“Elephant in the room” is an understatement. Really, how can you talk about any 2020 plans and not address COVID-19? As expected, this pandemic has certainly altered our initial plans.
Things won’t look like we originally envisioned, but we’re going to craft a literal and figurative path - albeit a strange one - that embraces the new normal of a world with COVID-19.
Interested in heading overseas? Check out our international travel checklist here!
Here’s My Notice, Also, The Economy Just Collapsed
In couldn’t-be-any-worse-timing fashion, Chipp put in his notice a week before the United States seemed to shut down overnight. It all seemed so reasonable in his boss’s office:
Jenna and I are going to take some time off to travel the world.
If we don’t do this now, we probably won’t do it ever.
Yeah, we’re definitely excited - anxious - but excited.
All these statements made a ton of sense, at least to us, initially. But, fast forward a week, and suddenly, things aren’t so clear. With the economy collapsing around us, was leaving the stability and safety of good jobs a wise decision? Objectively, no, it wasn’t.
In a silver lining - and a nod to what makes an awesome, compassionate boss - the next week, Chipp’s manager entered his office with a, “hey Chipp, I know you put in your notice, but we’d be happy to have you stay if this all has changed your plans.”
Reassuring - and certainly tempting - to have this as a backdrop. But, if anything, this overnight change in the world reinforced our desire to travel. If things can change so suddenly, why wait to do something like this?
Initial Changes and the Tentative Path Ahead
Despite our commitment to move forward with our plans, we couldn’t ignore the fact that some things would need to change.
Initially, we planned on starting our travels in Belize, then heading south through Central and South America before cutting west to New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia. With that route, we wouldn’t get to Ukraine and Jenna’s folks until the tail end of the trip, meaning we’d go nearly two years between visits.
To close this gap in visits, we were going to do a few-week Summer 2020 trip over to Ukraine, come back to the States to get our lives in order before leaving for a year, then head out on the big trip. Cancelled flights nixed that plan pretty quickly.
As countries gradually started opening up - and rapid testing capabilities improved - we adjusted course and decided to now start our travels in Ukraine, heading east around the globe instead of south then west. This way, we’d see family early on in the trip, and it’d be a basically open-ended visit to Ukraine, settling in there on the tail end of a one-way ticket.
Buying Tickets, and the Importance of Flexibility
A week before pulling the trigger on our Ukraine tickets (which was only three weeks before scheduled departure - not a ton of lead time), the country locked down international travel through the end of September. As we’d already leased our house, we couldn’t push our trip any further to the right.
Enter flexibility. We knew we couldn’t even fly through most of Europe, as those countries weren’t allowing Americans to transit through their airports. To adapt, we decided to fly Turkish Airlines to Ukraine, as the bulk of its layovers were in Istanbul, where they do rapid COVID-19 testing and let anyone transit.
But, not being able to continue on to Ukraine for a couple weeks after our initial date, we still liked the Turkish Airlines program so just decided to get an AirBnB apartment in Istanbul for a while - certainly worse than a sharp stick in the eye…
Bottom line, flexibility will be a hallmark of our next year on the road.
The Broader Insignificance
Our frustrated plans, in the general scheme of things, are largely insignificant. As the saying goes, there are a billion people in China who couldn’t care less about our travels. And, when people are facing real suffering and death from this awful pandemic, our situation seems trite, to say the least.
But, we still want to live our lives, and hopefully our stories, though inconsequential vis-a-vis the bigger picture, put a smile on some people’s faces.