Traveling Internationally During A Pandemic

We knew it was going to be difficult.

We knew it was going to be stressful.

We knew at any given point on our long itinerary, we could be turned back and told to go home…..but we finally made it back to Greece!

We returned home to Phoenix, Arizona at the end of October last year.  We were happy and excited to reunite with family and friends after being gone for 7 months.  There were many exciting events unfolding like college graduation and the impending arrival of our first grandson.  As is life, the good times also brought about some painful family events that had to be worked through.  And then, Covid hit.  We watched in horror as Northern Italy was decimated by this awful virus….and it spread.  Before long, we were monitoring the daily reports as Covid ripped through New York City.  In Arizona, we were looking pretty good with very few cases.  Well, you know how that story goes.  No one and nowhere was safe from Covid.

Our plan was to return to Zoe at the end of April.  Before we knew it, we were fearful that there would be no return to Zoe at all in 2020.  We did everything in our power to keep ourselves and those we loved safe and healthy.  Before our state locked down, we were already sheltering in place.  When we had to go out, we wore masks and washed frequently.  When the restrictions were lifted, we still stayed home and limited our circle of contact to family.  Then we watched and waited.  As Europe began to emerge from the worst of the pandemic, we began to have hope once again.  We followed the government releases that outlined how and when they would re-open for tourism.  Each time we saw a window of opportunity, it was quickly pushed out to a later date.  We watched as many of our sailing friends made the hard decision to not return to their boats in 2020.  Would we need to do this too?

We made frequent inquiries to both the Croatian and Greek Consulates in an effort to understand whether or not they would let us into their countries.  Ironically, right before Covid took off, Dan received his Croatian passport making him now a dual citizen.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise (never mind the fact that it took almost 10 years to get it all sorted out).  So Europe finally began to re-open but only to select countries.  Since the US was now in full blown outbreak, we were most definitely not on the list (we still aren’t).  Because Dan was now free to travel to Europe, we had to scramble to ensure we had all the necessary paperwork to allow me to travel with him.  We were excited and nervous all at the same time.  Talk about feeling a barrage of emotions!

7140 miles…three flights….18 hours in the air all with a face mask. Then a five hour drive!
Dual citizenship for Dan to the travel rescue!

So that brings us back to where our story started.  Our date was set, and we were ready to go.  We flew into Dallas a day early in order to see some friends and ensure that we would be able to make our flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  At this point in time,  the airports and airlines were now requiring people to wear masks.  Since Dan and I had already been doing this, we had no problem with this rule (of course enforcement was less than desirable…..if you are going to require it, then you damn well need to enforce it!  Otherwise, what is the point?)  Anyway, we showed up at the check in counter in Dallas nice and early.  It turned out to be a good thing.  We spent a good 20  minutes being grilled on our purpose for travel.  There were many questions, us pulling out a multitude of documents supporting our travel, and lots of phone calls (which I assume were to get overrides to allow us to check in).  Eventually, we were checked in and cleared to head to our gate.  Whew! Hurdle number one complete.

Airport terminal was eerily empty
Luckily we were able to get an upgrade for the long DFW-FRA flight!
Face mask not optional.

As you might expect, our flight was pretty empty (usually summer flights to Europe are absolutely packed to the gills!)  We landed in Frankfurt 9 1/2 hours later with minimal sleep.  Stressor number 2:  Clearing in with Frankfurt immigration.  Once again, we were asked a number of questions which we managed to answer in our sleep deprived state.  We presented all our extra documents allowing us to travel to Greece despite being those “toxic Americans.”  Hurdle number 2 accomplished.  We then headed to our final flight (this one was going to be stand-by….my all time favorite way to fly!  NOT!)  I’m sure you can guess how that went.  We were peppered with questions and used our paperwork to show that we were approved to travel.  You would never know there was a pandemic looking at this flight.  We were squashed in 3 to a row, and the flight was quite full.  I was very uncomfortable with the closeness of this flight, but we were wearing masks 🙂

Our understanding when we left was that when we landed in Athens, we would be given a Covid test and then be required to quarantine in a hotel designated by the officials.  If our test came back negative, we would be free to leave but asked to self quarantine for a week.  If it came back positive, we would be required to quarantine at our expense for 2 weeks.  We knew this expectation ahead of time and were perfectly fine with following the rules.  On the flight, everyone was expected to fill out a “Covid” form.  This form gave all your contact information, the flight you came in on, and where your trip originated.  I noticed that the top of the form did not list the US as a valid place of travel….uh oh.  We filled them out and handed them to the flight attendant.  It wasn’t much later when the flight attendant returned and told us we needed to fill out a different form.  This one had an orange banner at the top and listed the countries that were not openly welcome (yep, that was us!)  Once again, I filled out the forms and handed them in.  I figured this was going to be the big scarlet letter that marked us for quarantining.  3 1/2 hours later, we landed in Athens.  It had been an incredibly long and sleepless journey, all while wearing a mask (I think my mask now smelled like bad breath).

