When you decide to travel in times of Covid..
It turned out, traveling in times of Covid is an adventure if nothing else. I thought about it long and hard and decided I earned a break after working almost non-stop for 1,5 years. Seeing some of my friends dive right into this new way of traveling, I was convinced I could do it too.
The first step was to get my two jabs of the vaccine to make my trip a little easier; at least, that was what I thought. Finding tickets was the next challenge, as all the convenient routes no longer existed.
Typically, I would travel from Dominica to St. Martin and onwards to Amsterdam; this new route, however, added to my sense of adventure.
Preparation before the day of the trip.
The result of visiting multiple countries is that you have to adhere to different Covid rules and regulations. Everything starts with a negative PCR test, of course. I self-isolated as much as possible ahead of getting tested. And on the day of the test, I was pretty nervous because I had a lot depending on it.
Even though it was a long wait before I was finally in line to get tested, I was pleasantly surprised by how friendly everyone was. I had a pleasant conversation with a guy who married someone from Winterswijk in the Netherlands. I could pick up my results the next day, and I was so happy when it read negative. Funny how the word ‘negative’ has a positive connotation in this case.
Now I could start filling out all the paperwork for 3 countries. I uploaded my proof of vaccination in the Dutch Corona app, a traveler’s location form for the UK, an in-transit form for Barbados, and a lot more. To be extra safe, I also printed everything; I did not want to be stranded halfway because my phone died.
Since we are in the middle of hurricane season, I tried to leave my house, including all the donations for Breadfruit House, adequately stored. As you can read in this Blog, it took such a long time for the boxes to arrive, so it is essential to keep everything safe.
And so, the waiting began.
This time my itinerary took me to never visited countries and airports and included a lot of waiting. First from Dominica to Barbados, with a brief touch down in St. Lucia. Upon arrival in Barbados, every transit passenger received a yellow ‘in transit’ wristband, which I wore long after I left Barbados because I could not find scissors to cut it off. After picking up my suitcase, the long wait began. It would take up to 5 hours before I could check-in for the flight to London Heathrow. It is all part of traveling in times of Covid.
As I had left my home in Dominica at 5 am, I did not have time to eat. I took some peanut bars with me as a backup. Once in Barbados, it was quite the walk before I finally was able to find a place that sold any food, in this case, only fast food.
I chose the ‘healthy’ option of fried chicken and fries, and after paying and collecting it, I started maneuvering myself outside to the seating area. That turned out to be quite the balancing act, with my suitcase, a backpack, a handbag, and the food. Proud I managed it all and happy I bought a bottle of water, which meant one less thing to carry, as I had put it in my handbag.
After finally sitting down, with enough distance from other travelers, I could not open the bottle of water. So, I asked a friendly gentleman to assist me, which he did. The food was mwah, but at least I had something to eat.
Appreciating small miracles.
Next was finding out about the airport assistance I had signed up for. The lady at the customer service desk directed me to a counter where I had to wait for British Airways to assist me. As it got closer to check-in time and after waiting for over 30 minutes, I got a little frustrated and asked the first guy I saw what to do.
He was very friendly and confirmed I was on the list. As check-in was about to start, he told me, please wait here; I will personally check you in as soon as the system opens. And lo and behold, I was the first person to be checked in.
Another friendly young man put me in a wheelchair and drove me to the gate. As there were more passengers with assistance, I joined them in a container elevator that put us right in front of the aircraft’s door.
As we were the first onboard, it was easy to get settled. I had an aisle seat and nobody next to me. The seats in premium economy are so comfortable, with extra legroom, a footrest, and even a small travel bag. All these small miracles, kind people, a great seat on board added to a smooth trip across the Atlantic and made traveling in times of Covid quite agreeable. Even though I did not sleep a lot, I could comfortably doze off now and then.
A dayroom for my time in London.
As the layover in London was 12 hours, I decided to treat myself to a dayroom at a hotel in terminal 5. So, I could shower, take off my facemask for a while and have something decent to eat while waiting.
The airline, fortunately, had labeled my suitcase for Amsterdam; I had no luggage to collect and went straight for the passport check. The automated machine did not accept mine, so I had to stand in line to speak with an officer. That did not go smoothly; I was tired, my ears were clogged, and he was grumpy, speaking through a facemask from behind a plexiglass screen. In short, I did not fully understand his questions. Eventually, he let me pass, and my search for the hotel started.
I expected to find a map somewhere indicating where to find the hotel, either it was really not there, or I completely missed it. In any case, I walked and walked, asking different people for directions. Everyone was friendly, but I never managed to find the hotel entrance and got slightly annoyed.
I think it must have the 5th person who finally told me, take that elevator one floor down, and you will see the sign for the hotel when the doors open.
Let me tell you, the sign is huge, and still, I missed it initially. More walking down a corridor that seemed endless, going down another elevator, and eventually, yes, there was light at the end of the tunnel. I arrived at the reception desk. In the end, it took me about 45 minutes to find the hotel; not pointing fingers at anyone, I was exhausted and probably not listening very well.
Well traveling in times of Covid is an adventure if nothing else, right?
The ultimate treat.
After I checked in and entered the room, I was so relieved. The first thing I did was take my face mask off and look for the room service menu, to me the ultimate treat. It was a little after 9:00 am, and I finally had my English breakfast around 10:30 am; for some reason, both the reception desk and I had trouble reaching the room service kitchen.
Knowing the long layover, I decided to eat the bacon and scrambled eggs first and leave the toast and jam to enjoy later. The next thing I anticipated was taking a shower to freshen up before sleeping a few hours.
That turned out a little different than I expected as the showerhead was pointing towards the wall, and I could not reach it. I even tried banging it with a clothes hanger without any result. As my time was limited, I just made it work because I did not want to get dressed and wait for someone to come and fix it for me.
I was able to rest for 2 hours and put an alarm on both my phones and the TV because I was afraid of missing my flight to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam, I am on my way, or am I?
When all my alarms went off, I gathered all my stuff, put my face mask back on, and suddenly thought, let me check if I have everything for my flight to Amsterdam. A slight panic hit me when I realized I had forgotten to fill out and print the health form—reception desk to the rescue. After several failed attempts to email it to the hotel, the receptionist kindly offered to download it herself. This time the walk from the hotel to departures seemed not that long at all.
I reported to the assistance desk and waiting for someone to wheel me to the lounge. While we were on our way, the friendly young man told me that my flight was delayed by 20 minutes. And even though I had anticipated some shopping, I stayed in the assistance lounge until it was time to get to the gate.
I entertained myself by watching other travelers, some social media, and the same young man drove me to the gate when it was time. I could see something was going on, and it soon became apparent that the delay was now at least an hour.
When everyone was finally on board, the captain announced a personnel shortage, so it would take a while to load our luggage. So close to Amsterdam and yet so far.
Traveling in times of Covid.
Instead of 6.40 pm, we arrived at 8.30 pm. Airport assistance to the rescue, they managed to arrange a shortcut to the baggage claim area, and once he got my suitcase, he dropped me off at my friends who were there to pick me up.
Traveling in times of Covid is an adventure if nothing else. In the end it is not easy but very much worth it! I will enjoy every minute of my time off and try to finish the first draft of my book. Are you interested in reading the back flap? Just click here.
This time from the Netherlands,