“Having an open and honest dialogue about how we are approaching safe and ethical travel right now is paramount.” – Sarah Dandashy, an award-winning travel influencer and founder of Ask A Concierge
The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way we travel, possibly forever. Traveling during the pandemic is a highly personal decision, where we must ask ourselves the ethical and moral questions of whether or not, how, and where we should or should not be traveling.
Is traveling during a pandemic safe? Should we post photos of our travels on social media? And how do we deal with travel shaming and judgments from our friends and family if we choose to travel?
After we returned from Mexico in March 2020, I posted a beautiful photo on Facebook of our driveway early in the morning as we were preparing to go senior grocery shopping at 6 am to 8 am. I was dressed for battle in my mask, gloves, and with hand sanitizer. The responses I received on Facebook were puzzling. They questioned why I left my house, or why I didn’t order my groceries online ( which at the time our local grocery store didn’t have). I was travel shamed for only going to the grocery store. Can you imagine the travel shame others experience for vacationing domestically or abroad and posting their photos on social media?
Shame causes people to become defensive, angry or shift the blame to other people. I can understand that because I made judgments (and still do) during this everlasting pandemic. Although I keep my comments to myself, I wonder when I look at social media photos of unmasked people attending a baseball game, or lounging on a beach in Puerto Rico, or attending their child’s basketball games in a crowded gym, if they are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid, or have been tested.
It is natural to feel jealousy, fear, and anger toward those whom we perceive as not following the rules and want to make them feel bad. But, making people feel bad in a shameful way is not the answer. It does nothing to help the situation; it only increases the resentment.
In the fall of 2020, we crossed the country to Yosemite National Park on a four month Covid camping adventure. Vaccinations were not available, but we felt we could isolate, socially distance, and wear masks to stay safe. We even prepared our Covid bag that contained everything we would need to sanitize our environment and safely camp and travel.
We had a wonderful and safe adventure. I posted daily photos of our trip on Instagram and Facebook. I knew that we were doing everything within our power to stay safe. When we arrived at our son’s house in Yosemite, we got Covid tests and Cory and his fiancé, Tina, were tested as well. We never tested positive. We were taking all the necessary precautions and following the CDC guidelines.
So, is travel safe? When Greece and Iceland were the first two countries to open to vaccinated travelers, we jumped and purchased flights for both countries. We have been fully vaccinated since the beginning of March, 2021. We followed the CDC recommendations and by late spring and early summer, it looked like Covid infections were steadily dropping. We, like so many others, gradually weaned away from wearing masks and were anxious to eat in restaurants, travel, and begin a “normal” lifestyle again. We thought travel was inching its way to normality.
Then, the Delta variant arose, like a zombie from the dead. We still felt protected, but we began to wear our masks indoors and avoided large crowds. Our flights were canceled or changed. We worried about traveling internationally and were constantly checking the entrance requirements for Greece and Iceland.
But, most of our friends continued to travel. Photos of trips to Greece, Iceland, and Europe appeared on social media. Travel shaming ramped up! We were so confused! With only a month until we traveled to Greece, we began to worry that maybe we were making the wrong decision to go, not out of our safety, but the safety of others around us who were still unable to get vaccinated.
A Business Insider article reported, “In July, US airlines saw more than 700,000 passengers per day over the July 4th weekend, a figure that has continued to climb in recent weeks. On August 2, 799,861 people passed through a TSA checkpoint. Yes, these figures are down compared to the same time last year, but the numbers don’t lie. People are traveling, whether we agree with it or not.”
There is no zero-risk situation for this pandemic, unless we stayed locked in our home, and that was never an option for us. We have always been calculated risk takers. For us, the research, advice, and information we received from scientists, health experts, and infectious disease professionals indicated that we could proceed with caution. That is what we intend to do.
I trust science. I don’t believe that I am being selfish in traveling or that it increases the risk of spreading the virus. I think our domestic travel during 2020 and the spring of 2021 has shown us that we can travel safely, protect others by wearing our N95s and KN95s, and socially distancing, and that vaccinations will keep us from getting seriously ill.
I live in Tennessee, where our governor signed an executive order banning mask mandates for our schools! Our hospitals are overrun with pediatric cases. Covid infections are off the charts! Everything is wide open with no masks, no social distancing, and a “Don’t take away my freedom” attitude. Sigh! But people criticize me for traveling to countries that actually take precautions for international travelers?
We are realizing that we’re in this for the long haul and we can live a somewhat normal, enjoyable life and still be safe and keep our risk to a minimum. The problem is everyone’s version of safe is relative, and that is why the travel shaming occurs…out of fear. We can’t live with fear and we will always be cautious jumpers into the unknown.
We leave next week for Greece. Our bags are packed with hand sanitizer, medical masks, face protectors, Clorox wipes, and of course our vaccination cards. We received a QR digital code from Greece to identify us with verified vaccination cards. We aren’t required to be tested before we leave, but we may do a quick antigen test for the safety of others.
We submitted our vaccination cards to Delta Airlines and they are digitized for our travel and verified by the airlines. That is the best that we can do without a unified digital vaccination pass in the US. We will receive the boosters when we return in October. Ethically we agree with the WHO when they say, “This profound global inequity [booster shots for all Americans] would not only be a humanitarian disaster, but also a significant long-term risk for Americans, as scientists agree that accelerating global vaccination is the only way to prevent the formation of deadly new variants.”
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, which represents the travel and tourism industries, “174 million global jobs related to the industries have been lost since the onset of the pandemic.”
I believe that international travel can safely and cautiously restart. With appropriate Covid protocols such as, masking, hygiene, testing, social distancing, and most importantly vaccinations, travel can take place with acceptable risks.
I believe that all travelers should be educating others as to how to travel safely during the time of Covid. Instead of travel shaming, we should encourage safe and responsible travel because we are in it for the long haul. Travel will never be the same again. This is our new normal. Happy and safe trails to you. Are you traveling internationally during the pandemic? How do you stay safe?