Travel Shaming, Pandemicking Responsibly, and Why I’m Still Going to Europe

Recently, I found myself ripping into a perfectly good guidebook: neatly slicing its spine with a razor blade, discarding sections I don’t need, then stapling and taping it back together. This is my pre-trip, packing-light ritual anytime I go to Europe. And it felt very strange to be doing it again — both because it’s been so long since I last went to Europe, and because we’re still living through a pandemic.

After 686 days without setting foot in Europe, I’m finally getting ready to hit the road once again. When I tell people about my trip, some are excited for me. Others are quite the opposite: Their reactions suggest that I should be frightened, or even ashamed.

If overtourism was the travel trend for 2019, and 2020 was all about staycations, then 2021 is the year of travel shaming. And, as someone who tries to be a thoughtful traveler, I’ve lost a lot of sleep wondering whether it’s OK to go to Europe right now. But at the end of the day, I’ve decided to go. Here’s why.

Travel Shaming, Defiance, and a Third Option

Some people believe that it’s simply wrong to contemplate traveling internationally right now. These days, when you read travel articles — even fairly innocuous ones — a significant number of the comments express disappointment, anger, even ire. “How dare you travel at a time like this! You should be ashamed.”

Shaming has become our culture’s go-to move. That’s understandable: There’s a lot to be angry about these days, and it’s tempting to point fingers at the people and behaviors we believe are solely responsible. In the moment, shaming feels good. It’s cathartic. It comes with that delicious little hit of adrenaline…aaah!

Unfortunately, shaming is as counter-productive as it is gratifying. For instance, when it comes to engaging the vaccine-hesitant, experts are very clear on one point: Shaming does not work.

Shaming doesn’t work because the only meaningful reaction to being shamed is defiance — which also feels very good, and also comes with that adrenaline bump, and also is entirely non-constructive. It’s like we are all addicted to the same drug, and that drug is self-righteous disagreement.

Shaming implies that there’s just one correct answer to a problem. But problems are nuanced and complex, and so are solutions. The flipside of shame is empathy: trying to understand someone’s point of view, ideally to find some common ground as we navigate that complexity.

Whether you think it’s “OK” to travel right now is largely driven by how you view the value of travel. Some people see travel simply as a hedonistic pastime, a non-essential indulgence. And by that standard, sure — now may not be the time for casual tourism.

But for others, travel is a calling — something that brings us not just enjoyment, but meaning. For me, travel goes beyond mere “leisure.” Travel isn’t optional; it feeds my soul. I’ve devoted my career to travel not because it’s fun, but because it’s transformative.

Maybe you can relate. What’s the thing in your own life that sustains you? Hugging your grandchildren; being with friends or co-workers face-to-face; attending a live sporting event or music performance?

A recent study found that one major factor in COVID-19 spread during 2020 was family gatherings, and specifically children’s birthday parties. Interestingly, this was equally the case both for Democrats and for Republicans. It turns out, during our unprecedentedly polemicized times, one issue found strikingly bipartisan support: Nobody wants to tell their child that they can’t have a birthday party.

We all have those things we can only go for so long without — things we’re just not willing to give up. For you, it may be birthday parties, live theater, book group, poker night, or college football games. For me, it’s traveling in Europe.

So, in an effort to break the travel-shaming cycle, let’s talk about how people who travel during a pandemic can do so thoughtfully.

Please Pandemic Responsibly

These days, each one of us is making complicated, highly personal decisions about how we navigate the pandemic. Our lives are a series of tricky judgment calls on a sliding scale of risk: Is it OK to go out to eat, and if so, is it OK to sit indoors? Should the kids go back to school? Should you wear a mask indoors, even where it’s not required? Should you attend a live sporting event? Should you get on an airplane? Should you go to Europe?

While there’s plenty of science to help guide those choices, interpreting that science is complicated, highly idiosyncratic, and, very often, internally inconsistent. It sometimes feels like the USA has 330 million different individual approaches to the pandemic.

For me, pandemicking responsibly begins with getting vaccinated. And Europe agrees: Recently, the European Union recommended increasing restrictions on unvaccinated American travelers. Like it or not, if you’re unvaxxed, Europe does not want you, and they will make things hard on you. (That’s not shaming; it’s practical travel advice.)

For me, that question — whether a place wants me to visit — is critical. For example, the governor of Hawaii has discouraged tourists from visiting the islands for now. They are facing an acute crisis: When you’re running out of ICU beds, and the nearest capacity is a five-hour flight away, you can’t afford to take chances. And if a place is saying they don’t want me there, I’m not going.

In Europe’s case, the infection and vaccine rates in the countries I’m visiting are significantly better than in the United States. While they continue to face the slow, grinding crisis of the pandemic, they are currently handling it effectively. And the language of recent restrictions makes it clear that, for the sake of their tourism industry, most countries are comfortable welcoming travelers who are vaccinated and conscientious.

That’s because Europe’s tourism industry is struggling. Through COVID, I’ve been keeping in touch with European friends in the travel industry. And right now, most of them are desperate for income — in many cases, living off their savings and doing odd jobs to scrape by since early 2020. I keep hearing about favorite businesses that are closing up shop. I’m not sure Europe’s wonderful mom-and-pop hotels and restaurants can survive another winter. At some level, I feel OK about traveling — provided I’m doing it conscientiously — because I can do some good by spending money to tide them over until 2022.

