A Reunion Worth the Wait

AFAR cofounder Greg Sullivan reflects on the past year and a half—and how the travel industry is blazing a path forward.

A Reunion Worth the Wait

As the world cautiously re-embraces travel, people are finding new ways to connect.

Photo by Markus Lange/AGEFOTOSTOCK

COVID has caused so much pain and loss. I know canceled vacations don’t compare to serious illness and unemployment, but missed moments with loved ones are significant events. Milestone birthdays and anniversaries, weddings, births, and reunions—they’re some of our most treasured times. How do you quantify joy?

Among the celebrations I had planned for 2020 was an AmaWaterways river cruise on the Danube with dear friends to mark our 40th college reunion. Rather than return to campus, we would sail from Budapest to Bratislava, Slovakia; head on to Vienna, Dürnstein, and Linz, Austria; and end in Passau, Germany. Nine of us signed up to reminisce and reconnect while cruising through some of Europe’s most picturesque scenery.

But the pandemic—and its resulting closures and cancellations, vaccines and COVID tests—would require professional help to navigate. Our travel advisors at Judy Perl Travel were invaluable, helping to solve problems like: What do we do about our original canceled reservations? When will we be able to reschedule and sail? All of us were fortunate enough to get vaccinated in spring 2021, and we were so excited when AmaWaterways announced in June that it would start sailing the Danube on July 21—and intended to keep sailing throughout the season.

I spoke with Kristin Karst, co-owner of AmaWaterways, shortly thereafter. “We are dancing the happy dance preparing for our return to the rivers of Europe in July!” she said.

“It is important to us to start back sailing as soon as we safely can in compliance with local regulations,” she added. “We want to do it for our employees, we want to do it for our travelers, and we want to do it for the destinations we visit.” Kristin and her Ama co-owner, Rudi Schreiner, were both named AFAR Travel Vanguard honorees in 2019 for their extraordinary efforts to sail as sustainably as possible. Like so many in our industry, they do this because they love what they do and the places they go—and they think that acting responsibly can make a constructive difference.

At AFAR, we are huge believers in the power of travel to make a positive impact on the world. The experiences we have away from home can enrich our lives so deeply. Our travels can also support the communities we visit, particularly when we make special efforts to do so—like picking hosts who share our values.

>> Next: Travel Should Be a Force for Good

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