Take it from us: In travel, preparation is everything. This has never been truer than now, during the COVID era.
For starters, travelers need to be aware of these entry and exit requirements of the country they’re visiting. Your airline might also have requirements, particularly on international flights. Aside from such important logistical considerations, there are ways for you to ease your anxiety about travel during a pandemic. This might sound counter to our previous writings here, where some of our guests have shared how safe they have felt during recent overseas trips and we’ve told you that travel right now gives you incredible access to uncrowded sites.
That’s all true. But we also know that, for many travelers who have spent more than a year at home, getting on that plane is a big step in overcoming travel anxiety. After all, at home, we can control our environments to a T. For instance, we know how to avoid large crowds of people – and if we can’t, we plan to mask up. But by definition, travel requires us to relinquish some sense of control. That’s part of its appeal, right? Well, maybe not always, and maybe not today.
So here are ways you CAN take control next time you set out on the world’s great walking trails with us:
Consider what you can control … then control it. Some psychologists say making a list of things you can control eases your anxiety. Items on your list might include “How often I wear my mask” or “Doing yoga to relax.” You can also bring along some “comfort” items that make you feel more at home – whether books, a journal, downloaded music or movies on your electronic device, and contact information should you want to call a friend.
Wear a medical-grade mask. Country Walkers requires you to have proof of inoculation before traveling with us. Still, no matter your vaccination status, when in Rome, you must do as the Romans do. In Europe in particular, locals wear medical-grade masks, not cloth. So take a cue from all those times you visited your favorite aunt’s house as a child: Be a good guest and follow house rules – regardless of what you might do at home.
Of course, the beauty of a Walking Adventure is the freedom of movement in clean, open air. Because you’re outdoors, medical experts say there’s no need to wear a mask. But once you get off the trail – even for a quick stop to admire the produce at a market square – you’ll need to mask up. Keep your face covering visible so you’re less likely to forget to slip it on. Wear it as a bracelet for quick access. Attach it to the strap on your walking pole. Resolve to follow these strategies before your trip, and stick to them during.
Smile. It’s true what they say: When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you. A smile is the international symbol of friendliness and can lead to some of the most rewarding exchanges you’ll ever have with locals. Even when you’re wearing a mask, a true smile comes through in your eyes and your voice. If you want to be extra sure someone can “see” your smile, give a little laugh when you greet them.
Learn a little of the language. Necessary as they are, masks can be depersonalizing. All the more reason to go out of your way to learn a few words in the local tongue. A simple “bon jour” or “ciao” goes a long way in showing locals that you’re more than a faceless visitor and that you respect their home and their culture.
Call ahead and be flexible. If you’re planning to visit a restaurant or museum, call first to make sure they’re open. Even the most world-renowned cultural institutions have adjusted their hours and protocol due to the pandemic. Ask for their hours and if they are operating by appointment. Find out if the exhibit you’re dying to see is open and what will be expected of you when you visit. You can do this either before your trip or – if you’re traveling with Country Walkers – ask your guide to help.
Have a Plan B. Even the best-laid plans can fall apart during the pandemic. If you’re unable to confirm that a site you’re heading to will be open – or maybe it will be too crowded for your comfort level – have another idea in your back pocket. That way, you can quickly pivot and get on with your discoveries.
When you’re ready, we’re here for you. In the meantime, bookmark this page so you can have these tips by your side for your next Walking Adventure.