One in ten people on this planet derives their income from the travel industry. And it’s not just tour guides, flight attendants, and hotel desk clerks. It’s the farmers who supply restaurants, the engineers who design and build airplanes, the Lyft and Uber drivers making some extra cash with airport transfers. At some point we will cross (or already have crossed) an imaginary line of “safe enough” to help these industries rebound. It may feel cynical to boil travel ethics down to euros and cents, but for people who need those euros and cents, that’s no small consideration.

When I began planning this trip a few months ago, it felt like we were charging toward normalcy. Since then, the rise of Delta has clouded things in uncertainty. In the end, I’ve decided to go to Europe, but with several caveats:

  • I am fully vaccinated. There are no guarantees of safety, in life or in travel. But given my age and general health, I believe that the vaccine puts me at very low risk for severe disease. (If someone feels that their health, or the health of the people traveling with them, is too risky for the current conditions, they should stay home.)
  • I intend to mask, distance, and do whatever else is asked of me, wherever I go. I recently stocked up on a new supply of hospital-grade N95 masks, for airplanes and other crowded situations. While I’m comfortable going maskless outdoors, I’ll continue to mask up inside, even when it’s not required.
  • I am realistic that I’ll need to be flexible. Flights may be changed, cancelled, or rebooked. (In fact, one of mine already has been.) Museums or restaurants may be unexpectedly closed. This would not be a time to go to Europe with a long wish list of sights or a meticulously plotted-out itinerary; it’s a time to stay loose and roll with what comes.
  • I accept the reality that there will be much more red tape than usual. For each country I enter, I’ll do my due diligence to fully understand the entry requirements, and I’ll fill out any required “passenger locator forms” (for example, this one for Italy and Slovenia). I will be prepared to prove my vaccination status on a regular basis. I assume that, at some point (or many), I’ll need to take a COVID test. And if I were to test positive — even asymptomatically — I am fully prepared to quarantine at my own expense.

The worst-case scenario, for me, would not be coming down with COVID and having to pay for a week in a quarantine hotel and an expensive new flight home. It would be unwittingly passing on the virus to someone who doesn’t have the same protection I do. If anything were to prevent me from traveling right now, that would be it.

On the road, I’ll do everything I can to prevent that from happening. I’ve chosen to visit mainly rural, out-of-the-way places where distancing will be easier, and I’ll cook for myself or dine outdoors whenever possible. (No crowded bars or clubs for me.) I will take a COVID test before I depart — even though my destination does not require me to — to ensure that I’m not bringing the virus along with me. I’m also packing some home antigen test kits, which I’ll use on the road as needed — in case I find out I’ve been exposed or I start having symptoms. And if at any point I test positive, my top priority will be  to avoid exposing others.

Keep on Traveling

And I think this is the way of the future. Taking the long view, I agree with experts who now recognize that this pandemic will never really “end” — at least, not the way we might’ve hoped. COVID is gradually migrating from “pandemic” to “endemic”: Most likely, it will always be with us, floating around like common colds or the flu. The good news is that those miraculous vaccines have done exactly what they promised: For those who are vaccinated, they’ve turned COVID from a potential death sentence to a nuisance.

Over the years, I’ve been sick many, many times while on the road. I recall one visit to Spain where I got hit with a gastrointestinal bug and a ferocious head-and-chest cold on the same night. It took 10 days before I felt human again. Being sick while traveling is no fun. But, as kids get access to vaccines and all of us get our winter booster shots, COVID no longer has to mean that we call off travel altogether. It becomes just one more risk — one more potential headache — associated with an activity that already has more than its share of risks and headaches. As long as we’re willing to take that risk, and do our best to avoid passing it along to others, that may be all we can hope for.

I keep circling back to that old metaphor: COVID is the rain. The vaccine is a raincoat. Masking is an umbrella. I’m fine with getting a little mist on my glasses, provided I can stay mostly dry. But I’m not willing to stay inside until the rain stops, because that could be years, or it may never happen at all. Delta has turned a shower into a downpour. But by running from awning to awning, taking cover as necessary, I believe I can enjoy a fun yet responsible trip to Europe without getting soaked.

That’s why I’m heading to Europe soon (and why I’m optimistic for 2022 travels). I have no illusions that my trip is a 100% good idea; I may very well regret going. But these days, nothing is a sure thing. Sometimes you just have to make an educated choice. If you think that’s terrible, perhaps we can agree to disagree, and break that pointless, addictive cycle of shaming and defiance.

Either way, I’ll be posting about how my trip goes, so that anyone making this same decision — or those who are just curious — can have a complete picture of what pandemic travel looks like. I’m sure that, in some ways, returning to Europe will feel like being back home again. And in other ways, it’s a whole new world.

If you’re interested to hear what it’s like traveling in Europe right now, be sure to “Like” my Facebook page and sign up for email blog alerts. Lots of fresh insights are on the way — thanks for traveling along with me once again, after all this time.

87 Replies to “Travel Shaming, Pandemicking Responsibly, and Why I’m Still Going to Europe”

  1. Cameron, where is the ridge hike in your photo? We’ve done a ton of hiking in Europe but I can’t place it – you were so fortunate to have those clouds below you!

    Have a wonderful trip – we’ll await your posts!

    1. It’s Mannlichen, between Wengen and Grindelwald in the Berner Oberland, Switzerland. Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau in the background.

  2. Great blog. I agree that it’s gotten too polarized. Hopefully everything goes well for you and you stay safe. Being in the travel industry, I also think we will need to learn to travel in a COVID-19 environment. Looking forward to hearing about your travels.

    1. We are in the middle of a three week trip to Europe that includes Spain, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria.

