Uncharted Waters

We’re about to begin a three-month adventure in Spain and Portugal. It’s been a long time in coming, for obvious reasons. Over the past 18 months, we planned the trip three times, but Covid surges and lockdowns in the US and in Europe forced us to postpone, again and again. It looks like this one will happen, but we can’t be sure. 

Just a few months ago, it looked like we had gained on the pandemic. Covid cases and deaths plummeted as vaccinations increased. The numbers led to fewer Covid restrictions and more confidence in safe travel. But too often, this proved premature. Portugal, for instance, welcomed thousands of Europeans to popular summer vacation spots  – no vaccination or testing needed. Enter the Delta variant. Lockdowns, curfews, and travel restrictions returned. Again the COVID cases declined, and again travel seemed possible. When Spain and Portugal allowed vaccinated and Covid-tested Americans to enter without quarantine, we finally made flight reservations.

We have to monitor what remains an ever-changing situation. Testing requirements can change almost daily – and are different for each country. Portugal currently requires a Covid test every time you check into a hotel or Airbnb. If you want to dine indoors in Portugal, guests must prove they are vaccinated or show a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours. 

Airlines cancel flights at the drop of a hat, forcing passengers to re-route, many times at a higher cost of time and money. If an itinerary brings you to different countries on the way to a final destination, you may face different requirements for testing and vaccination. 

Our airline canceled the London to Lisbon leg of our upcoming trip. There were quarantine issues if you had to layover in London. So we traveled to Newark and fly directly to Portugal to avoid any hassles transiting another country. 

Perhaps the biggest unknown is the duration and strength of the current surge. Will the dramatic rise in infections and deaths in the United States lead other countries to again close their doors to American visitors? Will people continue dying needlessly because brainwashed and ill-informed citizens refuse to be vaccinated or wear a mask? Will the politicians who have recklessly resisted calls for mask mandates, testing, and vaccinations finally wake up and join in taking the much-needed steps to secure citizens around the world from this scourge?

We know now that we cannot change minds about the pandemic and the battle against it. But it seems more and more certain we must mandate vaccines or require regular testing and restrictions for the unvaccinated. Mandatory vaccinations are on the rise in colleges, businesses, institutions, and government agencies — and are motivating folks to get their jabs.

Will we ever get to herd immunity and resume our normal lives? We don’t really know — we’re all in uncharted waters.