Travelling Internationally During A Global Pandemic

 

CARLIE: Hey there, it’s Carlie with the Expat Focus podcast. Did you know, we film a lot of our interviews now? So, if you’re not already watching this one, head over to YouTube, search ‘Expat Focus’ and don’t forget to subscribe.

Is it ok to travel for pleasure during the global pandemic? How do you weigh up the “risk” versus “reward”? And as the world currently deals with the Omicron wave of COVID, what measures can you take to make your travel is as safe and as responsible as possible?

American, Crissy Whalin is my guest to chat through these questions. In 2018 she started travelling the world full-time with her then 10-year-old son, Zephyr, and together they’ve visited 40 countries and more than 100 cities, documenting their adventures on the Instagram account, singlemombudgettravel. Covid grounded them for a bit, but they recently took another trip, and Crissy is going to share her perspective on travelling during a global pandemic, while looking after yourself and the locals.

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Crissy, just before I hit record we were talking about how you must be an expert when it comes to PCR and antigen tests by now. How many do you think you’ve had in the last year?

CRISSY: Well, that’s so funny because it’s hard to get a hold of them and you’re not necessarily taking them when there’s a lull, right? Like, when there’s not a surge in the variant or any variant you’re not taking, I mean, I’m not regularly taking them at home, we’re just sort of hanging out. So, I think we’ve taken probably… we’ve done PCR and antigen, I’m going to say, between the two of us, probably like five to six times.But, you know, it’s been interesting because there’s the lack of availability and then there’s like, what’s the right thing?

If I think I’ve been exposed, right go stand in line with like a ton of people who also probably think they’ve been exposed for like hours at a time because that seems counter-intuitive. Just like, you know, so yeah we’ve taken a lot of tests. And you know, it’s almost hard to to bring it up without it becoming political or finding criticism in your own country’s way of dealing with it. And in a way it’s kind of sad but nice to know that on Instagram, I’m connecting with all these people around the world who are like, our country’s a total show too and, you know, because it’s felt like, for a while, America is taking the show, like, crown, particularly in our initial response to a pandemic.

And I’m someone who, most people don’t know this about me, but I’ve been writing for two national radio shows in the US that focus on health. So, I’ve been booking and producing interviews with doctors for the better part of a decade and all my day is, is reading health info and making sure I don’t book a quack doctor that’s going to tell people to, you know, ingest horse tranquillizers and whatever. So, this whole thing compounding onto itself of somebody who also is now like, sort of jumped into the travel sphere, it’s like everything has come together for me in this hot mess.

CARLIE: But the best background. And I’m guessing when people try to school you on your Instagram, you’re really active on Instagram, single mum on budget travel, I’m sure you’re like, guys I know this.

CRISSY: No, it’s true. I do sometimes feel like that but I have to say my mindset is, anybody who has bothered to speak to me on Instagram that doesn’t know me, that isn’t like a personal friend or a friend through a friend, that takes their time to say something or try to offer me knowledge, I’m like, I’m very grateful for it. You know, yeah sometimes I’m like, you know like obviously like, I’ve been out here doing this, guys. But I think, a) what Instagram and social media has shown us that people in radio have always known, is that people want to connect, right?

Even if they wanted to request a song back in the day or call you on your radio show and tell you were stupid, they’re looking for connection and I think social media is like just that amplified times a billion. So, when people take the time to say like, hey I read this article or did you know this? Even if I already know it, I’m kind of like thank you, thanks so much, I appreciate it, you know.

CARLIE: Really, most people are just looking for that validation, right?

CRISSY: Correct. They want to be validated in what they’ve said to you and they want to make a connection with you, so it’s like-

CARLIE: I noticed your Instagram post the other day, where you were talking about being selfish in travelling recently but the difference between being selfish and being, I guess, in the face of other people. You used an ice cream analogy about, you know, eating the ice cream or shoving your, you know, germy ice cream at other people.

CRISSY: Right.

CARLIE: I guess the context of this conversation is that, pre-pandemic you and your son Zephyr were travelling full-time around the world, which is amazing, such a cool thing on so many people’s bucket lists. Covid grounded you both back in the USA.

CRISSY: Yep.

CARLIE: Recently, you took another trip. And probably the first trip outside of the country since the pandemic. I want to talk about your thought process. I’m guessing, all this time that you’ve been back in the States, you’ve been dreaming of getting back on the road. What led you to decide that this is the moment, despite Omicron hitting so many countries right now, this was the time for yourself and Zephyr to take off again and do another trip?