      Life in Europe has largely moved on between vaccines and masks.

      Truth be told I feel safer here than I do back home!

      Germany has been the most strict (which we welcome) with needing to produce a vaccine card to enter places and every county has its own rules which are easily managed as long as you are vaccinated. Things may get more restrictive soon – who knows – but I am so thankful we did this trip.

      Like Steve we both got tested for Covid prior to leaving the USA even though it wasn’t required. We are largely eating outdoors although we have had one or two meals inside which felt more risky than worth it in the end.

      It’s been a great trip so far.

  3. Thank you for your inspiring and thoughtful blog. I especially appreciate you suggesting empathy as a way to move forward. We are planning to venture to Europe next spring regardless of the Covid situation because we also need some soul lifting that travel provides. In the meantime we will travel to Cabo in January as a first step to venturing out.

  4. Well said Cameron! I write this on my first international trip in months. Yes, the pre and post trip COVID tests were a nuisance and the bureaucracy and form filling was a pain. But seeing family half way around the world was totally worth it! We are being careful – hugs are a few days away but just being in the same city is so worth it.

  5. Thank you for a reasoned, thoughtful, insightful commentary. I leave for the Galapagos Islands (admittedly not Europe but it was a trip canceled last year) and more than one person has questioned me, as I pack my KN95 masks, schedule my pre trip Covid test, plan on masking indoors always, and trust my cruise line (another gasp!) and fellow passengers to be be vaccinated and play by the same rules. I’ll be on one of the August 2022 RS trips to Portugal and can’t wait. European travel does get in your blood!

  6. I live in Europe but I just traveled back to my native Canada to visit family. After more than two years, I needed to see my family, for emotional reasons but also very practiced ones: my parents are newly retired and aging and it was very difficult to get a good grasp of their situation from abroad. Having done it, I can say that international travel right now is definitely not for the faint of heart. The risks are so great, that I think we can all be kind enough to assume that whoever is doing it has a valid reason. It’s hard to justify the hassle otherwise. I wish you good and safe travels! Hoping to run into you in Switzerland someday :)

  7. Go, Cameron, go! We have Mexico in our short term plans and are following our friends who are currently traveling closely in their posts. One day, this will all be a story. Until then, Keep on Traveling ! (Responsibly!!)

  8. I’m about to head to Spain later this week. Your article sums up how I feel and I am glad to see someone like yourself in the same boat as myself. Have a great trip!

    1. Glad to hear that you’re going to Spain. I’ve been waiting to walk The Camino since last September. I hope to do it in April 2022. I hope you have a great trip-I’d love to hear about your experiences with being in Spain during the pandemic

  9. Well, we have struggled with many of the concerns you listed and ultimately made the same choice.
    We arrived in France on August 24 and plan to return to Seattle area Oct 6. Yes, there has been more paper work and we got our French Pass Sanitaires. We applied about 2 weeks before leaving and I recieved mine in 11 days and my husband’s arrived 6 days later. We have our original CDC cards verifying that we are vaccinated. I also brought 2 extra copies of everything and my husband and I have each other’s pass sanitaire on our phones just in case one of us forgets or loses our phone. I highly recommend getting the Pass Sanitaire for french travel as all restaurants, museums, theaters require it. Strangely the buses and trains haven’t asked for it. We are so glad to be here, we actually do volunteer work in a lovely old Mediterranean garden. But, I agree with you Cameron, not everyone needs to travel this year and it is more complicated.

  10. I really appreciate your thoughts on shaming and defiance… a relentless cycle that does nothing but bring everyone down in the long run. Another aspect of pandemic life I find myself dealing with is jealousy seeing and hearing about friends and family’s travels over the past year+ (especially since my 2020 was spent at high risk for Covid with my first pregnancy and now I have a high risk unvaccinated baby). Your piece here gives a fresh perspective to reframe my thoughts and be happy for others who are traveling (with conscientious precautions) now.

  11. My husband and I arrived in Amsterdam from the US last week with your Best of Europe guidebook in hand. We will be in Europe for a month, traveling through the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. If we happen to cross paths we would love to have a coffee with you.

    So far we have had no trouble traveling. Show your vaccine card, wear your mask and the people are happy to have you visit.

    Note: we stayed in Bacharach Germany last night at the Im Malerwinkel hotel and it was enchanting! Thank you for the recommendation.

    And Thank you for your videos and blogs. We have really enjoyed them while we were planning our trip.

  12. Oh goodness, how happy I am to see this! My sister and I are planning our first ever trip to Europe next year–May/June God willing to the Amalfi Coast–and have wondered about the state of things currently.
    Also, I never thought I’d see ‘pandemic’ used as a verb. I guess it was inevitable :-)

    Thanks for paving the way.
    from a considerate American :-)

  13. Lucky you. We Canadians are stuck — bombarded daily by politicians ans medics about variants, hospitals overflowing etc. Fear mongering. We’re told not to travel internationally and have no vaccine passport to use with airlines. I’ll die of old age and boredom before I can go anywhere

    1. From Vancouver. Your are not stuck, and it is not fear mongering. If you are vaccinated, good for you. Follow the guides lines of what ever country you want to visit. Just as Canada has, along with filing your return information on the ArriveCan App that is required for anyone entering Canada. For flying out of the country, you need to show a negative PCR 72 hours prior to your flight, and for your return flight back to Canada. Airlines are checking for a Negative PCR test prior to boarding. You don’t need a vaccine passport. Travel any where outside ones country has become more diligent in what is required. I hope you can get out and travel soon.

