what is it like to travel abroad during a global pandemic?

It goes without saying that we are living in unprecedented times and things that we did on a regular basis are now things that we dream of doing again, hopefully soon! 

In my case being an athlete, traveling abroad has always been a pretty common thing for me to do. Going to Europe a few times a year was the the norm for myself and my group of snowboard friends. We’d go there to ride for weeks in the fall, come back in the winter for contests and that routine was on repeat. 

So, when the pandemic hit in March and countries locked up their borders, you can only imagine how much of a shock that was for someone like myself. The uncertainty was dominating my mind not knowing if and when I’ll be able to get back to doing what I love.

Fast forward a few months later, and I’m sitting in Saas Fee, Switzerland filled with gratitude for being back in one of my favorite countries. 

The US Ski and Snowboard Team was fortunate enough to receive permission from the EU to allow us to travel to Europe to resume our snowboard season leading into the 2021 winter. This was such a relief for all of us since traveling is such a huge part of our lives and careers. However, traveling abroad is much different than ever before for the obvious reasons. In order to enter Switzerland where we snowboard, we had to spend 10 days in Austria (a safe zone according to the Swiss government) with very strict restrictions set by the US Snowboard Team to make sure none of us get sick. 

Although this experience was quite unique and unlike any other trip I’ve been on, I have learned a lot about how to make the most of traveling during these times and how to have a safe yet enjoyable time traveling abroad. 

So, what’s it like to travel internationally right now? 

In all honesty, it wasn’t as complicated as I was expecting. To pretty much go anywhere from the United States right now you have to present a negative COVID test taken 72 hours before your flight, and to be on the safe side, it doesn’t hurt to have forms from the countries consulate saying you’re welcome into the country. 

For me personally, the only thing they looked at was my negative COVID test. Then there were some of my friends that had to go spend 20 minutes talking with the lady at the front desk of our flight before being allowed to board our flight to Austria. It was really hit or miss. We had a massive group with us, but I was surprised to see a decent amount of other random people traveling to Europe too. I was expecting our group to be the only people in the international terminal at the Chicago airport. Nothing was too different on the flight over the sea, seating was pretty normal, there was food and drink service, all the usual. Masks were required and enforced throughout the whole flight and in all the airports. 

Once we arrived in Austria, it was literally the smoothest entry I’ve ever experienced into a country. All they did was look at my passport, look at my negative COVID test, ask if I’m staying in Austria, and stamped my page. That was the most relieving moment of the whole trip. I was stressing for weeks hoping that this would all work out. It definitely caught me by surprise how fluid the whole process went, but at the same time we followed the rules and did just as the Austrian government asked us to be granted entry. Once we made it through passport control, boom. We were posted up in Austria like any other person. 

Although the experience was super similar in some ways, it was definitely one I’ll never forget. Living through a global pandemic is a pretty rare thing, but it’s even more rare to get the opportunity to travel abroad during a pandemic when the ordinary person can’t, so I’ll always remember this particular trip for that reason. You learn to appreciate travel so much more and you never waste a day. 

My fingers are crossed that international travel will become easier as things get better with the pandemic, so once they do I highly recommend you go check out Innsbruck Austria next time you’re in Europe. 

This is the first time I’ve ever been to Innsbruck, we were there for our 10-day period before Switzerland. Innsbruck is the perfect mix of high alpine mountain life, mixed with some city life. Most of my friends and I skateboard, so we spent a lot of time skating around the city. It isn’t that big of a city, so you can get around pretty easily on a bike or by foot. 

The street food is amazing, I lost count of how many kebabs we had out there. You can wake up in the morning and have some classic European breakfast which usually consists of coffee, pastries, lots of bread. Eat your food outside and socialize with people, take a walk along the water, you’ll find yourself outside a lot in Europe. It’s a big part of the culture. 

The food quality in Europe is much better than in the US, so I found myself splurging a little more than usual without feeling sick. There are a couple super cozy villages in the area around Innsbruck which was my ideal living situation since I’m from a small town.

Innsbruck also hosted the Winter Olympics two times, so make sure you go check out the Bergisel ski jump right on the edge of the city. Taking a bike from the city center is the best way to check it out. If you stop by Innsbruck in the winter, you’re in luck with things to do if you like the snow. Austria has some of the finest skiing and snowboarding in the world and there’s plenty of resorts and glaciers surrounding Innsbruck. 

The biggest takeaway I got out of my experience traveling abroad during a global pandemic was just how special travel really is. It reaffirmed my gratitude for this planet and the opportunities I’ve received, which we all need at some point. Let’s hope we all can return to travel as we once knew it sooner than later! 

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