We first came to Brazil on a normal family holiday in February 2020, just before all the madness began. My Husband had been here before on multiple trips throughout the years because it's a place he feels at home away from home. We were all so excited to come as a family because my Husband would be coming back to a pulsating city he had fond memories of and our Daughter and I would get to visit a huge country we hear so much about.
Well, I hear so much about-she was only 2 at the time.
We immediately fell in love! My Husband all over again and me? Well, what wasn't to love?
Rio de Janeiro is a huge tropical city with lots to see and do for adults and kids alike. There are huge stretches of beaches, farmers markets, fresh Brazilian grown fruit, copious amounts of coconuts, and playgrounds and workout equipment/workout bars literally everywhere. Uber is here too and can take you anywhere you need to go for only a couple of bucks. As a bonus, we unexpectedly found a multitude of 100% vegan restaurants, which made eating such fun!
(Sunset in Arpoador in Brazil 2020)
When our holiday came to an end my Daughter and I flew back to Florida where we go every Winter to visit my family. My Husband flew back to London and the plan was for him to come to Florida for a couple of weeks near the end of our trip home.
Well, plans changed.
Almost as soon as we all returned home we started hearing more about this "Coronavirus". Life in my County in Florida was still pretty normal, but 24-hour stores like Walmart were suddenly changing its hours to close at 10 pm instead. People started buying up all the water, toilet paper, and antibacterial soaps...I still don't understand why everyone was buying all the toilet paper? The craziness was just gearing up and shit was getting weird.
(My local grocery store in Florida March 2020)
One morning not long after my Husband arrived back in London he was at the park training one of his clients. His client told him the USA was shutting its border to people coming from the United Kingdom.
My Husband barely had the time to ask any questions. He verified the information and it was true. The US was shutting its borders tonight at midnight!
He left the park, drove home while booking a flight to join his family, packed a quick bag, and hopped a flight! He only called me to tell me what was happening once he was onboard and I didn't even believe him until I heard the flight attendant making an announcement in the background! He said he was on his way to Florida and he would see us in a few hours. In typical Coupe fashion, he was totally mellow and cool about it, which is why I didn't think he was serious. But he was and he landed with only 5 hours left until the borders shut in what turns out to be an ongoing mandate against people flying from the United Kingdom into the USA.
When we go home to Florida we stay at my Mom’s house and fortunately there’s enough space for my family there. It’s the same house I’ve lived in since I was a pre-teen and it’s where I went to Middle School, High School, and even got my first job. London is home now too, but Florida and this house will always be my safe space.
Coupe flew into Miami and then took another short flight to get to Tampa where my family lives. I was so happy to have him in my arms and our family together to figure out what was happening in the world. We decided it was a good idea to gather some food for storage and other essentials as we were so unsure of what each new day would bring and of what rules they would try to impose on us.
Coupe transitioned from personal training to Healing work a while ago. He is an amazing Doctor who I witness change the lives of people daily through his knowledge of the human body and healing through guided proper fasting. Fortunately it also allows him to work from any place in the world. It's a luxury we're grateful for as it grants us the opportunity to live anywhere in the world. He has to be on his phone most of the time and yes, there's always time differences, but we're able to take advantage of having the freedom to move around. Nothing is more important than that for us, especially right now.
Florida was very comfortable and we were happy to be there instead of in London where they were under their very first full Lockdown. In my County, some beaches closed for some time, the playgrounds and county libraries closed, and some restaurants began to close or limit their capacities and close off eat-in services. My Brothers kids came over frequently and so there was more than enough stimulation for my then 2-year-old. We bought a kiddie pool and Little Tikes slide for my Daughter and set that up for her everyday in the front yard for all the kids to play in. We had also bought a hammock for $20 at Walmart and tied it to the palm trees in the front of the house. The weather was hot, the skies were blue, and we were together. After some weeks the local beach reopened and we went there regularly to pass the time under the sun swimming, playing in the sand, and passing time.
(Swinging in the hammock outside our house in Florida)
(My Daughter enjoying herself at the beach while in Florida)
In the United States each states Governor makes the rules for what the people do in an emergency and not the President. The mayor of each county makes the rules for his or her local area, but it's the Governor who has the power to authorize what they may want to do. The mayor of my county didn't change much at the time (April 2020), but I know in Miami the cops were starting to issue fines to people not wearing masks and following other local restrictions. The governor stepped in and said that counties could NOT fine people for not wearing masks and so even though cops were still issuing fines to people for "breaking the rules" they can not collect on those fines. The Governor of Florida did not and still does not believe people should be fined for not wearing masks or people should be told not to work and earn money for their livelihood.
That's a win in my book!
Detour to Jamaica
We would have been happy to stay put in Florida, but my Daughter is not yet a United States citizen. According to the law my Husband and Daughter only ever have 3 months at a time to stay in the US under an ESTA visa. We were granted an extra 30 days stay for both of them due to the current state of the world, but after that 30 days Immigrations basically told us don't contact us again to extend your stay.
We had to leave the US.
Planning a trip back to London was brutal. Airlines had totally price gauged and while a normal one way flight is typically less than $500 USD, prices were then showing around $1,500 USD!
And that was per ticket . We needed 3.
My Mom had the news on one morning and I saw that Jamaica was reopening its borders from June 15. My wheels starting turning and moments later I was devising a plan for us to fly to Jamaica before flying back to London. Somehow it worked out that flying from Florida to Jamaica to London worked out to save us money rather than just flying directly back to London! Twist my arm, right? I was secretly happy to be able to take a small family vacation before heading back to London because we didn't know when the next time we would leave London would be.
