That’s what people told me when I chose to continue plans to recruit students and others for another educational trip two years ago at the beginning of the outbreak. But, while I didn’t doubt that the virus was real or that it posed a danger, I am not and have never been one to tremble in fear of the unknown or what might happen.
Predictably few dared move forward in light of so much uncertainty, but some did and as of the date of this writing, eight of us are less than a month from embarking on an adventure three years in the planning. We’re anticipating the sights and tastes with great excitement, but some of the regulations require a sacrifice of time and money unknown prior to the Covid era.
Full immunization is a prerequisite to international travel as well as rules about boosters. Current requirements in Italy are for a booster if the final vaccine was more than 180 days from the date of entry into the country. Spain’s rules are 270 days.
We must have proof of a negative Covid test within 72 hours of our arrival in Italy, the first country on our itinerary. I’m not sure if we’ll need a test to travel between Italy and Spain, but we will need testing prior to reentry into the US. All of this foreign testing could cost up to $250 we are told. With free testing in the US, this figure shocked us all.
Our biggest concern is a false positive. If that happens prior to our leaving, we won’t be able to go. If it happens upon our return, we’ll have to remain in quarantine.
Regardless of the concerns, we’re still planning to go. The lure of travel – something that brings me great joy and fresh perspective – is greater than the fears. I’m planning for contingencies: extra medication, clothing, extended lesson plans for my classes here, just in case. But, none of that will change my course.
Travel enhances knowledge, understanding, experience, empathy, love, and friendship. When you’ve been to a place, its people become real to you. They are no longer nameless, faceless beings inhabiting a strange and unknown land. Events that happen to them now matter to you. You are compelled to take up their cause, become their voice in a land where others dismiss their troubles.
I believe that most fear stems from the unknown, the odd, the different. When we travel, things once considered strange become known and while not quite normal, no longer frightening. Everyone we meet forges another tie between cultures, another link between peoples. These are the types of things that bring us together as human beings, that blur boundaries, that erase differences. They forge connections that might one day eliminate injustices based on language, appearance, religion, or gender.
This is why I lead people from my small, nearly-homogenous community to travel internationally. I hope to open eyes and hearts to the broader human existence, so that they can return and share their experiences with family and friends and with the broader community. In this way I hope to provide the catalyst to avert our natural tendencies toward judgmentalism, or worse, apathy, toward those whose history or appearance or speech is different than what is familiar or known.
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