Saturday, September 11, 2021

Expat Life: Neither Here Nor There

 We are here now. Not there. 

Lake Chelan at Manson

'Here' being Washington State, tucked away in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States. This is the land where we were born and raised; where we lived most of our adult lives. 

That is, until we decided to live a chapter of our lives 'there', in Greece.  

Our village in Greece, Agios Nikolaos

Thanks to time zone changes, we left 'there' Tuesday morning and arrived here some 20+ hours later on Tuesday evening. We are now in that afterglow period of international travel known as jet lag. It is a strange bedfellow to be sure. I chose the word 'bedfellow' on purpose because sleep, or lack of it, is for what jetlag is known. 

Autumn, a good time to be here. . .or there!

Now, in my third morning here, I continue to wake at 3:30 a.m. After an hour of tossing and turning, I get up having finally decided that I am not going back to sleep. No, I won't sleep until maybe noon when suddenly I simply can't keep my eyes open, my head drops to my chest and I am out for several hours. Those who've made similar long distant journeys know the feeling.

From one side of the world to the other

Jetlag is Real

Jetlag, is real and also known as desynchronosis or flight fatigue. According to my Google research, it is the result of:

  • A disruption of circadian rhythm: a biological day and night clock. This occurs when the person travels to different time zones.
  • Influence of sunlight- light affects regulation of melatonin
  • Airline cabin pressure and atmosphere- changes in cabin pressure and high altitude could lead to jetlag

Land of Starbucks and Washington Wine Country

Cures for Jetlag

After warming up my second cup of coffee (it is now 5:30 a.m.) I began researching jetlag cures.  First suggested cure: limit caffeine. Not a chance! We are back in the land that gave Starbucks its start and I can't pass up the opportunity to get a java jolt from my old favorite. Second suggestion: avoid alcohol. What?! We are now in the heart of Washington Wine Country, walking distance to a dozen tasting rooms or wineries. . .so that isn't going to happen either.  Third suggestion (my own, btw): just live with it!  A couple more days and I'll settle in to the swing of things on this side of the world.  

We knew when we chose this foot-in-two-worlds lifestyle that jetlag would be one of the negative side effects of the choice.  What we hadn't considered when considering travel between our two slices of the world, was that a pandemic would hit two years into our adventure. We didn't even consider the ramifications after it hit . . .until we began traveling again. 

Those 20 Hours Between Worlds

Getting a test - step one for travel

I really had wanted to tell you that travel in these Covid-influenced times isn't much different than it was before the pandemic turned the world upside down. But travel is different and it probably isn't going to swing back to the old ways any time soon, if ever.  

Pretravel testing, and documentation are the keys to even being able to start an international journey these days. Then there are the protocols for travel.  Who would have thought that a year and a half later, we would still be dealing with such matters? Each member state of the European Union is grappling with how to handle U.S. travelers and the United Kingdom has all travelers running a bureaucratic gauntlet. The U.S. isn't yet welcoming non-citizen/resident card holder travelers from outside its borders. 

It is about the journey these days - (Beebe Bridge Chelan)

Airlines are juggling itineraries and schedules. We've started making travel plans as if throwing darts at a board.  We hope to hit the date we want, the bulls eye, but will take some outer ring should our dart fall short. We had segments of two versions of this trip cancelled before we finally hit on one that got us back: 

Our journey ended up being from Athens to London Heathrow then on to Seattle. Our same day travel on British Air had a 2.5 hour layover in London. Once that routing would have been 'a breeze', but not in these Covid-colored days. 

Columbia River - near Wenatchee, Washington State

We were flying from Greece, considered an 'amber country' (color is determined by number of Covid cases). It could have been worse as there are 'red' countries and it could have been better as there are 'green'  countries.  As an 'amber country' had we had a longer layover in London requiring us to leave the airport and spend the night (as we have often done in the past) we would have had even more testing requirements and possible quarantine. 