CRISSY: Well, the truth of the matter is, I had flight credits that were expiring that were gonna mean that I lost about two thousand dollars, and that was really hard for me to swallow. And the crappiest part about it has been, I’ve been trying to be so respectful and so chill for such a long time despite, you know, my own mental health issues of staying home and being alone and navigating a pandemic as a single parent, and protecting the people I love and care about, you know? Like, in the middle of this, you know, we found out my dad has like stage four kidney disease, and so he needs to be extra protected, you know, like holy crap. And so, I purchased these tickets when it seemed like summer of 2021 was like, the great reopening for travel, particularly in Europe, and particularly if you were vaccinated, right? So, I got vaccinated early on, my first shot was in January, I waited for hours in a car with my sister to get a vaccine left over.

So, I’d gone to a clinic, literally in Bayou Jean Lafitte, which is like a tiny little bayou that looks like Pirates of the Caribbean outside of New Orleans, and we waited in line for, you know, almost six hours in the car to see if they had leftover vaccines. And they happened to have it so, once you got the leftovers of one shot, they were obligated to give you the second. So, I got vaccinated in late January and then I got fully vaccinated in February in like, by late February.

So, I was like cool. And then as soon as Zephyr could get vaccinated, got him vaccinated because I wasn’t going to travel without both of us being vaccinated. Being world travellers, vaccination is 100% a part of travelling, like you cannot go to certain countries without vaccines or taking precautions for malaria or taking malaria tablets, whatever it is. So like, for me it’s like yeah, it’s a given. You shouldn’t step into anybody else’s country without a vaccination, full stop.

So, I wanted to make sure I vaccinated and then it was like, 2021 is going to be the great reopening, cool. We want to support that, we want to support tourism, we want to support people who’ve been struggling financially and economically. So, I bought these tickets that had a little bit of flexibility with them and I paid extra for the flexibility but, really, you can only change it two times for the most part if you’re buying cheap tickets. And then it became a point of like, if you want to change this again, it’s going to cost you like, basically three times as much as the tickets had cost me. And then I lost one ticket that I had credit for, so that was like a thousand dollars that I just had to like, just say, okay whatever, this is the way it is now.

But I, you know, just like, it is what it is, I can’t travel, it’s not safe. So we plan to go in late summer, and then the Delta variant hit and we were like, crap. Okay, we’re not going in late summer, it’s not responsible, whatever. So I had planned to push it towards like, basically December because I knew like, I had to use these flights before the year had ended or they would just go away. And I thought, well it would really suck if I couldn’t use these flights or whatever. So, I’m planning this, I planned for a Thanksgiving with my sister and my mom and my dad, which we all hadn’t seen each other for two years. And then from there I was gonna fly to Europe because we were just sort of on the East Coast of the US. And literally, as I’m at freaking Thanksgiving dinner, I’m watching this news of like, the Omicron variant hitting Europe and I’m like, what the actual f? Like, at this point I’m boosted.

So, I was one of the first people to get boosted as well, so I’m like God, like I’m boosted, I don’t know what else to do. Like, I could turn around but then I’d also rented my house out on Airbnb to people like a long-term holiday rent and I was like… So, honestly, with a lot of trepidation, I ended up getting on the plane and just thinking like, worst-case scenario, I’m financially sound enough in this moment to quarantine if I am told that I have to get on this thing and I have to quarantine in Europe. I also know, which you know, you’re in France.

France has been restricted and very like, sort of despite protests or whatever like, pretty much everyone’s like on the same team. Even if they don’t like it, the majority of people, right? So I thought, well far out, my tickets are to France, of all the places in the world that we might be safe and they might do something or they might consider what the best thing for us to do would be, would be to land in France.

And if they turned us around, they turned us around or if they told us we had to quarantine well, I had the Airbnb set up so, okay. And you know, just as an American, when you land in a country, I mean I’m living in the south, right? So like, inside my tiny bubble of New Orleans, it’s predominantly like, pretty cool. Politically, it’s very split but at the same time, everyone is relying on tourism to come back to New Orleans because the entire city relies on tourism. So it’s kind of like, even if you don’t want to vaccinate or you don’t like the idea of a mask, most people were kind of like, yeah but we need the tourists back so like, and we want carnival, we want Mardi Gras season, so like, whatever we can do to get Mardi Gras back, we’ll do it, we’ll suck it up.

So, a little bit more like France in that regard, which New Orleans always is more like France, right? So I thought, okay I’m gonna do this. Worst case scenario, get sent back, whatever. If I got sent back, I could claim the tickets with my travel insurance and get reimbursed versus just losing the tickets which was also a consideration I had. And then I got there and I was like, wow France has this shit on lock. Pardon my French. You know, I was just like… We had to apply prior to leaving, we had to apply like a month in advance and make sure we got our digital Covid pass from France. It just seemed like everywhere we went in France was way less of the absolute chaos that is the United States. So, not that I’m justifying it at all because you do have to acknowledge like, you are potentially exposing, this is how Covid keeps travelling, right? People are, just keep travelling.

