The amber zone: travelling abroad during the pandemic

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Waking up in the ungodly hours of the morning, rather than childish excitement bubbling within me, I was confronted with immense anxiety. Seeping into every inch of my body, my thoughts were not occupied by the Aperol Spritz I would be sipping on later in the day, but the stressful expedition through the not so idyllic Luton Airport.

No longer can we board a plane without sticking a swab down our throats, breathe without a mask and glide through airports without a care in the world. With the government’s traffic light system outlining the rules when leaving and entering the UK, all of which can change hours before take-off, going on holiday has turned into a lottery game. However, this lottery game is not a cheap one, but one that involves sacrificing a large sum of hard-earned money.

Going on holiday has turned into a lottery game.

Regardless, my friends and I were willing to play this dangerous game of lottery to escape to the party paradise that is Mykonos. Booking this trip back in February, the depressing winter month of soaring coronavirus cases and deaths, we were taking a huge risk. Yet fast forward to July, the famous month when all restrictions were relaxed and we could resume back to our pre-pandemic lives, the prospect of fulfilling our lockdown dreams came ever closer.

With Greece comfortably remaining on the amber list, tourists flooded their Instagram stories with idyllic boat trips, Greek salads, and videos partying at renowned beach clubs under two strict conditions; double-vaccination or a negative coronavirus result forty-eight hours before take-off and a completion of the Passenger Locator Form before arriving to Greece. Sounds rather straightforward. But when the Greek Passport Control is examining and scrutinising every inch of your form and the legitimacy of your coronavirus test, this simplicity soon vanishes.

If there is one quality travellers this past summer should have, it is organisational skills. As the saying goes, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail ’. Taking your rapid-antigen test too early or simply misspelling a street name on your Passenger Locator Form will take away any chance of swimming in the crystal-clear ocean you dreamt of during lockdown. The week before departure will not be spent buying hundreds of new bikinis, but religiously refreshing the government website for new travelling updates. Your thoughts will become busier than ever, all fearing the one piece of news no traveller wants – a positive coronavirus result. Sacrificing your sanity for a few days is now the norm.

Yet, sitting over Mykonos harbour admiring the sunset with my best friends, I realised that this sacrifice was worth it. The hours spent scouring the internet for trusted testing providers and filling out endless documents was worth every moment. Every night spent dancing and singing our hearts out until sunrise. Every stroll to get our morning coffee down the colour-coordinated streets of Mykonos. Every boat trip to Greece’s private beaches and ruined islands. These memories are the ones I will be reminiscing upon in ten years’ time, not the extra effort and money required to prepare for the trip.

And many travellers seemed to have this same mindset. Every night Mykonos was heaving with tourists from all over the world as Australian, American, and Irish accents echoed down every street. These countries gave their citizens the opportunity to take the plunge and travel, and many took that risk. With proof of double vaccination being mandatory to enter indoor buildings, the reduced possibility of coronavirus infection meant our days were not spent panicking about catching coronavirus but appreciating every second of our well deserved holiday.

Sacrificing your sanity for a few days is now the norm.

Yes, we could have waited another year to avoid this added inconvenience, but the world cannot stop for any longer. The virus will not be eradicated any time soon, and as it stands, travelling will never be entirely free – we must learn to accept this rather than expect a pre- pandemic travelling experience. It is no longer a waiting game but an acceptance of reality.

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