Leisure Travel Abroad, in a Pandemic?!

Disclaimer: This post is not to encourage anyone to travel during the pandemic. I’m sharing my experience doing so as it was a necessity for my mental well-being. I’ll never dismiss the impact of COVID and the toll that it has taken on hundreds of thousands of lives.

I never thought I’d be one of those individuals who end up traveling while the world is at a standstill. Potentially subjecting myself and the people around me to this disease frightened me. But, 2020 got to me as it did to you, I am sure. Following 12 months in quarantine, I needed to be set free. A break was imperative. I often speak about the effect of travel on my mental health, and 12 months of being stuck in the house proved me right. I’ve heard that that’s no excuse, and I get it.

The handling of the pandemic was the main determining factor of where we decided to vacation. We considered the policies set in place and the restrictions for entry. Aruba has moderate regulations. COVID testing is mandatory with a negative result no more than 72 hours before arrival. My best friend and I ended up taking two, just in case one didn’t come in time. We were required to produce documents, fill out an ED card at least 24 hours before arrival, and purchase Aruba Visitors Insurance. The country’s restrictions for traveler’s made me feel extremely comfortable.

I was most nervous about traveling to and from, not my stay. The number of cases on the island is minimal, and I knew I’d feel safer there than at home. My flights were not terrible, but they were more packed than I expected. I had every intention of having an open seat next to me on both flights. However, that was not the case. There were many moments when I was uncomfortable with the distance between myself and the next person, and few that I felt my space invaded. I was double-masked up with my N95, and so were several other passengers. The plane ride was the most daunting part of this adventure, but we made it.

Leaving the airport was tedious. Documents submitted to the government agency had to get re-examined, and we were given DVG (Directie Volksgezondheid, which translates to Department of Public Health) approved health cards. These cards were to be presented to our hotel and needed to be on us at all times. If this was lost, we risked the chance of being sent home. Although tedious, this process made me feel secure. I appreciate their approach of allowing foreigners onto their island.

The day-to-day in Aruba was incredible. With most people taking the necessary precautions to stop the spread, I did not question my decision once. However, we did come across those typical pandemic tourists that went to a different country just thinking they could live life as they did before the pandemic, crowding in large groups, not a mask in sight, and violating curfew. It upset me. The disrespect for a country letting us in with open arms. The fact that I could be considered one of those. I know that I would have seen more of this if I went to countries that have remained open through the pandemic, taking zero precautions. I won’t name any names.

I don’t have a single regret. I’d love to say that this trip will hold me over until I can next enjoy my time in a foreign country. But as I look out at the snow falling, I’d be lying. Would I travel again during this time? The short answer is yes. Longer answer? If it’s safe and takes extensive precautions to ensure the safety of locals and individuals entering the country. I will never stop taking all necessary precautions, and I will never stop traveling. So, if this is the new normal, I might as well get used to it.

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