And so, I got myself into a pinch because I couldn’t go backwards, I couldn’t stay at my family’s like, for a longer period of time necessarily, and I was gonna lose these tickets. But, if I’d gotten on the flight and we cleared customs and got turned around, my travel insurance, that I had paid extra for, would have reimbursed me for it. So, it’s kind of like all right, let me just do this for the sake of getting reimbursed because there was like, it just like, my gut hurt thinking about losing my, you know, like over two grand worth of travel plans, three grand worth of travel plans I’d made.

CARLIE: It’s a big loss. It’s a big financial loss.

CRISSY: And it’s a big financial loss for somebody who is like, doesn’t live on a larger income. So for me, (inaudible)save, saved, saved. I worked so hard to save this money and so, you know, I still felt guilty about it. I still took off going like, I can’t believe I’ve booked a flight and they’ve just announced that Omicron is like this, you know, huge surgeon. I’m going towards a continent that is ahead of this, ahead of my country on the surge but I know it’s a matter of days before it’s wildfire across the U.S. So nowhere is technically safe but it’s still not an excuse or reason to be disrespectful or, you know, whatever. So I, again that’s why I just like, you have to own it.

Like, what I did was absolutely selfish for me like, I needed to go there so that I could get my refund. If I got my holiday out of it, okay, but I didn’t even know how my holiday was gonna be so, you know, right now traveling for pleasure, as I said on my Instagram, is a selfish act. It is. Seeing your family for pleasure, it might be a mental health requirement for you like, you might be completely fried but you are still taking a selfish risk and everyone will justify like, well I’m vaccinated like, I’m vaccinated, I wear masks, I got the digital Covid pass, I’m participating in the rules.

You’ve got to just take on board that traveling is a selfish act for pleasure. Like, if you’re forced to travel for work or you’re forced to travel for whatever, you know whatever, you’re escaping, fleeing something, sure. But travel for pleasure in this moment is still, we’re still in a pandemic, it’s still a selfish act and you need to acknowledge that and not be flippant about it, right?

CARLIE: You did take the selfish act and you got through when you landed in France.

CRISSY: Yes, we did get through. And then we went to Denmark as well and we went to Finland. And everywhere we went in the EU, you know, I remember being in the Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi and we’re at a little tiny restaurant and there was like two people in the restaurant and I had our vaccine, I had our digital Covid pass and our vaccine cards with us but I didn’t have Zephyr’s passport. And this lady said to me you need to go back to your thing and get his passport because I need to match it which I was like, yeah you know, what fair play. Like she said next time-

CARLIE: Inconvenience, but…

CRISSY: Right. I was willing and had the conversations with Zephyr about like, how this travel would be in this time. We will be inconvenienced, we will be turned away, we might not make it, like all of the expectations for us were set so I tried to be very prepared. I tried to be like really considerate of the people who are trying to work, like the person in the store, the person at customs, the person that’s your waitress, the person at the grocery store, the person on, you know, in the metro trying to sell you your ticket and explain to you how to do this.

It’s the mentality of like, if you’re a guest and how do you behave as a guest in someone’s home. And so that’s kind of how it was like if they asked me to leave, they asked me to leave. If they asked me to wear a mask, I’m wearing a mask. If they ask me to prove my ID with the thing even though I have the digital thing, cool. They’re doing the right thing, they’re trying to make it right. I’m a guest, so that’s how you behave. And I’ve been saying that prior to the pandemic. When you go to another country, you go to another city, you step out of your house, you’re a guest somewhere, right? That is the one thing I wish people would learn in travel, is that you’re a guest.

It doesn’t matter you paid to be there, that doesn’t give you the right to treat people, like it certainly doesn’t give you a right to spread disease and behave disrespectfully in a country that is not yours. Like, I don’t go into my friend’s house and take a dump on their carpet, I use their bathroom and I wash my hands. And people are behaving as if it’s okay to just go spread their germs and take a dump on everyone’s carpet.

CARLIE: Few questions. One, how did you and Zephyr go about striking that balance between being tourists, travelling, seeing things? Because that was the whole point of travelling, that is the whole point of traveling and being respectful. And what did you notice of other travelers that you would say is the wrong way to go about it right now?

CRISSY: So, we made a pact that like, we would just suck it up and walk a lot. And I downloaded some of the metro apps in various countries and also Google Maps gives you an idea of, if you’re forced or you need to take public transit, it tells you when it’s busy, particularly in Paris. This is wonderful because you can put into Google, hey I’m going to go from here to here and it’s a long distance but is it really busy right now? Is it peaking time? Is it peak commuter time for the locals? So, I was just trying to be cognizant of staying out of people’s way when I didn’t need to be there. If we didn’t need to take a metro in the middle of commuter time, because that’s what we wanted to do, I was like-

CARLIE: And that’s a high Covid, crowd risk.

