With a pretty much cancelled summer behind us, it’s no secret that ‘travel’ and ‘2020’ in the same sentence should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt. Those of us who’ve managed to get away have become all too acquainted with more ruthless hand sanitisation, the possibility of having a Covid test sprung upon us at any given moment, and have had to wear a mask that much, that it’s become something of a second skin. Nevertheless, the go-ahead to get away in the summer was the first hint of normality in months; an escape, a small taste of freedom.
Writing from my year abroad in the beautiful Bavarian city of Passau, I’ve been fortunate enough to do some travelling during my two months in Germany. Whether or not my friends and I would be able to go abroad was thrown completely up into the air when the pandemic was first declared, so to hear that travel could begin again was a huge relief. A big part of the pre-year abroad excitement is the prospect of being able to explore and really get to know your host country, so this meant we were that step closer to discovering every single thing on our new doorsteps. But things were still uncertain. Would we be able to enjoy ourselves with the virus lingering? Would we be insured? Was it just too great a risk to travel full stop?
Travelling to Germany at the end of August was, by this year’s standards, surprisingly normal. Couple the empty airport with being the only person in my three-aisle radius on the plane, and anyone would be instantly anticipating a very solitary month of language classes moved online at the last minute and no chance of seeing any of Berlin’s sights. To my amazement, my entire first month away in the capital was anything but. Berlin was very much alive, with its famous coffee still pouring from each cafe (Gott sei Dank!), tourism thriving and even tequila-infused Mexican street parties. With masks only compulsory in shops and on public transport, it felt like a reassuring new chapter for everyone’s travel diaries. Fast forward a few weeks to celebrating what would have been the final weekend of Oktoberfest in Munich’s beer halls, my hopes of continuing travelling most weekends until Christmas were unquestionably high.
One month later, Germany is back in national lockdown. With the possibility to mix with others restricted to just one other household, and the bar taps switched off until further notice, going to work or the supermarket is quite the treat these days! Travel really has come full circle and truthfully, the transition into lockdown wasn’t easy to adjust to after weeks of unexpected freedom. With things changing so quickly at the moment, the best thing if you’re planning to go anywhere is to just be prepared for anything:
- Bring plenty of face masks; it’s always good to have backups and you won’t want to wear the same one every day!
- Keep your hand sanitiser close.
- When booking, look for the flexibility to make changes and potentially cancellations, just for your own peace of mind!
- Be prepared to fill in extra forms on arrival/return. They can be very time consuming, so to save some minutes, keep handy notes of any details you may need to provide, for example emergency contacts, your passport number and the accommodation address.
- Use Google and choose places with plenty to do outdoors, where you’re less likely to be restricted by Covid and last-minute closures. It’s a bit difficult at this time of year, but something to think about for 2021 and the weather’s getting warmer!
Happy flighting (if you’ll pardon the pun)!