In a previous life, the approach of the holidays was something to be enjoyed. It was time to shop for new summer clothes, buy a few disposable cameras, maybe work on your “base tan” to prepare for the impending sunshine.
The only reason your vacation might not go would be some sort of freak volcanic event crippling international airspace, some idiot with a drone at Gatwick Airport, a dog eating your passport, or your tour operator or folding airline. So, unless you went to a complicated place, with complicated visa and vaccination requirements, the pre-vacation anxiety wasn’t really there.
Not anymore. Much has been said during the pandemic about the prohibitive quarantine measures in place for arrivals back UK. But now for me, and I suspect many others with vacations booked this summer, a self-imposed near quarantine goes into effect before the vacations.
My girlfriend and I are leaving for the Greek island of Kefalonia next Saturday, the first time we have traveled abroad since October of last year. We suffered a double bite and have not yet knowingly contracted Covid-19. However, I am more afraid than ever of catching the virus. Not because of personal health issues (I’m 31 with no underlying health issues and all of my loved ones have been doubly trapped), but more so because of the very real risk of us missing the holidays.
“Aha, but Greece doesn’t require a test before traveling for the double bite,” I hear you calling. But that doesn’t eliminate the worry of catching Covid-19 before travel. If we do get it and become symptomatic, which many double-bitten people seem to be, we will of course be tested. If positive, we will isolate ourselves at home for 10 days. The holidays will be closed. Other obstacles include random testing on arrival in Greece, the test to be taken within 72 hours of returning home (the nightmare scenario, very expensive), and then the PCR test on the second day after arrival in the house (not ideal, but at least the vacation took place).
It all means a sort of tedious quarantine, or rather a sort of hermitage before the holidays. My girlfriend and I had planned to see some friends at a pub on Friday to celebrate our recent engagement. But now, as our getaway looms, we’re thinking about canceling or going to a park instead. We also have to see family on the bank holiday weekend, but the fear increases. I felt like the days of awkward air hugs, widespread hand sanitization, and stifling social distancing were over, but I can see us regress in the next few days as the holidays approach.
This frustrates me, especially since I saw the trip as a liberating experience. In my twenties, I hitchhiked across Europe, slept side by side with strangers in hostels, camped in forests, stayed in countless homes of foreigners, I have cycled across countries. Now I’m tense at the idea of taking an easyJet flight to Kefalonia for shouting out loud.
I know many more who hid from social events before the holidays and now fully understand why. And it’s not just the fun stuff that’s put on hold. For many, including my partner who works in a nursery, social distancing in the workplace is impossible.
There are much worse things that have happened to people, I know, and at least we can afford to go on vacation. But the psychological impact of constant catastrophisms on your health and the possible financial losses really make you wonder if the “vacation” abroad is really worth it.
Maybe it will intensify the feeling of catharsis, when we taste that first beer by the pool of our villa in Kefalonia in two weeks. The colleagues and friends who managed to escape assure me of this. Or maybe we’ll be locked up at our house in Clapham, or in a Greek isolation center somewhere, wishing we never had to worry about it.