CRISSY: Correct. It’s a Covid risk for us but it’s also a Covid risk for them. So I thought, well what we’re going to commit to is walking a lot and walking outside and getting from… Like, we would go on our Google maps and if it was 30 minutes of walking versus 20 minutes to take two metros, well we were like, what’s 10 minutes gonna do? It’s not gonna kill us. And so, I mean in a way it kind of counteracted all the croissants and cinnamon rolls that we ate because we were walking like eight, nine miles a day. And then just being conscious of where were crowds.

Like, I never had any interest in being in a place that was super crowded and so even at places like the Louvre, you could see when you were buying tickets or you could see on Google- and I don’t know how they do this technology but it’s kind of unreal and whatever, it’s probably because they’re tracking all of us- the amount of crowds that were there. So like, even though, when we finally got to the Louvre, it was more crowded than I thought, they did turn people away in line who did not have their Covid pass and who did not have the, you know, weren’t willing to wear a mask. You know, I mean yes, I saw people behaving badly all over the place. There’s, you know, a million wannabe influencer photo shoots of girls in ridiculous clothing, no mask, posing everywhere-

CARLIE: I should say one of the things I love most about your regular Instagram stories (inaudible) influencers and give us a nice little commentary on what you’re seeing and how ridiculous they look.

CRISSY: It really is. And I don’t mean to be nasty to anybody, but I just feel like prior to even Covid and… you don’t need a photo shoot in front of a Picasso because you’re not as interesting as that Picasso. I mean, he might fall or whatever like he might be a womanizer but like, just art versus like… And I always have said this, like yeah, art versus you. Like, you’re your own masterpiece but like, if you’re going to a place to see other things, you know how much of a photo shoot do you really need of you there? Like I’m all for a happy snap of like, hey I paid 500 dollars to get to the top of Machu Picchu, I’m getting a picture, fine. Versus the photo shoots of people who are putting themselves in peril, they’re taking up everybody else’s time, and you’re like, what is the purpose of that?

CARLIE: Love the influencers with a bag of alternative outfits.

CRISSY: Yes. Oh, I’ve seen it all. And I think I was really shocked to see that, in Covid, in the middle of the Omicron variant and I did see quite a lot of that. It was like, yeah, could you like, I mean, this feels like you don’t need to have an entire photo shoot right here, particularly with no mask, in particular-

CARLIE: I mean, actually, on one hand I get it because there are less crowds for the influencers to have these like, you know, these landmarks all to themselves to play with. But yeah, it’s a bit extreme.

CRISSY: It is extreme. And you know, I’ve always said, like, they’re always doing the dumbest thing. They’re like leaning across something or like sitting on a cliff somewhere and I’m like, okay like no offence, but like, I don’t want to see you die, that will mess me up. Like, get the hell away from the cliffs of Moher you dump- Like, so I saw a certain degree of that. I saw people who didn’t want to… they didn’t want to wear masks in stores, didn’t respect restaurants who were trying to like, follow protocol and, you know, like to argue with them about it. I saw people trying to get away with eating on public transit as a way to not wear a mask, which I was like nice try, psych we already know that, we know what you’re doing.

And I think to me, getting my head around the fact that women are a-holes has been like, the biggest part of the pandemic for me. That like, women who I’m like- I mean we’re all a**holes, it doesn’t matter. I feel like I’ve always put women as a higher moral standard and what I’ve noticed in the pandemic and being an American in the last four years; women are total a-holes too. And so it’s just like, you know, seeing some of that you’re just like, okay. That’s been the most shocking part, I think.

CARLIE: And you did stay with hosts when you were in Europe most recently (inaudible). How did you find the hosts were with having guests during the Omicron wave?

CRISSY: I mean the people’s Airbnb that I rented in Paris, they had just in 2020 purchased that apartment. They live in the building, they purchased a secondary studio for Airbnb because it is a way to make money in France. I mean, you know, Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in so, you know, there’s always going to be controversy whether, you know, Airbnb is okay to do or not, whatever. I’m very grateful for it, I do it like, I do like the idea that you have to live in the same place or live in the same building now. I think those rules are good because I live in a city that was like, totally predatorially.

Like, I don’t even know if that’s a word, but like, taken by people who didn’t live there just buying up stuff and pushing out the locals, so I’m very respectful of that. I live in my house, I Airbnb the front of my house, that’s how we should be moving forward. And also, I do think, like with those rules, it allows local hotels and locally owned hotels to have a chance, which I always support locally owned hotels as well. I don’t just stay in Airbnbs but for our hosts they had said like, they bought this thing, they lived next door, they were hoping to manage it and make some extra money off of it. He was a teacher, so like his whole life had changed as well, being a teacher during Covid. And, you know, they were grateful that we were staying there, you know?

