Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Grounded Nomads: Nine Months in Limbo and Our Next Adventure

I previously shared the most unexpected journey we've probably ever taken, the holiday that turned into months being stuck in limbo in the U.S. I was also interviewed about our experiences on the podcast Nomadtopia Radio for the Grounded Nomads series (from which I've borrowed part of my title). Thanks to COVID-19, many of us, especially nomads, are in the same boat. As I shared at the end of that post and podcast, we were just taking it day by day. Since that time, we continued living the isolated existence we've all become too familiar with this year while trying to enjoy the moments. I feel fortunate to have work I enjoy to keep me busy (albeit sometimes a little too busy). Long walks and yoga helped me find balance. 

We were especially fortunate to be able to spend some large chunks of time at my parents' beach house in the Outer Banks. It is the perfect place to self-isolate and you can't beat the view. We enjoyed seafood meals out on the screened porch, my walks included daily duck escapades, and we took the paddle boat out for a spin a time or two. Despite slathering on the sunscreen, I even managed to develop a slight tan for the first time in years. It was lovely. 

We alternated between NC and MD with my parents. As mentioned before, we can never fully express our gratitude to them. Having a home (or homes) while we were technically homeless relieved a lot of potential stress.

As the situation unfolded in the early months and we realized we would not be returning to China anytime soon, we started formulating a plan as best we could. Planning during the coronavirus pandemic means knowing that plan is likely to change. This situation has shown us all just how adaptable we can really be and just how uncertain life really is. We had been starting to plan a transition to a new home country (well, actually somewhere we lived years ago), Spain, over the past year. So, we first worked on getting our paperwork that had been left behind in China. Luckily, a friend helped us with that (and our belongings). But, of course, right as that arrived, thing shut down in the U.S. So, we patiently waited and kept an ear to the ground about the situation.

Sometime during the summer, we found out the consulates were reopening. We worried that due to the ban on Americans traveling to Europe, we couldn't proceed. But, it's always best to ask! And, the Spanish consulate explained that if we had residency, we could travel there. 

However, most documents have a time limit and they advised we redo the expired ones, even though technically the shutdown time is supposed to be discounted. It's so easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed with this stuff, especially during a crisis when everything has an added level of difficulty. But, living overseas helps one develop perseverance and resourcefulness. We just broke down what needed to be done and began researching and tackling each task.

First was getting a new health certification (without having a primary care doctor). I emailed and called countless places. Finally, my Mom mentioned a couple places to me including Passport Health. Sure enough, they were able to help so we booked an appointment for when we would be returning to Maryland. Then there was the process of getting a new criminal records check for the time we'd been in the U.S. Slowly, but surely, we got everything into place. 

The DC consulate was quite helpful and responded to our email questions throughout. They let us make an appointment when most paperwork was in place and just the last couple pieces were missing. So, we just had to wait for that date and gather the final pieces. 

Meanwhile, we were making housing plans as we had some scheduling conflicts. So, we booked an Airbnb for a couple weeks and then another one for a couple nights around the date of our consulate appointment. These felt like mini holidays even though it was more just a temporary change in residence. Different scenery and some new places to get carryout!

Scenes from my walks in Frederick, MD and DC

Our appointment went smoothly. As usual, I was second-guessing and stressing over nothing. We were done in 15 minutes. They told us we could expect to hear from them in about 3-4 weeks. I assumed it would be more like five. Just over two weeks later, I got a voicemail asking what date we wanted on our visas!

Since then, we have worked on securing an apartment, picking flights in a time when one never knows what will actually fly, and various other little tasks involved in the move (surprisingly, not too many). We had visits with both sets of parents and I recently got to see my grandfather outside at his ALF. We came back to Maryland to wrap up things and begin repacking our stuff to fit it all into three suitcases each.

So, if the flights actually leave and no other unforeseen issues come up, we will be moving onto the next chapter in our adventures at the beginning of October!

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