A Travellerspoint blog

September 2020

Travel guilt

Travel guilt-

We were finally able to reach Mom and Dad! The whole first week of our trip, we tried continuously to get through to Shelley’s parents in the little town of Forest Hill, just outside of Alexandria in central Louisiana. Email, WhatsApp, Alexa - we experimented with a range of technology as we grew increasingly worried.

What a reversal! They’ve been so worried about us taking this trip and concerned about how to contact us in an emergency - and then one came to Louisiana.
Hurricane Laura ravaged Louisiana, and places that were usually safer from the most dangerous winds and rain (because they’re farther inland) were in her path.

When we got through, Mom and Dad told us that they had boarded up the windows and rode it out, listening to the whistling winds and remembering the sounds of Hurricane Audrey in 1957. They hoped they wouldn’t have a repeat of 2005 - when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita kept them on a generator for weeks.

Interestingly enough, had Coronavirus not changed our travel plans, we would have been visiting my parents at their home in Louisiana when Laura hit. We actually left right before, flying out of Dallas hours ahead of the storm.

After the hurricane, we were finally able to get through to my parents. Through Alexa, we saw them - living in their camper. There was no power in the house, despite the generator. Luckily, they had air conditioning in the camper (August and September heat and humidity is often unbearable without it) and were well-stocked on food and water.

Still, the discrepancy of our news - “We swam in the Adriatic, ate cuttlefish risotto and are snorkeling in the Blue Lagoon tomorrow!” and theirs - “We’re better off than most. People are crammed into hotels, like your aunt and uncle. At least they found out that their house in Lake Charles is still standing.”

It’s jarring. It’s heart-breaking and guilt-inducing. Why are we here instead of there? Should we be blissfully enjoying our travels when it feels like America is undergoing one catastrophe after another?

Watching the news of wildfires, riots, rising coronavirus cases, and of course, the neverending Trump circus, we feel both guilty and relieved. We come from Portland, where our citizens are still proudly earning the nickname of “Little Beirut”. We come from Louisiana, enduring one of the longest and worst hurricane seasons in history. We come from the West Coast, battling fires that have decimated some of the most beautiful places on earth. We come from America - divided and devastated.

Should we be traveling when things in America are falling apart? Did we rightfully escape or wrongfully run away? Is there a difference? Isn’t it odd that traveling away from the United States seemed like the safer choice?

Reading news articles, I find one on “travel shaming” - and it speaks to my worries about our trip (and this blog). I’m sure that are some that judge our choice to travel in these very uncertain times.

I can say it was an incredibly difficult decision, and it’s one that we continue to question daily. We were lucky to be able to take a year sabbatical (and as teachers, a damn good year to do it) and to be able to travel. We made the right decision for our family - but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t guilt and uncertainty.

Update: Our hearts sank when we heard the news about Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a true American hero. A children’s book about her life was one of Savannah’s favorites (it was hard not to laugh when she protested bedtime by yelling, “I dissent!”).

America, please do the right thing. Be better. The world is watching.

Posted by tatehomberg 12:07 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Savvy Travels- Pompeii

Savvy Travels- Ep. 3

Savannah explores the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum! This is the third installment in her educational videos as she travels Europe.

Click this link below to watch:

Savvy Travels- Pompeii

Posted by tatehomberg 10:39 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Trying to travel in Europe during COVID

View Italy on tatehomberg's travel map.

As you might imagine, traveling during the time of Covid is not easy. The places we are told to avoid to prevent the spread of covid are closed-in areas with lots of people. This sounds very much like a plane, train, bus, or ferry. Which of course, when traveling Europe, are all forms of transportation that you will take at some point. We are very careful, wearing our masks, and carrying wipes to sanitize the area we are sitting. Doing all this is a pain but it is not the hardest part.

When we went to Europe, we chose Croatia because we could get in without having to quarantine. As Americans, we were very limited on where we could go. To get into Croatia, we had to have a negative Covid test less than 48 hours old and we had to fill out some paperwork. The Covid test was a challenge, but we managed to pull that off. Once we had that, getting into the country went smoothly. However, crossing the border was the part that worried us the most. What happens if you fly 24 hours to get there and they say “No. You are not allowed to come into the country”. Do you get back on a plane and go home? Sleep in the airport? What? This was our nightmare but of course, what kind of adventure doesn’t have the possibility of some doom. So, we got in with no problem but now we are planning on going to another country - so now we have to do it all over again.

