Have you ever played whack-a-mole? It’s the time-sensitive carnival game in which the plastic mole pops up out of one of nine slots and you win by whacking it the most with your rubber mallet. Welcome to travel: 2021 style!
You’re ready to go, thinking you’ve got everything covered with a double vaccine, 72-hour nose swabbing and new visa (for a once, visa-free nation). Just when you think you’ve done your research … Boom! Either your vaccine is not the right one, your PCR test is changed from 72 hours to 48 hours, or the arrival country revokes your visa because it doesn’t like where you are from. Solving travel logistics has just become like whack-a-mole.
Now, rules seem to be relaxing more, but the message here is to do your research! Be flexible and have your best sense of humor ready to navigate the friendly skies. This has truly separated ardent travelers from the leisure folks who focus on the limitations. I laugh thinking that pre-pandemic travel was making us lazy.
This type of new travel reminds me of flying standby as an airline employee. Now, I’ve heard the envious remarks, “You barely pay anything,” or “You get to sit in first class.” In many cases, that is true, but the concept of standby can be forgotten if you don’t get to your destination.
It’s 2003, and the day before we start our two-week vacation, Lana peppers me with tough questions: “What about Egypt? South Africa? Brazil?” You see, we sometimes have no idea where we are going to go. She then looks at me, holding two racks of clothes, and says, “Should I pack warm or cold weather clothes?” She laughs because she understands the way we travel and proceeds to just pack a little bit of everything.
We’ve armed ourselves with Egypt guidebooks as our chosen destination. Barely into our journey, Lana and I are about to fly from Chicago to Frankfurt, getting called up by the gate agent to receive our new boarding passes — already puffed up and grinning like cheshire cats because we planned out first class seats … Yes!
The race is on to settle in to our opposing cocoons in 3D and 3G. We need to breeze through an important onboard checklist: Movies, wine, and six-course meal ordered? Check, check, check! Once engorged from the parade of over-salted food and unlimited pours of Dom Pérignon and Château Margaux, Lana and I pass out in our beds for six hours, falling asleep with a movie in the background. Zzzz…
Sounds glorious and the perfect way to travel, right? The effects of flying “comfy class” quickly dissipate once we arrived in Frankfurt and our fatigued bodies watch three Cairo flights depart. Geez, an economy middle seat near the lavatory sounds good just about now. Will we ever get to Egypt?
I turned to Lana. “The Egypt flights are jammed up, and won’t seem possible, but there’s a flight going to Dubai.” “What’s in Dubai?” “I don’t know, but it’s on the TCC list.” With no guidebook in hand, we set off with our carefree and adventurous spirit, boarding the flight to Dubai.
Sometimes the best journeys can be unexpected and unplanned — somewhat like standby travel. Pandemic travel is challenging like whack-a-mole, but keep playing the game and you’ll find the opportunity to explore further.
You are the greatest travelers in the world who’ve made it to 100 countries. It wasn’t easy, and it will certainly not be any easier to add more as you continue your journey. But it will make for one heck a great story, right?