Hello, Seattle! Goodbye, Seattle!
A quick visit to our old hometown before we hit the road again...
Greetings from Seattle where we’re spending nine days doing a whole bunch of stuff: getting our second vaccine shots (woo hoo!) and our yearly physicals (boo!); buying new tennis shoes, shirts, and other assorted sundries; picking up Brent a new computer and new phones for both of us; sorting through a year’s worth of mail (and getting out of jury duty); seeing Brent’s ninety-two year old dad for the first time in sixteen months; and visiting a dozen different friends.
But that’s not the end of it. After Seattle we’re moving to Istanbul, Turkey, and there’s a whole list of things we have to do to be able to travel to Europe right now.
More on that in a minute.
Since we’re usually away from Seattle for six months or more, our visits there can feel pretty whirlwind-y. But that’s life as a digital nomad, and we gladly make the trade-off.
One of the most frequent questions we get is: Isn’t it hard seeing so much less of your friends and family now?
Yes and no. But honestly, mostly no.
First off, we have a whole new slew of digital nomad friends that we spend time with all over the world.
Secondly, the truth is that before we left Seattle, we didn’t get to see as much of our Seattle friends and family as we wanted anyway.
That’s partly because traffic in Seattle pre-pandemic was awful. Reduce-you-to tears-and-screaming-at-the-sea-of-taillights-in-front-of-you awful.
Traffic is so bad that it’s a factor in how often people get together — and how far they’re willing to go.
Honestly, thanks to social media, Zoom, and occasional visits, we feel more connected to some friends than before.
And when we do get together in person, it feels even more special.
That was definitely true this time around, especially with Brent’s dad. He’s ninety-two, and we hadn’t seen him in person since Christmas 2017. We did stop by during our visit last summer and waved at him up at his window. Frankly, it was pretty heartbreaking.
Harry spent almost the entire pandemic completely isolated, so it definitely meant a lot to both him and us to finally get to hug him in person.
When we visited Seattle just about a year ago, it was a pretty sobering experience. Covid had almost completely shutdown Seattle’s vibrant downtown core. Places normally thronged with summer visitors like Pike Place Market were almost completely empty.
Then the protest over George Floyd’s murder took place, and a lot of buildings were damaged and more businesses closed.
Last summer, walking through downtown’s empty streets, with all of the boarded up storefronts, honestly felt like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie. When we left, we wondered not just when downtown would recover but if it would.
I’m happy to report that after walking around downtown last weekend, much of the city has made a comeback. There were actual crowds on the streets and the sight of them made me happier than I would’ve believed.
PCR TEST? CHECK! TURKISH VISA? CHECK! TRACKING APP? CHECK
International airplane travel has never been fun.
Time zone changes. Cramped seats. Stale air.
Two years ago, we flew from Seattle to Shang Hai to Bangkok to Krabi, Thailand, in a thirty-six hour marathon that left us feeling like digital nomad zombies.
This is what happens when you don’t hydrate on international flights.
And that was before COVID and all the risks that brings.
Now flying is even more complicated, especially flying internationally.
Here is a list of everything we have to do in order to fly from Seattle, Washington, to Istanbul, Turkey:
Apply for a Turkish visa.
Schedule and get negative PCR test taken less than 72 hours before arrival into Istanbul. The flight time itself is almost 24 hours, plus there’s a ten-hour time difference, so figuring out the exact timing to have the test done is very stressful. (Bonus: This time they swabbed both nostrils! Aggressively!)
Fill out and print a Dutch health form (since we’re flying through Amsterdam).
Apply and pay for a Turkish health certificate.
Download and complete Turkish government Covid tracking app
All of this is in addition to the regular travel chores like arranging transportation to and from the airport, booking accommodations, and so forth.
Oh, and we also had to schedule and complete our second round of Covid vaccinations!
And we just completed a similar list of chores to fly from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, back to America.
If it sounds like I’m complaining, well, I am. But only a little. We know how lucky we are to be able to do what we do.
I actually think travel should be difficult right now. The pandemic isn’t over, and countries need to be careful. Things might not have gotten so bad in India had their government kept travel restrictions in place.
But all of this might beg the question, why the heck are we going to Turkey at all?
We’re going because now that we’re fully vaccinated, we feel safe enough to travel again. So far, research bears out that vaccinated people are very unlikely to pass on the virus. And we’ll wear continuing wearing masks, of course.
But the simple truth is that travel is how we live now. As digital nomads, our home is wherever we unpack our backpacks. (Speaking of which, check out the cool new Cotopaxi backpacks we just traded our suitcases in for!)
Frankly, many parts of the world need people like us to start traveling again.
Puerto Vallarta is massively dependent on tourism, and we saw firsthand how hard the local economy was hit by the pandemic. It felt good to shop locally, helping obviously grateful people. We also donated much of our stimulus checks to the local foodbank.
The same will be true in Turkey. In 2020, tourism there went from $36 billon USD to $12 billion.
That’s a huge ouch.
All that said, we picked our next destination carefully, keeping Covid infections in mind, along with the government response. There was, in fact, a big surge in Turkey in infections last month.
But the government imposed a strict lockdown and curfew, in part because the holy month of Ramadan would normally bring large groups of people together.
So far, it’s been a resounding success with new infections plunging from over sixty thousand a day to twelve thousand.
The lockdown is scheduled to end two days before we arrive, even as vaccinations continue. Things won’t go back to normal, of course. But the lockdown should cut off the wave of infections before an India-type disaster unfolds.
We’re assuming there still won’t be a lot of tourists in Turkey — which, quite frankly, is good for us. We’re planning on spending ten days acting like actual tourists, seeing the sights, and naturally my Instagrammer’s heart soars at all of the pictures I’ll be taking.
The lack of tourists means we could very well have Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Galata Tower, and the rest of Istanbul’s most famous attractions to ourselves.
Next week, you’ll find out if all this planning of ours has worked out as we intended, or if, well, something about the best laid schemes of mice and men, right?
Goodbye until our next hello!
Michael (and Brent)
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