travel musings

Why I’m Actually Glad I Didn’t Travel Abroad Much This Year

After the hell storm of 2020 and the sudden hope of vaccine success, I was unbelievably excited about getting back to normality in 2021. I wasn’t naïve – I didn’t expect everything to go completely back to normal, and I was never going to jet off to Absolutely Everywhere Straight Away. Other countries would still have their problems and, no doubt, we would still have ours.

And oh boy, did we still have ours. On Boxing Day last year, Scotland went back into a circuit-breaking lockdown that could end up lasting a month. And then two. And then… it was the end of April before we were even allowed to leave EDINBURGH. Not Scotland. Just the ability to travel mere miles from where we lived.

Forget travel to other countries – I was excited to travel to other COUNTIES.

Rest And Be Thankful viewpoint, Corstorphine Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland
One of the Edinburgh walks I took while we were still confined to the city – at least we could get views like this!

By April, I had resigned myself to the fact that 2021 would not be the international-travel-filled year I was hoping for, but I’d also come up with so many plans for travel within the UK that it really didn’t matter any more. I took one trip abroad to Iceland, and I’m really glad I did as the trip was incredible.

Meanwhile, other travellers have been jetting off left, right and centre. Many have moved abroad while they have the chance to get off this rock of insanity. Others have been making the most of unusually quiet destinations and unmissable flight deals.

And I totally get it – if I had had a less manic year (i.e. not planning a wedding), I would probably have done it too. There are lots of reasons I didn’t, though.

Icebergs in Jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon, Iceland

It’s been a lot of hassle

Green lists, red lists, quarantines, overpriced PCR testing, changing rules – you name it, it’s probably been a setback for anyone wanting to travel this year.

We’ve had constantly changing lists, in which you could safely book a trip to a “green list” country, only to have it change to amber or red while you’re there. The risk was massively prohibitive, and ended up costing people thousands of pounds as well as putting their jobs at risk. Not only that, but what if you tested positive before you flew home and ended up stuck out there altogether?

The idea of going on holiday to relax and then not actually being able to relax or enjoy yourself out of worry is just not appealing to me in the slightest.

Apart from anything else, it’s the uncertainty of what you’re supposed to do to be able to travel. Will this PCR test be the right one? How do I fill in a passenger locator form? What if my PCR test results don’t come back in time? Do I need day 2 *and* day 8 tests? When do I need to self-isolate? Do I need to take a test to get into the country I’m visiting? Will they accept my vaccine passport? Will the NHS app even work?

Things got slightly simpler for a few weeks (thankfully right in time for my Iceland trip), but it’s still extra hoops to jump through for something that we’ve always taken for granted.

Ardvreck Castle, Assynt, Scotland

It’s been too risky

As well as the changing rules, it really has been a year where anything can happen. People have had flights cancelled while they’re already away – I know of people who have had five trips in a row cancelled, many of them already postponed from last year. I’m pretty sure our Italy flights were cancelled because the rest of Europe was opening up while the UK wasn’t, so easyJet moved most of their fleet to the mainland. There has just been too much uncertainty.

I’ve also heard of several people taking a test 72 hours before their flight and then being unable to take the flight because the results haven’t come back in time, having to then fork out another chunk of money for a new test AND a new flight.

And if the country you’re in suddenly changes to red? You suddenly have to pay £2,000 to stay in a hotel and live off scraps for two weeks. Not exactly a risk that many people were willing to take, especially if you have a job or other responsibilities to get back to.

And then, again, what if you catch Covid and can’t come home? What if the country you’re in suddenly goes into lockdown and you’re trapped? What if what if what if, that’s all travel has been this year.

Callanish Stones, Isle Of Lewis, Scotland
Ironically Lewis & Harris was quite an expensive holiday – but at least we didn’t have to fork out for PCR tests!

It’s been too expensive

Weekend trips have been completely out of the question this year with the prohibitive costs of testing. PCR tests would double the cost of any short trip, meaning that you really needed a week minimum to travel to make it worth it.

Even when we went to Iceland, we were required to pay for a £20 lateral flow (antigen) test, which is drastically better than the £40+ PCR tests of which you often needed two or three – but when the NHS offers free ones, why not just use those and charge a nominal fee? I wouldn’t mind paying £20 if it was going to the NHS.

I pretty much refused to travel while we had the PCR tests – not just because of the cost, but because of the principle of paying a private company in the government’s pockets for a health issue, especially when the system was a complete shambles anyway. And now we’re back to doing it again, thanks Omicron.

