It’s hard not to see the term “pent-up travel demand“ while consuming any news media. For my wife Betty and I that term is a bit of an understatement because our entire retirement has been an ongoing pursuit of wanderlust.

With COVID trends heading in the right direction folks are hitting the roads and sky in increasing numbers. Unfortunately for international travel most of the world is still closed to Americans without lengthy quarantine requirements. That is about to change.

At the time of this writing Iceland has already opened its doors and the European Union is soon to follow. The so called “golden ticket in” is predicated on verification of total vaccination status or vaccination passports. (Proof of prior infection is the exception.)

When we heard that Iceland had opened, we were all in. Iceland was a bucket list destination even before the pandemic. We would like to share our experiences and give folks an idea of what they can expect regarding foreign health requirements. No doubt each country will have its own specific protocol, but the verification of vaccination status will likely be a common thread.

Before leaving home Iceland required an online registration. A smart phone is essential as they activate your registration via your phone number and send you a barcode which you’ll need both at your boarding gate as well as your passport control destination. You also need your CDC paper vaccine card. (Although Iceland currently accepts the paper card it is believed a standard digital vaccination passport will be needed in Europe.) Finally, a downloaded tracking app is suggested.

When we arrived in Iceland we were required to take a COVID test at the airport and quarantine in our hotel until an all clear negative result was messaged to our phone. We received the results in 6 hours.

By now you’re probably thinking: Is all this intrusive hassle worth it especially when layered on top of normal travel security demands? For us the answer was a resounding yes.

Because of the above precautions traveling in Iceland had the feel of pre-pandemic normalcy. We took our cues from the locals and, with the exception of the airport, no one wore masks — including in hotels, restaurants and bars. This had nothing to do with politics, but instead was confidently based on total vaccination and testing of all visitors, coupled with the fact that Iceland already had one of the lowest infection rates in the world.

After being locked down for a year, this trip had a special appeal. All the reasons we travel to begin with seemed to be more cherished and appreciated.

There currently is an erupting volcano in Iceland, and some travelers were going exclusively for that reason. It was featured on “60 Minutes” and is considered by many to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As true as that is, Iceland, known as the land of fire and ice, has additional natural wonders. Many are within a day trip out of Reykjavik. Around every corner there seems to be another waterfall, thermal pool or glacier. Snowcapped mountains coupled with dormant volcanos give the landscape an otherworldly impression, and it’s all reachable by rental car.

Getting up close and personal with an active volcano or actually touching a melting glacier had fellow travelers bond in communal admiration.

Shared experiences were immediate icebreakers. For most of us this was our first post-COVID foreign trip, and the feeling of kids being let loose in the candy store prevailed. We don’t think we ever took our travels for granted — well, maybe a little, but never again.

Some final thoughts on vaccinations. There are a number of reasons why some of our citizens are refusing vaccinations. For those individuals who are not getting vaccinated because they see it as a freedom issue, they are actually forfeiting their freedom to travel. The irony is irrefutable.

I hope this summary gives you a rough idea about the hoops you must jump through in order to resume or begin navigating the planet. It’s definitely worth the effort. Quoting Nomadland, “see you down the road.“