Some Thoughts on International Travel

Travel is good, although with the COVID virus rampant, travel is also a pain. That goes double for international travel. Having been on the road for the past two weeks for the first time in over two years, I got a firsthand look at what travel during a pandemic entails.

I visited the United Kingdom, which currently considers the U.S. an amber country. That means I had to have an accurate (I’ll spare you the parameters) COVID test within three days before arrival in Scotland, my first destination. I also had to submit a Public Health Locator Form with my contact and travel information within 48 hours of my arrival. Then I had to schedule a test to take place on or before my second day in the country. This was a do-it-yourself type I had delivered right to the hotel. It was pretty extensive — I had to swab both tonsils five times with the cotton swab, being careful not to touch the teeth or tongue (confession time: because of my gag reflex, I only swabbed one tonsil twice), then the nostrils ten times. The swab was boxed up and sent by priority post (I had to find the closest priority post box) to a lab, and I was emailed the results the next day.

In addition to sightseeing in Edinburgh, Scotland, the main purpose of the trip was to go on to London and run in the London Marathon. But before I could pick up my credentials and actually run the race. I needed another test. This was do-it-yourself under the supervision of an internet proctor. If you’ve never done this, you have to log onto a website using a device with a camera, be assigned a proctor who verifies the barcode on the kit and watches as you complete all the steps: squeeze six drops of some clear liquid into the second hole of the test card, swab both nostrils a half inch up, insert the cotton swab into the card and rotate it three times, then wait fifteen minutes, which the proctor times. After the required time has passed, the proctor comes back on to help interpret and record the results. And the entire process had to be repeated the night before I returned to the U.S. so I could get back home.

The UK does seem to be taking COVID much more seriously than us. Facemasks are required indoors (although, like us, enforcement is spotty), and there were specific precautions being taken by some businesses.

Sign in a business window
Hand sanitizer in a hotel corridor
Restroom in the convention center
Traffic control for a business

One comfort I found is political divisiveness is not confined to our country. During the marathon I saw signs like “Run Like Boris Runs From Accountability” (I assume that was aimed at Boris Johnson, the current UK Prime Minister), and “Run Better Than The Government Runs.”

Finally, if you like naval history, a trip to Portsmouth (like we did for two days) is very worthwhile.

In total, none of this detracts from the overall experience. A major marathon (there are six: Chicago, Boston, New York, Berlin, Tokyo, and London) is the running equivalent of the Super Bowl and it was good to experience all of that again, not to mention seeing a different part of the world. And the new requirements notwithstanding, everything went smoothly.

Which is good, because this looks like the new normal for the foreseeable future.

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