This week we are sharing the travel experiences during Covid-19 from three women who fiercely love to travel and have made the best of exploring different places safely during the travel restrictions.
Ashley travels full time with her boyfriend Andrew and pup Kicker, in their expedition vehicle while filming their series Tiny Home Adventure. Ashley is also the author of her blog, The Unexpected Adventuress, where she documents the crazy transition to life on the road and their adventures along the way. Instagram @theunexpectedadventuress
Susanna is a Swedish born Airbus pilot based and living in Belgium with her boyfriend and daughter. Travel and photography are her biggest passions, apart from aviation! She loves sharing her down to earth version of the #pilotlife on her Instagram @susythepilot.
Dina is a speech therapist from Greece. She recently moved from Germany to Austria’s beautiful city Innsbruck. Dina is an avid traveller who loves to go to new places and learn new languages.
Where do you live or where have you been quarantining over the past couple of months?
Ashley: My boyfriend and I live full-time in our expedition vehicle we built from the ground up. We were in Park City, Utah when lockdowns first started going into place, so we stayed there until June to be safe before hitting the road again.
Susanna: I live in Belgium and have been quarantining here since mid-March. My parents and brothers live in Sweden, but my boyfriend and daughter live together with me here in Belgium, so we quarantined together.
Dina: During the time of the lockdown I was based in Munich, Germany.
Where have you travelled to? How did you get there? Who did you travel with?
Ashley: We were in the process of filming our series “Tiny Home Adventure” when COVID hit. We put filming on hold for a few months and once we felt safe enough to start traveling again, we consciously hit the road to Moab, Twin Falls, Tahoe, Hood River, and the Oregon Coast.
Susanna: We changed our travel plans a bit. We were planning to fly to Corsica, but changed that to go by car to Epernay, France. I went there with my boyfriend only for a few days in June. In July I flew to Stockholm, Sweden to spend a few days at a Japanese spa together with my best friend. We were planning to go hiking in Switzerland in September, but we will wait and see how the situation evolves first. Since we are both back flying again, we don’t want to risk having to self-quarantine when coming back home.
Dina: Since the lockdown in Germany stopped, I travelled once in Innsbruck, Austria by bus and then in July I went to Greece where I travelled to multiple different cities and islands.
How was your overall experience? Did you feel safe or uneasy at any time?
Ashley: We’re being sure to do our research on the current restrictions for COVID before we go somewhere. State websites offer great resources for what campgrounds are open, if restaurants are take-out only or dine in, rules on masks, and more. Any time we enter a public building we make sure to wear masks and wash our hands immediately. Thankfully we have felt safe the whole time we’ve been back on the road. There have been a few times we show up and our camping spot is blocked off or all restaurants in a town are closed, but we prefer to grocery shop once a week and just cook in our vehicle anyway.
Susanna: It was super easy and felt very safe! I love traveling and was so happy to be able to go to Sweden again. It was very well organised at the airport with temperature checks, hand sanitisers and face masks. There was no service on board, but for a shorter flight that doesn’t bother me at all.
Dina: In general, the experience of traveling in these times wasn’t bad, but it was definitely different. During all means of transportation, both in Austria and Greece, the use of a mask was obligatory. The warmth of summer wasn’t making it better, but we all have to respect the rules for our safety. It was definitely not pleasant, but it gives a sense of ‘protection’. I never felt unsafe at any point during my trips.
Do you feel there is still “over tourism” in the places you visited, or has it been empty? Have either impacted your experience?
Ashley: There were a lot more people in Tahoe and the Oregon Coast than I expected to see. The beaches on the coast were packed on weekends with people setting up tents and barbecues so we tried to avoid the area and only go during the week.
Susanna: It was almost no tourists at all in Epernay, we had the entire Champagne district for ourselves. I think it was sad to see, since travel is still possible as long as you follow the guidelines and use common sense. We would have loved to see more tourists in France! In Sweden it was quite crowded, but only Swedish people, basically no tourists there.
Dina: In Austria the measures against COVID-19 where significantly less than what I experienced in Germany or Greece, so I have to say there was a bit of ‘over tourism’. On the other hand, Greece which I know better since that’s where I come from, had a lot less tourism than what would normally be. I know a lot of touristic businesses that didn’t open for the touristic season. The only positive outcome of this situation was that there were no super crowded beaches and clubs where you can’t even stand as it usually happens in Greece during summer, so in general it was a good experience, even though it felt a bit weird and ‘abnormal’.
What has been the most memorable experience while travelling during this time for you?
Ashley: You’re still able to enjoy the outdoors with everything going on as long as you are sure to be socially distant. I’ve gone mountain biking for my first time, BASE jumping, cliff jumping, and more. I think it’s great because it’s pushing people to spend more time in nature, but with that, there comes the need to remind people to leave no trace and pick up after themselves. We’ve picked up garbage bags worth of trash carelessly left by people on the beach and on trails.
Susanna: To go to Sweden! I still haven’t seen my parents since January, since there are no directs flights to Göteborg, but it was so nice to go “home” once. And to fly! This has had such a huge impact on the aviation industry and I really missed flying, even as a passenger. I am already looking forward to my next flight.
Dina: For me, the most memorable thing during travelling, were the empty airports! I am a person that travels quite a few times during the year, and the full and always busy airports are part of the travelling experience. Seeing them so empty and quiet was almost heart breaking.
Have you had to self-quarantine in any of your destinations (or when you got back home?) If yes, was it worth it?!
Ashley: We haven’t had to self-quarantine at all on our travels so far.
Susanna: No, it was a close call coming back from Sweden, but I arrived in Belgium 4 days before Sweden became a “red zone” (only for 24 hours though, quite ridiculous) otherwise I would have to self-quarantined for 14 days. I am a bit cautious picking my destinations, since I really don’t want to risk having to self-quarantine. If that weren’t an issue, I would travel much, much more.
Dina: Fortunately, none of the countries I visited required me to stay in quarantine.
What advice would you give to travellers during these unprecedented times?
Ashley: Be mindful of the local communities and do your research before you travel somewhere. If it’s a small town without the necessary resources to handle an outbreak, consider visiting down the road. Wear a mask in public. Sanitize and wash your hands often.
Susanna: To be flexible and prepared to change your plans last minute. Try to stay up to date with the changing regulations and make sure you have all documents needed (sometimes medical attest, depending on destination). Use common sense, don’t travel if you don’t feel well and use face masks where it’s recommended. My personal opinion is that it is safe to travel, but please pay attention and try to avoid too much close contact with other people. I really hope borders open up soon so we can travel more and use more common sense instead of restrictions.
Dina: During these weird times, I would advice people to keep traveling! Always take the basic measures to protect yourself, don’t visit high risk countries since you may ‘get stuck’ in case of a new lockdown or border closing, and definitely respect the COVID regulations of each country! Last but not least, keep dreaming and keep planning your next trips.
At Holiday Swap, our advice is just that. Stay safe, respect local regulations, and be aware of the restrictions when travelling. Otherwise it is possible to continue exploring by plane, bus, car (or expedition vehicle!) and contributing to your communities.
We hope these stories provide you with first-hand experiences to help make you feel more comfortable on your next trip!