      1. my sister just went to France — had trouble getting a restaurant meal without a vaccine passport accepted internationally — the thing e mailed to us after we got our 2 shots was not accepted there.

  14. Yes, I had many of the same thoughts after deciding to go to France after they opened back up to US tourists. The trip was planned for late August and as things began to get more complicated, I had to think about many issues. But in the end the siren call of travel was strong. We planned as safe a trip as we could within reason. The trip was fun and most people seemed glad we were there. As it turns out, all was fine, and we safely returned to the US.

  15. I just returned two days ago from an amazing three-week trip to Switzerland, my first trip since the pandemic. Despite the restrictions, such as the masking on public transportation, plus the requirement for a negative covid test prior to returning to the U.S., it was worth the effort. If there was one advantage, it was the absence of crowds and large groups. Travel during the pandemic is not for the faint of heart, and admittedly with the rules and restrictions it is not what it used to be, but the pandemic may go on for a long time and if we want to travel we need to adjust.

  16. My husband and I are leaving in two weeks for a long-planned trip to the UK and Iceland to celebrate our anniversary. We are, of course, conscious of the risk and will do what we can to mitigate those risks. We are fully vaccinated, will mask everywhere, whether or not it’s required, and mostly stick to outdoor self-guided walking tours. I think we’ll need five tests over the course of this two-week journey, but that will be well worth it for our safety and to hopefully be safe around others.

    I have had several “you’re brave, I couldn’t do it” comments, but I have honestly felt more unsafe here in the States in certain situations than I feel about traveling overseas.

  17. I had several EU trips planned when Covid hit. What’s holding me back now had been Europe’s closing to Americans again. But that has changed again. Now, I’m interested in tips on how to find a Covid test in another country in order to return to the U.S. I am hoping hotels can help with that, but not sure, and I mostly rent apartments, anyway. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Karen, I just got back from Italy and it was very easy. I asked at my hotel for the nearest place to get a test and they found a pharmacy a five minute walk from my hotel in Florence. I looked into the test 3 days before my flight and took the test 2 days before my flight giving myself plenty of time and in case anything went wrong. Nothing did and I flew home last week.

      1. Awesome, Lisa, thanks. You confirmed what i was hoping, that hotels can help! For one trip I planned my last nights will be in a hotel!

        1. My husband and I are in France for vacation after having two previous stays cancelled due to COVID-19. The owners of the place we’re renting told us that every pharmacy in France offers these tests. We, too, will be spending our last two nights in a hotel. We feel confident that their staff have been trained to tell guests where the closest pharmacy is located. Charles de Gaulle Airport offers the test, but we don’t want to wait until the last minute, in case for some reason one of us tests positive.

          Our trip has been wonderful so far. No problems showing our CDC vaccination cards. We opted to skip visiting a few cities that I dearly wanted to see because their case numbers are high. They are university towns with lots of young adults. We will also skip attending a marvelous olive festival because it attracts thousands of people.

          If you love to travel, making some sacrifices and accepting change is a small price to pay. We have enjoyed some delightful, unexpected experiences in France because we have remained positive, careful and flexible.

          1. Kathi, thank you! France, and more specifically, Paris, is my favorite place in the world!! Good idea not to test at the airport in case of positive test. It’s starting to sound like it’s easy to find places in cities in Europe to get tested. The main concern is getting the results timely. To depart the U.S., CVS pharmacies will do the PCR test but can’t guarantee results timely. I absolutely agree that accepting change and making sacrifices is far outweighed by getting to travel!

          2. The waiting line for a PCR test at the CDG airport pharmacy is about 1to 2 hours long. The results are ready in 10 to 15 minutes. Cost is 70 euros for two people. The pharmacy is in he baggage check area before you go thru security.

          3. We leave for Paris next month. I have not seen a negative test to depart; but am very aware of the requirements once we arrive. Ive applied twice for the Pass, but have not received it yet. Many I have spoken too provided proof of vaccination & was allowed entry to museums, etc. Any insight on this?
            Thank you in advance.

    2. Before you leave, research the options in whatever city you will be in prior to your return. I was in Zurich and there were several clinics offering various options (fee, response time). Have a plan before you leave for your trip, and have your documents ready for your return flight (don’t forget the signed attestation)…Make sure all your ducks are in a row and then relax and enjoy the trip.

      1. Thanks, Ken! I am like you, I do get all my ducks in a row BEFORE travel. I went on safari in Kenya in June and did extensive, difficult research to ensure I had my test, with results in time to fly, and printed copies of everything.

  18. Unfortunately, it’s not just Covid that is driving travel shaming. Long after this pandemic subsides, travel shaming will still be very much with us because of climate change. I’ve heard about more people being shamed for the huge carbon footprint they are leaving because of ‘unnecessary’ travel. In the end, I believe climate change will be a much bigger challenge for travelers than Covid.

  19. Yup, we here homo sapiens certainly have a varied way of looking at (and dealing with) our world. My wish, hope and prayer for our planet is the achievement of as much perspective and understanding as possible by all citizens living, being and evolving into their best self. Thanks for all the great information you share and I look forward to reading about your inauguralemic travels from European locales.

  20. Rick…I, for one, am glad you’re traveling RESPONSIBLY! I’m looking forward to hearing about your experiences. Maybe there’s something to be said about a sensible middle ground. Please keep us posted!

