Traveling in the Time of COVID

When my husband mentioned to a friend that we were traveling to Canada this summer, his friend said, “Wow, that’s brave” (and, by “brave,” I think he meant “crazy”). While any amount of traveling – whether to a foreign country, another state, or another county – could be considered brave (or crazy) during a pandemic, this trip felt like a pretty safe bet for us.

As this chart from the New York Times indicates, our journey would take us from a country with relatively high infection rates to a country that, for the most part, appeared to be taking the pandemic seriously. When we learned in July that the Canadian border would open August 9th to fully vaccinated U.S. tourists, we started to finalize plans for our trip north.

In normal times, a road trip up the length of California, then through Oregon and Washington, would be a wonderful opportunity to visit friends and favorite spots along the way. But because we knew that we would have to get COVID tests within 72 hours of crossing the border, we decided to play it safe and take the most direct route with the fewest number of stops. Long days of driving and eating mostly at fast food establishments (where it is possible to get fresh salads) isn’t our favorite way to travel but we didn’t want to get within miles of our destination and find out that we had contracted COVID somewhere along the way.

Even with hours and hours of driving, we found that arriving at our carefully selected overnight stops in the late afternoon gave us great opportunities to stroll around their historic districts and discover lower risk outdoor dining opportunities. That turned out to be more fun than expected.

We had arranged to have our COVID tests two days before we were to cross the border at a facility that guaranteed results in 24 hours. The following day, we had our (negative!) test results and just one more overnight stay before queueing up early to be among the first American tourists to cross the border.

Because of other blogs you follow, some of you already know a main focus of our trip to Vancouver Island was to meet up with a group of bloggers who have become dear friends. We are all fully vaccinated and we knew that most of our activities would be outdoors enjoying the island’s amazing natural beauty. We hiked through forests, explored beaches, ate in some lovely outdoor restaurants (including some excellent food trucks), and partied on the patios of our friends’ homes.

During our almost month-long stay, we managed to pack in a ton of fun, miles of hiking, lots of laughter and maybe a little too much eating, all while staying safe and COVID-free. Since several of the bloggers have already written about the fabulous time we had (Donna, Retirement Reflections and another post; Erica, Behind the Scenery; Kathy, SMART Living 365), I will let their posts tell that part of the story.

In order to cross the border into Canada, my husband and I were required to present our passports, proof of vaccination, and documented negative COVID test results. To cross the border back into the United States, all we had to do is show the border guard our passports and assure him that we didn’t have any fruit in our car.

Crossing back into the U.S. felt a lot braver – and perhaps crazier – then traveling to Canada.  

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

96 thoughts on “Traveling in the Time of COVID”

  1. Glad to read your trip home was uneventful, Janis! I so enjoyed meeting you and Paul IRL, and spending time together. I hope you manage to be “brave” and journey to the island, again and again!

    Deb

  2. Looks like you had a great summer trip too! How cool that you have met friends through blogging. And Vancouver is on my bucket list. We were COVID cautious during our travels and I remain so now that I’m back in FL. I may take a peek at your friends’ blogs to read more about your trip.

  3. OMG, your trip back across the border. I had no idea that we are that lax. Wow. But it really sounds like you took all the precautions possible prior to being around friends. Congrats on having a wonderful post-vaccine experience. It looks like everyone had a ball. – Marty

  4. Perhaps it was brave, but I think you’re right, you were going to a relatively safe place and you were well prepared. I’m glad everything worked out well and very happy you had a good time.

  5. When I tell people we are traveling to Morocco, I’m invariably asked “ is it safe there”? My response: “I feel safer traveling to Morocco than to Florida, Idaho or Alabama”. I’m glad you had such a wonderful time. I’m sure it would have been a great trip under normal circumstances, but somehow, I think COVID has made us appreciate such experiences even more.

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Even driving up the length of California, it was easy to tell which areas had high infection rates and which were relatively safe (hint: the number of people wearing masks and acting in a safe manner 🙂 ). I will be forever perplexed at those who can see the same statistics yet deny reality. I am looking forward to following you on your trip to Morocco!

  6. The dreaded fruit!!! I’ve been following all the other bloggers’ stories and looks like a great time. I enjoyed your twist on it. We will be moving soon to Washington and will have to plan accordingly in order to see family in Vancouver. Glad you were able to make the trip and enjoy a whole month of that beautiful place!!!

  7. That sounds like a wonderful trip, meeting up with a group of fellow bloggers in an idyllic location. We spent about six weeks on Vancouver Island several years ago and it remains a highlight of our seven years of full-time travels.

