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How I managed to travel from the US to Europe during lockdown

My name is Sabrina Gambato, I am a professional destination wedding planner based in Milan and I would like to share my experience of travelling from Hawaii to Europe during the lockdown.
 
I took a flight to Honululu on the 3rd of march with my fiancée and my mother, I didn’t know it was the beginning of an adventurous trip around the world during a Pandemic outbreak.
 
We went to Hawaii because my father last will was to have his ashes spread in the ocean in Maui, we decided to honour his will the day of his birthday the 12th of march 2020.
 
 
On 9 March 2020, the government of Italy has imposed a national quarantine and even if we where allowed to go back to Italy as Italian resident we decided to stay 15 days more in Honululu, we felt safe there and we had the possibility to self isolate our self in an estate property with a huge garden facing the sea.
 
We where very scary about the situation in Italy, friends and family updated us on a day by day base and all the American news where talking just about how strong the COVID19 had affect Lombardy population, the region where we live. We lost few friends during this emergency and everybody was suggesting us to stay away from home.
 
Travelling with my mom, we wanted at all cost to protect her by staying away from the country, but we where informed that our international travel insurance as most of the travel insurance pre-covid19 didn’t cover us for a pandemic.
 
We decided than to let my mom travel to Stockholm, where my other sister live as soon as possible, so that at least she was in a safe place in Europe.
 
After 1 month in Hawaii the situation was becoming critic also there mainly because of the news coming from the main land. 
Fear was spreading and the local guns shop was empty: in Italy they where running out of asks and toilet paper and in Hawaii they where running out of guns!
 
We where scared not to be able to travel back to Europe and we decide to bought a fly to Stockholm to join my family.
 
The flight to Stockholm was cancelled at least 4 or 5 times. After having several flights cancelled, we reached the city of Stockholm the 1st ofApril after a journey of around 28/30 hour and two stops, in Atlanta and Amsterdam. 
 
 
Atlanta’s airport was completely desert, it looked post-apocalyptic. The few planes that where flying where almost empty, they asked us to scan our own boarding pass as well, so airline’s staff is not handling our documents. 
 
 
We had our filter FFP2 masks on the entire trip, the elastic was  so tight that was cutting my face, but I didn’t want to take it off.
 
Amsterdam airport was surreal. I did not see one other passenger in any direction. Besides TSA agents and a few other workers, there were no other people. All shops were closed, as well as most restaurants.
 
With so few people in the airport, social distancing is easy. I feel like I'm in a Twilight Zone episode.
All the airplanes interiors where disinfected using electrostatic cleaning, a process in which electrostatic charged cleaning fluids are sprayed throughout the cabins.
 
 
When arrived in Sweden we where exhausted but really happy, nobody was wearing masks and they had no lockdown. We rented a big apartment and we decided to self quarantine our self most of the time. We decided to do a 1 to 2 hours power walk every day along the sea and food shopping when necessary. The only people we met where my sister and sister’s husband. We where fine, after the stressful travel from USA to Europe everything felt easy.
During this month we did a lot of walks, yoga, pilates. 
 
Sweden has been an outlier in Europe, trusting its people to voluntarily follow the protocols. While other countries were slamming on the brakes, Sweden kept its borders open, allowed restaurants and bars to keep serving, left preschools and grade schools in session and placed no limits on public transport or outings in local parks. Hairdressers, yoga studios, gyms and even some cinemas have remained open.
Gatherings of more than 50 people where banned. Museums have closed and sporting events have been canceled. At the end of March, the authorities banned visits to nursing homes.
 
 
Pedestrians wearing masks where generally stared at as if they have just landed from Mars.
 
We where in Stockholm with our bikini luggage from Hawaii and the "happy problem" was to find something to wear because it was freezing some days. Friends and my sister gave my some jumpers and a coat and the problem was solved, during the pandemic in Sweden my outfits where horrible but really functional!
 
After a month in Stockholm me and my fiancé decided to go home after my mom 70th birthday house party.
 
On the 3rd of may we bought a flight, and on the 6th we went to the airport ready to leave the country but we where asked to stay another day in Stockholm because the flight was cancelled, we took a room at the airport hotel and we stayed there for the night.
 
This time the flight from Stockholm to Frankfurt was quite packed on the plain we where wearing masks, the stop over in Amsterdam was not too long and the airport was quite desert.
 
I knew we would have to quarantine, but it was not a problem,  we really wanted to come home. Andreas family took us a car to the airport and we went home alone following the protocol.
 
While driving I saw so many people around in the streets, I was not use to that. I was so grateful to be home, our plants, our bed, our little things. I felt close to my friends and people when I was abroad but I was really missing to hug them and talk in person to them.
May we never take hugs and human contact for granted again. This pandemic and time of #SocialDistancing has taught us many things.
 
 
 
Sabrina Gambato
Event Designer, Destination Wedding & Stylist @TI AMO TI SPOSO
 
 
 
 
 
 
All photos by Andreas Pinacci .
 
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