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Wise travelling, Dealing with the unexpected, and Making the most of it

You might have read, heard, or experienced the hustle and bustle of travelling abroad during this period of the pandemic. If you had an annual leave last summer, you probably checked every day where to go, which destinations were on the green and amber lists. In addition to being fully vaccinated, there were travel restrictions and sanitary “must do” things.

We were in England for a week for a family reason. From July 19, France has placed the UK on its amber list; the UK has ended its quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated travellers from amber countries, like France. However, there was more to comply with. We had to present our EU or French COVID certificate. Additionally, we had to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken a maximum of 72 hours before our departure. Then, we must complete a passenger locator form, which could only be done after purchasing a 1 x COVID-19 travel test that cost about 50 euros (PCR Test is free in France). Those from red countries and not fully vaccinated must book and pay for 2 x COVID-19 travel tests before arrival; once in the UK, they must quarantine for ten days and take a COVID-19 test on or before day two and on or after day eight.

The few days before our departure was a race towards getting COVID-tested and filling in the required locator forms (had to be completed individually). The locator form asks for information on where you will stay in the UK. In our case, it included five hotels in Ashford, Oxford and London. Typing the names, addresses, postcodes, etc., took time. Then, deciding where to buy the post-arrival test was another challenge (the order reference number was needed to complete the locator form). There were more than one hundred providers on the UK Government website. We ordered our Day 2 tests on August 18, but they were delivered to our nominated address on the 28th (two days after we had left).

Today, at 6:07 AM, the global COVID statistics are 217, 632, 545 confirmed cases and 4, 518, 377 deaths (Source: CDC, WHO, ECDC, The New York Times, Wikipedia – Microsoft/COVID-19 Widget). Even if vaccinated, we must continue wearing masks, hand sanitising, and social distancing.

Was the travel worth the time, energy and expense? Not if it were just for the hotel pool, steam room and gym; breakfasts were substandard. I’m for “prevention is better than cure” and won’t argue against packed or home-delivered breakfast. However, my jaw dropped when four-star hotels handed us industrial (commercially processed) pastries and artificially flavoured juice. An apple, banana or any fruit would have lessened the financial blow.

It was worth it when it came to family in-person interaction. There are ample online articles on the importance of face-to-face socialisation. Research “shows that young people who have strong family connections are far more likely to be well adjusted and make a better success of their lives in terms of getting better education and jobs” (source). Although we Skype with our sons every Monday evening, being with them physically was more superior. Their stories and reactions to our jokes were more nudging. It was fun playing the “guess the bill” during restaurant outings. The loser (the one whose guess was the farthest from the actual bill) had to pay. Since I always forgot to add the 15% service fee/surcharge that we don’t have in France, my wallet was almost cleaned up.

When a family gets together, memories are made, especially when we live far from each other and in situations like the COVId-19 pandemic. Many years later, we will be reminiscing about these times we had with our parents, children, and relatives. We will soon forget the logistical and financial challenges. However, the beautiful moments are preserved in our brains, iPhones, computers, or albums, which can gift our grandchildren and future generations.

(This article also appears on my website Rolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com)

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