For Erin Tridle and her boyfriend, it was love at first sight. They met when an American traveled to France in the summer of 2019. On the second day, they said, “I love you.” “People tell us it looks like something out of a movie,” she said.
When Tridle returned home to Los Angeles, they began a long-distance relationship, spending time together whenever they could. Then a pandemic erupted, splitting them indefinitely as countries banned travel.
“The insecurity that we don’t know when we’ll be together again was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through,” Tridle said.
Travel restrictions that have changed people’s lives will be eased on Monday when new rules go into effect to allow air travel from previously restricted countries, provided the traveler has proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test. Traveling by land will require proof of vaccination, but not a test.
Eirini Linardaki was already in Paris on Friday, making her way from her home in Crete to her seven-year-old partner in New York on a series of four flights. The artist said travel restrictions are particularly severe for people in unconventional relationships. But at 45, it’s not so easy for her to move to America.
“I have kids and a career, and I also have him,” she said. “I love him, so I need to make him fit into the structure of my life.”
Loved ones have missed holidays, birthdays and funerals, while non-essential air travel has been banned in a long list of countries that includes much of Europe, Brazil and South Africa. The closure of overland crossings with Mexico and Canada has devastated border cities where round-trip travel, sometimes daily, is a way of life.
Before the border closure, Montreal junior college teacher Gina Granther and her New York City partner saw each other at least twice a month. Now, in between closures, quarantine rules and other restrictions, they’ve only been able to see each other three times since the start of the pandemic.
When her partner was finally able to travel to them after missing their daughter’s second birthday, the little girl didn’t remember it, Grantter said.
“I have a brother named Stephen, and she called her father“ another Stephen ”or sometimes“ grandfather, ”Grantter said. “She didn’t remember being with him in New York.”
After opening, the 42-year-old Granter is looking forward to regular weekend visits again and is planning an extended trip to New York for Christmas.
“There were excruciating nights and it was so hard,” she said.
For many, one of the most frustrating things about travel restrictions was their seemingly arbitrary nature, according to Edward Alden, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. The list of restricted countries does not necessarily match those with the most severe COVID-19 outbreaks. And Alden sees no logic in limiting land travel, but not air travel, in North America.
“There was a lot of public discontent,” he said. “Many people were willing to accept limitations, but not a lack of rationale and logic, especially for couples and families separated for a long time.”
There were ways to get around the restrictions, but they were often difficult and expensive. For example, the ban on air travel did not restrict citizens of these countries, but rather, traveled from these countries.
For Barbara Feitoza from Brazil, this meant spending two weeks in Colombia, where she did not know or speak the language, so that she could travel to the US to visit her boyfriend in March. It was her first international trip, and she said that in the midst of the pandemic, flying was terrible.
A 28-year-old civil engineer from outside Rio de Janeiro was at work when she learned that the US was preparing to lift travel restrictions. Feitosa said she was “euphoric”, jumping up from her seat when confused colleagues looked at her.
Some of those separated from their loved ones have found support in an online group called Love Is Not Tourism. Among them was Linardaki, who said she was impressed by the variety of circumstances in people’s lives.
“These are not only people in their 20s,” she said. “There were people who knew each other for a very short time, people who knew each other for many years, people 65 or 70 years old. This difficulty has united people all over the world. “
As for Tridle and her boyfriend, they hope to get married in a couple of years and live in the same country. But for now, the 30-year-old is just looking forward to visiting him for Christmas.
“I am very glad that he will come to the US again so that we can have a good time together here,” she said.
AP journalists David Biller and Diane Zhante contributed from Rio de Janeiro.