New Zealand has never seemed so far away to heartbroken Kiwis living abroad this Christmas.
Kiwi businesswoman Sarah Ayala - who lives in Texas with her husband and children - had always thought she and her family were just a flight from home when it came to the big moments in life.
She had long kept an emergency fund of cash to buy last minute tickets to New Zealand or Argentina - where her husband was from - should they need to rush home.
That had been a godsend when Ayala's son was very sick as a baby and her mum dashed across from New Zealand to support her through the tough time.
But Covid-19 had since thrown barriers up around the globe.
Ayala was unable to make it home to New Zealand for her mum's funeral in September and now can't return for Christmas to catch up with her remaining family as her children only get two weeks' school holidays in the US.
"Trapped might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is a really weird feeling to know that we can't go when we need to," she said.
And it's not just her family.
The Covid-protecting border wall New Zealand has erected against the rest of the world makes family and friends seem even further away than normal at this festive time of the year, fellow US expat Hayden Garrett says.
He's been in Colorado with his family for five years, but can't come home this Christmas because it's too expensive.
The isolation from family back home added to a bleaker festive season in the US where a surge in the virus meant the country faced a huge challenge over the next four to eight weeks, he said.
Similarly, Ayala said she was proud of how New Zealand had dealt with Covid-19 and the way everyone pitched in to play their part to keep others safe.
By contrast, the virus was "out of control in the US" with more people dying from it every day than did in the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York, she said.
"I have had people tell me that wearing a mask is like slavery or complaining about why all the people with health conditions or the old ruining it for the rest of us," she said.
"It takes my breath away - these are literally people I know and talk to."
All staff and visitors to her workplace must wear masks, with Ayala joking she hired a new employee three months ago and still hadn't seen his face.
"I saw his drivers' licence doing the paperwork, and I thought, 'oh that's what he looks like'," she said.
People often played down New Zealand's achievements, saying it should handle the virus well being a small and isolated island, Ayala said.
But the country's leadership and the buy-in from every day Kiwis to do their part was incredible when compared to much of the rest of the globe.
It hadn't come easy either because Kiwis had chosen to maintain a strict border that came with the sacrifice that they couldn't easily travel or have family and friends return home at Christmas.
"I feel impacted by the quarantine rules, but still agree with what has been done in New Zealand," she said.
"And that is probably the difference with what I see here in the US, people feel like they shouldn't be impacted in any way."
Ayala said she was simply voicing the sadness of many Kiwis this Christmas at being so far from home.
While people always spoke about how special white Christmases were in the US, no one did Christmas better than New Zealand, she said.
"There is barbeque at the beach, the family gets together and everyone is really nice to each other for the day, you have a few drinks, sit in the garden, the kids run around and someone might start kicking a ball."
It meant that when she sees this year's photos of her family together, there'll be an extra pang on her heart.
"I'll be like: 'Aww, it would be so nice to be there'."