He kept trying to apologize that he didn’t have two beds for us and I was like,as long as no one tells my son’s friend he had to share the big bed with me. And we put pillows in between us, you know or whatever. It’s like when I went to to Finland, I stayed in an Airbnb and then we stayed with the host and her Airbnb and both people in Finland were really grateful for it. It’s hard. I have so much compassion for people who have suffered through this financially.

I can’t say that I have suffered financially because I wasn’t making that much money, necessarily, prior to the pandemic, which is why it’s single mom budget travel, and I’ve kept my job and I’m very grateful for that. And so I’ve been living off of a really small income and living a life that feels very close to a financial edge, even though I do get child support and so I don’t want to paint a picture that I’m impoverished. But, in comparison to like, what a lot of people went through, where like literally their livelihoods were just taken away, I’m very empathetic towards that.

So, that’s been the balance of like, how do I support travel and tourism and the people that I love who make it possible? And how do I be respectful of a pandemic? And it’s threading a really gnarly needle. It’s like, just been so hard to do. I mean, I almost didn’t want to even post on Instagram through the pandemic because I was like, I don’t give a sh*t about talking about travel right now. I give a sh*t about how people are doing and what’s going on. But, at the same time, I’m like, well… But, you know, when we get through this, I really want to continue to promote it.

And I want people’s livelihoods, who are in the travel industry, to like continue. So, again, it’s been just a very bizarre balance and I don’t know how other travel bloggers and people have handled it. But I have felt so much angst and stress over it, just from like a philanthropic, I give a sh*t about the world, point of view.

CARLIE: Have you found it harder to travel on a budget during Covid?

CRISSY: That’s interesting. I think yes and no. I think traveling right now, recently rates are obviously lower so there’s that, and I don’t want to promote that. That’s not something where I’m like, yeah get in and like get those cheap rates. Even though like, in reality, like yeah things are a little bit cheaper. So, if that’s something you do need to take advantage of, okay I get it, no judgment. I just don’t want to like, throw it out there like, free-for-all. You know, there’s been a lot of conversation about, particularly in the U.S, with supply chain and the cost of living is way up, and that includes the cost of food.

So, I haven’t noticed it, necessarily, traveling, I’ve noticed it for me personally, in my life, you know? Things that cost money, interesting things. Like, I was talking with my mom about this last night, pine nuts are like quadruple the price because of the pandemic and the environmental impact of what’s going on right now, with all these storms and fires and floods and off season storms, that’s impacting crops. And so, like, Italian pine nuts or something, is like ridiculous. You’re like, I just want some pesto, why is the pine nut bag fifty dollars? Those are things that I’ve been conscious of during the pandemic and just seeing how, yeah, the travel industry has been absolutely smashed.

But, just like the world in general, like, there’s just a shortage of things. So, getting back into travel is another, you know, like I constantly talk about balance, it’s just a balance of like, you know, I think the travel companies are gonna have to make things affordable for people if they want people to get back out. Because if the travel industry was impacted, other people are impacted. People don’t have a lot of expendable income, so it’s going to be like, meet me halfway.

Like, how are the airlines going to not take up the prices to the point that people can’t afford that? And how are they going to survive, right? Because we saw, like, Norwegian Air, right at the beginning of the pandemic, stopped flying and stopped their routes to any place outside of the EU. Well, I was using Norwegian Air like it was my best friend. Like, it was a great international airline for budget travel that you knew was safe, and you knew it was good quality. That’s gone. You know, that makes me sad like, things like that, that have been impacted. So that when French bee, like, relaunched, like and repositioned itself and were like, doing cheap travel from the United States to France, I was like, I’m gonna support French bee because they’re making it easier for me to, like, get to where I’d like to go. And I want to support high quality budget airlines because I do think that’s the way going forward.

And I think that’s what’s going to make travel more accessible to people, which has been my entire point in sharing a singlemombudgettravel is, how can travel be affordable and within people’s reach? And I believe that if we travel more, we’re better people. And I’m not talking about restful vacations and self-care vacations, I’m talking about taking yourself or your family out to see the world and learn about it. I think you teach kids or you teach yourself, you don’t have to have kids to do this, but if you travel with the intent to learn about another place, it makes you a better person and makes the world a better place. So, how can that be more accessible to a lot of people? So, I want the travel industry to survive this. And like, my heart hurts for it and I want travel to be accessible to people who have previously not had accessibility to it. And when will the pandemic end?

CARLIE: Well, you know, we kind of thought maybe by 2022 but it hasn’t turned out that way.

CRISSY: No.