    We were stationary for 18 months, but decided in July when the numbers were dropping that we could cautiously resume a bit of travel. Ha! Little did we know that the numbers would skyrocket again. But the truth is, the numbers are bad almost everywhere now. We’re vaccinated, we’re careful, we dine out only at outdoor venues, we mask up for grocery shopping, and we avoid crowds. Other than that, we’re just trying to enjoy every day. It looks like you had lots of soul-nourishing enjoyment on your trip!

    1. The precautions you are taking are similar to the ones we take at home… so you might as well get out and about and enjoy yourselves. Vancouver Island is amazingly beautiful. The beaches are so different from what we have here in Southern California and the forests are dense and healthy (although, sadly, they are experiencing a drought too).

  8. I was so happy to see you all meet up in Canada and your timing was so perfect, Janis. I followed your fun on SM. I might have wanted in on that action but the impending wedding and other things kept us in the US. We do want to cross the border soon, as it is only a 2-hour drive due north on 395 to Christina Lake. Kelowna from our place is a 4.5-hour drive. At the wedding in Sedona, the groom’s parents flew in from Toronto. Again, perfect timing. Next summer! I especially want to travel to Tofino Bay and go “shooting” with Wayne!

      1. Lucky you! I’m just reading a post from Donna of Wind Kisses who linked to SS today about this being a great time to visit Yellowstone! So much to see and do here! You guys are always welcome to stay with us whenever you head north!

  9. I’m so glad you didn’t miss the opportunity, Janis. I think we’ve all experienced how risky life is from all directions. We have to use our own common sense and caution, and then LIVE! I’m so pleased you had a wonderful time. It sounds delightful!

    1. We all need to find our level of comfort while being practical and staying as safe as we can. This trip felt pretty low-risk for us. My husband and I are on the same page safety-wise and we knew our friends were too. We had a terrific time and we are so grateful for the welcome we received.

  10. Hi, Janis – I’m glad that you and Paul are home safe and sound (although I would prefer you being back here, having even more fun together)! How crazy that you didn’t need to give more info when crossing back into the US.
    When Richard and I were hiking today (Mt. Washington), Richard said ‘Janis and Paul would LOVE this hike”. So you’ve gotta come back soon. There’s tons more to see and do! 😀

  11. It makes me happy whenever I hear (or read) that someone really enjoyed their visit to my country. I feel a warm sense of pride (even though I had absolutely nothing to do with it!). My regret is not having been there to join in the fun.

    Glad you are safely home again. I strongly suspect Vancouver Island misses you 🙂

  12. So happy for you, Janis – we are definitely overly ‘COVID cautious’ as we are surrounded by the usual local color of denial of the virus and demonization of the vaccines…it was refreshing for us to take our trip to MI to view our middle daughter’s delayed 2020 PhD hooding ceremony this past week. During our trip (we drove) seeing the lax attitude about masks etc didn’t phase us as we’ve been dealing with this since day one where we live. Weird to say, but it’s made us accutely COVID survivor-savy!!!!
    Fruit flies…geesh, important okay I get it – but ya gotta have flourishing orchards (with drought and fires it’s anyone’s guess) and ***people*** to work those orchards, pick the fruit, package it and transport it and eat it!
    It’s us humans that are on the front lines avoiding decimation right now, not my peachy treats!!!!
    😦

    1. Isn’t it odd how different areas treat the virus so differently? It was hard not to feel resentful when I saw a bunch of people without masks and acting in an unsafe manner… we could have been out of this by now. And, yes about the fruit. I understood the question, but felt that there certainly are much greater threats.

  13. How fun to go up and meet up with friends and spend some good quality time with them! I’ve read some of those bloggers post about your time together and enjoyed them all. I’m glad you made it there and back again safely and healthy. 😀

  14. I’m so glad you got to go on your trip, Janis! This virus isn’t going anywhere so we just have to get vaccinated, used common sense and live our lives, in my opinion.

  15. We’ve never been to Vancouver island but those gorgeous hiking trails and beaches makes us want to drive up too! (or maybe fly). Hopefully there will come a time when we don’t have to be crazy, brave or both just to travel. Good seeing people having fun while being safe.

    1. We love Vancouver Island! Even if we didn’t have a bunch of friends who live there, we’d still want to visit over and over. We also enjoyed the city of Vancouver, which is just a ferry ride (or sea plane flight) away. I hope that you are able to visit in the not too distant future!

  16. That was a wonderful trip Janis and how nice to be with all these fellow blogging friends. You have a good attitude about getting away from it all in this time of COVID and I’m still wary as stats are quite high here in Michigan right now. I don’t know if you follow Laurie (Meditations in Motion), but Laurie will be running in the London Marathon on October 3rd, but she and her husband Bill and another couple are enjoying a week in Ireland before the marathon. They have traveled extensively this Summer beginning in July to Cape Cod, then Colorado, Oregon (these three visits for family), then a trip to Alaska and now this European adventure. Laurie and Bill are the same age as you and I. I admire both of you for embracing a chance at normalcy again.