Because we stayed 'airside' (never leaving the terminal) vs. 'landside' (where you go through immigration) we had to have only one 'brain-tickler-up-the-nose' test prior to departure and several documents proving our health and providing contact tracing information.

Grape harvest is underway - wineries are busy

The contact tracing is done with a document called a PLF, passenger locator form. While Greece allows us to complete one of those per family, the United Kingdom requires one per person. That document when printed out was four-pages long for each of us. We had to provide not only flight numbers but seat numbers on those flights as well as the time, hour and minute of arrival.  

During our check-in process in Athens, we saw two individuals who were refused boarding passes until they could produce a completed PLF, in printed or digital form, for the UK. Now in fairness, British Air emailed us notice of the need for this document and those required by the US nearly every other day for two weeks prior to departure. Links to the documents were included in the emails. There is NO WAY anyone flying that airline couldn't have not  known they were needed.

I mention printed documents because airlines are now suggesting those over the mobile device because people searching for the documents, being unable to access them, etc. has slowed the check in/arrival document check process.  We noticed many -- ourselves included - now carrying file folders in airports.

Apples hang like ornaments this time of year

A negative rapid antigen test with the swab up the nose, is required to enter the U.S. and while the U.S. says it must be taken within three days before travel, the United Kingdom says 48 hours before travel.  The devil is in the details these days!

The U.S. also requires a signed and dated 'Attestation' form in which the traveler swears, or 'attests', that he/she has had a negative test. Those documents were collected in London prior to boarding the flight to Seattle.  Now it would seem they might want to see that actual test report, but no, they only wanted our sworn statement that we had tested negative. 

Blueberry fields forever - berry harvest was done weeks ago

Masks are required both in airports and on airplanes. It is a fact. Simple as that. I just read the U.S. is toughening its stance and upping the fines for those who refuse to wear masks. 

You honestly want to shout, "Score!!" and wave your fist in the air once the documents are checked and approved. Frankly, there was a comfort in knowing everyone on our 787 aircraft had tested negative and was wearing a mask.  It is something I am not sure of when shopping at the local grocery store, 'here' or 'there'.

Farmers Market - Chelan

Now that we are back to our roots we are looking forward to welcoming guests, seeing friends and exploring the area - all things Covid restraints limited on our last trip here.  The summer flurry of tourists has abated, pears are being harvested, apples hang like ornaments on trees, and just-picked wine grapes are being transported to local wineries. 

Hope you'll join us next week for a look at our slice of the Pacific Northwest. Our wishes for safe travels to you and yours And, as always, thanks for the time you've spent with us today. Safe travels ~

Linking sometime soon with:

Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. Glad you made it back to the US safely! Geez, it all sounds so complicated. It's a little disturbing to read that the US doesn't require paper proof. As much as I want to jump on the next plane to anywhere, I guess I'll wait a little longer. Hopefully this Covid variant will eventually die down, without another taking its place. Enjoy your time in Washington!

    1. Thanks! As always, now that we are here, I think it was worth the effort but I did have my doubts about the time we were organizing that file folder of documents prior to taking off!

  2. Thanks for welcoming me back. I enjoyed reading your post about returning to Washington from Greece. We had planned a short trip back from Powell River to Bellingham earlier this month but cancelled at the last minute because we were worried that either the US or Canada might change border crossing rules with the Delta variant increasing cases. We will stay "home" in Canada until late October when we return to be ready for our November Arizona RV trip. We always enjoy our Washington second home, but with Covid it became more like our first home due to travel restrictions. - Margy

  3. Ack this process of international travel and covid is making me dizzy and not traveling any time soon, lol

  4. Oh my, that is why we don't do international travel yet...except for Canada land crossing.

  5. We just completed an auto trip to the Northwest and can only imagine the time change effect your 20 hours of travel must have dumped on your bodies. While the thought of the jetlag's effects on a body is something to contend with, seeing the beauty of Washington is worth it.

  6. It was interesting to read about your travel experience. My only travel since the start of the pandemic was this summer domestically within Canada. There were some changes in that, but not as many as travelling internationally these days.


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