Hey, I'm back from my long trip to Greece. It was great. How can it be anything but great? I went to Greece for almost a month, but it was tough. It took me four days to get to my destination and on the return trip it took another four days to get home.
On top of that my wimpy constitution reacted to all the travel stress with several days of vestibular migraine. Upon my arrival on Alonissos, my migraine brain celebrated with three days of vertigo. And the same thing happened once I finally got home. So I spent almost a week out of the month trying not to move my head.
In fact, when vertigo hit again after arriving home I actually thought maybe I shouldn't take this trip. Maybe it's just too much for my wienie body. Then, about two seconds after my vestibular migraine ended I did what I always do. I started booking next year's trip because if I let my big baby body dictate what I do and don't do then I've given up. So maybe that means I'm an optimist. Or maybe that means I'm just stupid.
Whatever. I do want to weigh in on travel changes I noticed.
- People talk less when they wear masks. That's okay because most of the time when they do talk, you can't tell what the heck they are saying anyway. I never realized how much communication is facial or watching someone's mouth. With half of everyone's face covered by a mask forget about it. Especially if there is a big plastic shield at the check-in counter. Now, we all know what it's like to be hard of hearing. Anyone who does have to talk ends up repeating their muffled, garbled words several times. It doesn't help, but they try. You know how when there are announcements on a flight and they finish, people used to ask each other, "What did they say?" Nobody even bothered. I couldn't even tell if they were speaking English or Greek.
- For the most part nothing was on time. I had three connections to Athens. Flying has always been hurry up and wait but with the employee shortage, bring a book. You'll be waiting at the gate for the crew or for technicians to check something. In the airplane you'll be waiting for a gate to open up or for the person who drives the gate to the plane to show up. I have to say that on my flights nobody complained. We're resigned. Pack your patience and a book. At least we can go somewhere! My tip would be not to book short layovers, and save yourself some stress.
- Covid paperwork. Every country requires different paperwork. And if you're flying to say Greece via Amsterdam, you have to follow Amsterdam's Covid restrictions and do their paperwork too. It's probably best to check the embassy's website for the countries you're passing through/going to to find their requirements, rather than say some chick's YouTube channel. But I actually checked both. Requirements change constantly. Do your best. Read through all of the requirements before you react. For instance I started reading the Greek Embassy's rules for incoming travelers. The first part was all about what kind of testing was MANDATORY FOR ALL TRAVELERS. It was long. Part of my brain was already planning how to get this testing done so it wouldn't be older than 72 hours even though it's taking me four days to get there! But the next paragraph read something along the lines of this, IF YOU ARE VACCINATED THAT PARAGRAPH DOESN'T APPLY TO YOU. Sheesh.
- You have to wear your mask from the time you arrive at the airport of your departure and you will continue to have to wear that mask through every connecting flight and airport. On the way to Athens I wore an N95 (I can breathe better in them and they don't fog your glasses like most masks). I left here on August 25th and arrived in Athens on August 26th. I had to keep wearing my mask until I checked into my hotel and got to my room. It was almost thirty hours. My nose burned badly. It also bled off and on for days, but then I had to continue to wear it on the next day's flight and then ferries until the 28th of August. My tip would be to bring a lot of masks and change it every four hours. It makes a huge difference. I did that on my return trip and it was much less painful. You will also be asked if you're willing to wear your mask the entire trip before you're allowed to board the flight.
- Eating on the flight. We were allowed to pull our masks down to eat on the international flights row by row, but were told to pull them up after every bite.
- In the airports that I passed through in the US I'd guesstimate that half of the shops/restaurants/coffee shops were closed. It's probably not a bad time to finagle a way to spend your long layovers in a sky lounge or such.
- For Greece I took paper copies for my proof of vaccination, their locator forms, all travel info, and pre-registered and pre-paid for Covid testing I'd need to have done within Greece for my return trip. But I also had all that paperwork in my phone. In August there were so many people arriving in Athens and lines to stand in going through Customs, that it's simpler to have a few papers in your hand than being able to pull up whatever paperwork is requested from your phone. Otherwise I'm trying to wake my phone up, make sure it's not losing the charge, and it's downloading so many messages since my arrival that it tends to stroke out. Factor in how fast your phone will figure out where you're at and if you set up a compatible international plan.
- Everyone is over-worked and under-staffed. People are trying to do multiple jobs. Travelers are stressed too. They probably paid more for their trip than ever before and likely nothing has gone according to plan. Being kind will go a long way rather than demanding special treatment. Losing your temper should not be an option. Absolutely everyone is tired and stressed. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.
- Hand sanitizer is available everywhere. In airports and in Greece I saw it on every table and there were free-standing dispensers in every spot imaginable. Many times there were free masks too. On planes one of the first things they do is pass out anti-bacterial wipes. In many restaurants half the tables can't be used in order to space people out. It was like that on ferries too. There are also markings on the floors reminding everyone to keep their distance from others and announcements reminding you to do so.
- When I finally got to the jet bridge for my flight to Athens, and saw that big plane outside I wanted to dance. I was so thrilled to be able to go somewhere again. I'm one of those people who wanted to travel even as a little kid. I had a mental list of all the places I wanted to go and write about. Why everyone on that plane wasn't cheering was a mystery to me. We were the luckiest. Sure, it's tough to travel right now. It's scary and frustrating and expensive. You have to ask yourself if you really want it and if it's worth it to you. It's okay not to travel. You can have an exciting and thrilling life without traveling. Don't take risks if your gut is telling you not to! But if your gut is telling you to go, that the need outweighs the risk, pack your patience and a good book.