By another (Christmas) miracle, all these actions kept Tim testing negative. By day 8 I finally tested negative, yet had some residual symptoms (like, postnasal drip – sorry TMI but in case you were wanting to compare notes).

The Learnings

Besides the obvious, that covid sucks and it put a damper on plans to see more people. We still saw some amazing areas and enjoyed a lot of nature (which for me was complete heaven; being sick or not – being in nature felt like it helped with the healing).

There were a couple of conversations that really stuck out to me:

  • Failure to launch – a descriptor that a friend used to describe another who had more advantages than the average person (yes we’re talking privilege) to make something of their life.  Unfortunately, this person has chosen to do nothing with their life, and still nothing (at 56 yrs old) to this day.  Whilst sad, it’s a reminder we can all improve & achieve a minimum of 1% increase each day (in any aspect of life).
  • Whilst chatting with a stranger in New Orleans.  I learned she moved from the Mid-West at the beginning of the pandemic.  I asked her, ‘’Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently?’’  She immediately responded with, ‘’Yes, be kinder to myself.”  She described how she put a lot of pressure on herself when she first arrived; that she wasn’t making friends as quickly as she would’ve liked, she wasn’t finding the perfect apartment fast enough.  That her music wasn’t launching at the intensity that she imagined it would.  At the time when we spoke, she’d been living in New Orleans for 1 yr ½.  Within that time, she established her tribe, found venues and other musicians to jam with, and signed a lease on what she describes as her perfect-ideal bougie apartment (with a swimming pool and all).

Both of these conversations (whilst short and sweet) were significant and packed a heavy punch.  They were reminders about the value of time.  That it’s a gift, it’s not guaranteed and to treat it with kindness and consideration.

To Travel or Not?

If you’re on the fence to travel or not. I get it. I had a lot of mental gymnastics about getting ourselves organized for this trip (maybe it’s because we also layered on another stressor of moving out of our apartment at the same time of our departure).  Whilst preparing all the paperwork, booking everything that is refundable/ adjustable, thinking up all the way things can go wrong 7 ways till Sunday, and having a plan b, c and d in place for when they do go awry. 

The reassurance that I gave myself (and to settle my anxiety), is.  If we get stuck in the US, delayed, or sick.  We are both smart, prepared, action-oriented, and flexible to handle any Jack- in -the- box surprise that may come our way. 

If facing travel obstacles means that I can fill the hole that’s been missing in our lives over these past few years, which is quality time with family.  The answer will always be:

Go! Time waits for no-one.

Outdoor enthusiast thriving in the expatriate traveling lifestyle. Looking to connect with your sense of adventure.

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