What it’s like moving overseas during Covid (Spoiler: it sucks)

I’ve finally moved to London! In my previous post I explained the “why” so now let me explain the “how.” Given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic situation, moving abroad was definitely even less fun than it would normally be. Due to a lack of available flights I ended travelling for nearly 20 hours (I think, there was a time zone change involved and I don’t feel like doing the math so this is just a guess). Normally this would’ve been fine, but with the extra precautions surrounding the virus I was drained.

My first flight was from Tampa to JFK. I arrived at the airport 3 hours early, wearing a mask because those are the rules. It turns out that I was WAY early. There was no line to check my bags, I was the only one on the tram, and I was the only one at TSA. It was really bizarre. The airport was a ghost town. On one hand, this was kind of nice because it is so much less stressful to not have to wait in line and not worry about bumping into people. But on the other, that meant that there really wasn’t anything open for breakfast. I ended up spending $10 for a croissant and a latte. This upset me immensely.

Besides the mediocre yet wildly expensive breakfast, waiting for my flight at the terminal was fine. I still maintain that the Tampa airport is one of the best airports out there. It’s roomy, airy, and well-designed. It’s also remarkably quiet for an airport and the wifi is great. So spending a few hours there before my flight to New York wasn’t the worst thing.

The flight was fine too. Delta did a great job having middle seats open and passing out hand sanitisers. No complaints there!

However, JFK airport was such a different story. I was already dreading my five and a half hour layover because that’s an obscenely long time to spend in an airport. When I arrived I found things worse than I could possibly imagine. First, the terminal was really big and, of course, my plane just had to be assigned the furthest gate. Second, I was hungry. I’m also indecisive so I certainly had to see what all of my options were before deciding on something. This was a huge mistake. I passed a pizza place early on that looked promising but I trudged on, looking to make the most informed decision possible. Unfortunately, there was pretty much nothing open. JFK very much resembled a dying mall.

So I made it all the way to the end of the terminal with only a McDonald’s to greet me. I was tired and sore because, and I cannot stress this enough, my carryon was HEAVY. Worse still, I realized that pizza was preferable but would mean having to trek all the way back from where I came from and I just couldn’t even think of making that trip again. So I sat on a bench and tried to make a decision. I figured that settling for a Big Mac would just be the easiest so off I went. However, once I saw that it would cost over $13 I cried a little and then began the long journey back to pizza. It was fine. Not earth-shattering. But it was cheap and I was hungry.

The rest of my long layover passed slowly but uneventfully. But JFK is not a good airport. It’s just not. I sat at my gate for hours which would have been fine if it was quiet. Instead, they decided that having televisions blaring prepackaged entertainment clips would be a good idea. Even with headphones in, I couldn’t escape the noise. Miserable.

Finally it was time to board the plane. I flew in Delta’s Premium Select cabin which is somewhere in between business class and economy. It was actually pretty nice! The seats were roomy and I had a whole row to myself. In fact, the plane was super empty. That was pretty much the only good thing about the flight. The food was only okay and breakfast was an abysmally small cinnamon roll. I know that the pandemic has made things weird and different, but this was still a bit of a disappointment, especially since I ended up only eating dinner on the day I arrived in London.

Despite the extra room, I had a horrible fight. Usually I have no problem at least getting a nap in on an overnight flight, but this time I slept for maybe a half an hour, if I am being generous. Instead, I watched a couple of movies. I even watched Cats and timed it so that I would be flying over London right as Dame Judi Dench yeeted Jennifer Hudson up to the Heaviside layer. It was bad. The flight was bad.

Now I’m no anti-masker. I wear one every single time I’m out in public and generally I think that people who complain about wearing them are selfish whiners. Like they’re not that bad at all. With that being said, even I found it hard to keep one on for my entire 20 hour or so journey. And I think that’s why I had such a hard time falling asleep. It was really distracting to have something touching my face. But I kept it on because not transmitting disease is more important than my temporary discomfort.

My lack of sleep just made me tired and cranky. A winning combination to get through immigration, surely. Ha. Immigration was a nightmare. It shouldnt’ve been but it was. So many of the egates were just straight up not working. After trying 3 that malfunctioned I just gave up and waited in line to talk with a border agent. This took ages because there was only one (1) and every person in front of me decided to ignore the fact that we were required to fill out a track and trace form in order to enter the country. It took like an hour, but I finally, officially, made it to England!

Haggard, I called an Uber to take me to my dorm. I originally had grand thoughts of taking the Tube but honestly I was exhausted and didn’t want to deal with my bags anymore. Luckily, the Uber ride was delightful. I arrived early on a Sunday morning so there was no traffic and we made it to my dorm in record time. Of course, this was also a little bad because I really wanted to look out the window but we were going so fast that I got mega carsick. Still, it was pretty wild how quickly we were in Central London. One minute we were in the suburbs and then the next thing I knew, we were right next to Westminster Abbey. And then, soon later, we were at the dorm.

I don’t think I have ever been happier to see a bed. I was so exhausted but so glad to finally be in my flat. Of course, since we’re in a pandemic nothing can be easy. I have to quarantine for two weeks before I can leave again. This makes moving extra hard because I can’t just go out and buy the bits and bobs I need to complete my room. I suppose I could order things like hangers and storage boxes online but they’re more expensive than getting them in person and I’m also way too stubborn to pay for shipping. So for now, I’ll remain half unpacked until I’m no longer deemed a potential threat to public health.

In summary, moving abroad during a pandemic kind of sucks. Sure there are good parts like lower crowds and more elbow room on the plane. But those positives are outweighed by the lack of facilities, hours of mask wearing, and quarantine requirements.

One thought on “What it’s like moving overseas during Covid (Spoiler: it sucks)

  1. Watching Cats on the flight sounds like a self-inflicted wound. Seems you’ve seamlessly transitioned switching over to using the appropriate terminology though.

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