Coronavirus And Living Abroad: When Will I See My American Family Again?

When Trump closed travel from the UK to her American homeland, Shana Lynch realised she was further from her family than she’d ever imagined she would be.

Person self-Isolating

by Shana Lynch |
Updated on

When I said goodbye to my parents at Heathrow a month ago, it was sad, but to be fair, it’s always sad. I cry every time, even when it’s only been six weeks since I saw them last and even when I know there’s a good chance I’ll see them again six weeks later.

Of course, when I chose to move abroad from Massachusetts to London three years ago, I knew the consequences of the choice I was making. I’d miss important family events and holidays, like my favourite uncle’s 70th birthday, and I wouldn’t be able to see my family nearly as often as I’d like – quick weekend trips home wouldn’t be possible anymore. I tried to consider how I’d react in every possible situation: what I’d do if someone was sick or hurt or, god forbid, if someone died. The one scenario I didn’t prepare for was a global pandemic.

‘Should’ve booked a flight for April like I wanted to…,’ my mom texted me earlier this week. ‘Could have rented us a huge suite and self-isolated together!’ And while that does sound lovely, the reality is that if either my mom flew to me or if I flew to her, we’d each have isolate – alone – on the other side for at least two weeks and I don’t think that’s the fun girls’ trip she had in mind.

A few weeks ago, the US President announced a ban on all travel to the US from the Schengen border-free travel area in Europe, which didn’t include the UK. ‘Trump would never ban UK travel – he does business there!’ a family member happily texted me…but then, a few days later, he did. Was I panicking yet?

The answer is: yes. I have to say, seeing ‘Coronavirus: US to extend travel ban to UK and Ireland’ pop up on my phone as a breaking-news notification was slightly surreal. My brain immediately started considering worst case scenarios – what if something terrible happened and I needed to get home? What if someone in my family got coronavirus? What if I got coronavirus?

Shana with her parents in London during their most recent visit ©Shana Lynch

Fortunately, my boyfriend is more sensible than me and gently explained that the ban didn’t apply to American citizens, so that I could technically still go home at anytime. But I can’t really, can I? Not with a healthy conscience, anyway; not when borders are closing, non-essential travel is being banned and we’re all being encouraged to just stay inside.

And then Boris Johnson said this – working from home, avoiding public spaces, not socialising with anyone other than flatmates – could be our reality for 12 weeks. 12 weeks gets us to mid-June, and I have my annual summer trip home planned for mid-July. Will I make it? This year, my boyfriend and his parents have also booked to come. Will they be able to enter the US? If I go alone, will I be able to get back into the UK? There’s so much uncertainty.

I think the hardest part is that it feels like there’s nothing I can do. Before, whenever I felt panicky about being 3,500 miles away from home, I always told myself I could be home within 12 hours if I needed to. Now, obviously, I can’t and I’ve realised that I took that for granted. I also can’t be there to make sure my parents follow the rules and stay inside – mom, if you’re reading this, you DON’T need to go to Target!

If this isn’t all over by the summer and it still isn’t safe for me to go home, I don’t know how that will feel. My family is so important to me and the few weeks I spend at home in the summer mean the world to me, as silly as that sounds. I guess all we can do now is wait – and stay inside, have I mentioned that? – and see what happens.

At least in this digital age, the world doesn’t seem quite so big. I already called home daily before coronavirus changed everything, but now those calls are happening more often. Seeing my mom or my dad (or even my cats) on my phone screen makes life seem a bit more normal, even when it’s anything but. In fact, my mom’s ringing me as I type this and I’ve got a FaceTime wine date with my cousin later. Life will go on.

READ MORE: How Coronavirus Is Changing My Relationship With My Mum, And My Daughter


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