      1. Well you were together and were careful and enjoyed your trip and came home healthy. That is admirable. I thought I’d seen you comment in the past on Laurie’s blog Janis. Laurie said she was on an extended blogging break but was popping in occasionally to read blogs and comment. She went to her sister’s at Cape Cod for 4th of July and intended to start back to blogging, then decided to just wait until she returned from the London Marathon on October 3rd.

  17. Based on your blog and the ones you mentioned, all of you had a jolly good time. 🙂 I’m sure it was worth the long drives! Vancouver Island is beautiful and its people – some of whom we have met in person too and the other group I hope to one day – are as much a gem as their island. 🙂 I wouldn’t call it brave or crazy to travel when precautions and research are involved. I hope you managed to visit friends in the US on your drive back down to SD…

    1. Hi Liesbet. I hope you are enjoying being on the road again. We did meet with family and friends on the way back but, again, stayed outdoors and safe. Fingers crossed that we’ll both have the opportunity to get back to Vancouver Island (maybe at the same time 🙂 ).

  18. Around the time you returned the US was advising against travel to Canada as the rates of transmission were high. Despite a vaccination rate of almost 62 at that time. Interesting then if the government said it was a high risk area that precautions returning would have been on the table.

  19. I’m glad you had a fun, safe trip Janis. It was interesting reading about your experience crossing the border both ways. I wish people here would take COVID more seriously. I have not been to Canada, but would like to visit once I’m retired and have a little more scheduling freedom.

    1. I hope you get the chance to visit Canada. We were on the eastern part several years ago, which was great. Now, we’ve visited the west coast a couple of times. Both are wonderful. Now, we need to see the center 🙂 It is such a beautiful country… and the people are so nice!

  20. The long drive and fast food were obviously worth it. What a stupendous visit with blogging friends and traveling to beautiful Canada. I’m not a bit jealous. No, I’m hugely jealous! 🙂 Wonderful.

    1. We had such a good time! Fortunately, my husband and I manage to find ways to enjoy ourselves on long drives (podcasts help 🙂 ) so it wasn’t too tedious. Seeing good friends certainly make the hours on the road and questionable food an easy “price” to pay.

  21. So glad you had such a nice trip and relative ease of travel! Yes, I saw posts on other blogs about this amazing trip, but since we’re from the same area, it was nice to see your details on what the driving part was like. 🙂

  22. I’m glad you got to go on this trip. I just returned from about 10 days of exploring neighboring state, Oregon. I dithered for weeks about whether to let my friends in Eugene know that I was passing through. I worried that they would feel obligated to invite me to stay, but with her severe respiratory issues, I didn’t want to put any pressure on them. In the end, I did contact them and they insisted I stay. It was a lovely 3 days, although very quiet. The balance of my travels were very solo and removed from other people. I did some camping and stayed in a few motels, but only ordered take-out. In most of Oregon, especially the coastal areas, I noticed that people were much more conscientious about mask-wearing than they are in Idaho. (No surprise.) These are interesting times.

    1. I’m glad you had a good time and were able to see your friends. Our impression of Oregon was the same as yours: most people wore masks and politely maintained distance. We couldn’t drive through north-central California quick enough. Despite high infection and hospitalization numbers there, many people acted as if there wasn’t a virus to be concerned about. I saw a very interesting map showing CA infection/hospitalization numbers alongside another map showing red vs. blue (based on our recent unsuccessful recall election). The similarities were staggering.

  23. Hi Janis
    I know about this fun get together from a few of the other blog posts trust went out
    – so it was fun to hear your take
    And you are so right about getting salads and some good options at fast food – but sometimes the salad Dressings have horrible canola oil and so still Have to be careful (wink)

    Hope your month of October is off to a nice start

    1. I loved reading everyone’s posts about our trip… it was so much fun! And, yikes: I use canola oil for my stir fries… is that a bad thing? As far as dressings go, I use them sparingly but salads still have to be better than the usual fast food fare, I would think. All things in moderation. October is my favorite month so life is good!

      1. Hi – Just today – I just heard a snippet on the Dr Hyman show about how bad canola oil is – I will see if I can find the link to it –
        but it is really bad – and not only scars the liver but can stress the body because it is not a natural oil

  24. Interesting to read of the differences in travelling across borders from Canada to the US. At the moment in Australia, this is kind of happening in between two of our eastern states. I fondly remember the time when travelling was so simple and crossing borders a breeze.

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