When the first COVID shutdowns happened in March of 2020, the people of the world, myself included, were naive about this virus and how it would change everything, especially “non-essential travel.” Initially, almost everyone stayed home. That made sense; we were afraid of dying. But after a bit, we started venturing out. COVID changes the way we travel, but not why we travel.
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At first, there were short trips to visit family. You may have made this trip in your car; that seemed safe. Maybe you were really adventurous, or your friends and family were further away, so you took a flight. That’s what we did in August of 2020 when we headed to Alaska to help out my SIL. All masked up and armed with loads of disinfectant; we hopped on Alaska Airlines up to Anchorage.
And some leisure or adventure travel was happening. People were taking road trips, camping, even buying RV’s. As a matter of fact, so many people are buying RV’s there is a shortage of vehicles to fill the demand. COVID broke the worldwide supply chain.
Hubby and I actually went RV shopping! We are not camping people; it would have been an expensive mistake to buy an RV. So glad we talked ourselves out of that one.
Some folks ventured out to their time-shares in Mexico and Hawaii. We all know these resorts are bubbles. Going to a time-share in Cancun is not the same as going to Mexico City. But they represent a safe place to get away from home, enjoy the sand and the surf, and relax.
These trips are fun, but not the kind of travel that satisfies my soul, and maybe not your soul either. If you are like me, and travel is more than a relaxing vacation with a few beverages, you want more. You want a connection to the country and culture you are visiting. You want a journey that moves your soul.
I Read A Lot About The Way We Travel And Why We Travel
That header above makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m a travel writer and blogger, and I read many other travel blogs, books, and articles. Very early on in my traveling “career,” I got hooked on Rick Steves. You too? Well, since “COVID,” Rick has been at home just like all the rest of us and looking for new ways to keep travel at the forefront. Facebook is one of those ways he’s been connecting.
Last week while scrolling through the dreaded Facebook feed (AKA “time-waster,”) I found Rick referring to an article from one of his colleagues, Cameron Hewitt. In the post, Cameron discusses why he is heading to Europe. The things he writes about in this article are thoughts I’ve been having in spades for the past few weeks. I, too, am headed to Europe in just a few short weeks.
Things like should anyone be traveling right now? After all, people moving around is how the virus spreads. Do other countries want tourists? I know the answer to that. I’ve made many friends in the tourism industry over the past 20 years. They are all hurting as their businesses dry up. Yes, they want us back.
Last but not least, can we responsibly travel during this pandemic. Cameron Hewitt believes responsible travel is possible and doable now. His article has helped me overcome my insecurities about my upcoming trip.
This journey will be different. But travelers have made changes to the way they travel before. Good travelers are as flexible as Gumby and ready to make changes as needed to continue the journey. Gumby & Pokey have been my traveling partners for some time 😊
There Have Been Big Changes In The Way We Travel Before.
The most recent and significant changes in the way we travel came around about 20 years ago in the aftermath of “9/11.”
If you are old enough to remember air travel before “9/11,” you probably remember that there were virtually no security measures in place at airports. People came and went freely. There may have been a pesky metal detector you had to walk through, but not much else. It was commonplace to see whole families meeting or seeing a loved one off at the gate!
Before 9/11, There was no TSA, no bomb-detecting devices, no full-body scanners. Now pilots carry firearms, and the door to the cockpit is armor reinforced. Every passenger is vetted. You have to remove your shoes and nearly every vestige of pride as you go through the security checkpoint. And the lines can take forever to get through.
The time a passenger spends getting through security at the airport became so much of an issue that new programs sprung up like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry (both government programs), and “CLEAR,” a private company that works with Homeland Security. All of which allow those passengers who are willing to spend a few dollars and go through a background check to speed up their transit at the airport.
So we made accommodations and changed the way we travel, but not why we travel and continued on our journeys.
New Changes in the Way We Travel Framed By COVID
In his May 2020 call with analysts, Royal Caribbean Cruises chief executive Richard Fain recalled how drastically travel changed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Further how the “new normal” eventually just became normal.
Mr. Fain went on to say, “Travel and tourism will grow,” he said. “Not by reverting to what it was, but by adjusting to a world where all activities, everything we do in the world will have changed.”
These changes usually mean more planning. Being fully vaccinated is a requirement to enter most countries. Europe welcomes humans, but not the virus. We were early adopters and completed our vaccine process in April of this year. In addition to being fully vaccinated, My DH and I will take at least four different COVID tests during our trip to Europe.
But being vaccinated and having a test that says you weren’t shredding the virus yesterday doesn’t mean you may not be today. Just like here at home, we will be taking precautions. We plan to mask up in public places, avoid large crowds, maintain physical distance, and do anything else the local authorities may request during our visit.
I realize that some of these precautions are controversial. However, in the 18 months since the start of this pandemic, these simple steps have kept us and those around us healthy. We choose to do this at home, and we will do this wherever we travel.
Even with all these safeguards, there is still a chance we may be among those who come down with a “breakthrough infection.” Illness and injury are part of many journeys.
On one of my husband’s first trips to mainland China, he made the mistake of eating some street food, particularly jerky. I wasn’t with him at the time, but I understand he spent 48 hours in the hotel room as close to the toilet as possible. Kind of a miserable way to spend your time abroad, but no one told him he couldn’t leave.
Flexibility And Planning For Unforeseen Events
We decided to get travel insurance for this trip, and AXA has always served us well. It seems we are more and more adventurous in our travels (zip lining, hang gliding, and other risky adventures). At the same time, we’re not getting any younger. We’ve never had to use the insurance, but it gives us that sense of comfort.
Today if you are identified with COVID, you face potential quarantines that will be costly. There will be the cost of the hotel you are quarantined in and food and potentially medical care abroad you will need while you are there. In most cases, you can’t leave quarantine or come home until you no longer test positive for the virus.
If you are traveling with a partner, you will likely be in this small hotel room together for several days. Make sure you have some excellent forms of entertainment and a good headset. Your only “alone time” maybe when the other is napping.
You will need to cancel any other plans you may have had and probably change your flight home. While many airlines are much more generous with change fees than pre-COVID, there may still be costs. The insurance mentioned earlier will come in handy with all these issues.
In addition to the itinerary my husband prepares for each trip, he has compiled an even more detailed list of contacts for this trip. A laminated list of all our flights, hotels, and connections for quick reference if we need to make a change on the fly.
Almost Packed And Ready To Travel
Our bags will be a little fuller this trip than most to cover some of our precautions. But it’s been 744 days since we’ve been off this continent, and we are ready to go. After hiking in the Swiss mountains, my husband can’t wait to tuck into a warm fondu by the fire. For me, I am longing to taste Aragosta alla Catalana (lobster Catalan Style). I hear this dish is very popular in Alghero, Sardinia.
You know I will be bringing back all the delicious tastes of our travels to share!