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Here's what it's like to travel abroad right now

For long-distance couples like Anah Farmer and Dave Woo, getting to see each other has become harder than ever. Thanks to travel bans and restrictions brought on by the global pandemic, they've spent the last few months on opposite sides of the globe. Luckily, Anah recently got a visa to fly to South Korea and visit her husband. GL's own Bailey Bujnosek spoke to her about what she packed, her flight experience, and what to expect if you're traveling abroad.

Packing prep

via GIPHY

Anah had already been on a flight during the pandemic in May, so she had some idea of what to expect at the airport.

"The first thing I did was look at the travel requirements for my destination and what they would expect or what I needed to bring with me," she said. This included a mask (obvi) as well as documents stating her relationship with her husband so they could quarantine together once she arrived.

Besides these items, though, her suitcase looked much the same as it would if she were traveling pre-COVID. One key difference: Anah, who works as a makeup consultant, made sure to pack her skincare essentials in her carry-on.

"I knew that wearing a mask on such a long flight was going to have an even bigger toll on my skin than usual," she explained.

Ready for takeoff

Social distancing guidelines made the airport experience a new one. Whereas in the past it was common to strike up a convo with a fellow traveler, now people were more hesitant to greet one another. "In Korea, it was a little bit eerie how silent it was," she added, but acknowledged that this could be due to exhaustion from traveling.

She had two "surprisingly crowded" domestic flights to get to her departure destination. Her international flight, however, was refreshingly empty—she was living the long-distance traveler's dream with a whole row of seats to herself. Another life-saver? Free wifi!

"I was able to stay in contact with family from both sides during my flight," she said. Having free water was another major benefit for Anah since long-distance flights can be super dehydrating—and tiring. As a precaution against COVID-19, pillows and blankets weren't laid out on seats, but Anah explained that they were available upon request.

Arriving at last

via GIPHY

Because she entered a new time zone, Anah departed Seattle, WA at 1 PM and made it to Seoul, South Korea at 3:30 PM the next day. Then began the thorough procedure to get through customs. She had to fill out typical entry paperwork along with forms screening for COVID-19 symptoms. If you check that you're experiencing symptoms, she said, you're sent to a doctor standing by to see if you need to be tested.

Step two of customs was verifying her marriage documents had been registered with the South Korean government. After she was cleared, she got on a bus to a train station that would take international travelers to Busan. More paperwork awaited her, along with a COVID-19 test. Finally, after nearly twenty-five hours of travel, Anah was sent to her destination.

"On the first day of quarantine, some government officials came with trash bags made especially for those in quarantine, some instant food and a thermometer," she said. "Now I’m just a sitting duck until I can get out of here."

Life in quarantine

Your quarantine situation will vary depending on what country you're in and where you're planning to stay. "Because I have proof of family in South Korea, I am able to self-isolate at home," Anah shared. Other travelers have to stay in a government facility for $120 a day.

 

The two weeks of isolation don't count the day of arrival, meaning fifteen days total are spent in isolation. You're not completely on your own, though. According to Anah, the South Korean government provides mental health services during quarantine to help travelers through the lonely isolation period.

They also take breaking quarantine seriously. "[The government] could subject you to a hefty fine and even jail time and then denial of reentry," Anah warns. Her advice? Be sure you can commit to a quarantine period before you travel abroad.

Done any traveling lately? Share your advice for staying safe and entertained with us on Twitter @girlslifemag!

Photos courtesy of Anah Farmer.

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by Bailey Bujnosek | 9/9/2020
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