Contact tracing form in case the authorities need to get a hold of us
Finally made it to Athens!!!

Well, wouldn’t you know…..we landed, collected our bags, and went to get our rental car (I won’t mention that this took almost another hour and a half!)  No one stopped us, no one questioned us…..nothing.  Crazy.  It wasn’t too long after this process that I received a text letting me know that I might be randomly chosen for a Covid screening….hmmmm….a little late, I think.  Dan never got the same message despite the fact that we came from the same place.  We booked a hotel about a half hour outside of the airport and headed there for some much needed sleep.  Since Zoe was a 5 hour drive from Athens, we decided to get some sleep and then finish our journey in the morning.

We arrived at our hotel which turned out to be some very hipster, new age place.  What does that mean, you might be asking!  Everything was very geometrically interesting from a high walled, swirly pool to color coded floors.  Oh, and they didn’t use room numbers!  Each room had a shape and your floor was tied to your color.  Needless to say, this was a whole lot of fun after 2 days of no sleep!  Dan is a pretty level headed and calm guy, but trying to match the symbol on the key card with the symbol on the door and the color code of the floor just about pushed him over the edge.  I can honestly say, I have not seen him get so verbally aggravated as I did watching him trying to find our room (sorry, my eyes are tearing up with laughter as I recall the experience!)  We did finally find the room which was a visual nightmare in it’s own right.  I guess if you are young and hip, it would be considered pretty cool, but the assault of color coordinations was abominable…..pinks, greens, and yellows….all in acrylic with twists and turns.  It was bizarre!

This was a hotel from Willy Wonka
Why rooms and floors did not have numbers was very confusing to me. Go to the orange floor and look for the symbol. Well guess what they all had symbols….
Color scheme was very tacky! This was supposed to be trendy. Maybe we’re getting old
Floor mounted “do not disturb”….who looks at their feet before knocking?.
Very european bathroom…barely enough room to turn around. And again with the colors! My poor eyes…

As you might imagine, jet lag was still plaguing us, and we were awake at a ridiculous hour of the morning.  We decided to just get started and make our way back to Zoe (of course we were super excited to see our boat once again).  Despite being a long drive, it took us through some beautiful countryside as well as the Corinth Canal.  This provided us a unique opportunity to see it from above knowing that in a matter of weeks, we would be sailing through that very narrow channel.  Eventually, we made it back to Cleopatra Marina in Preveza, Greece.  On the outside, our boat looked beautiful!  The marina had polished our hulls, cleaning up all the scuffs, scrapes, and sun damage.  She looked amazing.  The inside was another story 🙁 I had a great deal of work ahead of me.  When you put a boat up for the winter, you completely dismantle your living environment.  I would now have to put it all back together.  All of this did not matter…..we were home!

Corinth Canal…we crossed it on our way to Preveza Greece. We will hopefully be taking Zoe back through here later this season.
Amazing engineering feat to dig this canal out of sheer rock in the 19th century

Stay tuned:  Taking Zoe from her winter storage to being ready to sail!

Reunited with Zoe!!!!

Spoiler alert!  For the first time ever, we hope to bring you some video blogs to share our experience.  As always, we appreciate you following us and would love your feedback so that we can improve our blog.

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4 years ago

I enjoy your travel blog, Robyn– Now more than ever! Be safe and enjoy!

4 years ago

Hugs Guys! So excited the adventure continues for you two. Congrats on the new grand, too! Have a blast! 😋

Tom Strebel
Tom Strebel
4 years ago

I am looking forward to eventually going to international destinations, but I am not looking forward to being in a mask for 15+ hours. I have 7 masks, so I would probably bring a bunch and switch them out. Loved the part about Dan not having the patience to find the symbol. I would assume that when you get off the elevator, they would have a floor plan with the symbol for each room, so you can find it there, then walk to the right room. Color schemes were horrendous. It isn’t “hip”, it is just tacky. Like an Andy… Read more »

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