Comedian Avi Liberman: I've traveled more since Covid-19 than ever before -- no joke

Avi Liberman; as told to Abby EllinPublished 23rd November 2020
Editor's Note — Avi Liberman is a comedian with dual US/Israeli citizenship, who has chosen to travel throughout the pandemic. In sharing Liberman's story, CNN Travel is neither promoting nor condemning travel during the pandemic, which is a personal decision. It's advised to check local restrictions and rules related to Covid-19 before embarking on any trip.
(CNN) — As a comedian who works a lot in the Middle East, especially Israel, I'm often on and off airplanes. I'm executive platinum on American Airlines, if that tells you anything.
About three times a year, I fly from Los Angeles, where I live, to London, and from London to Tel Aviv. (I have dual US/Israeli citizenship). I stay about two weeks each time, do my shows, do a day of touring and then immediately fly home.
Covid-19 changed all that.
This year, with almost all of my in-person gigs drying up and not much going on in Los Angeles other than lockdowns and quarantines, I decided to focus my travels on Europe and the Middle East.
Initially, I thought about returning to the United States and traveling within the country, but my friends in LA told me I was better off abroad if I planned to move around.
Avi Liberman recently traveled to Greece, where he visited the Acropolis. For him, travel during coronavirus is an opportunity to get out in the world now.
Avi Liberman recently traveled to Greece, where he visited the Acropolis. For him, travel during coronavirus is an opportunity to get out in the world now.
Courtesy Avi Liberman
I had the coronavirus back in April and have antibodies, so I'm not afraid to travel.
You never know what's going to get in your way, so why not get out there while you can? I'm taking advantage of any and every travel opportunity I get. Plus, hotels and airlines are cheaper than they would normally be.
I also have a bunch of Chase Visa points saved up, and this seemed like a perfect time to use them.

Escaping lockdown

I landed in Israel August 4 to do my regular round of shows for the Koby Mandell Foundation. We managed to do about six shows until the second lockdown.
But I also knew I didn't want to be in Israel during lockdown; there's no more depressing place to be than Tel Aviv, because it goes from this absolute buzz of fun to nothing.
The Israeli government had labeled various countries as "green," meaning you could go to them and not have to quarantine when you returned. If the country is "red," then you have to quarantine. I opted for the green ones.

On the go

First, I flew to Greece, and spent Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in Athens. I found a synagogue there and they welcomed me.
Then I took a ferry to the island of Spetses, a two-hour trip from Athens. I stayed at the Poseidonion Grand, by far the nicest hotel there, just using points. It was off season and not very crowded, so it was easy to get around.
Liberman spent Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in Athens. Several weeks later, the city shut down to a rise in coronavirus cases.
Liberman spent Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in Athens. Several weeks later, the city shut down to a rise in coronavirus cases.
Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images
Everyone rents bikes, scooters and four-wheelers to get around the island, so I did, too.
Unfortunately, I fell off an electric bike. They don't tell you how dangerous they are! After I fell off -- I hurt my wrist, but nothing serious -- my friends starting posting articles about how they're all being recalled.
My advice: Use the 4x4 off-road vehicle instead of an electric bike or scooter.
From there, I went to Hydra, where Leonard Cohen once lived, and stayed at the Four Seasons (thank you, points!). It's beautiful and romantic, and I was alone, which could have been very lonely. But friends connected me with other friends, which helped, and I met a ton of people on my own. It's a magical island.
Bulgaria came highly recommended, so in mid-October, I hopped on a plane and stayed for a little over a week.
Sofia, the capital, is filled with spectacular architecture, art and food. But my favorite was Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second largest city and the sixth oldest city in the world.
There are museums and art galleries, a Roman amphitheater and a thriving café culture. I visited the Rila Monestary, founded in the 10th century, and the resort town of Hisarya. People spoke English, as my Bulgarian is nonexistent.
Liberman visited the Rila Monestary in Bulgaria. The Eastern Orthodox monestary was founded in the 10th century, and is located in the resort town of Hisarya.
Liberman visited the Rila Monestary in Bulgaria. The Eastern Orthodox monestary was founded in the 10th century, and is located in the resort town of Hisarya.
Markus Hilgert
At the end of October, I visited Serbia, staying at Hotel Moskva, one of Belgrade's oldest. Again, I used points. Everything in town was open, including the Nikola Tesla Museum -- masks required -- and all the restaurants and bars.
I even went to a comedy club there and hope to put together an "English Comedy Night" sometime in the future. I got a haircut for half the money I would have spent in the United States, something I hadn't been able to do in Tel Aviv since lockdown. I went to Novi Sad, the second-largest city in Serbia, and traveled a bit in the countryside.

Back to Israel

Unfortunately, I had to cut the trip short by three days because Israel declared it red as of November 8. So I returned to Israel.
The writer describes Tel Aviv as a place that has gone from this "absolute buzz of fun to nothing" amid coronavirus restrictions.
The writer describes Tel Aviv as a place that has gone from this "absolute buzz of fun to nothing" amid coronavirus restrictions.
Shutterstock
Now that Israel and the United Arab Emirates have a peace treaty, I thought I should take advantage and visit. I had a flight booked on Ukranian Air to Dubai, but it was canceled for reasons still unclear to me.
It only cost US$500 roundtrip, but it would have taken an entire day to get there. In retrospect, it might have been a blessing in disguise as nonstops will supposedly start soon. I'd rather fly directly for two and a half hours than take a circuitous route with long layovers in Kiev.
I have a guest spot at the Laughter Factory in Dubai from December 1 to 6. I'll be the first comedian with Israeli citizenship to ever perform there.
People have been very nice, and interestingly, politics hasn't come up.
I've mostly been using my Israeli passport as opposed to my American one, something I thought I'd never do. There's usually too much controversy. Still, when I checked into the hotel in Plovdiv, the guy at the counter said, "God bless you Israelis for coming here. You're saving our economy!"

Planning the next escape

Apparently, I'm not the only one who didn't want to spend lockdown in Israel.
Depending on color status, I'm hoping to hit Cyprus or Portugal next. And then, who knows? I'm not sure when I'll return to the States, especially since the Covid-19 rates are spiking. I figure I'll stay in this part of the world and slowly make my way back home via Europe.
There are worse ways to spend a pandemic.