This summer when the borders opened up some of our team at Trafalgar HQ took to the skies for a long-awaited vacation or trip home to visit loved ones. We asked them to share their experiences travelling in summer 2021 – the good, the bad, and what it was like on the ground.
Meet Deyana, passionate traveller and VP of Digital for Trafalgar and Costsaver. This summer she made the journey from her London home to visit family in Bulgaria, where she was born. The best way to get there? With a stop in stunning Switzerland to share a steaming pot of cheese fondue with the Trafalgar team, of course.
Here’s what her journey to Switzerland and Bulgaria was like.
Why did you choose to travel this summer?
I needed to go back to Switzerland to do some work, and then visit my family back home and enjoy the beach in Bulgaria.
What was like travelling to Switzerland and Bulgaria?
I flew from London to Geneva, then Geneva to Sofia and then Sofia to London. The airport experience varied. Heathrow was super easy and empty on my outbound, everything was digital and streamlined. Geneva airport was busy on my Sofia leg. There was a storm and huge flight delays due to that, but ultimately we got through. My advice – travel hand luggage only as much as possible and your queuing time will be close to zero. I was in and out across all checkpoints when traveling with no luggage.
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Do you think it was easier to travel now than before the pandemic?
Traveling is the same and yet different. I cannot say if it is easier or not. There is a little more paperwork but less people, so ultimately it balances out.
What did it feel like to be travelling again after so long?
Oh my, I felt alive. It is like someone woke me up from a deep sleep and life was almost normal again. That take off feeling is one of the best and something I dearly missed over the last many months.
What was the vibe on the streets in Switzerland and Bulgaria?
Everywhere I went was normal. The only difference is the social distancing observed at airports and in restaurants but ultimately life is coming back to some form of normality. Restaurants and cafes were buzzing outside, people were joking and laughing and some of the beautiful moments I kept seeing on the streets were the long awaited hugs. You could see people anxiously waiting for their date/friend/family and then they see each other and jump into that warm, long awaited embrace. Something we did not used to see that often before COVID. I would say the vibe in the world is more positive than what it used to be before.
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Did you feel like you could enjoy travel to the fullest? Did any restrictions dampen your joy?
Once I reached my destinations, I did not see a difference in my experiences. I could do whatever I wanted to do and interact with the people I wanted to meet.
Did you feel safe?
Yes in general. I think airlines, airports, transportation companies, hotels etc have definitely put a lot of effort into cleaning and making customers feel as safe as possible. I could definitely see the hygiene levels everywhere being much better than before the pandemic. To be honest, not a bad thing. A lot of places provide you with personal sanitiser kits/masks etc which makes the experience seamless.
What was your favourite moment or highlight of your trip?
When I hugged my mom once again after a long time.
Did you feel like you were able to connect with the local culture and people?
Absolutely, everyone was super welcoming and yet respectful of social distancing rules. As it was summer, I managed to have a lovely fondue experience in the heart of Old Town Geneva’s cobbled streets, under a 200 year old oak tree, while a guitar player was filling the night with music across the square. It felt lovely and normal.
When I went to Bulgaria, I got to visit the Rila Monastery – a 10th century monastery that is situated in the Rila National park and is of huge significance to Bulgarian culture. The small restaurants in the mountain offer fresh fish caught from the river nearby. One of my favourite day trip experiences in the country – history, culture, fresh air, nature for days and fresh food.
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What was the most enjoyable or relaxing part of your trip?
I enjoyed returning to places I have missed so dearly. Also, seeing people I never thought I would not be seeing for so long. As cheesy as it sounds I also loved being by the beach for a few weeks, the sound of the waves is the most relaxing part.
What surprised you about travelling again?
How much I missed it and how emotional I got when I touched down in my destinations after so long being away. Travel is such an integral part of my life (which I always knew) but the bottled up emotions were a surprise.
If you could do it again next week, what would you change about your trip?
How did taking an international holiday impact you?
It gave me hope. That hopefully the world is strong enough to stand together and fight this virus. So we can create our new normal, which is hopefully close to what our old normal was when it comes to travel. Travel is such a significant experience in our day to day lives but also for the communities and crafts people in the places we visit. It keeps history, culture and tradition preserved, it connects us with the people and places we love. What I feel is gratitude for being able to travel again and hope that I can keep on doing it.
Did you travel this summer or are you waiting for 2022? Let us know how you feel in the comments below…