Traveling Abroad During the COVID Pandemic

It was, perhaps, a bit reckless to travel abroad during a COVID pandemic.  Cases across Europe have been climbing and yet, off we went on our adventure.

Allow me to start by saying that if you are an anti-vaxxer or believe COVID is a hoax or you think masks don’t work, this blog is not for you.

All right then, I’m assuming my readers are science-based folks who are genuinely interested in my experience traveling and trying to avoid the “Rona.”

There are no guarantees that the vaccine or boosters will protect you against “long” COVID or that you won’t get sick. You’ll notice I didn’t say death because neither one of us are immune compromised, and we are fully vaxed and boosted—me with two boosters and my adult daughter with one. Still . . . we understood the risk but did it anyway. It’s easy to justify a trip that was paid for in 2019 and rescheduled multiple times due to the pandemic. I was tired of those Lufthansa tickets that saw the price grow to epic proportions due to fees and price increases. I wanted to use them and forever delete the Lufthansa app from my phone, which I promptly did the minute we landed back in the U.S. after three weeks abroad: Paris, Scotland, and London.

We were as careful as possible. We did not get COVID.

I attribute our success at avoiding COVID to three things. #1: Masking (the N95 is my superhero). #2: Being vaccinated and boosted. #3: luck—lots and lots of luck.


I’m a believer in the power of masking. In the past, I have contracted a cold almost every single time I fly internationally. Perhaps jet lag weakens my immune system; I’m one of those people who needs at least a couple hours of quality sleep. My problem with colds has become so predictable that I count it as the price I must pay to travel; my colds tend to be rather epic too. I caught no cold on this trip. That could be partly due to luck, but I firmly believe that a good quality mask (not that useless thin piece of fabric I see so many folks wearing), worn properly (that means over your nose and mouth and sealed tightly) are extremely effective. I’ve spoken to people who claim they wear masks, but when questioned, they do it randomly and not properly. Nope. If you aren’t wearing it indoors at all times, on planes and trains and other transportation, and if it is down around your chin, then it doesn’t count.



Does my previous statement mean we didn’t eat at indoor restaurants? We did, but only when there were no other options. We tried to choose a corner table or one by an open door or window, but . . . we did take a few chances. We wore them into the restaurant, while the server was at our table, and then replaced them immediately when we were finished. We also wore our masks for the entire theater performance we saw in London.

Does a mask guarantee you won’t get COVID? Of course not. But I believe your odds are greatly improved, especially on planes and on the subway. Have you been on the London Tube or Paris Metro? They are unbelievably crowded and Europeans are just as bad about wearing masks as Americans. We nicknamed these transportation modes “the COVID trains.”

It should not have to be stated that vaccines are extremely effective in preventing COVID deaths, and I have zero tolerance for anti-science theories about them. That leaves my third and final explanation about why my daughter and I didn’t contract COVID.

I have never really believed in the idea of luck, but there’s no denying that it probably played a part in our good outcome. Perhaps we were in the right places at the right time. Perhaps our immune systems were working well or our exposure time to someone with COVID was short. Whatever the reason, we both feel fortunate. We carried COVID test kits in our luggage and we used them during our trip.

Should you go on a trip abroad and is it safe? That’s something only you can answer for yourself. COVID is likely to be around for some time, and of course another pandemic could happen. Monkeypox is the latest and I wonder how dangerous it will become. Travel definitely puts you at risk for illnesses, depending on your destination.

Am I planning another trip abroad? Yes. Next summer I am finally going (hopefully!) to Dutch Language Summer School for a month in Drenthe (northern part of the Netherlands). The military museum in Soesterberg (about 30 miles from Amsterdam) is working on an exhibit about my late husband (see my last blog), and I want to see it when my class is over.

Travel is the glue that holds my life together—the thing I most enjoy—and I am anxious to resume it, with my trusty N95 fastened to my face. Despite living abroad for many years of my life and having the privileged opportunity to travel, I look at a map of the world and see all the amazing places I’ve never been and the wonderful ones I want to return to. None of us have an endless amount of time, but we do have to balance our risk tolerance with our passion for travel. I wish you all the best of luck in whatever you decide. Stay safe!

Please check back soon for my next blog about our adventures in Europe: the good, the bad, the beautiful, the sad, the tough, and the weird.