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Culture

What’s It Like to Travel in Europe Now? We Asked Some Returning Guests.

Posted on Thursday, September 30th, 2021

Story by: Ken Lovering | Travel Writer


While many have excitedly reserved their trip and packed their bags, others remain hesitant. No matter which side of that spectrum you fall, you might be wondering what it’s like to travel in Europe now. So we asked a couple of August 2021 VBT guests that very question.

What’s It Like to Travel in Europe Now? We Asked Some Returning Guests. 1

Lots of active travelers have Europe on their minds.

Why wouldn’t they? Rolling hills blanketed with vineyards. Charming villages where the sweet scent of fresh pastries wafts in the air. Gentle green valleys and glimmering lakes surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Baroque, medieval, and Renaissance splendors at every turn. And smiling locals, arms outstretched, offering a hearty Ciao! Hola! Guten morgen!

When to head back is a highly personal choice. While many have excitedly reserved their trip and packed their bags, others remain hesitant. No matter which side of that spectrum you fall, you might be wondering what it’s like to travel in Europe now.

So we asked a couple of August 2021 VBT guests that very question.

Nancy and Jeff Werner of Scottsdale, Arizona cycled their way through Central Europe on VBT’s Switzerland, Germany & France: The Black Forest & the Alsace Wine Route. The retired couple once absorbed themselves in the finance and banking industries; today, they’re focused on staying active with cycling, hiking, golfing, and traveling. Nancy volunteers for political causes.

Croatia: The Dalmatian Islands was the trip of choice for Julie and Keith Whalen of Harpers Ferry, West Virgina. They’ll soon both retire from the IT world. They make time for walking, biking, swimming, and running and have been known to participate in a triathlon or two, putting even the most avid cyclists in our office to shame!

In each case, they were part of the first VBT groups since the Fall of 2019 to travel on their itineraries.

Their big take-aways?

Nancy and Jeff: “It was so much fun to be back in the world! We were thrilled to be there!”

Julie and Keith: “Everyone was so happy to see us!”

“A Little Vaccinated Bubble”

Leading up to their departures, VBT provided the Werners and the Whalens the latest pandemic information relevant to their destinations. The most significant step for them, though, was the company’s requirement that all guests show proof of vaccination.

“Knowing that everyone in our group had been vaccinated added to our comfort level immensely,” Julie tells us.

“VBT’s vaccination policy is excellent,” said Nancy. “We were our own little vaccinated bubble, so we felt very comfortable around other travelers.” She recalls that masks were routine wherever they went in Switzerland, France, and Germany: at restaurants, inns, and shops. Proprietors also asked that everyone, including locals, show their vaccination cards at the door. “I always felt very confident and very comfortable.”

Julie adds of her time in Croatia, “Some hotels and restaurants required masks to be worn—we were all vaccinated and we followed everyone else’s lead.” And if anyone forgot or misplaced their mask, trip leaders had a ready supply on hand.

In all, the two women said they felt as safe in Europe as they do at home. While it’s impossible to always feel 100% safe while traveling—there is always a risk getting out of bed each day, after all—by taking the same precautions overseas as in their own grocery store, they felt very comfortable.

All the Important Things Haven’t Changed

When asked if any of her trip felt compromised because of pandemic restrictions, Julie says, “I don’t feel like we lost out on anything.” Her group visited the same local family for dinner in Postira, just as the itinerary promised. And they cycled the same spectacular routes on the stunning Dalmatian Islands that they had long looked forward to (their trip had been postponed three times because of the pandemic!).

Nancy says the same about Switzerland, France, and Germany: “The trip was very beautiful. Wonderful rides through rural, verdant landscapes.”

The Werners and Whalens were pleased to see that VBT has not lost its touch. “The trip leaders are what make every trip so special,” Nancy continues. “They made it so nice to be back!”

And in answer to that final question that might be on your mind: Masks were not required when cycling. Pedaling and coasting along country lanes, the breeze kissing their cheeks and the tires humming along, everything felt the same as it ever was.

Europe Is Open. It’s Ready When You Are.

After chatting with our recently returned guests, it’s fair to say that there’s a new normal in Europe, too. Vaccination cards, temperature checks, masks, and social distancing are de rigueur…for now. But as they told us, it’s as easy to navigate as your hometown.

As long as Covid-19 exists, everyone must make their own assessment of what is comfortable for them. We understand that even some of the most devoted Europhile might hesitate to cross the Atlantic right now. But even as vaccination rates and mask compliance vary by country as much as they vary by state at home, both couples felt some relief every time they walked into a restaurant or shop and were asked to show their vaccination card. This simple requirement assured them that they were surrounded by other people who had gotten the shot, yes. But perhaps what gave them more comfort was knowing that they were in the company of people who respected and understood that their behaviors and choices affect the health of others.

We asked the Werners and Whalens one final question, one that we thought would serve as a barometer for the present and future state of European travel.

VBT: “If you had the opportunity, would you do it all again tomorrow?”

Nancy and Jeff: “Absolutely!”

Julie and Keith: “Easy question. Yes!”

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