I’ve been furious with the UK government for* prioritising excessively priced testing from private companies over getting travel back on its feet safely.

*well, a lot of things actually

Waterfalls at Betws-y-Coed, Snowdonia, Wales

We’ve been too busy catching up with friends & family

A big one for us has been the fact we haven’t had much time to travel abroad anyway. We had a wedding to plan, and any time off from work was used catching up with family and friends.

In May, we took a week off to go to Orkney, where we saw some of our closest friends for the first time in two years, and we were also helping my parents move house. In June, we met up with Ash’s parents in the Lake District and they stayed with us in Edinburgh for a few days. And in October, we were meant to be going to Italy, but when the flights were cancelled, instead of risking a failed re-booking, we jumped at the chance to see Ash’s brother and friends on the Isle Of Man, where we finally got to say goodbye to his best friend eighteen months after he passed away.

Outside of a few mad weekend trips, our main holiday was to Lewis & Harris, which you’ve all heard enough about by now.

(Or have you? Click here for my mega five-day itinerary!)

Svartifoss waterfall, Skaftafell, Iceland

I wanted other places to be safe

Coming from Plague Island, it felt irresponsible to be going to safer countries and spreading our Delta germs. It’s a bit late to worry about that now that it’s everywhere anyway, but at one point it was a high point of concern and I was amazed that anybody would even let us in!

I decided back at the start of the year that I wouldn’t want to travel abroad at all until I’d been fully vaccinated – back then, it was showing the likelihood of my age group being vaccinated by summer as very slim, but eventually we got our second dose in July and I almost booked a trip to Iceland for August immediately until I decided against it (for all the reasons above) and we went to the Outer Hebrides instead.

Funnily enough I ended up going to Iceland anyway, under different circumstances!

But now we’re back to being banned from other countries.

Blea Tarn, Lake District, England

We’ve got a lot here in the UK

While 2020 was most definitely the year of the staycation, the one thing I learned was that one year (or in reality, between lockdowns, a few months) was not enough time to discover everything my own country has to offer. So 2021 becoming the Bonus Year Of The Staycation was no issue with me at all, and the second it was announced that lockdown was lifting in Scotland, I made a list that ended up spanning thirty weekends. Have we done it all? No we have not!

I don’t want 2022 to become the third consecutive year that we’re confined to exploring Scotland, but there’s still plenty for us to do; a journey that I feel will never really end, and one for which I am grateful to live in such a great place.

And, of course, it’s not even just Scotland – we’ve also had time away in England and Wales, in two of the UK’s most beautiful national parks.

Snowdonia National Park, Wales
Snowdonia in October

Anyway, whatever 2022 brings, I hope it involves more international travel! I feel lucky to have got away once this year amongst the madness, and at the end of the day we followed all the precautions and had to take tests to enter Iceland and on our return to the UK. Let’s be honest – most other countries are safer than us anyway.

So here’s hoping for a better year next year – I miss travel, and I’m sure many of you do, too!

And let’s not forget, for many people international travel is the only way they can see their families, and I’ve seen so many torn apart. A British friend in Australia resigned to the fact she may never see her grandad again. A cousin unable to meet her grandson in New Zealand; her daughter having to bring up a newborn baby half a world away from anyone she knows. Endless people who live thousands of miles away from their families throughout one of the most turbulent eras of our lives.

For us, none of my Canadian family could come to our wedding, but that’s nothing compared to what a lot of people have been through.

It’s for these people that I’m hoping travel opens up again, but for my own selfish reasons I want to get back out there and explore again! After two years, I think we’re entitled to desire normality again.

