Bananas in Barbados
Bjorn went off to his bedroom accompanied by a gorgeous bartender.
Just then another bartender opened Bjorn’s suitcase and took a piece of his clothing to commemorate his brush with tennis fame. Then another did and so on until all twenty of us had a piece of Bjorn’s clothing. Yes, we stole his clothes! Not my finest moment, I must admit. I was 21, it was 3:30 in the morning and we were the worse for drink.
The next morning, I woke up with not only a hangover. I found a t-shirt on the end of my bed. It was a hideous deep orange colour with a bunch of yellow bananas on the front. The t-shirt read, “Go Bananas in Barbados’. This past January I did just that!
As an aside, fast forward 25 years later, I was staying at the Mandarin Hotel in London on business. I went to the gym for a workout and who was on the treadmill beside me, Bjorn. As a smile came to my face, I decided not to introduce myself and share the tale of his missing clothes. Today, I wish I had.
In the past six months, I have traveled to Brittany, Sicily, and Barbados. All of which were considered ‘green’ destinations by our country’s rating system. Green meaning safe to travel there.
France was in July. The trip was easy. We wore masks on the ferry, in restaurants while seated, in the outdoor marketplaces. We washed and applied gel to our hands regularly. We had a fabulous time walking the riverbank, exploring the markets, tasting cheese. We tested negative when home.
In September, the travel destination was supposed to be Croatia. It went ‘red’ with Covid three days before departure. Our flights were cancelled. We about-faced and made our way to Sicily as it was green. A wonderful vacation, exploring the ancient Greek ruins, medieval villages ended enjoying the sun and sea in Taormina. If you haven’t been, go! Sicily was a luscious surprise. Again, we tested negative.
Barbados in January was astonishing. Before I write further, a caveat: I am not trashing the island. What happened could happen anywhere.
I now realize we traveled as the pandemic furor came to a crescendo globally. Safe corridors ended. Borders closed. Restrictions increased globally.
At the time of our flight, Barbados was part of the UK safe travel corridor. Requirement was to have a Covid test within 72 hours prior to arrival. We arranged this at London Heathrow. The airport was eerily quiet. Our airline check-in host said it was wonderful to see travelers coming back. Upon observation, I think there is minimal risk flying. Everyone must test negative to fly. The airport was fogged. The lounge was fogged. The plane was fogged. We were about 40 passengers all appropriately socially distanced on a large plane.
In Barbados airport, our temperature was taken at three separate stations before exiting. When we checked into our resort, the positive travel experience ended. Instead of a two-day quarantine where we could enjoy the pool and restaurants of the quarantine section, the Barbados government changed the rules during our flight. We were to quarantine in our room for 5 days, have our temperature taken twice a day and to receive another Covid test before release.
This decree caught the hotel industry and its tourists by surprise. Quickly there was a backlog of tests in the lab. We spent 10 days in quarantine. It was a horrible experience. The food and customer service were awful. We had to ask for everything including cleaning supplies for our room. Wearing red wrist bands was mandatory and the red dot on our hotel room door identified ‘the danger’ of coming near. Posted guards ensured we did not leave. We felt like lepers.
Many of the inmates at the prison had Covid. Over the Christmas holidays, the prison guards went on a pub crawl, spreading the virus into the population. The uptick in people with Covid was not caused by tourists.
The main reason we traveled was because I was in pain with arthritis. We were not foolhardy. We did our research. We thought we found a safe sun destination. If we had been told of the change before our flight, we wouldn’t have boarded the plane. The Bajan government did consider the capacity in their lab.
I give kudos to our resort who treated us extremely well once we were released from quarantine. And kudos to the company who did the testing. They were timely, courteous supportive. The go-between of tourists and the lab, they were squeezed between a rock and a hard place. And kudos to the Barbados government who realized the PR problem they created for their tourism industry. Weddings were missed. Vacations for many consisted of a week in a hotel room. One poor fellow missed his father’s funeral. Barbados has kindly offered a rebate to hotel guests for the extra evenings spent in quarantine. We were fortunate to extend our stay in Barbados post quarantine.
When we returned home, I was asked if I recommended international travel presently. NO. We spent 2 days in the London airport for testing, 10 days in quarantine in Barbados and another 10 in Jersey with 14 days of health monitoring. We were tested for Covid 7 times throughout. Was it good to be in the sun? Definitely. I had no pain. Was it worth it? No. Quarantine isn’t pleasant but for me, that is not the issue. From my point of view, we were shunned and demeaned by so many during the journey it left a bad taste in my mouth.
After consideration, having travelled to France, Sicily, and Barbados, I do not think it’s the traveler that is the problem for spreading COVID. The protocols are working. My husband and I are proof of that.
I travel because every trip enriches my soul, expands my perspective, heightens my gratitude for this amazingly, diverse world we live in. My perspective was expanded by this last journey, but it was trying and difficult. For now, it’s home for me until travel once again becomes a rich experience. By the time you read this blog, I will have received my first vaccine and that’s a very good thing.