  21. Hi Rick! Truly grateful you’ve decided to go no matter what. Travel is too important to postpone indefinitely, covid or not. One of my children recently went to Germany for a year because it was her “calling”. Do we have concerns? Yes. Life is risk. But if we stay consistent with our precautions and look out for others, what on earth is more valuable than travel. Can’t wait to hear your reports!! No shame

  22. We just returned from 3 lovely weeks in Europe. Happily complying with vaccination card requests , masking, museum reservations, etc. yes, the administrative side is tedious. And you do need to be very flexible as well as stay on top of government websites as requirements can change at any time. We were on our own and on a river cruise. Felt grateful for the care and safety protocols wherever we went. Hotels and vendors very helpful. Covid tests at pharmacies but plan for adequate time.

    1. Lucky you, Alix! I’m glad it all went do well for you! It seems that the consensus is that it is easy to find a pharmacy for a test to return to the U.S. I will contact my lodging before I go to ensure they know places to get tested!

  23. Cameron —
    My wife and I were about half-way through your article when we looked at each other and said, “this is us!” Your meticulously worded message resonates superbly.

    We did not travel beyond north America until we were 60, but one trip and we were hooked. Travel was, indeed, food for our soul. While I was working, we took 4 trips to Europe, always constrained by vacation time. I retired in 2018, and we began planning the “trip of a lifetime,” an 11-week adventure set to begin Mar 2020…in Italy. We booked everything independently, and relished FINALLY being able to more fully experience what it is like to live like a local.

    Ten days before we were to leave, Italy closed, and we were faced with cancelling literally dozens of reservations. We shortened the trip and moved to a different part of Europe. That closed. We moved it to the fall, then the spring of 2021, then fall, then later fall. In the meantime, we got vaccinated and constantly monitored changing rules and possibilities.

    Tomorrow we leave for a more compact, more carefully planned trip to countries that want us to come (France, Italy, and Greece). We are taking every precaution possible, including a week-long quarantine before we leave.

    But when Italy opened in July, we decided to take a trip then, not knowing if this trip would happen. We spent 17 days in northern Italy and were greeted warmly everywhere we went. We took an English-speaking tour to Lake Como. Of the 7 couples, only 2 were American. Others were from Italy or Eastern Europe. The driver went out of his way to thank “the brave Americans.” And when we met a delightful family in the Dolomites, they ended our time with “Thank you for coming. We love Americans. Come back. Bring friends.”

    We will be careful and respectful. We will be flexible. And we will fill our souls with what travel we can.

    Ken and Ellen Bryan

  24. Gawd, Cameron and Rick…..lighten up!

    Did you know that conservatives buy you guide books also?

    I don’t shame people, almost never do group travel, and never worry about traveling responsibly, or worry about my “carbon footprint”.

    I use other guidebooks also, but many times Rick’s are invaluable! My wife and I had a Great time in Kardamyli, Greece, well off the beaten path, because of Rick’s guidebooks!

    You all ought to lighten up, you’ll live longer.

  25. Cameron! You did a really wonderful job on this article! I loved the rationale that you provided for your actions and how you demonstrated the importance of being respectful and responsible. Many thanks also to Mari for sharing her insight on getting the French Pass Sanitaires!

  26. Excellent article, Cameron! I hope you’re enjoying your time in Europe as we speak. We’ve been in Italy since September 1 and we are spending an entire month in Europe. After 20 days in Italy, we will fly to Paris for 10 days. We applied for the green pass through France’s embassy and received them, so we don’t even have to show our vaccination cards now, as we each have a digital EU Covid pass. We have stayed in a few hotels but mostly are in apartments, including one for two weeks in Siena right on the Il Campo. Our property manager said we were the first people from the United States to stay there for two years and she was so happy to see us. We have hired several private guides and they are very grateful, as are the restaurant folks and the hotel people. We are giving large tips to everyone who assists us, as it has been so difficult for them. Our property manager and the desk clerk in Paris not only find a Covid test, but reserve it for us! Very very glad we came! We always use the Rick Steves books to help us when we are here. Not coming last year was so tough…this is our annual “put life back in perspective” event, and the extra travel rules are understandable. We wear our masks when indoors, as required, but so much of the joy here is all of the outdoor cafes and walking. It IS safer here than in much of the States, and you are right, being vaccinated is not a political thing, it is a medical thing if you want to be able to socialize, so thanks again!

  27. Travel is a calling for me, also, after being a flight attendant for 40 years. I am writing from Barcelona, and was reflecting how I haven’t seen so many masked people walking in around in America.
    Since March 2021, I have traveled to 6 states and 3 European cities, all on separate trips.
    Spain required a QR code on arrival, and looked at it.
    Greece and Netherlands looked at our vaccine card.
    France looked at everything twice, including at the airplane door.
    Surprisingly, after our arrival into the states from the Netherlands, NOONE LOOKED for our covid test in Philadelphia.
    They certainly did in Miami and Jfk..
    Don’t expect Europe to be what it was, many closures and not as many tours to buy, but that is the same in the US.
    But, it’s all there for you, and as exciting as ever.
    Vaccinate, mask up and enjoy.

  28. Nice article, Cameron. I flew into Munich Germany on Sept. 3 and am writing to report on the trip. No problem. I had the 72 hour covid test at CVS before leaving and had my vaccine card. Other than masking, flights were normal and mostly full. I admit that I really missed the direct flight from Atlanta to Munich. Who knows when that will come back!!! Flew via Atlanta and Paris. Flight from Atlanta to Paris delayed almost 2 hours- no workers to clean the plane. Normal in USA these days. After arrival here, we went on to Italy by car- nobody stopped us at borders to see covid papers. Masks required in hotel lobbies and dining. Buffet at breakfast served for you as you point to what you want. Museums ask to see vaccine card and require masks indoors. Everything was open though businesses and restaurants seemed financally stressed. To me it seems that the politicians and media are making travel seem more dangerous than it is. Sad.

