Hello & Seasons Greetings from IENA!
Jeff here. I just recently returned from our first in-person event in Mexico since February of 2020. It was an amazing experience and I wanted to share a little about our journey and my experience traveling internationally post-pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, I have always been an anxious traveler. Seriously, I’m the guy they write about who likes to show up to the airport approximately 16 hours before a flight. If there is a worry or concern in regards to traveling, I experience it. So with the recent opening for international travel, you can only imagine the worry and concern I may have had surrounding this trip.
What do I need to do before my trip? How do I go about bringing a covid test with me to Mexico? How do I know I’m bringing the right covid test? What happens if I lose my covid test? Will people in Mexico be taking health & safety precautions seriously? Are people getting vaccinated? Boosted? Do I need to fill out any special documents to travel now? Should I get to the airport even earlier than usual to make sure everything is done ? (this point, in particular, is absurd based on my above statement of how I typically arrive super early to the airport!)
In the days leading up to my trip, I learned that the airlines did a very great job of preparing you for exactly what you need every step of the way. United’s App has a handy “Travel Ready Center” that walks you through these new steps required of travelers.
Upload your vaccine status? Check.
Need to purchase a covid test for your return to the US? Choose from 3 options and have them mailed to your house before your departure. Check.
Contact tracing form? You’ll complete it upon landing in Mexico. Check.
Reminder to make sure you wear a mask? Check.
The app really did make preparing for the trip pretty easy…..it even came complete with a ‘Travel Ready” icon on my boarding pass, which is now something that all airline staff will be looking for when you travel abroad. Ultimately, the airlines are on the hook if an individual hasn’t taken the appropriate steps to be able to enter a country- and they really don’t want to be financially responsible for sending you back if you aren’t prepared. I believe each major airline has its own pre-travel center, but I imagine they are all similar and provide equal amounts of guidance.
Upon arriving in Mexico, I was really excited to see a lot of safety measures that have become fully integrated into the daily life of citizens. Seriously, the entire city of Puebla seemed to be wearing a mask – inside, outside, in small groups, large groups, walking by themselves, etc…everywhere. As an anxious traveler, I always had the lingering fear of contracting covid and having to quarantine by myself.
In a different country.
My traveler’s anxiety was having a field day with my inner psyche over this possibility, so I felt great relief walking around seeing everyone wearing a mask.
As with visiting different countries, you get to experience a culture different from your own and can see the novel differences in how we each go about our lives all over the world. It’s one of my favorite parts of traveling. Traveling in the pandemic allowed us to experience some of these differences in regards to health & safety. Everywhere we went, there were people taking our temperature, wearing a mask, etc…All things we were familiar with. However, there was one notable difference we experienced. We were constantly taking literal steps to ensure we had sanitized shoes…..or what I called “Shoe Covid Prevention”. In every building, there were small mats no larger than a doormat that was consistently being filled with a cleaning solution. Every person stepped into the mat, the bottom of their shoes were sterilized and then we carried on our way. I haven’t the foggiest idea why this was happening, but I was happy to oblige in whatever cleaning preventions our host country had in place. Traveling allows for seeing how we are similar and our unique difference in all aspects of life. (We also had the cleanest soles of our shoes throughout the pandemic in Mexico!)
Our in-person event was a small event for a food service vendor to interview support staff to work at camps this summer. This socially distant “camp fair” was amazing. While it was fully masked, vaccinated, and social distant, many camp staff began their journey to an amazing summer!
While the whole experience had some new travel wrinkles, it overall was a success and allowed us to continue to envision future in-person events in the coming months ahead.
So please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are placed in their upright and locked positions and get ready for an amazing adventure. While travel might look a little different than it did prior to March 2020, it’s still doable!
As always, thanks for coming along on our adventure to change the world one camp staff at a time.
Enjoy the Holiday Season and have a Happy New Year!