CARLIE: Crissy, you talked about preparing your son for the latest trip that you took during Christmas, I should say you came back to the States after Christmas. Preparing him set expectations, this might not be the sort of trip we were doing before. What are you hoping he, or what did he take away from that experience? And what lessons are you hoping he may have learnt about, you know, being respectful in the world and traveling with a conscience, I suppose?

CRISSY: Yeah. I mean, it’s been a way that we’ve behaved since we started traveling. I think I probably take a lot of criticism for the way that I raise Zephyr, regardless of what I do, which is fine. But, I want him to be looking out, is the phrase I always say, like I want him to look out, observe and be curious. And so, in traveling the past few years, we’ve been really working on that. You know, when I started traveling with him at 10, people just assumed that, you know, I’d fill in the gaps with the iPad on long distance trains and long journeys and stuff, and I didn’t do that. He had to have books, he had toys to play with, he was doing homeschool.

And it’s been really important to me to teach him to look out and to be curious and to ask questions. And so, on this last leg, he was kind of already prepared. Like, we talked about it and, I have to say, like part of it is how I’m personally trying to raise him, and part of it is him being a really awesome kid and being naturally curious and naturally not fussy. He’s not a fussy eater, he’s interested in a lot of things, he’s adventurous, and you know, so that’s part him and that’s part how I’ve been raising him thus far.

So, you know, my generation, I’m a Gen X but I’m at the tail end of Gen X, so I was a latchkey kid, kind of, growing up and like my mom was working, my dad was working and so I was taking care of my sister and getting us home from school and making food, and all that kind of stuff. So, I have a little bit of a different viewpoint than millennials and xenialls who are like, asking for justice in their childhood, you know? Which is great. I was trying to ask for justice but also just like, rolling with the punches. And so now, I think there’s always an over correction, right? We went from like, screaming at kids to be good at sports when they were kids, to everyone gets a ribbon. It’s somewhere, always in the middle, right?

So, again, it’s always a balance. So, for him, we talked about expectations of things that he wanted to do in Europe, which was, you know, part of the reason we were going. But then, I just always say to him, don’t get attached to the outcomes because we always learn from something. Even the crappiest things that have happened to us traveling, we learn from it and we talk about it, and it’s always something that like, everything is a learning moment for us.

So, we set a lot of very important ground rules. Like, I don’t want to say that I’m a parent that’s like, bad news first, because I’m definitely not. I’m super like, we can do it, we can do anything like, whoa we’re gonna freaking go travel the world in our backpacks from here, it’s gonna be great. I’m very like, glass half full, but with a warning on it, you know? Like, I just don’t like to be flippant about anything. So, you know, we just knew, hey they might not even let us get off the plane, they might turn us around halfway through the trip, we might have to leave, and he was like, cool mom.

And, you know, Zephyr we’re going to do a lot of stuff outside, we’re going to do a lot of walking around, we’re going to do a lot of observing, we’re not going to be able to do as much of some of the things that we like to do. And he was like, I just want to be out and traveling, I just want to see things. Because, he’s now like, so conditioned to it. We were genuinely missing it like it. Like, me in particular, I moved to New Orleans at the beginning of the pandemic, so I had to make friends which was like, kind of impossible to a certain degree during the pandemic.

He made friends in the neighborhood really quickly which was lovely, but like, a part of who we are was a thousand percent missing. So, we understand when people say they’re having a hard time with the pandemic, and there’s so much that they miss. I get it. Like, I freaking get it. The thing that I believe is a core part of who I am was just non-existent. But, also, I give more of a sh*t about people than I do my needs first, I understand. And that’s why you try to teach your kids, it’s like cool, I want that but like, what-

CARLIE: Right now there are bigger things going on. Yeah.

CRISSY: Right. And also, like, how do you teach your kids to care later on? You need to teach them from the jump. Because, you know, once they hit six or seven, if you’ve been treating them like they’re the first kid ever born in this world, that’s freaking hard to teach them compassion later, you know what I mean? And I did that with Zephyr.

CARLIE: That’s really commendable.

CRISSY: Thanks. I mean, it’s just really hard to teach your kid, like, you’re the most important person to me, but you’re not the most important person in the world.

CARLIE: In the universe, yeah. So Crissy, I’d like to know, you know, and obviously everyone’s reasons for a travel are a little bit different, but as you said, it comes down to, at the moment, if you’re able to do it for pleasure and not for a, you know, dire family reason or mental health reason, you are being selfish and accept that and if you’re going to do it anyway, what are your top tips to people to be traveling in a, I suppose socially conscious and respectful way at this time?