  29. Thank you for your thoughtful, heartwarming explanation of why you will continue to travel. While I’m not yet comfortable traveling, I like your process and plan to apply it in my everyday interactions. I’m struggling to not travel-shame others. I certainly am not vocal about it, but I feel it. I appreciate your insights.

  30. Thanks for your clear-eyed assessment of the situation. We are booked on a Rick Steves tour of France in 2022, and we are excited. One option we chose several times in the last year was domestic travel: San Diego, Miami, San Francisco. It was great, but nothing beats international travel.

  31. Just returned from two weeks in Spain. When we got outside the big touristy cities up into the Pyrenees and the Costa Brava we had four hotel stops in a row where they told us we were the first Americans they’d seen in 18 months. There seemed to be a real sense of joy that we were there – maybe I was reading too much into it but it honestly felt like our presence gave them a bit of hope (or at least a sigh of relief).

  32. My husband and I are nearly at the end of our nine days in Portugal. The planning was daunting with PCR tests and locator forms. But for me – travel is something I must do. It’s been a difficult two years and three cancellations. You need to be pragmatic, practical and flexible. We chose the Algarve because we could be outside. All dining we have done outside. Masks are worn inside 100% and 83% of Portuguese are vaccinated. We took another PCR test yesterday for our flight home. It can all be accomplished if you really want to go.

  33. I so agree with the “raincoat” description of covid. It has been around as the common cold, for years and also popped up as SARS and MARS. It is a virus without end because it mutates rapidly. With due diligence–masks, social distancing and healthy living we will live side by side with this rain and our bodies will continue to ward it off along with proper vaccination. I have booked 2 trips with Rick for 2022 and I hope we are allowed to continue traveling.

  34. What a well articulated and thoughtful piece. I’m signed up for the RS Best of the Adriatic tour for June 2022. Good luck Cameron, I’ll look forward to your posts!

  35. We are currently having a wonderful time in Lisbon! There’s plenty of social distancing, people wear masks indoors universally, and Portugal is now poised to be the most vaccinated country in the world. Yes, it was very challenging to get here. Both our outbound and return flights were canceled, requiring rebooking with additional connections, and long layovers. It took 29 hours of travel from San Francisco to Lisbon.

    We uploaded to the airline websites our COVID test results, passenger locator forms for both London and Lisbon, as well as copies of our CDC vaccination cards. I do recommend having paper copies of the above.
    Our Airbnb hosts also required copies of our CDC vaccination cards. We’ve chosen to eat at restaurants exclusively outdoors. The only time that felt a bit scary was a very crowded train back from Belém.
    But so far, it’s all been completely worth it!

    We have several more days down in Lagos,
    Portugal and then London. And all of our activities we plan to be outdoors and socially distanced, even with our friends in London. We were able to find convenient locations for COVID testing before boarding all of our flights, and the EU and UK airports also offer reasonably priced rapid testing. ** Just make sure your test results are in English if you’re entering the UK!**
    Fingers crossed there won’t be more flight cancellations, but we do know we have to be flexible in these changing times.

    1. Ok we’ve almost made it through our trip, just flying home tomorrow from London. Lisbon and Lagos were wonderful, warm, sunny, and amazing food, plus incredibly welcoming. We took day trips to Belém, Cascais and Sintra, drove day trips to Selena and Tavira, all delightful! Easy to get a preflight COVID test in Lagos, just email to schedule, and get the results same day for only 25€.
      Getting into the UK was another story. We’d schedulele our “fit to fly” departure test from London, assuming that was enough, since we were only here 4 days. But no. When filling out the very lengthy Passenger Locator Form prior to departure from Portugal, we were required to enter a “day 2 test confirmation code”. No exceptions, despite calling the testing lab in London; we were forced to book a second COVID test…ON THE SAME DAY in order to get the required code. Each test cost £149 X 4. Social distancing doesn’t happen in London, and in sardine-packed, hot and stuffy Underground trains barely half of passengers wore masks (Overground trains fine).

      The upside is we’ve had a wonderful time seeing our longtime British friends this weekend after not seeing them 6 years. It was worth it, just needlessly expensive and bureaucratic.

      Entering and leaving Portugal was easy (although I’ve heard of 4-hour customs waits in Lisbon), and Portugal has no intention of closing its borders to Americans despite EU recommendations. But I wouldn’t recommend visiting the UK until its rip-off testing policies are rescinded.

      Our return flight in Virgin to SFO was also cancelled, so rerouting through LA. Long travel times, but this trip was still worth it!

  36. I am looking forward to your experience! I am a travel agent and have only sent one person to Europe since COVID took over the world…..I hope things return to “normal” soon as we have missed our yearly trips to Europe so much! Safe travels!

