• Sunday, September 27, 2020
September 2, 2020

The COVID Travel Diaries

Well, here we are friends, a solid six months into the pandemic. If you haven’t yet reintegrated back into a temporary new “normal,” it’s time. Whether that’s meeting a friend for social-distanced coffee, taking a walk in the park, or treating yourself to a meal out, I’m convinced that small pieces of normal routine yield high ROI on the happiness scale. For me, I’ve been traveling since June, and I’m definitely on the more aggressive end of the getting-back-to-normal spectrum. I’ve been on 18 flights since the start of the pandemic, so my one piece of advice if you’re traveling is flexibility.  By flexibility I mean being able to bend and twist in more ways than a 6 time gold medal Olympic-gymnast, or one of those news of the weird contortionists.  Whoever is more flexible.  

There are under 30 countries that are accepting Americans in the world; it’s ironic that what was the world’s most powerful passport behind Singapore, is now one of the least accepted because of our COVID numbers in the US.  Let’s be clear, I’m very aware that there are bigger problems in the world than being able to travel freely.  This is very much a Cristal problem, and one for which I’m very grateful.  Travel is what I do; it’s what feeds my soul, so I’m traveling internationally, essentially to any country I have not yet been to that will allow me in without a government quarantine. This experience is one that will make my book, when I complete The 195.  I’ve been swabbed with the brain tickler for every single country I’ve been to so far, and anticipate being a regular at Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum’s in New York for my many COVID tests to come.  (You’re wonderful, by the way, Dr. Steinbaum.  I know you don’t agree with me traveling but thank you for all the advice on staying safe on airplanes.)   

In hitting up three international countries so far – Turks and Caicos, St. Lucia and Jamaica -  I’ve found that I needed to be agile and able to address the inevitable hiccups.  You know, like threats to place me in government quarantine facilities against my will, which are definitely not the Four Seasons.  For example I had planned an incredible trip to Dominica and Barbados, neither of which have happened yet because of moving the goal post.  I was originally told that I could transit through Barbados for the evening, but when push came to shove in getting a formal letter confirmation, I was firmly told I could not break the government mandated 14- day quarantine to catch a connecting flight, even though I would not have left my hotel the entire time.  Or in Dominica, when I was boarding a plane to St. Lucia to transit to maybe the most culturally authentic and unique in the Caribbean, they published guidance that we would be required to stay in a government-run facility for 5 days, even after presenting negative COVID tests, before being allowed to go to our hotel.  My reaction of course was a hard pass.  The key has been to stay on top of the requirements, as even the hotels don’t know what they are, and ultimately as travelers, we are responsible for ourselves. Being detained would have been unpleasant, to say the least.  But I get that these countries just want to keep their people safe, and I respect their rules.  This is a tough time for everyone, as countries are trying to balance the dire need for their economies to reopen along with the dire need to save lives.  

I’ve always said all I need is my passport and Amex, and that’s been the fact, where thank goodness for no airline change fees as it takes a lot of agility and willingness to pivot quickly.  As I write this I’m en route for an unexpected trip to Round Hill in Jamaica, which just reopened.  We’ll be one of the first guest back, and they could not be more comprehensive in their planning for us and welcoming. I’ll have a full report on our feature next month.    

Traveling during the time of COVID has given me a unique opportunity to experience a destination without tourists, and there is a unique authenticity that I probably won’t experience again in my lifetime.  The waters are less polluted, the wildlife is booming and the people are so excited to welcome the few visitors back, who are critical to supporting their families and the local economy.  The tourist industry is not doing well globally, where it’s clear that while we’re shut out of most of the world, we are needed, and we are missed.  So like New York, which will come out stronger than ever and is our first feature of this September’s back to school issue, we Americans will be back too.  

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay happy. 

Christine Drinan
Founder and Editor-in-chief