Traveling in the age of COVID-19


Despite precautions, many travelers have encountered an unavoidable reality. (Dreamstime/TNS)

I had been talking about it for years, ever since reading “The Shipping News,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by E. Annie Proulx in the mid-1990s. By the time I discovered the work of Canadian poet and novelist Michael Crummey, my desire to travel to Newfoundland had become an obsession. It topped my bucket list of experiences. For a woman who had spent most of her life in the hot, humid cities of Florida, the rugged island off the east coast of the North American mainland was as exotic locale as any.When I spotted a great deal on a tour last year, I jumped on it. If the pandemic lockdown had taught me anything, surely it was the realization that we shouldn’t take tomorrow for granted. So, like tens of thousands of Americans lusting to escape, we headed north with new trail boots and an unwavering sense of adventure.Made it!!!!! I texted a friend when we landed in a small airport past midnight Newfie time.

Newfoundland, I’d like to report, didn’t disappoint. The icebergs! The Viking settlement! The bald eagles! The steep cliffs! The postcard hamlets! The lighthouses! Oh, my!

But what’s a happy tale without a reversal? What makes a once-in-a-lifetime vacation especially memorable?

You got it. Halfway through the 12-day dream trip, I tested positive for COVID-19. The Hubby followed two days later.

This wasn’t entirely unexpected. Though we had double-masked and washed our hands religiously, members of our tour group had been dropping like flies every day. Breakfast had become an exercise in reconnaissance as we assessed who had succumbed in the night and who had made it long enough to admire one more stunning landscape.

Thanks to vaccines and two booster shots, our physical symptoms were mild. (Actually, I’ve suffered through worse colds.) The disappointment, on the other hand, was particularly sharp. No inoculation exists for the bitter letdowns of life.

Sure, I was aware we ran the risk of encountering COVID-19, but I was also impatient to get on with my plans. We gambled, we lost.

It didn’t help my mood any when friends and family tried to console us through the quarantine with examples of other travelers who had giddily left home only to encounter unavoidable reality. No matter what you’ve been told, misery doesn’t always love company

Our neighbor crossed the pond to Europe a week before we went to Canada. Six out of seven got COVID-19.

My sister’s in-laws traveled to Portugal. All four family members came down with the coronavirus, one of them less than a month after contracting it at home.

A friend’s friend finally made it to Spain, more than two years after her family had originally booked the “heritage journey.” All except one of the children tested positive less than a week in.

Travel in the time of COVID-19 is rife with obstacles and frustrations. Infection is just one factor. Flights are delayed, if not outright canceled. Luggage is lost, airports are packed, misbehavior is rampant. Having a Plan B is not enough. You need Plans C through M. And you need to pack your test kits along with your patience.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, COVID-19 is everywhere, the invisible companion in everyone’s vacation plans. Armed with impunity, lacking in conscience or consideration, the virus is playing the long game. It doesn’t want to kill us, only to infect us, so it has settled into every aspect of our lives, sticky as a shadow.

Will that short-circuit my next getaway? Will it stop me from heading to the airport again?

Nope. These days wanderlust remains as contagious as an omicron subvariant.

(Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues. Email her at or visit her website Follow @AnaVeciana.)

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