Cities, states, and countries have started reopening, and it’s a beautiful, scary thing.
Hotels, airlines, and theme parks have released safety statements. Countries have lifted travel bans and loosened travel restrictions. It finally feels like the metaphorical fasten seat belt sign has been turned off and we are once again free to move about the cabin. But should we?
Even in a time where most of the world has been staying at home, we’ve found ways to talk about travel–we’ve covered virtual travel, the future of travel, to how travel will stay the same, how it will be different, and how companies are working hard to make sure we can travel as soon as possible. But, to paraphrase pop culture’s favorite chaos theorist, Dr. Ian Malcom, people have been so preoccupied with whether or not we could, have enough of us stopped to think whether or not we should?
There is still no vaccine, no cure, no proof antibodies make you immune, and no proof a person can’t be infected twice.
We are still in the middle of a pandemic. We aren’t through the woods yet. While the world reopens, we’re still adding roughly one million new confirmed cases every 10-12 days. On June 8, we hit the 7 million cases mark. People are still dying. There is still no vaccine, no cure, no proof antibodies make you immune, and no proof a person can’t be infected twice. We’ve already seen second waves and cases rise in areas that prematurely opened their borders or lifted lockdowns. Yet, we keep asking, Are we there yet? Can we travel?
If travel has taught us anything, it’s that this world isn’t just about us. So, whether you’re hellbent on traveling this summer or fall, or are still on the fence, here are a few things to consider when deciding on whether or not you should be traveling during this pandemic.
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Do You Really Need to Take This Trip?
Right now, the general consensus from the CDC, U.S. Department of State, and several international organizations and governments is to avoid all non-essential international travel. Though there is no explicit advisement against domestic travel within the United States, the CDC urges travelers to check out their list of considerations before taking any domestic trips. Again, the definition of essential travel is relative. For some, it might mean their job depends on it, some may need to get home or see family, others may just need to get outta dodge to help maintain their mental health. Whatever your reason for traveling is, be honest about it and then go from there.
How Tourist-Ready Is Your Destination?
Okay, so the place you want to go is finally open, but what does that actually mean? Just because a city has started the process of reopening does not mean it’s ready for tourism. For some places, reopening will be a slower process than others. As cities find their legs, it may be a while before many tourist experiences like museums, dining in restaurants, bars, entertainment, and tours can return. Most early stages of reopening are not designed for tourism; they are designed for the cities themselves and the residents of those cities to start easing out of lockdown.
Warning: Possible Travel Experiences May Be Riskier Than They Appear
If you’ve kept an eye on the industry, it’s been hard to miss the big push toward hyper-local and domestic travel, road trips, visiting national parks, and camping–all being touted as safe ways to scratch the travel itch during a pandemic. The truth is, while they are all safer ways to travel, it doesn’t necessarily make them safe–and not all of these trips are created equal. There are a lot of levels between self-driving your own car a few towns over to visit your family and renting that RV with a group of friends and plotting out a road trip across multiple state lines.
We fully support the zeal of exploring our own backyard, but it’s important to make sure we aren’t a threat to smaller, underexposed communities, their people, and their resources. Assess the unique and nuanced risks and details that your specific trip imposes on you and everyone you will have direct and indirect contact with during the trip (and anyone they may have direct or indirect contact with), from the gas station attendant to park rangers to hotel staff and beyond. When you choose to travel, you are potentially making the same choice for others you come in contact with–whether they like it or not.
What’s the Current Virus and Healthcare System Situation at Home and at Your Destination?
On that note, before you head out on any trip, do your research–both at home and wherever you’re headed. Look into the current COVID-19 situation in both places and consider the risks. Again, traveling outside of your community not only puts you and your community at risk for whatever you may be exposed to at your destination, but it also exposes everyone at your destination to whatever risks you are bringing with you from your own community. It’s important to assess the unique and nuanced risks and details that your specific trip imposes on you, your travel, companions, your community, and the communities you will be visiting.
The level of risk and ability to cope with the virus can change drastically between countries and states, but even from city to city, and cannot be overlooked when planning a trip.
This includes not only the risk of transmission but also the ability for your hometown or the place you visit to deal with the virus. The level of risk and ability to cope with the virus can change drastically between countries and states, but even from city to city, and cannot be overlooked when planning a trip.
Some things to think about, both at home and in your possible destinations: How well has the area coped with COVID-19? Have they been accurately reporting confirmed case numbers? Has there been or is there currently an outbreak? Are the hospitals capable of coping with a possible spike in cases or second wave? What is the quality and cost of care for people who do contract the virus? What are the current restrictions and rules when it comes to pandemic precautions, PPE, and mitigating spread–and are they being enforced or followed? Are there any restrictions in place for travelers coming out of this destination, and, if so, is this really a place you want to go into voluntarily?
If You’re Feeling Sick, Stay Home. Period.
SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) affects people differently and several of its symptoms are so generic (fever, headache, dry cough, diarrhea, etc) that it’s hard to know for sure if you’re coming down with a plain ol’ cold or the virus that causes COVID-19. Feeling unwell? Stay home, assume it may be the virus, and don’t travel. Remember, even if you’ve already had COVID-19, the jury is still out on whether or not you can get reinfected, and we’re still waiting for definitive proof that having antibodies makes someone immune.
Now, maybe more than ever, we need to be responsible travelers. The way you travel during a pandemic and the places you choose to travel to during a pandemic matter, and the differences can have real consequences.