  37. I have been solo in Florence for almost 3 weeks…came for language lessons and to visit some of the smaller cities and places around Florence (thank you, “points” which has made my hotel stay free). I know I am safer here than in Indiana. And shout out to Dr. Kerr…an English doc identified in one of Rick’s travel books…who gave me my antigen test today so that I can return to the US.
    There have been so many opportunities for connection this trip (my second one to Florence); many other Europeans are here, but the number of Americans is not as great. One of my hopes for this trip was for connections both for my benefit and with the folks I would meet. Those kinds of things heal the world. For example, a conversation with an 83 year old man from Tunisia, one with a cleaning lady in Santa Trinità, the re-connection with a friend who owns a leather shop, and a re-visit to a favorite restaurant where I asked about the doggie of the owner. All good energy, both for me, and, guessing from the reactions of others for them. Travel inspired me to want to learn Italian…and at this point, I am a bit above “able to function” and can have short focused real conversations. The pleasure on the faces of the folks I have spoken to…I hope it blends into the rest of their day. It saddens me that they are surprised that I am from the United States (I am told that I look Northern European), so I dearly hope the experiences with me help to build bridges and openness.

  38. i’m green with envy and i cant wait until international travel is back on my calendar ….the 2 things holding us back is the vax for the under 12 crowd for my kids and the CDC testing rule when you come back i cant take the time off for a two week trip and only then to need another 2 weeks off to sit in a hotel waiting around ….. its a tail risk to come up positive but the downside of my job or the kids missing so much school makes it impossible until the CDC ends that rule …. hopeful for summer 2022

  39. Your article is very timely. I, too am planning a trip to Europe. I’ll be leaving next month. Some people are thrilled for me and some think I’m being foolish. I believe that by doing many of the things you have written about here: Being vaccinated, maksing up, even when you don’t need to, and maintaining good social distances, we can still be safe and travel.

    Logistics are a bit more complicated, but we are in.

  40. I’ve cancelled three trips to Italy since Covid hit but I am re-scheduled for next spring, April/May. I can hardly wait. My soul too yearns for the land that makes it sing. I am fully vaxed and will follow whatever restrictions are necessary, just as I do in Canada. I look forward to reading your blog and learning about aspects of this new travel process that I may not have even considered. Safer in private accommodations or hotels? Small towns were where Covid began in Italy so not certain they are safer than urban areas. Good luck and safe travels.

  41. I am flying to Germany in two weeks. I am following all the rules and expect to be ok. I think if you are responsible and act accordingly everything should be fine. Masks, social distancing and just being conscientious are what is required and I am happy to follow the rules.

    Can’t wait to be there.

  42. My daughter and I just returned from 3 weeks in Italy, Croatia and Greece. We love the old stuff snd consequently spent most of our time outdoors. No crowds and very few closures. I can honestly say that this was probably the most enjoyable trip in many years. The underlying bonus was that there was this feeling of being appreciated for not just our Euros but for just being there. Do get vaccinated snd don’t be stupid but Europe is still there and waiting – go and enjoy it!

  43. My wife and I are looking forward to traveling to Iceland, Great Britain, and Italy in the next year after having our trip canceled twice due to Covid. Perhaps we’ll meet on the road.

  44. We just returned from 9 weeks of travel in England, Wales, and Ireland. The plus was that it was not busy any place we visited. People in England would ask how we got in to the country and say we were brave to come there. The disadvantage was that we had to be extremely flexible (several canceled flights and even had to rebook from a different city one time) yet we also had to plan ahead more than normal since we needed reservations for just about every where we went, even for free sites. So no crowds or waiting in lines but more complicated and costly. We spent $1538.00 in COVID tests. We don’t regret going yet it was definitely more stressful than any of our previous trips over.

  45. We are a young 70 year old healthy couple and COULDN’T agree with you more. We decided to travel to Europe the end of August for a month. We are on our last week and have had some outstanding experiences and fond memories.
    Yes, it was interesting to get all your ducks in a row to enter the EU. We flew into Germany and luckily a very kind lady at a pharmacy entered our CDC card information into the German green pass site and gave us a paper with our vax status and a QR code. We were able to upload that QR code to both a German green pass and the French Covid site. The passes have been terrific. No muss no fuss, just pull out the cell phone and the venues have been able to scan the code. We tried to upload all our documents to the French website for Americans to get a pass, but 5 days later we were told they were overwhelmed and to try again. Hopefully that is now fixed for others.
    Like you, we decided to focus most of our travels in the mountains and small towns. We visited the Dolomites. Then to Locarno to visit family. Onto Aosta Valley. Courmeyeur to bus to Chamonix (which had the most English speaking tourists). Trained to The Black Forest in Germany, where we traveled through Switzerland to reach It. Going to stay in Strasbourg to visit Alsace area. Finally to the Mosel Valley and fly out of Paris.
    For the most part fellow travelers on the trains have been very good about wearing their masks PROPERLY. We also had the M95 masks but found them too uncomfortable, so we have been buying the FFP2 masks in Europe. That is what is recommended in Germany and by DB train.
    In towns a lot people walk around OUTSIDE with their masks on their arms ready to don them to walk into a store or any inside situation. No big deal for the locals to pull out and wear their mask. Do not understand why that is a problem in the US. You are not only protecting yourself but others.
    We have been diligent about using sanitizer, which is everywhere. Stores, hotels, venues have them on entry points. We have mostly eaten outside. The hotels have been excellent about spacing people out at their breakfasts.
    We also brought the Home test kits, but haven’t needed to use them yet. Of course it will be necessary to take the test before flying back to the US via UK.
    I realize that you need to stay flexible, as things change daily on protocols, but if you can do that and work through all the paperwork, entry forms, etc. It will be worth it to enjoy the travel experience and meet new people.
    BON VOYAGE, happy travels and stay safe.

    1. Excellent report, Connie! Thanks so much for all of the details. Good for you for getting back out there so smartly. Happy travels.

