“Why are you going to London?” the TSA agent asked, genuinely intrigued about my holiday timing.
Before, I had scanned the line of fellow travellers waiting to pass through Newark airport security and already noted mine was the only American passport. I thought of the British Airways clerk at the near-empty check-in desk, who relayed stories of those turned away during the last days of locked-down travel as she vetted my residence card.
I replied to the agent I was a resident of the UK, and was allowed to continue forward amid the British accents around me. Newark was only the first of four airports I would travel through to relocate from the United States to Scotland’s remote Orkney Islands, my rightful place of self-isolation.
Over the last two weeks, border closures around the world have left international travellers scrambling to return to their home country. The resounding warning: get “where it is you belong”, and stay there. I’m a US citizen with a US passport, born and raised in the New Jersey house where my parents still live. My UK spousal visa, however, affords me the right to call Scotland home – where my partner, Richy, and I live in a downstairs flat of a two-storey house on Orkney’s main island.
America is not a country you want to get sick or injured in.
In a time when so many people choose to work and live across borders, ‘where it is you belong’ can be a complicated thing to define. This, I’ve discovered, is especially true when a pandemic causes a domino-like succession of border closures that catches you between countries.
I had arrived in New York on Friday 13 March. JFK airport was already quiet – the covid-19 situation in New York City had escalated even in the seven hours it took me to cross the Atlantic. Cutting short my visit after one day, my sister, Courtney, and I headed from her apartment to our parents’ in southern New Jersey. Courtney packed her work laptop and anticipated about a week’s hiatus from...