I generally plan trips around six months in advance, but after I had to cancel three trips due to Covid, I didn’t want to go through that disappointment again. I couldn’t even bring myself to plan an itinerary. What I did do is target November as the best month for my husband and me to take a trip in 2021. Our default destination was Acadia National Park in Maine, but I was hoping we could make it to Europe.
As October rolled around, I started thinking about where to go. In the back of my mind was a post on the forum from early September about a “Fabulous B&B” in Andalusia. I don’t even know why I opened it because Spain was not – and never has been – on my radar. Casa Olea sounded like the perfect pandemic destination – remote location, beautiful scenery, great hiking, and friendly hosts. I mentioned it to my husband, and he was enthusiastic, even when I told him we’d have to drive. (We had sworn off rental cars in Europe.) So I started researching Spain. It had some big pluses: decent weather in November, easy entry for vaccinated Americans, and improving Covid numbers.
When I told people we were going to Spain, a lot of them said, “You’re brave.” I am not. In fact, I’m generally risk averse. We decided to go for two reasons: 1) We are in our late 60s, I didn’t want to miss another year of travel while we are still healthy and mobile. 2) The only risk I saw (beyond the normal risks of travel) was getting Covid and having to quarantine in Spain. That would have been exceedingly unpleasant, but we are retired and able to afford the time and cost of quarantining. And the risk of that happening seemed low. We had just gotten our boosters, we were going to travel by car, we were going mostly to uncrowded locations, and we would wear masks inside. We judged the risk/return tradeoff to be very favorable.
We decided to stay out of the big cities and forgo the “must-sees.” We generally prefer smaller towns and rural areas anyway. Plus, as I have gotten older, I care less about hitting all the big sites and more about just enjoying each day.
It had been two and a half years since our last international trip, and I was not exactly at the top of my game. Early on, I was nervous and lacking in confidence; little things threw me into a tizzy. But gradually I got my mojo back. It felt wonderful be in Europe again!
Despite my initial nerves, we found Spain to be an easy country for travel. The roads are in excellent condition, and the drivers are extremely courteous. We rarely heard a horn beep. Nearly everyone we met was friendly, laid back, and down to earth. They don’t smile at you when you are passing them, even if you smile at them. But if you ask for assistance, they are all smiles. Many people do not speak English, which was occasionally a challenge. But they try their best to communicate, and we managed fine.
Lodging was inexpensive. Perhaps this was a function of it being November and during a pandemic, or perhaps it was because we skipped the big cities. Our average nightly room/apartment cost was $200, and that included 9 breakfasts and 8 dinners out of 19 nights.