Croatia has been wonderful. I would not be surprised if it ends up being my favorite part of the whole trip, but it is time to move on. So where to next? Well, that is a harder question than you might think.

We are unable to plan ahead very much because the restrictions to get into other countries change almost daily. The plan was that we get into Croatia and then we figure it out from there. Well, we are at that point now and there are a lot of factors that we needed to take into consideration.

The questions for picking the next county include, among other things: Where can we go? Can we get there from here? Are Americans allowed to enter? Do we have to take Covid tests? Is it in the Shengen zone? Where can we go after we leave that country? Is this a bad time of year to go? What is their Covid situation right now? How expensive is it going to be? And lastly, of course, is this somewhere we want to go?

Lots and lots of factors. Now, I am not going to go over all of these but I am going to talk about a few. The first and hardest was “Where can we go?” To help answer that question we started with the website: reopen.europa.eu. It has a lot of good information, but it is also where we run into problems.

As you can imagine no one wants people coming from the United States (we suck when it comes to Covid). However, we are not coming from the US. We are coming from Croatia and have been here for almost a month. You would think this would make it easier but it doesn’t.

Some countries restrict travel based on the country you are traveling from and some countries based on the country that is listed on your passport. There are many other restrictions and each country is different. The hard part is getting the restrictions clearly defined. To make sure, we searched several websites such as EU websites, embassy sites and travel sites. However, this did not clear things up but made them more confusing. The different sites often had confusing or conflicting information. And of course, just like at the start of this trip, you don’t want to show up at a border and have them say, “Sorry, you can’t come in”.

Of course, you want clarification so we will just call or email someone. Well, that was the next problem. That is a lot harder than you might think. We called and emailed embassies and when we did get a response they just referred us back to the confusing websites we had already been looking at. So in the end, you have to make your best interpretation of the information and hope for the best, because there really is no one out there to help. And if there is, we never found them.

Next is the Covid test. Most countries, if they are going to let you in, require a Covid test that is less than 72 hours old. Most of the countries that don’t require a test either want you to quarantine for two weeks or they strongly suggest that you have a test -otherwise you might be required to quarantine.

Having to quarantine is the last thing we want to do because, besides the fact it would just suck to have to sit inside for a week or two, it would also be very expensive to rent a place for that amount of time.

Now when we left the States we needed Covid tests and it was a challenge to get one, despite the fact that we had a health provider that helped us. Now we are in another country and we have to find a place and pay for a test. After some internet searching, we found a place and found out the cost...3,000 kuna for two tests, which is about $470 for both me and Shelley. Savannah doesn't need one.

Of course it turns out that the town we are in right now (Dubrovnik), the Covid tests are twice as expensive as anywhere else in the country. But, we don’t have much of a choice unless we pick a country that doesn’t require a test and that just sounds risky.

The next challenge is: What countries can we travel to in Europe from Dubrovnik, Croatia? Of course we can get anywhere but some of the fights are very convoluted and require over 20 hours to get to your destination with long layovers.

In the end, we picked Italy as our next destination. Both France and Turkey made the final list, however we didn’t pick Turkey because it is on several other countries' red list, so that would limit where we could go after Turkey.

France was almost our next destination because there was a direct flight for cheap and they didn’t require a Covid test. However, a bunch of other smaller factors led us to feel that Italy was the better choice.

So, Monday morning we go get Covid tests and then later that day we will hop an overnight ferry to Italy. The plan is to be there about a month and then do this all again at the end of October.

We will see what is happening in a month but the hope is that after Italy we will go to Britain- leaving the Schengen Zone for a while. We will see what happens- it’s an adventure!

After writing this, we traveled to Italy and crossing the border was a bit bumpy and a little scary. More on that in the next entry. Thanks for reading.

Posted by tatehomberg 13:17 Comments (0)

Savvy Travels Trailer #1

Click the link below:

Savvy Travels-Trailer#1

Posted by tatehomberg 10:21 Comments (0)

Savvy Travels- Old Town Dubrovnik

Savannah’s educational videos Ep.2

View Croatia on tatehomberg's travel map.

Savannah explores some of her favorite spots in Old Town Dubrovnik! This is the second installment in her educational videos as she travels Europe.

Click the link below:

Savvy Travels- Old Town Dubrovnik

Posted by tatehomberg 09:44 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

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