  46. Absolutely agree with you. Travel is essential for the soul (for many), and doing it safely is paramount. Vaccines, tests, sanitizer, masks, distance… it’s just part of it now. I will do those things in order to be back out in the world. It feels like heaven. Masked heaven, but still the place I want to be.

  47. If the worst case scenario for you is unwittingly passing on the virus to others, please mask outside unless truly isolated from any other people. Add that to your plans and I wish you Safe and Happy Traveks.

  48. Well said! My wife and I travel full time since January, 2020. We spent about ten months traveling in the USA, but opted to head to Europe this summer, after the same kind of considerations you described.

  49. Well stated. I agree with you. Unfortunately, my health situation is more of a problem for me, so I will be waiting for a while. I have subscribed to your email blog. I look forward to reading your blog.

  50. It is nice to see this put into words so well as we navigated a recent trip to France- some in my family thought we were crazy to travel, but they are not travelers to begin with so they just don’t get the need for it that we have.
    And we went through these exact same thoughts and actions- wearing N95/KN95s for the 19 hours from airport to airport was the hardest part of it all! Their public health measures far exceed ours right now and we also tested and took home tests, though never felt ill or tested positive, we had even went so far as looking at places to stay should one of us test positive before travel home. Some in a travel group I am in have had to quarantine in Italy, Iceland, Turkey, and did not feel prepared for this- there has to be a contingency plan for travel right now.
    We felt very welcomed in France and very safe, safer than here in the US by far. And it was magical seeing the sites without many tourists, in fact we rarely heard English the whole time we were there, what a great escape!

  51. I feel like I myself could have written this article. Travel feeds my soul. And I’m one of those one-in-tens who work in the travel industry. I barely made it through a 13-month furlough, and now things are looking shaky again. Please do not discourage responsible travel. So many of us depend on it.

  52. I’m heading to Switzerland, Germany and Austria in two weeks with a very small tour group. We are all vaccinated and need to test prior to our flight to Switzerland. We will be masked the entire time and taking precautions. But…I am losing sleep over the idea of possibly testing positive with a breakthru case prior to flying home. I don’t want to end up quarantining alone in a strange country!!! I read Cheri’s response about people in her group needing to quarantine in various countries and I’m concerned. What are you all seeing/hearing/experiencing with this? Any advice?

    1. This is indeed the worst-case scenario for many travelers. I’d say my advice is to be as careful as possible while you travel and hope your number doesn’t come up. But–assuming you really are being careful–I suspect the odds of that happening are quite small.

  53. Cameron, thank you for the eloquent editorial. I just returned from a two week trip with 3 friends to Slovenia and Croatia. The first time for any of us to these countries and it couldn’t have gone better. The first week was a hiking trek through the Julian Alps followed by a week exploring the Istrian Peninsula of Croatia and a side trip to the spectacular Plitvice Lakes National Park. We were all fully vaccinated and followed all of the masking and social distancing requirements. Slovenia was amazing and somewhat quieter than normal, while Croatia was still very busy even though schools where back in session. We were very happy to support the local tourism economy and many of the small mom & pop businesses that make these kinds of trips so enjoyable. We too were somewhat nervous about testing positive before our return flights home but did not let that thought encroach upon our daily activities. Rapid testing access was available everywhere and inexpensive (30 euros). We only saw three other American couples in our two week visit.

  54. Looking forward to following you, and hoping that the vaccine is approved soon for children like my 10-year-old daughter. I thought about going to London to see Diana’s dress on display, but in the end I couldn’t handle the thought that I would be exposing her to additional risk by taking such a long trip. Also hope all our favorite travel spots will be able to survive until we can travel more widely again.

  55. We leave for France on Tuesday. Still waiting for our QR France Health Pass but we are prepared to test, mask, distance, whatever it takes. Staying in small hotels, renting a car and touring sparsely populated regions makes us feel very safe. We’ve weighed the pros and cons about a million times since purchasing airline tickets last June but decided for us, this is “essential travel”! We are prepared for the worst but are hoping for the best!

  56. We leave for France and then on to Malta my home for six weeks can’t wait till we get there and see my family and friends .Miss our travels .

  57. We just got back from Dublin. We were asked to provide proof of vaccination before entering restaurants and museums, masks we’re required indoors. It was no problem, we had a fantastic time, and the Guinness really is better there! Have a great trip and feed your soul!

  58. Your comments are awesome!!! Such a sound-minded, balanced, reasonable view. I am sending this to my family and friends who are caught up in the shame and defiance cycle. Thank you.

  59. I agree with you 100%. I have found that those travel shamers tend to be those that aren’t travelers by nature. Some that have voiced negative comments are friends who don’t even have a passport so there you go. We just got back from Germany and it was great: Bamberg, Dinkelsbuhl, Sankt Goar, and Frankfurt. Lots of masking up, hand sanitizing, and frequent checks of our vaccination card at restaurants, biergartens, and hotels. But very easy to navigate. The crowds are gone. The museums are minimally attended. The planes are not full. And the mood of Europe is positive. This is the ideal time to travel for a vaccinated American so you can avoid the crowds and get the full experience. Just be sure to have that mask everywhere you go. They are serious about that and so are we. We are in this together so let’s keep each other healthy and respected.

  60. If you come to Bavaria (and probably other states and European countries), be sure to stock up on N95 (FFP2) masks and rapid antigen self-tests. They are under a euro a piece (at Lidl grocery store, for example)! This expat took many of each back to her family in the US. Cheap, rapid tests make so much sense – people could have those children’s birthday parties while also being safe.

Leave a Reply to Jan Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *