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Center for the Arts and Humanities Blog

Image courtesy of Mayra Sierra-Rivera '20, Studio art major

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Traveling During Covid and Climate Change: Some Things Have Changed, but the Joys of Travel Remain

By Britt Cain

It’s summer 2022 and many people have that itch to travel again after two years of uncertainty and lockdowns with the Covid-19 pandemic. But now that we can finally get out and travel without many restrictions, are hesitations still there?  

My family just returned from a two-week vacation in Europe to celebrate our son’s high school graduation and it felt great to travel internationally again. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Europe throughout my life to visit relatives in Sweden and Germany as well as other countries. But preparing for the trip this time was different in many ways. I had concerns that I’d never had before, including Covid, climate change, and the war in Ukraine.  Although Europe is open again after the lockdowns of 2020, there were things I’d never had to pack for a trip to Europe before–like masks, vaccination cards, and Covid tests. There were also climate change issues to think about such as the wildfires in France, Portugal, and Spain, as well as heat waves across Europe. Then of course there’s the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

Despite all these concerns, I’m glad I got back out there and traveled internationally again. Just like riding a bike, as soon as I got to the airport all the simple pleasures of traveling internationally came back to me, such as people-watching in the airport, in-flight entertainment, hearing announcements from flight attendants in multiple languages, and enjoying airline food unique to the travel destination.

Our travels this summer took us to London, Paris, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast. It was wonderful to see Europe fully open again and tourism thriving. Other than the occasional social distancing Covid sign left over from 2020 on the subways and trains, you wouldn’t know that there had been a worldwide pandemic (although masks are still required on the trains in Italy).  We chose to wear our masks indoors, but we were in the minority for most of our trip.  We also needed to show our vaccination cards in customs when we took the Eurostar from London to Paris.  

Photo: Riding bikes in London’s Hyde Park. Credit: Britt Cain

Our trip was everything we had hoped for. We enjoyed delicious food, embraced different cultures, visited museums and historical sites, tried out what little French and Italian we knew in shops and restaurants, and most of all made wonderful family memories. We visited Paris during the height of the European summer heatwave, but we were determined not to let the 106 degree weather slow us down and deter us from enjoying one of our favorite cities. Like California, Europe is also experiencing wildfires due to climate change. The air quality was poor on one of the days we were in Paris because of fires not far away.

Photo: Cooling off at a cafe in Paris. The temperature got up to 106 degrees Fahrenheit that day. Credit: Britt Cain

Some of the highlights of our trip included riding bikes in London’s Hyde Park, eating delicious crepes in Paris, swimming in the Mediterranean in Capri, and visiting the historic Roman Colosseum. Traveling in Europe is always an adventure and each trip has been unique in its own way. I love how each country’s culture and food is so different from the next. My family is already tossing around ideas of countries we might want to visit next.

Photo: Visiting the historic Colosseum in Rome. Credit: Britt Cain

If you’ve postponed travel for the past couple of years, I encourage you to go for it. Europe is happy to welcome back tourists and a lot of travel restrictions have been lifted. The U.S. no longer requires a negative Covid test upon reentry, which is one less thing to worry about.  We had an incredible trip and made lifelong memories. Although our world has changed in a lot of ways, it’s heartening to know that if you travel, you can still be sure to encounter wonderful sights, sounds, foods, and people.

Photo: A Ukrainian flag leaning up against a church in Positano, Italy as a sign of solidarity and continued prayers. Credit: Britt Cain

Human and Community Ties, Arts and Humanities in Times of Crisis, memory blog
Britt Cain is the Department Manager for the Center for the Arts & Humanities as well as the Neuroscience program and also supports the College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s office.