For Jocelyn Herstein, the world seemed a lot smaller when she could hop on a plane and be anywhere or with anyone in less than 24 hours.
That world has gotten quite a bit bigger over the past several months, with many countries closing airports and borders with little advance notice and airlines drastically reducing the number of flights because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Those changes have left people such as Herstein, who lives in Lincoln but has a German fiance living in Switzerland, bearing the brunt of the travel restrictions.
"There are women who are pregnant or about to give birth, and their significant other can't be there for the birth of their child," Herstein said. "People can travel for vacation, but can't be reunited with their loved ones."
The United States has been under the most extreme travel advisory, Level 4, advising people to avoid international travel because of COVID-19 since March 31.
"If you choose to remain overseas, you should be prepared to remain where you are for the foreseeable future," the U.S. Department of State said in its travel advisory.
But dozens of other countries have imposed their own travel advisories or bans to keep Americans outside their borders, as the U.S. has continued to have the highest COVID-19 caseload and death toll in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 4.5 million cases and nearly 154,000 deaths in the U.S. as of Friday.
Herstein is just one of thousands across the U.S. confronting a forced separation from a loved one.
Parents are separated from their children. Wedding plans have been canceled. People get sick without their loved ones nearby for support.
The Facebook groups "Couples Separated by Travel Bans" and "Love is Not Tourism" have 17,000 members and continue to grow.
Herstein met Ben Ra in her graduate program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2014, and they've dated long-distance since 2015.
She planned to move to Switzerland this summer before travel bans were put in place. Herstein is now in the process of applying for a family reunification visa to make her way to Switzerland as soon as possible.
"The problem with the travel ban is that there is a line drawn in the sand for married couples," Herstein said. "It's been pretty amazing to see how many couples are in the same situation."
Many are finding ways to work around the ban by creating crafty travel plans, either flying into a country that has no ban on American travelers and transferring to another country, or both parties meet in a third country to get married.
In Omaha, Megan Richter has been weighing all options trying to get to her fiance, Paul McMillan, in Glasgow, Scotland.
"We have gone through levels of acceptance," she said. "We talked about both flying to other countries to meet and get married. We are both aware that the pandemic is very serious, but I just think that it comes down to a stamp on a piece of paper, which isn't always fair."
Richter and McMillan met at a summer camp in Boone, Iowa, about eight years ago, but so far have been unable to obtain visas that would allow them to live together in either the U.S. or Scotland.
A few countries, including Denmark, started allowing people into the country if they can prove their relationship was in existence before the pandemic. Many are hopeful that other countries will follow suit.
"Some days, you get good news; some days, you get bad news," Richter said. "I worry if he or I get sick, we can't even see each other."
Coronavirus milestones in Lincoln and Nebraska
See the latest news as more coronavirus cases are identified in Nebraska.
Journal Star photographers have captured life in the city for the past months with some activities going on as usual but many sights out of the norm.
Romeo Guerra sensed this national trend would prove out in the Lincoln area before the data arrived, he said.
On a calendar void of the Red-White Spring Game, the Lincoln Marathon and the blue jackets of the annual state FFA convention, the loss of the National High School Finals Rodeo represents the biggest economic hit yet.
Though state-level data about the effects of COVID-19 on Nebraskans remain incomplete, the numbers indicate minorities were diagnosed with the virus at a far higher rate than the state's white population.
Wearing a mask is "just one tool" in controlling the virus, along with social distancing and hand-washing, Gov. Ricketts said, and "I think we get better compliance if you don't make it a mandate."
From Christmas lights in Minden to a COVID-19 test relay by the State Patrol, many people have stepped up to spread cheer and kindness in Linc…
The first wedding party to celebrate at the Lincoln Commercial Club Ballroom had plenty of room to keep their distance -- and to set up a game of cornhole.
Arnold Zimmerman's family had his obituary written.
A Lincoln woman started a Facebook photo page to share pictures of what she was making during the pandemic. She thought she'd be lucky to get 80 members.
Deaths in Nebraska linked to the coronavirus spiked this week, climbing by 21 — to 216 — over recent days.
The Heartland Workers Center has seen somewhat disastrous results from employees not knowing what's going on in their workplaces.
The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department reported 110 cases in the last seven days, a decline from 145 a week ago and down from 299 when cases peaked locally on May 9.
The risk dial remains in the moderate category, but the dial inched closer to the low risk area.
Tournament attendance will be limited to immediate family members of coaches and players.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down numerous Lincoln businesses and put thousands of local residents out of work.
City officials announced 15 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Lancaster County on Monday, bringing the total to 1,487.
The decision by Lincoln Public Schools to bring staff and students back to school in the fall, Brent Toalson worried, would pose too great a chance that he could expose his family to the virus.
As bad as the losses from major event cancellations are, economists say the economic damage they cause is likely to pale compared to the effects of the widespread closings of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses.
Pat Lopez, interim director of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department, stressed the importance of tests for those who gathered among large crowds.
The NSAA will return to its normal summer protocol heading into a fall high school sports season. At least for now.
City health officials are considering restricting gathering sizes, revising sports requirements, requiring masks in public spaces and even closing bars after a three-day surge of 165 new coronavirus cases in Lancaster County.
A recent spike of cases in Thayer County was linked to golf tournaments in Clay Center and York.
District officials have a contact tracing and notification plan in place for the “likely event” that a student or staff member is exposed to coronavirus, Steve Joel said.
What if an effective early indicator of the spread of COVID-19 isn't the number of nasal swabs performed, or contacts interviewed, but instead what has been flushed down the toilet?
Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday announced the further loosening of restrictions implemented to control the spread of the coronavirus in Nebraska, suggesting that reporting data indicates that infection from the virus is "on a downward slide" in the state.
Plans are to host 4-H exhibits and contests on the first weekend of the fair, and FFA activities on the second weekend. The fair might "go dark" during the week, director Bill Ogg said.
Less than a day after announcing plans to hold drive-thru graduations at high schools, Lincoln Public Schools made arrangements for modified in-person ceremonies to be held at the arena.
Scott Frost said NU has been aggressive from the start in its approach to working through the pandemic, with an obvious eye on safety.
Much of what the coming school year will look like -- masks for students or remote learning -- depends on the "risk dial" maintained by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.
With the recent spike in new cases, the county is on pace to record the most cases in any week, topping the previous peak of 299 cases in early May.
“There is a very real probability that adults in our school system will become ill or even die with COVID by reopening now. That is not a price that our community should pay.”