As the automatic doors to the international part of the airport opened, I instantly realized that this trip would be different. The airport was only one third-filled, maybe even less. As we walked to the counter to check into our flight to Barcelona, the gate attendant took our passports looking unsure. She came back with our passports to tell us that we weren’t allowed on the plane because we were U.S citizens. Instead, we switched our flight to one of the only places taking U.S citizens: Ireland. As we got on the plane, we saw how empty it was — at least every other row empty.
We were going to Spain because my dad had been asked to teach at Harbour.Space, a university in Barcelona, Spain. If COVID-19 hadn’t happened, my sister, brother, parents and I would have gone to Spain in May and stayed there until July. When places started allowing travel in June, only a very limited number of countries allowed us in as U.S. citizens because of how poorly our government handled the pandemic. We were very lucky to still be able to go, even with all the craziness going on in the world. I was very nervous about flying because of everything going on, but the feeling of adventure and excitement almost drowned it out.
As we landed in Northern Ireland, we were told we had to quarantine for two weeks before we could leave where we were staying. We got a rental car and drove to our Airbnb rental, a small farm in Northern Ireland. While driving, I felt relieved that we had successfully landed. While the air was flopping my hair, I was unspeakably happy. We spent a week there exploring the lush farm and picking our own vegetables, and every morning my dad taught his community leadership class on Zoom. We never left the farm because we were quarantining, but I was happy to wake up every morning and go to the garden to pick fresh vegetables and to always be outside even though it was cold.
When a week was up, we decided to travel somewhere warmer. My parents decided that we would go to Croatia in Southern Europe, along the Mediterranean, another country on a short list of places that allows American citizens to enter. The police took us aside when we landed because of our U.S passports, which was scary because I thought they would send us back home. Instead, all they said was that we had to quarantine for two weeks before we could explore. We spent the week in our Airbnb apartment, which thankfully had a pool, enjoying the beautiful weather. One day we went to the beach, which was crystal blue with pebbles instead of sand. Whenever we went out we always wore masks and kept our distance from other people.
After that week we were getting a little bored of not being able to leave our house so we decided to leave again — this time to Hungary, which we discovered through a friend was also letting Americans in. We were stopped again because of our passports as we went through immigration in Croatia. As everyone else around us got on to their planes, we waited for almost two hours as they went over our passports, negative COVID tests and other papers we had. Thankfully they let us through and on to our plane. This plane was very empty, and everyone had their own row to relax.
When landed in Budapest, we went through passport checks very smoothly. This time, we weren’t told to quarantine. During this week, we explored as much as we could from food tours to history tours and even a boat tour. It was a little freeing to be able to explore instead of being held up in the house. I especially enjoyed it when we could leave in the morning and not come back until dinner time because it felt like we got the most of our trip. While in Hungary, we were told by the head of the school where my dad was teaching that we could fly from Hungary to Spain with no problems. We got our negative COVID tests and booked a flight, hoping that this time we wouldn’t be denied the flight to Spain.
We all held our breath waiting for something to go wrong as we went through airport security, but nothing happened. We got on our flight, which was very crowded, and landed safely in Spain. We had to go through more security, which went by alarmingly quickly. After checking our passports they let us leave the airport. We couldn’t believe that we were finally there! I had the feeling of accomplishment because, after weeks of traveling and trying, we were in Spain!
In Barcelona, we spent a lot of time with the CEO of Harbour.Space University and her family. She was on a polo team and invited us out to the country for a weekend to watch her play. We watched her play for hours and after went out to eat with her team. I was in awe of their whole team to be able to stay on a horse and play polo takes a lot of skills. The next morning she organized for us to ride the polo horses. It was a wonderful experience because we were in the beautiful hills taking in the views. After that, we went to her mother-in-law’s house to eat lunch and swim at the beach. The rest of the week we hung out with them and swam a lot. It felt like the end result of many trials because we had spent weeks trying to get in and it felt like we could relax and finally enjoy the end result. The rest of the week we enjoyed the city and spent lots of time with the school’s CEO. After the week was done all I wanted to do was stay because I had no idea when we would be able to travel again, and I had loved the past few weeks.
We had about three days left of our trip, so we decided to fly to Portugal for the weekend. We relaxed and swam in the ocean a lot. The only tour we did was a tuk-tuk tour, where you ride in a golf cart-like car and explore the city. I loved this tour because we went all around the city and saw historical sites and beautiful nature. Then, the next day, we got on our plane back home. When we landed in Boston, the whole trip felt like a dream.
During the whole trip, we took many measures to remain safe and COVID-free. In addition to keeping physical distance and always wearing masks, we got tested before we left Boston, midway in our trip and when we came back home. Please do a lot of research before traveling during this time and look at the guidelines of countries and airlines. My parents did many weeks of research and planning to make sure we were safe. Traveling during a pandemic is unsafe and can become more dangerous if you don’t take all the correct precautions. However, if you do decide to travel now, you can have a great time while still being safe.
After this trip, I reflected on all the planning and safety measures we had to do before we started. Being able to travel, especially during this time, made me realize that I should treasure all the time with my family that I can. I learned to never take what I have for granted. With everything happening in the world, I was extremely lucky to have a family during this time that loved and cared for me. Also, while traveling, it made me realize that you should always be grateful for the opportunities that come your way because there are hundreds of people in the world fighting for basic human necessities. I realized that even amongst all the disgusting things happening right now, we need to take time to see the good things. When you find those, surround yourself with them. These things could be places, activities or people, but no matter what, life is too short and dark to only concern yourself with the bad things.