I’m writing to you with a very fuzzy, post-crossing-the-Atlantic, post-dinner-and-pint, thank-goodness-I’m-at-my-hotel-room brain. Please excuse the disjointed nature of this first dispatch. During our two-year hiatus from travel, I forgot a great many things. Here’s one, as an example: I find it difficult, if not impossible, to write while in transit (and by transit, I mean that series of flights that gets you from home to your destination). Two days before departure, I thought it would be best to write you on the day prior to departure. Then the day prior to departure, I was so busy that I couldn’t stop to write. All the while thinking “Well there are hours and hours of time to write while I’m on the flights. I’ll do it then.” But that’s not how it works.
From the moment I depart from home to the time I’ve arrived at my hotel on the other end of the journey, time moves with great eccentricity.
But let me backtrack and bring you up to date.
Heather and I decided on this trip and booked our tickets just one week prior to departure. That meant we had to organize and make all arrangements for two full weeks of scouting here in Scotland
And just like that, almost in middle of a sentence, I went out like a light. There’s no point in fighting exhaustion. Arrived at destination. Food and hotel found. Safely ensconced in hotel room. The body simply says “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’ve taken you this far and we are now DONE.”
Let’s try this in a more sequential manner…
I, like many of you reading this post, am lucky to have someone working on my behalf to review the requirements for travel to my destination. Once we made the decision to travel, Heather took over the information gathering on what exactly would be required by our destination country – in this case the UK – for entry. Things have been changing rapidly here, with 10 day quarantines and limited travel and socializing all easing in the previous couple weeks. Nonetheless, the UK has strict guidelines for international travelers. We’d be required to show our vaccination verification, negative test results from the previous three days, registration for authorized testing two days after our entry into the country and completed Passenger Locater Form, issued by the UK government tracking our intended locations and contact information for the first ten days.
First things first: a COVID test. To date, I’d not taken one at all. I’ve worked from home, been decidedly socially distant over the last 18 months and have kept up a fairly rigorous self-quarantine to insure my health and that of my parents, with whom I share a house. No symptoms and a very contained existence meant I hadn’t yet had reason for getting a test. So, when our packages of 6 self-administered, web-based video oversight tests arrived at my doorstep in the hands of the friendly Fed Ex guy, I was pretty nervous. I really didn’t know how I would make myself impose a swab into my nostril and halfway up into my brain (as I’ve heard is the procedure).
Ask anyone in my family. I’m a bit squeamish about all things medical.
But as I was to learn over the next couple days, the things I imagined would be difficult while traveling often turned out not to be so. But the reverse would be equally true: things I thought would be simple and straightforward turned out to contain unanticipated obstacles, boundless frustration and a great deal of patience to navigate my way through.
The COVID test, great mystery and sweat-inducing task that it was… well, it turned out to be no big deal.
After making an online account for yourself at the manufacturer’s website and answering a few questions (Purpose in administering this test: healthcare providers? educator? international traveler? first responder? etc) you simply click on “start test”. The website connects you with a live test administrator who walks you through the process. They are currently very busy, so the wait time once I logged in and requested a test was just over an hour.
No problem. I have knitting.
Once someone is with you, they verbally direct you to open the package and identify the contents (swab, test card, small bottle of liquid). They observe as you swish the swab around in one nostril, then the other. No injurious jab up into the inner recesses of your head! You add a few drops of liquid to the test card, place your swab in the correct spit and wait for 15 minutes. That’s it. They even provide the timer right there on the video call.
Another person gets on to verify your results (one pink line or two, eerily similar to a pregnancy test with ALL the associated anxiety). Then you printout, download and/or save to your phone a copy of the certified test results.
Have COVID test, will travel.
Next came arranging tests once we’d be in the country. This is where Heather saved the day. Yay, Heather! She did all the groundwork identifying, arranging and procuring our tests in the UK. All I had to do was provide her with my passport number, date of birth and the time necessary to fill out all the required forms. Remember I mentioned that some things were more difficult than I could have foreseen? This was one of them. Though Heather took on a great deal of the burden by researching the requirements, I still had hours (yes, hours!) of work to do the day prior to departure — filling out tedious forms, printing and saving them for storage in multiple locations to be sure I had them with me, ditto with vaccination record, passport, etc.
I’ll admit it. I don’t usually travel with all the backup versions of documents we recommend our tour participants make. I used to travel so frequently that my level of anxiety did not require me to put so many safeguards into place. (i.e. my anxiety level was low) However, for this trip into the great unknown world of Pandemia, I was by-the-book obsessive about having copies and backups of everything. Plus a copy was in a half page envelope along with my passport and original vaccination record.
Monday was given over to packing, preparing to travel (the form filling out and document backup extravaganza) and wrapping up tasks at home.
i set three alarms on my phone for Tuesday morning. Yes, I was that nervous. But the morning moved along without incident. Walk the dog, shower and dress, go through the last minute discussion in my head regarding packed items. (Do I really need my boots? It’s 90 degrees here and I can’t imagine being cold enough to need them. Maybe I should throw in another tank top? Okay, what knitting project should I take? Do I really need all these cords?)
I’ve learned to ignore most of those last minute urges to rethink everything in my luggage. I pack a day or two ahead of departure, with plenty of time for the process and a minimum of distractions while doing so. The contents of my luggage are well prepared. It’s just nervousness that tugs at my hands and urges them to rifle through the contents one more time.
And I was nervous!
Perhaps I didn’t really believe we’d get to go. And here I was, ready to head out the door and travel in the big, wide, scary world again.
I couldn’t even eat breakfast.
I loaded the car, backed it out of the garage, loaded my bags, gave my wonderful dog a snuggle goodbye and left for the airport.
The trip had begun.