CRISSY: My top tip is, don’t go out of your house if you’re not willing to behave like a guest. The golden rule, the most important travel tip you need is, treat people how you would want to be treated. And then, my second thing would be, obviously, depending if you’re doing international travel or if you’re just sticking within your country, there’s going to be various rules, know the rules of where you’re going.

Because, even in a place like America, and then I know in Australia it’s the same way too, but even in America it’s city to city, so the rules here in Los Angeles are different from the rules in New Orleans. Even though this is America, the rules in San Francisco, which is the same state as California, are different than the rules in LA. It is your responsibility, as a traveler or a guest somewhere, to know the rules. This is pre-pandemic, this is post-pandemic, this is pandemic traveling. You better know the rules and you better be willing to follow those rules. It is not your right to go anywhere and be disrespectful.

So, I say, if you’re not willing to follow the rules, you should stay home. Because you can create your own rules within your house, and that’s cool. But you can’t decide what another place’s rules are. And, if anything that we’ve seen from this pandemic is, that people don’t want to follow the rules, right? So, if you’re not somebody who can follow the rules, you’re not ready for travel right now. Sorry to tell you, you’re an assh*le, I’m going to say it. I’m not changing my opinion on that either. The other thing is, like, the masking is so important wherever you’re going. Even if it’s like, local, or you’re just going to a different city, you really have to mask. I’m like, not even interested in the debate any longer, it’s just the way it is. So, be prepared.

CARLIE: And can I just say, #influenced. Because, after you posted the other day about the different higher grade masks that you and Zephyr chose to travel with, I actually jumped on Amazon and bought some.

CRISSY: That’s good, yes. You know, I found the KF 94 mask is the most comfortable but offers the similar protection. For anyone who didn’t see that or doesn’t know what I’m talking about, like the KN 95 is obviously the top level of quality for masks in terms of protection, particularly with this variant, we found out that with Omicron. You know, again, it’s like with travel and with life, even when shi**y things happen, we learn from them. So, we’ve been learning as we’ve gone across, shi**ty things are happening in this pandemic, you know, the cloth masks aren’t cutting it anymore. The medical masks, maybe, aren’t even that great either.

CARLIE: Omicron, yeah.

CRISSY: Right. So, for me, I found the KF 94 mask is a go-to, because it provides the comfort around the ears that maybe the medical and the cloth masks kind of have. Because, if you’ve noticed that, like, with the KN 95s, they’re like the duckbill mask and they’re super tight, which they’re supposed to be, but it can be really hard on people’s ears. And so for me, if people are saying to me, I don’t wear the masks, they’re so uncomfortable, I’m like, well try this KF 94, I feel like it’s the best of both worlds.

It’s got, you know, the wire so that you can push it around your nose and stay really tight and compact and safe, but it’s got a little bit more comfort around the ears like the medical masks, the cloth masks offer. It goes all the way down underneath your chin, which is really important, you don’t want gaps. Wearing a mask is so important and you’ve got to make it work how it can work best for you. Washing your hands carrying hand sanitizer, like, I can’t even stress enough how important that is.

Like, I knew that, as a parent putting my kid in preschool, their fingers are up their noses and in their butts all day long. Like, I mean, I’m serious. Like, they had to shut down my son’s preschool at one point because the norovirus in, like, 2012 or something was, like, ripping through Southern California, and preschools and ours got shut down. And I remember it vividly, and I was like, yeah I worked at his preschool. I got thrown up on, I had to like wipe poo off the walls, I had to, like, watch kids have their fingers up their nose all day long. It’s so true, kids are disgusting. People are disgusting too, like I’ve seen so much in the world of, like, traveling where people are just, like, picking their nose on public transit, I’m like, what the hell are you doing? But, I would say, like, just hand sanitizer.

I’m not even, like, a super freak about that kind of stuff, but you know, washing your hands and having hand sanitizer available to you is really important. And the other thing with the masks is, if you’re stuck and you can’t get access to more KF 95s or KN 95s, a way to reuse them is to wipe them down inside. And you should do this regardless. You’ve got to wipe them down inside with antibacterial wipes or, like, spray the crap out of them with your antibacterial spray, and then you can reuse them if you’re in a pinch. Because obviously, you know, people have a hard time getting them, or they’re waiting for shipments or, like they feel like it’s wasteful… You can clean them, you know?

I personally believe you should be vaccinated. I don’t like to, like, preach about that to people because it just ends up in some type of, like, my body my rights argument, and I get it. As a traveler, if you’re traveling internationally, you do kind of have a responsibility to be vaccinated. Because from what we’ve seen with the testing in particular, it’s not super accurate. And that’s another reason why I’ve been sharing about my son, you know, having Covid and me not having Covid.