We stayed in Jamaica for 2 weeks with some of our dear friends who own a huge organic farm called 'Stush in the Bush' (which by the way you must absolutely visit if you ever find yourself in Jamaica!). It's always blessings to be amongst them in their space, learning how to grow food and eat from the land. We've been to Jamaica before so it was nice to revisit and this time we were even able to take a day trip to Negril, which is the only main place we missed on our previous trip here.
(Our loving Jamaican family)
Since the country had just opened it was still pretty much empty of tourists so our trip to Seven Mile Beach was absolutely stunning. We found a Rasta restaurant right on the beach and opened a tab. We spent the day in the warm turquoise ocean swimming, eating, and chatting up the only other people who were there. There were less than 10 people on the beach all day and the emptiness allowed us to take in the quality of this usually busy beach better than we even expected. I'd definitely rank Seven Mile Beach as one of my top beaches in the world after that day, but I'll save that for another post. Our 2 week detour to Jamaica was now over and it was time to head back to London.
(Rasta Ade, a totally vegan restaurant right on 7 Mile Beach)
We arrived back in London in July 2020 after an unexpected 6 months away. It was Summertime, restrictions had eased, and we were looking forward to seeing our friends after so long. At the time the only entry rules were to stay home and quarantine for 14 days. No PCR test, no quarantine hotels, not even so much as a temperature check at Heathrow. I've actually never gotten through an airport so quickly!
We're happy to have a huge beautiful garden at our place in London and so we arranged to have all of our friends come over to play Taboo!, volleyball, and (American) football, and just catch up on a gorgeous sunny Sunday a couple of weeks after we were back home. It was such a lovely day and so nice to be with our dearest people.
(Just some of our friends who came to vibe)
We took advantage of being in London while it was Summer with warm long days. They were finally out of Lockdown Number One so we got to eat at our favourite restaurants and we made sure to see all of our friends constantly.
A lot of things were different though.
The obvious mask wearing was happening, though not yet strictly enforced. I think some places were doing temperature checks, but I don't actually remember? There was a certain eerieness in the air that made moving around in my day-to-day activities tense. I felt like I couldn't just look around in stores like I usually do with my Daughter even though they were open. I couldn't just wander the city to explore and discover like I usually do. You now had to make an appointment to visit the museums, you couldn't sit in the library to read books, and some playgrounds were closed or had equipment removed. It was frustrating, especially since I have a toddler who enjoys these enriching activities. What sorts of things could I do with her?
We were walking down the road one day when my Daughter saw the library we always go to and she excitedly said she wanted to stop in so we did.
It was peculiar.
The kids ABC carpet that is usually on the floor was gone. The bean bags for reading were gone. The benches for sitting were taped off. Overall, they had set it up so that you would walk in, pick some books, and leave.
I'm not here to argue thoughts and opinions on Covid. It's evident that I will continue to live my life in the healthiest and most uplifting way that I can. I wouldn't currently be in Brazil and I wouldn't have taken international flights all of 2020 if I was going to let those evident signs make me tell my 2-year-old that she couldn't do something as normal as sit in a library and read. You're damn sure I told my little girl she could gather some books and sit on the floor to explore her books! We must've been there less than 10 minutes before someone came to tell me masks were "mandatory" and that we couldn't sit there to read. We could only check the books out and then had to leave. My sweet 3-year-old continues to bring this story up because she misses the library so much.
We were back in London and the city was open, but was it?
After being back for less than 2 months we knew it wasn't going to get better. It was going to take time and we knew another Lockdown was imminent. We had to do something before we got stuck.
To be honest, even before we arrived back in London in July we were already suspicious that we would only be staying for a few months before packing our bags and flying out of the country once more due to current events. All the signs were there and it was up to us to devise a plan to get out before anything changed again.
My visa requires that I am only away from the UK for up to 180 days per year. British visas are long and expensive processes and I know you must be thinking surely I'm eligible for British citizenship or at least residency as I am legally married to a British Citizen, right? But, no. The UK doesn't work like that. I arrived back in London from Jamaica with only days to spare of my 180 day limit, but we decided the best decision for our family was to leave the country again, despite my visa. We had to make some tough choices just like everyone had to in 2020.
I stopped watching mainstream news years ago, but started meticulously keeping up with current events in 2020. Not out of fear of catching this virus or passing it on, but out of the understanding that in order to take care of myself and my family in the healthiest physical, emotional, and spiritual way, I had to be well aware of what was being reported. My thoughts and opinions on the situation were and still are irrelevant. The mainstream news is the only news that matters in terms of what rules affect my family and myself.
All of these changing rules impact me differently. I'm an American citizen married to a British Citizen and we have a British Daughter. We all live in London, except I have a spousal visa with certain requirements that is paid for every 2.5 years. It'd be nice to be able to think of Florida as an option for me and my family, but my Husband and Daughter only ever have up to 3 months in the USA before we have to leave.
It's confusing and worrying. To think that at any point a government can issue mandates and proclamations that could possibly have our family split up for one reason or another is troubling and scary.
It was only the end of Summer, but we had to think ahead. With Winter approaching there was no way London would be coming out of this mess any time soon. The conditions would only worsen sending the city into unthinkable circumstances.
We needed to book a flight, but where to?
(One month before my family left London)
(Taking flight October 2020)