Flexibility is vital when travelling for a prolonged period of time. We knew this before we left, had discussed it endlessly as we are both ‘green’ in personality we normally like to be organised, have an idea as to what will be happening and when, and have more than a measure of control over our lives. You learn to adapt on the road, other cultures operate on a different time frame for even the simplest of tasks, nature has a way of throwing a curve ball, man-made landslides, protests, endless closed roads, all mean you have to be flexible in your approach to travel and over time in South and Central America we adapted to it.
Another form of flexibility comes with the ‘what ifs’. At our ages, 57 and 58, we are what is called the ‘sandwich generation’. This refers to us having generations older and younger than ourselves within the family. So before we came away we asked ourselves the questions as to ‘what if we are needed back home’ and discussed the scenarios that may arise and again decided we would deal with them if and when they occurred. A couple of times while in South and Central America we had to ask whether a situation back home needed us to return and how would we achieve it. Thankfully it wasn’t required. Once we got to the USA we were confident that if the need arose, it would be simple. So many flights, so many airports. The sky when we looked up was full of trails as the aircraft crossed the skies. However in reality it doesn’t work that way.
Deciding that I needed to return home for a short time and looking at how long we had left in the USA, we decided that I could go home for 10 days or so and still leave us enough time on my return to complete our journey. Flight options were explored and how many days it would take us to divert to a suitable airport. Entering the USA under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) via a land border (Mexico) we were not required to complete an ESTA before entry. Better then to check up on the procedure if I leave and return. Suddenly life gets more complicated. An email to the Customs and Borders authority will be answered in 2-3 working weeks, so urgent phone query made. Long conversation with nice lady informs me that yes I will have to complete an ESTA on my return but that I will be deemed to be making a new entry into the USA and cannot do so under the VWP. I will in their eyes be entering the USA with a one way ticket. I will have to prove the following:
Proof of ownership of my property in the UK
Proof of employment or drawing of a pension in the UK if retired
Copies of utility bill ( we switched off our entire lives in the UK 7 months ago)
Proof of sufficient funds for my stay in the USA
Proof from a hospital that my presence was necessary for my return home in the first place
A notarised affidavit to prove that we have been on our travels and the intention of our travels (my husband and motorcycle are waiting for me is not enough)
Proof of our exit plans (ie tickets) We do not know where we will leave from, USA or Canada, our plans are flexible (wrong answer)
At the end of this conversation, nice lady told me that if I return home, there is no guarantee that I will be allowed to re-enter the country on arrival. Not much flexibility there then.
So for now, we continue north, crossing some amazing open spaces through Montana and on through Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon in Canada. Record set of 5 minutes to cross the border into Canada. Disappointment that there is no stamp in passport, it’s all electronic, no problem, if we would like to pop into the adjoining immigration office they will oblige with a stamp. We like Canada already.