15 thoughts on “Why I’m Actually Glad I Didn’t Travel Abroad Much This Year

  1. I enjoyed reading that, Clazz. It’s certainly been a weird time and I’m glad I wasn’t having to make the decisions. One thing that did surprise me was that no one seemed to have any kind of serious contingency plan for a major pandemic. No one. Or, if they did, it was wholly inadequate and certainly not transparent. That aside, I can’t get excited about not being able to travel overseas. Though i feel immensely for those who, as you say, have family across the world, travel purely for pleasure is a luxury – and I’m guessing it needs to be more difficult anyway given the climate crisis. There is SO MUCH to see and do in the UK (OK, so I’m biased) – but it’s still often too expensive – and of course you can’t rely on the weather.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The mad thing is, apparently there was a plan made for pandemics a couple of years before Covid happened – which either means it was ignored, or it wasn’t fit for purpose. It’ll be interesting to see how travel changes in the future, especially with the focus on the climate. I agree about price though, and that’s the problem – we could have gone to Spain for less than Lewis & Harris (and with much warmer weather!). Some of the prices in the UK are insane, but like everywhere it’s still possible to do it on a budget if you’re savvy about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great article and summary of they year of 2021! I am like you and have not wanted to travel far from home for many of the reasons you listed. Would I love to visit family in England? absolutely! Would I love to plan that trip to Italy? for sure! But the costs to do so and the uncertainty are still so in the forefront. I also like how you put things in perspective with people being able to see family. I wasn’t even able to travel to Vancouver Island to visit with my parents before my dad passed away in March…but we were able to talk on the phone and send emails back and forth…and for that I am grateful. I certainly hope the future is brighter for all of us…although I feel even that might still be a ways off.
    Wishing you a very happy holiday season and a Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Linda, I’m glad this resonated with you. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad and I’m sorry you couldn’t visit him. I have to say, we are lucky to have the technology we do – can you imagine if this had happened twenty years ago?!

      Have a wonderful Christmas, here’s hoping next year is better!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You had valid reasons as to why you didn’t travel too much this year, especially with planning your wedding and focusing more time on family and friends (which I greatly admire). I’m with you on the fact that PCR tests are too expensive and, depending on what country/countries you want to go to, there are still quarantine regulations that add up in price (hotel stays), wasted time of vacation days, and overall isn’t worth the hassle. I do have an international trip booked for later next year (the first in over three years), so we’ll have to see what 2022 has in store for us. Fingers crossed things continue to look up for us!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A lot of these reasons for not travelling abroad ring true for me – but particularly the hassle (like you, when the whole POINT of a holiday is to relax, I don’t want to be spending it worrying about how/if/when I’ll get back) and the prohibitive cost of PCR tests for travel and ‘red list’ quarantine hotels. I couldn’t face the thought of having to spend more on a quarantine hotel than I would have spent on the holiday itself! Very glad to have views like the one from Corstorphine Hill on my doorstop these days 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly – I don’t know what I’d do if I got stung by a sudden red list country! I know people who have. You could definitely be in a worse area for now anyway. 😉 We will have to meet up again in the new year, sorry I’ve been so busy! I’m sure you have been too!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’d be screwed if it happened to me! To be honest, that’s probably 90% of why I haven’t even looked into travelling abroad 😂 Yes, definitely. The past couple of months have been a bit manic! I’ll drop you a line when I’m back up in Edinburgh 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  5. How safe is it to fly on an aeroplane? Can I get sick if I stay in a hotel? What sort of masks are most likely to prevent infection? Am I gonna be able to get back? Anyone who is trying to decide if travelling is worth the risk of exposing themselves and/or loved ones to the virus have to think through the logistics. While the risk and stress of travelling might be worth it to see your terminally-ill grandparent, for example, I wouldn’t think that going on a proper holiday would be worth the hassle. We have to choose our behaviour based on what we care about as well as our values. Except for a short trip to Edinburgh, we haven’t been anywhere for 2 and half years and somewhere along the way, just like you, I found happiness in travelling to other counties within Ireland. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your comment, Aiva! I totally agree. I’ve been really happy to see so many families being reunited this year, it really puts it into perspective. There was a lovely video going around of the first flight from Sydney to London, everyone hugging in the airport, a real life Love Actually moment. ❤

      So glad you've managed to travel locally, it's been a great opportunity to do it. But I will be glad to explore some other countries when we can!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. It makes me glad to know there are other people out there who feel the same way we do. If it’s any consolation the BC government seems content to fritter away all the goodwill it established early on and it feels like, with omicron, that they’re just shrugging and saying, oh well, what can we do? I’m not in any hurry to travel abroad even though it’s been 2 1/2 years since we last saw any family – Zoom will have to do for the foreseeable future. Hope you have a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas and New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We made it to the UK and once we got here I released a post that detailed what it was like trying to get here to be with family after one death and one medical emergency in the family. It reads exactly like your first several paragraphs, except it’s in diary form. I’m glad I’m here but I would never, ever do this for fun. I’m going to need a whole week on a tropical island (which I won’t get because of COVID and because I have no money left after this super expensive trip) to recover from the stress of it all. I’m just glad there’s plenty to see in the United States, as that’s where I’ll be traveling for the foreseeable future. Great post, Clazz. Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 2 people

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