If the past month were a football, its seams would be stretched to the point of explosion with how many events filled its days. I flew round trip from Puerto Rico to San Francisco, California (without needing to). We visited the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. Forest System, “El Yunque.” Reyka and I boxed in Puerto Rico, and visited the islands of Vieques and Culebra. We went to beach after beach after beach, one of which had black sand and another, Flamenco Beach, is often included in lists of the best in the world. We snorkeled with turtles, flew in a six-seater plane, and cooked way more burritos than could possibly have been healthy for us. And, truthfully, all I am day after day is thankful. Thankful for our experiences. Thankful to have Reyka with me. Thankful to have the world as our oyster.
And so, once again, I just want to thank you all for your support and willingness to join us as we travel around the world. It gives these adventures a lot more meaning to be able to share them with you all.
“You need your paper Vaccine Card.” I, irresponsibly, had lost mine.
“Could you make an exception? We read that digital copies work and, if not, Spain can do tests on arrival.”
“No.” The United Attendant did not seem to be in the flexible, accommodating kind of mood. “We have been told that they only want the paper copy."
“The U.S. Embassy Office in Spain says we can take a test to get on the flight. If I went and got a test, would that be okay?”
We walked to another United Attendant to see if this information was true, but the strict attendant walked over, interrupted and explained that, “No, I just explained it to them. They only have a picture of his Vaccine Card. They are not allowed into Spain.”
Soon after, on a bench, the tears began to rain. We weren’t going to make it to Spain. We weren’t going to make it to Spain? After all the preparation in applying for the job, navigating the headache-inducing visa process, and purchasing flights, accommodation and everything, we weren’t going? Reyka, stroking my back, calmly said, “You did everything you could, Wyatt. You did everything.” She began crying as well.
This was the most devastation I have felt in a longtime. We had petitioned the Ohio Department of Health twice for a replacement card, with no luck. We had called numerous times, only to be automatically placed on hold and forced to hang up with the promise of getting a return call, but it never came. We had researched and confirmed in multiple places that “digital documents” would count as sufficient proof of vaccination for entry to Spain. All that was for nothing, it seemed.
We laid out our options. Do we get a hotel in New York and try again the next day? Do we try to call Ohio and have them emergency confirm my vaccination? Do we book a trip somewhere else?
Eventually, seeing the sprawling line of United Check-In desks, many far away from the anti-photo lady United Attendant, a question formed. What are the chances that there was someone who might be willing to help us? I sat up, walked a considerable distance down the strip of lights and luggage, and explained to someone that I was trying to go to Spain. “What do I need to go?” I asked.
“QR Code, Proof of Vaccination, Passport…”
“Perfect, yes. I have the QR Code here, and for the proof of vaccination, would a photo of my vaccine card be enough?”
She nodded slowly, “I think so. Yes, I think so.”
I ran-walked back to Reyka and explained the situation. “Okay, I don’t know if it’ll work, but there’s a chance we can get on that plane. There is an attendant at the other end of the airport who may let us through. Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work, or it works now and we get sent back once we get to Spain. Best case, we get there. What do you say?”
Reyka, jaw firmly set, nodded and said, "let’s do it.”
We proceeded to go to the other desk, learn that a photo copy was not enough but you could get it verified with gogetdoc.com, and got my vaccine confirmation two minutes after the check in closed. We were so close. Was this really happening? Yes, yes it was, and, desperate but determined, we adapted. We ran to the help desk and explained the situation. Luckily, a shift change happened and the new United Help-Desk attendant, who was being berated by a man following him, was our new helper.
“People should be nicer,” he said, as the rude man walked away.
I filled my words with as much compassion as possible. “Damn, I'm sorry about that. First off, it never works. Second, it's just rude and not cool. No one wants to be yelled at.” This seemed to please the man, and within a few minutes he had printed off our boarding passes. Did you read that?! He PRINTED OFF OUR BOARDING PASSES. At that point, after such frustration and despair, the joy I experienced was absurd. But, it wasn't all gravy.
Then, he sent us running. At security, we literally begged people to let us move past them in line, “our flight leaves in 40 minutes can you let us pass? Please?” They all allowed us to. Once again, the theory that 'people are good' gains more evidence.
Reyka had to go through security three times because she first had headphones in her pocket and second forgot to empty the water from her bottle. I packed everything up outside.
Third walk through complete, Reyka jogged out, ready to go, and asked, “Where are my shoes?”
“No time.” I said, giving her a backpack.
“No time?” She asked.
“No time. We gotta run.”
We sprinted. Reyka could not breathe and run with a mask on, but we kept running. But we couldn’t find it. The right hand wall seemed to skip four or five gates, one of them being ours. Oh no. Were we seriously in the wrong area of the airport?
Thankfully, no. A woman, likely seeing our sweat, breathing, and urgent demeanor, pointed to keep going.
I ran. Reyka yelled, “I’ll catch up. Go, Go! Make it!”
And, well, we made it. With just a few minutes to spare, we were some of the last people on the plane to Madrid.
Then we also had to run through the Madrid airport, but that is a story for another day.
Are there any lessons we can learn from this? First - Don’t trust the first person you ask for information. It could be wrong, they may not like helping people, or may just be in a really bad mood that day. You never know. You can always ask multiple sources when important stuff is on the line. It will not hurt you. Second - Prepare, prepare, prepare! Sure, I did try to get my vaccine card back, but I honestly could’ve tried harder. I could’ve called more often, sent more petitions, tried to go in person, or learn about online vaccine verifiers like gogetdoc.com beforehand. With international travel, I find it hard to imagine a way that extra planning can hurt you.
Ubrique, Spain! (Yes, we made it, and our next video on Sunday, October 3rd, will be about the entire rollercoaster journey here!) Ubrique is a small town of 17,000 people in Andalucía, the southernmost region of Spain, and we have spent the last week settling into our new apartment. Of course, by ‘settling in’ I mean being absolutely clueless about how basically everything works. (BIDETS?) I will be working here as a Language Assistant for the next eight months and actually just had my first day in class today! Basically all I did was introduce myself to three classes, have a ‘cafe con leche’ with some teachers, and get a tour of the school. It seems like it’ll be a great gig. Plus! It'll be great for the vlogs! Reyka and I plan to explore this town, southern Spain, northern Africa, and as many European countries as possible while here, all while bringing you with us.
To fit our current emotions into three words: We. Are. Stoked!
Anyways, let’s zoom out for one teeny tiny second. As “Wyatt and Reyka'' matures, we think more about our goals. And we found one! It’ll blow your socks off. What is it? Well, check out our video on Thursday, October 8th to find out. And, finally, you can click this link to watch our newest video about how much our trip to Puerto Rico cost us. You'll likely be surprised by how little we spent. Enjoy October, everyone. See you next month.
Wyatt and Reyka