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It goes without saying that the pandemic threw a curveball as far as travel plans go. I’ve lost count of trips we’ve had to cancel so far, though I realize I’m one of the lucky ones. Many lost jobs and even lives, so I’m not complaining.
We don’t plan to fly anywhere as a family until all of us are vaccinated. Plus, I’m almost certain that Covid vaccine will be a prerequisite for international trips, as well as visiting Hawaii. Fortunately, there have been some exciting developments on that front. It looks like my daughter will get vaccinated this summer, and my son in October or November of this year. The latter is a bit more uncertain, but either way, it no longer seems unreasonable to plan an international trip in summer of 2022. But where? That’s the question that at least in my case doesn’t have a simple answer.
Rebooking a trip to Japan, aka third time is a charm?
For years I’ve been wanting to take my family to Japan. In fact, me and my husband talked about it before we had kids, but just never made it happen. So, I wanted to wait until my son is close to 10. Why? In my mind, it seemed like a good idea because he would probably remember the trip. Well, it looks like he will be closer to 12 at this point, or maybe even older.
I’ve talked about rebooking this trip for 2021, which obviously won’t be happening now. I’m still waiting for our JAL flight to US to get cancelled on its own since Asia Miles refuses to re-deposit the miles without paying a penalty of $110 per person. I bought travel insurance with “cancel for any reason” rider, and it looks like I may have to utilize it. Either way, I should have all of my miles back safely in their respective accounts, ready to be burned (again).
I’m leaning towards rebooking the exact same trip in hopes that we will be able to enter Japan next summer. It’s definitely not a guarantee since vaccination in Japan has been going ridiculously slow. Seriously, what’s up with that? A nation that is on the cutting edge of technology can’t seem to get their act together in order to protect its citizens. Very bizarre.
Still, I’m hoping that in a year things will be different. Of course, Japan may require negative test upon entry on top of vaccination, but we will cross that bridge when we get to it. I believe vaccine will ultimately be a way out of this mess, at least where international travel is concerned.
A quick rant ahead. Getting vaccinated is a personal choice, and I doubt I can say anything to change anyone’s mind. I will only ask you to be very leery about trusting anti-vaxx stories circulating on social media. Much of it is paid by Russian propaganda, attempting to prop up Sputnik V vaccine. It’s about money and geopolitics, and has nothing to do with public health. It’s good to be skeptical and always do research, but I encourage you to look at the cold facts and statistics.
BTW, contrary to popular belief, many anti-vaxxers are not stupid. A few of my friends decided against vaccinating, and they are some of the smartest people I know. Covid-19 vaccine has been developed in record time, and it gives many people pause. To me it’s an absolute no-brainer, but not everyone feels the same way. I know someone who lost her husband, brother and mom to Covid. And my sister is suffering from long Covid symptoms (losing hair, headaches etc.). I’ll take my chances with the vaccine.
Option two: meeting my family in Europe
The situation in my home country of Belarus is very complicated, and not just because of Covid. There was a revolution last year, which was brutally crushed by the government. Many are currently in prison, and people are absolutely terrified. My mom is even scared to talk to me on the phone for fear that someone is listening in.
There was a recent news leak that several concentration camps are planned in a near future. The relationship between USA and Belarus has also reached a new low, no surprise there. A few US citizens were arrested and tortured recently, which certainly doesn’t help. Basically, the country is currently a fascist dictatorship where members of the military have the right to seize bank accounts of anyone, for any reason. Oh, and torture/kill too.
We were hoping to extend my mom’s visa to US, but American embassy in Belarus isn’t currently providing consular services. It’s possible that due to deteriorating relationship between two countries, those won’t resume, ever. So, it doesn’t look like my family will be able to come to US.
On top of it, land borders are currently closed, and it’s almost impossible for a regular Belarus citizen to get a visa to EU. It was announced as a measure to fight Covid, but in reality, the main reason is to keep citizens from fleeing the country. There has been a mass exodus, mostly young people.
You can still fly to a few countries that are open to Belarus citizens, but even that is not a guarantee because the officials can stop you at the airport. In short, the situation isn’t quite to the level of North Korea (yet), but it’s heading in that direction.
In front of Mir castle, last time we were together in Belarus
It goes without saying that I will never go back home under present circumstances, but I wonder if I need to try and meet my family in Europe next year, while I still can. They could fly to Turkey, which as of now doesn’t require them to get a visa. Of course, that could change by next year. But I keep thinking if I should book a flight to Turkey from US, and cover my family’s tickets as well. I can even finally use up my cursed Avianca miles on a flight from Minsk to Istanbul on Turkish airlines.
I suppose I can just wait and see how things develop over the next year. Who knows, maybe the land borders between Belarus and EU will reopen. If that happens, my family can take a train+bus to a delightful mountain town of Zakopane, in the south of Poland. That would be a lot cheaper and easier for them. And we could fly to Krakow from US via a number of airlines.
I can’t plan a trip to Japan and Europe in the same year. My husband would never go for that. But if things keep going downhill politically, I suppose I can just take the kids by myself and fly to Turkey from Japan, in order to meet my family. Crazy, I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
I hate the thought of Belarus turning into North Korea, but I have to face the fact that it’s a very real possibility. But I’m still hopeful things will improve, so we can see each other again on our terms. And of course, miles will help me accomplish just that.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.