Evolutions in Travel Comfort

When the big collective “we” stopped our traveling, forwent celebrations and funerals because we felt travel was unsafe, and became closer friends via Zoom, we wondered when things would “get back to normal.” We’ve since realized that normal is a moving target. Some things are permanently changed, and many things will simply be different for a long time to come.

Some of you have done more traveling as you’ve weighed pros and cons and have felt confidence in the vaccines you have received. You’ve dipped your toes into the options and determined what your limits will be. You’ve considered rules and regulations in airports and in various countries, and either said “yea” or “nay” to a trip. For all of us, the extent of our movement is based on comfort, trust and need.

I realize acutely, as I write this, that our family decisions have also been based on having monetary means. We can choose to pay for lodging, for gas, for air tickets, meals out etc. Not all persons can take such options into consideration. I do not want to forget that.

How has your travel changed, and what are you comfortable doing in your travels? What will play into your accommodation decisions? Do the COVID infection numbers affect where you will visit? Also, how does living in Indiana impact your choices? Some of you have spoken of testing requirements and living on the edge as you await results to come back in time to fulfill your trip. Is the anxiety worth it?

We have adult children who live in highly vaccinated areas of the world: San Francisco Bay area, Bavaria, Germany, and Oak Park, Illinois. They have more concerns about visiting us, especially as their children have not yet been able to receive vaccinations. In their home areas, people mask everywhere. Indiana makes them uncomfortable with haphazard masking and less than optimal vaccine rates – especially when they consider a visit to Grandpa Bob in Berne, Indiana where vaccine numbers are quite low and masking is not as common.

Ed and I started last spring with car travel to visit family. We chose accommodations where there was no contact necessary. The cooler we filled with snacks and lunches allowed for fewer restaurant needs – something we should be doing to save money anyway! Take-out food and outdoor seating were expected. More recently we have relaxed a bit and eaten indoors more often, especially at restaurants where there is good distance between groups. Our outdoor mask wearing has varied based on multiple factors including crowd density, mandates, and vax rates.

Since last spring, needs have pushed me to fly to California, and I’ve played the airport game, as have some of you. Masks on…from airport entry until the flight is over and the building is exited. It’s doable.

We are now headed to Germany to spend time with our daughter’s family. This is an entirely new level of COVID travel. Masking for such a long flight plus airport time will be challenging. We checked weekly to see what regulations for our entry will be. Airlines and countries have their own requirements. Forms must be filled out properly so that we don’t find ourselves quarantined once we arrive –or booted off our flights. We will need our vaccine cards and are downloading the Indiana State Board of Health results of our vaccines to use in the entry process. We follow the possibility of some kind of vaccine passport requirement and have filled out VeriFLY apps which are encouraged by some airlines and hold our pertinent COVID info. Germany expects us to have filled out an online information form. We conversed with Beth Goering and Andrea Krause who also navigate the USA-Germany route. The rules for entering other countries are different than those for returning. There are unknowns and risks.

The mother of a young friend living in Paris found herself re-routed through Amsterdam earlier this summer when her direct Chicago to Paris flight was not possible. Amsterdam airport would not allow her to connect to Paris and she was tearfully put on a plane to return to Chicago without seeing her daughter and grandchildren. She had all the necessary documentation for France, but the peculiarities of Amsterdam’s airport did not yet allow travelers from the US. Although such a situation is unlikely now, our sense of caution is high.

Good thoughts to you all as you venture out. It’s a navigation of regulations, comfort levels, needs for connection and levels of trust along with a willingness to go through all the paperwork motions. It’s also a “problem” born of some privilege.

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About the author

Mary Liechty

Mary and Ed have been spending post vaccination time traveling to see their grandchildren.

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