We planned, researched, and reserved the first month’s-worth of this summer’s travel plans through Norway and Russia. “Don’t you dare,” said 2020. 2021 and 2022 might have the same response too.
So, rather than keep butting up against the same roadblocks, we’re embracing the shift and we’ve come up with a Plan B to keep us traveling in the time of COVID-19: test-run R.V. living/traveling in the U.S. until the borders open up.
2020 Refused our Summer Immersion Travel Plan
As excited as I was to steer you all through our decision to travel every summer in lieu of summer camps, 2020 had something else in store for everyone, our travel plans included. So might 2021, and even 2022, say some local State-employed friends.
Annual summer-immersion travel alternating between Russia (where we should be right now), Spanish-speaking countries and Italy seems no longer a possibility, especially given U.S. coronavirus data and how no other countries want us.
Why We Can't Just Wait It Out
Travel is in the bones of every single person in this family. I have travelled in some way, shape or form my whole life. My husband was hooked as soon as he saved up and got his first vacation time as a teenager in Argentina. My children have probably travelled to more places and more times in their 7.5 and 3.5 years of life than I had in my first 20.
And then, there is my mom, the one who - along with my father - instilled this love of travel, culture, food, and adventure in me. I know I've been pretty silent about my father on this site, and as a small sidenote, I'll just share that he passed away this past March from the coronavirus. However, he was riddled with health problems that made travel impossible the last almost two years of his life.
I say this because my mother also stopped traveling and stayed by his side. They were dreaming about travelling until the very end. Just six months before his death (all of which was spent between rehab centers and the hospital), they were planning a trip to Hawaii. I think they knew it would never happen, but it just felt good to dream about it.
At the same time, my mom and I reconnected with a close friends of hers, and whose children were the closest thing I ever had to siblings growing up. I've been dreaming of the day I can reunite my mom and her friend - and I'd love to see them as well, myself. She wouldn't travel without my dad so it has only become a possibility now.
So, after having more-or-less settled into our current rental (yes, I hope you will continue to enjoy following our ongoing minimalism journey), while waiting until it is time to purchase our new home/home base, my wheels are a-spinning (no pun intended) and my mind is on overdrive trying to figure out what next moves will keep travel at the top of our priority list in this time of COVID-19.
Most Foreign Travel Is Not an Option
I don’t know a single country in Europe that will have us, given our U.S. citizenship – and EU member countries are now cooperating on creating a common list of countries from which citizens can and cannot enter any of the EU countries.
Most South and Central American countries have travel bans until at least August, and we won’t know what their decision on U.S. visitors is yet. While Mexico is likely to open its border to U.S. citizens in August, it is also considered a coronavirus hotspot.
While there are countries in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean that are opening up, none of them work for us as far as our language immersion travel goals go and dealing with how to get there, keeping my mom safe, and whether they’ll even let us in is a bit much right now.
Also, nearly every available foreign option requires flying, which I won't have my mom do. Plus, if we were to do it without her, we'd have to quarantine afterwards anyway before coming home to her.
Most Accommodation Options are Too Risky for Us
AirBnBs, hotels, B&Bs and the sort don’t really work for us right now. We won’t know how well the place has been cleaned before us, how long the rooms have been allowed to “rest” between guests, etc.
The added complications with traditional lodging is that there are so many shared spaces like lobbies, pools, dining, etc. that, again, would require a 14-day quarantine period for me to feel safe before coming home anyway.
What Options Are Left that Fit our Needs/Lifestyle?
Option 1: A year of slow-travel worldschooling in Argentina while I get my papers
Well, one option was spending the next year in Argentina so that I could get my citizenship through my husband (kids would get it even from the U.S.). We have family all over, the Spanish-language immersion is perfect, and we could spend a year slow-travelling and experimenting with how best to worldschool while my son would still be getting the basics and a great complimentary social studies curriculum through his school online (there’s no way the independent schools in Los Angeles are opening back up by September, I don’t believe it).
The challenges? We can’t be away from my mom for a whole year so she would have to come with us. However, 1) there is a travel ban from the U.S. until July 17, 2020 (I’ll keep monitoring after that); 2) I don’t think it is worth the risk of my mom getting on a flight; and 3) while slow RV travel would be the safest option to keep us quarantined and my mom safe, there is not a single route from the U.S. to Argentina where we wouldn’t be stopped at multiple countries’ borders because they are not allowing U.S. citizens in – we’d have to go through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Brasil to pass through the least amount of countries.
So, as of now, getting to Argentina is NOT an option.
Option 2: Travelling the U.S. by R.V.
Why not? Why not discover this great land, from California to the New York Island, from the Redwood Forests to the Gulf Stream Waters. . . (by the way, check out this version of the song. I don't think many people have heard and really listened to all the verses of this song all the way through).
I know very little of this great nature paradise – almost nothing between Arizona and New York. My son is obsessed with information about Yellowstone and the Alaskan Yukon (which allows us to loophole travel through Canada).
We’re close to P.S.T. so we can travel through the school year and Dante not be thrown off with classroom zoom scheduling too much – although we’ll probably need a hotspot.
We can travel by R.V. with my mom so that we feel safer about our accommodations, who’s been there, how they are cleaned, protocols for keeping coronavirus out (with shopping, etc.).
Did I mention? My mom could come! She could travel again!
And. . . when this terrible time is over, borders open back up, and we can actually see the possibility of our worldschooling journey on the horizon, we will have fully planned, prepared, and practiced R.V. life. That will be one less thing to worry about when we begin that journey.
Granted, the language component is missing. However, unlike other similar scenarios, I’m not also worried about visas, getting my mom there so we can travel long-term, etc. Plus, it is no worse than just staying put and we try to be intentional about speaking Russian, Spanish and Italian anyway.
So, What’s the Plan? And, How do We Go About Implementing It?
Let me start with the fact that none of us have R.V. travelled before. My husband and I have had our backpacking days, hopping from hostel to hostel to campground to hostel.
We were even supposed to try it out a bit this summer with Dante and Leila, with a week of backpacking through Norway until our flight to St. Petersburg, Russia.
Still, I gather it is different from R.V. travel in many ways AND we’ve never had our children AND my almost 79-year-old mom with us.
I assume we’ll have to map out places to refill on water and gas and figure out where to dump our crap (quite literally). Depending on where we are, I know there have been crackdowns on R.V. overnight parking in non-designated areas. We also don’t actually know what size R.V. we need.
So, the plan is to start slow. We are currently in the process of investigating R.V. sizes and layouts to explore all our options. We don’t want anything too big. Just enough for all of us to fit, and to bring Zia Ale along sometimes, when she can come.
We’re thinking to narrow it down to a few models we like. We’ll find several long weekends and holidays to rent one of each model to test them all out. Once we narrow that down, we will look into to purchasing one and start going on longer trips – one to two weeks long.
The real test, and what we'll be building up to, will likely be Spring of 2021, when we are thinking it will make the most sense (not driving through snow storms but still cool enough for my mom to enjoy the outdoors) to take a six-week trip to Colorado to reunite my mom with our old family friends.
After that? Well, my son has it in his head to spend a whole year (winter included) in Alaska. He dreams of fishing the Yukon, building a smoke hut to preserve salmon for the winter, bird watching in the Taiga forest where he hopes to spot his favorite Snowy Owl, participating in the junior Iditarod, and seeing the Aurora Borealis.
We’ll see how much of that we can actually do. But for now, we’re just going to let all of us keep dreaming, keep the plans alive, no matter how crazy they may be.
I hope to share as much of this process with all of you and would love to hear your thoughts, experiences, etc. on the topic either in the comments below or through the facebook post.