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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Back in the U.S.A.

Coupeville Wharf in springtime

After six months of living in the U.K., we are back in Washington! This was a bittersweet journey for us to make. It was super hard to leave our sweet grandsons behind and say goodbye to our daughter in-law, knowing that they will have another 6 or 7 weeks before our son returns from his deployment. But, we had reached our 6 month limit and had to leave. We also had to leave our newly refurbished apartment and a way of life we had come to accept. The good news, we hope to be back in August.

This is the second blog about traveling during Covid.  If you read our early blog post about traveling to England, we wrote about how surreal it felt. How it felt like traveling in a Sci-Fi novel, empty airports, closed shops and restaurants. There was a certain thrill of seeing a historical time of our lives up close and personal. It also seemed like people working at the airport were happy to see us. We were travelers and maybe we were a sign that things were going to get better soon. This time traveling, it was so much the same and so much different.

Flight Cancelled! 

Our travel struggles started the night before our departure. David was online trying to check us in but our reservation said we were cancelled. What did this mean? We had been watching our flight to Seattle and it stilled showed that it was flying so how could we be cancelled. I immediately went into panic mode, thank goodness David kept a clear head. First, David tried calling Delta only to be told there was an hour wait time. I next tried to call another Delta number, a number that is reserved for Delta frequent fliers. I was told that there was a wait time of 35 minutes but they would call me back. Somewhere in all this, David reached out on Twitter to the airline for help. 

Twitter for the save! 

After 2 hours, no one had called back and David was still on hold but he was having a conversation with someone from Delta, via Twitter. Long story, Twitter came through and whoever was on the other end got our flight reinstated. It was about another half an hour before I finally got a call back. Thanks but too late. What we think happened, but we are not sure, there was an equipment change, that caused a flight number change that somehow cancelled our reservation. It was now coming on midnight and we had an Uber picking us up early the next morning. We had scheduled an Uber since our normal train and bus method of getting to the airport was not running costing us an extra $100.

Uber ride to the airport

Next cause for concern, nobody gets on an international flight without a negative Covid test. I knew I wasn't sick, I knew that David wasn't sick but we still had to take tests at the airport. The reason I was concerned? I have heard that there are a fair amount of false positives. What if this happens? Do they retest? Do we have to head home again and wait 14 days to travel again? Luckily, our test were negative and that was another extra $95.00 each.

Covid Testing Center at London Heathrow

 We have made it this far, now on to checking in and airport security. This was relatively painless since there were so few people traveling but this time it just felt different. Gone was the excitement of seeing travelers replaced with the constant interrogation of why were we traveling. Maybe this has something to do with leaving the U.K. since it is illegal for their citizens to travel on holiday but it still felt like something out of the Cold War era. Once we told them our story explaining that we were part of support bubble to help our son and his family during his deployment they were all sympathetic but the fact I constantly had to  explain this felt wrong. I had bought a ticket, I had jumped through their hoops to fly and I was going home! Stop asking me! I was already feeling very emotional at leaving so much behind and to constantly have to tell the my story almost brought me to tears.

Empty security scanning area

Sadly, the airport was just about the same as 6 months ago. Most of the seats were blocked from using, stores and restaurants were still closed and everyone who was traveling seemed to be sad and exhausted. There is a sadness to traveling when there are no families on holiday, there is no laughter or excitement. Our airplane only had 47 passengers. During normal times you would be happy and excited if your airplane only had 15% capacity but now it just another reminder at how far we away we are from feeling or acting normal. 

Airport waiting area at London Heathrow

I am sorry if this blog post has a certain sadness to it. I really want to document what we saw and how we felt because I am sure at some point in my life, this will all feel far away and hopefully hard to remember. I am sure that life will resume, families will travel and laughter and excitement will return. One thing this has taught me, never take those mundane, happy moments for granted!


More empty corridors at London Heathrow

Waiting for boarding

Empty seats on Boeing 767

Constant mask reminders on flight entertainment screen

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