In a time where the free movement of people and travel have become a cornerstone to many countries, the pandemic’s power halted the age of globalisation. We want to share the experiences of those who have ventured past their local borders to help others understand the new realities of travelling and to normalise travelling safely during Covid-19.
This week we are hearing from Maria and Elona who both travelled to different locations in Europe. Despite the at-home quarantine requirements and constant regulatory changes, they felt safe and enjoyed exploring with less people around.
Maria is a 27 years old health and wellbeing enthusiast who is based in London. Originally from Bulgaria, Maria moved to England where she found her love for yoga, pilates and spending as much time as possible in London’s beautiful parks. To follow Maria’s travels, you can follow her on Instagram @mariakstinov.
Elona has established herself as a go-to travel expert and podcast host sharing stunning, wanderlust- inducing images and informative content with her engaged and loyal online audiences. As a childhood cancer survivor, Elona is devoted to promoting body acceptance and the importance of giving back to the community. She is the President of her charity, The Karafin Cancer Foundation, which helps underprivileged kids battling chronic illnesses with everything from financial support to recreational activities for emotional support – this includes travel! Instagram: @elona
Where do you live or where have you been quarantining over the past couple of months?
Maria: I live in London and have been quarantining here for most of the lockdown. I also spent some time in Cornwall at the beginning of the lockdown but decided to return here in April.
Elona: I am based in New York City and have been here since February through the peaks and the troughs of the pandemic.
Where have you travelled to? How did you get there? Who did you travel with?
Maria: I travelled to Sofia, Bulgaria with British Airways and it was relatively easy (third time lucky after having two flights cancelled).
Elona: Most recently I traveled to Switzerland for a month. I was able to travel to Geneva on a work permit for a project and extended my stay for a couple of extra weeks to stay in Europe!
How was your overall experience? Did you feel safe or uneasy at any time?
Maria: I didn’t feel uneasy at all. I actually enjoyed it more than usual because the airport was almost empty, and the flight wasn’t busy either. Flights tend to take off as scheduled and even land earlier than usual.
Elona: To be honest, I felt more safe than ever. Everyone (staff + passengers) were following all the rules in the airport and in-flight. Between all the extra hygiene procedures and the cleanliness of aircraft (HEPA filters, etc.). I think that traveling is actually quite safe! It’s really just a matter of following all the rules to ensure your safety and the safety of fellow passengers.
Do you feel there is still “over tourism” in the places you visited, or has it been empty? Have either impacted your experience?
Maria: I travelled from Sofia to the seaside in Bulgaria, to Burgas to be specific, and I was surprised how many people were out without masks, the streets and all restaurants were overcrowded. I ended up staying within the hotel premises and eating only at the hotel’s restaurant during the time I was there.
Elona: There were significantly less tourists in Geneva compared to previous years. On the positive side, it made many places like restaurants more accessible. The downside is the pain from knowing how many businesses are suffering. I stayed at [a hotel in] Geneva and only about 27 rooms were occupied at the peak of the summer season. Unfortunately, Geneva does not see an influx of tourism in the coming months before winter so it’s hard to imagine how properties will stay afloat.
What has been the most memorable experience while travelling during this time for you?
Maria: My bus to the airport, on the way to Sofia, didn’t stop at all so I ended up sharing an Uber with a complete stranger. We chatted during the whole journey and he told me that he’s going back to Spain to visit his grandmother who was very sick. I felt touched by the fact that even though he found out that Spain was added to the quarantine list only few hours before his flight, he nevertheless decided to go home and spend some time with his family.
Elona: Definitely reuniting with my friends! My lifestyle and my work require me to be on the road almost every two weeks (pre-COVID) and I end up leaving a piece of me everywhere I go. Some of my best friends are scattered around the world, many in Switzerland and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to see anyone this year at all. It felt incredible to reunite with everyone and I have my fingers crossed that these reunions will be more and more obtainable in the near future.
Have you had to self-quarantine in any of your destinations (or when you got back home?) If yes, was it worth it?!
Maria: Yes, I had to self-quarantine when I came back to London and whilst it was worth it, it also added more pressure and stress to my life.
Elona: I had to quarantine upon arrival to Geneva because the United States [was] considered a “high-risk” destination. It was also recommended that I quarantine back in NYC and get tested as soon as possible. I was tested negative both in Geneva and in New York City and didn’t mind quarantining.
What advice would you give to travellers during these unprecedented times?
Maria: I’d say just go for it but be prepared for unexpected changes and stay calm. Yolo!
Elona: “Don’t worry too much, and make sure you are financially comfortable to travel.”
The risky part about traveling now is that regulations change quite frequently and there is always a chance of you getting stuck in a certain destination. My best piece of advice is to pick a country where you know you’ll be able to sustain yourself for 1-2 weeks in case you get stuck there. Perhaps also a country with a trustworthy healthcare system as well.
Many people are questioning whether it is possible to continue travelling during these times. It is important to stay on top of changing local, domestic, and international regulations and to practice safety measures such as wearing your mask and socially distancing. Our interviewees so far have felt that as long as you wear your mask and have hand sanitiser at the ready, it makes the entire travelling experience much more comfortable.
So many countries and businesses have been impacted by Covid-19. If you are unable or uncomfortable to travel, we suggest supporting your local communities whether that is a short staycation or just ordering from your favourite restaurant! Next week we will hear more stories and experiences from other avid travellers around the world.
When making travel plans, please follow government regulations and safety guidelines.
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