We’re in the same house or people getting false negatives or false positives, or whatever. So like, even with the joke of each situation, you know, the testing is not super accurate, that can’t be the only thing. And I think that’s what we’re gonna see coming through, in terms of the travel trends for 2022, is just this expectation that you’re going to get vaccinated if you want to travel internationally. So, be prepared to do that.

CARLIE: One point, I wanted to raise, that actually I saw because of your ex-husband, and I’m not a stalker, he has a profile himself.

CRISSY: Yeah, he does.

CARLIE: (inaudible) definitely could be a colleague so that’s how-

CRISSY: (inaudible) he is a colleague, yes.

CARLIE: He posted, after visiting you guys in LA, he had to still be there because he tested positive for Covid, and he made the really valid point that if you’re going to travel, make sure you have the funds, the means to extend your trip if you have to. Because he is now in hotel quarantine and looking at needing to spend a couple of extra, unexpected weeks in the States.

CRISSY: I said that to somebody who messaged me the other day, and I said that to him. And I said it to him because I was preparing for that. I said, if you’re going to travel now, and I said it on my Instagram, be prepared that you will be stuck, because you have no control over those rules. And you know, a lady sent me a message saying, oh I have this weekend, do you think I should go to Paris right now? I’m fully vaxxed and boosted but I have this one week where my ex or my husband can watch the kids, and I could go visit my friend. And I said, if you only have one week, I would not go because-

CARLIE: -you need an extra two weeks in case you get Covid.

CRISSY: You have to. You have to plan an extra two weeks, tack on an extra two weeks for whatever you’re planning to do, and know that, like, you could get stuck. I mean Byron, literally, got his test on the way to the airport, he had to turn his butt around and go hotel quarantine immediately. You know, like, we were willing to do that in France.

When we knew we had to leave and it was a 24 hour test turn around, 24 hours before we were supposed to get back to the United States, I didn’t know the, you know, the results of our tests. I was looking at Airbnbs that I could book for two weeks, in case I got stuck. And I had to have those funds available. (inaudible) traveler’s insurance, damn it. Have travelers insurance.

CARLIE: Crissy, you did make it back to the States and in the case of yourself and Zephyr, with your most recent trip, everything was fine, you didn’t get Covid. What is next? What are you planning? Are you planning to hunker down back in the USA until after the the height of Omicron is over? Are you already looking ahead to your next trip?

CRISSY: We are going to see how Omicron plays out, for sure. Because Zephyr is now Covid positive, we have to wait and, sort of, hunker down in Los Angeles as well. We’ll go back to New Orleans. We’ll, sort of, reset where we’re at with everything. You know, I want to say that, like, wherever you go, you can step outside your house and get Covid. So, that isn’t to say, like, don’t travel. It isn’t to say go nuts and go traveling, not saying that, just being cognizant that it is super transmissible.

We’re gonna go back to New Orleans, see how it goes for a month or two. I have plans to take Zephyr back to Europe in spring because he is going to start art history as part of his schooling. And the first part of the course, which is something he actually will get school credits for, is renaissance art. And so I thought, well, I can’t as a traveler and as a parent who’s been homeschooling for the last two years, then be like, here, look at the David through your computer screen, see how awesome it is.

So, our hope is to go back. But we’re gonna be very cautious and very respectful. And I would just like to say, to maybe tie a bow on it, that the mentality that, if you got Covid, it’s cool, you can go, which I think was the Djokovic kind of a thing, where it’s like, I’ve had it-

CARLIE: -the tennis player (inaudible)

CRISSY: Yeah. He was like, well you know, it doesn’t matter, I don’t want to vaccinate because I’ve had it, and there’s a lot of people with that mentality. That is not a loving mentality and that is not guaranteeing you from not getting it. My sister’s daughter, my half-sister has a daughter who works in nursing, who has gotten Covid three times and gave it to her at Christmas. And they didn’t think she would give it to them because she’s already had it twice.

She gave it to her mom at Christmas time, she flew from Los Angeles to New Orleans to visit her mom, gave her Covid. So, having had it is not the okay to then just go nuts. If you’ve been vaccinated, if you’ve been boosted and you’ve had it, you probably are safer than most. But, with the way that it keeps continuing to mutate, that is not something that anybody should be promoting. That’s not enough. And it’s not okay to say that, so we have to, like, squash that as like, I’ve had it, I’m fine. That’s my like, you know, this whole kind of bow on all of it.

CARLIE: Crissy, it’s been a real pleasure to have you on the Expat Focus podcast. Thank you so much.

CRISSY: Thank you.

CARLIE: Singlemombudgettravel is where you can find Crissy on Instagram, make sure you follow her to see what she and Zephyr get up to next.

That’s it for this episode. If you have travel advice to share, join the conversation with us on social media. We are Expat Focus. For free moving guides and other useful resources, you can head to expatfocus.com, and I’ll catch you next time.


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