Travel in the Time of Covid

“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?

19 thoughts on “Travel in the Time of Covid

  1. Debbie, I am getting ready to fly to Germany on Delta to see O. How did you go about registering your vaccine cards with Delta? You can respond to my email, or here. I’ll keep an eye out. Thanks.

    • Hi Katie, I was checking our Delta flights to make sure our flights hadn’t been canceled as so many of them are these days. But, Delta has always notified me of changes far ahead of time. I went to my trips on Delta.com by entering the confirmation number for our flights, then near the bottom of the page it asks you if you want to enter your vaccination status with them or enter a Covid-19 test result. It depends on the location you are entering. I have photos of our vaccination cards in my Health photo album. Delta sends you to another site to upload your photos. They will verify that your vaccination card has been entered correctly and that is all you have to do. It is on a digital record with Delta. Gotta ❤️ Delta. Have a wonderful time. Hugs to O for us.

  2. Debbie, you have nothing to be ashamed about. Planning our own international travel (living) to a place (Portugal) that is more Covid-conscious and vaccinated and safer than our better-resourced country. Even in relatively health-conscious Minnesota the level of denial and disrespect for others is incredible. Frankly, my biggest personal concern is the actual air travel (airports) itself – although we will be required to be fully masked and have full PCR testing. The real shame that all Americans should be facing is that we are potentially allowing millions of vaccine doses to go to waste while most of the world still goes without any. It is perhaps a result of our own insular outlook that maybe more travel can help change.

    • Wow! You are moving to Portugal? I have so many friends there. We love Portugal and it was second on our list before we decided to move to Nicaragua because it was closer to home when our parents were alive. We are concerned about the air quality in the airports, too. Fortunately we have a direct flight to Athens from Atlanta. I bought face masks to wear over our N95s, and we won’t eat in the airport. That is the best we can do.
      I am going to write posts and compare the Covid safety protocols between Greece and the USA. I already know which country will enforce more protections…Sigh! Did you know that you can be fined 300 euros for refusing to comply with the Covid restrictions in Greece? Safe travels, Jon and let’s keep in touch.

  3. PS: Don’t worry about the shaming! People love to criticize other people – because, if you look at somebody else you don’t have to look at yourself. And, if you tell somebody else what to do, you don’t have to examine your own auto-pilot programming and change your own habit and behaviors! We needed Trump to help us understand in what terrible state of enlightenment (lack thereof) such large portions of the US population is. We need covid to learn from experience, that we need to look out for each other, and do stuff that may feel uncomfortable for the benefit of the other, in order for all of us to survive and live well. Every generation has a big topic to grapple with: ours seems to be learning to cooperate and look out for each other (not just our own family, tribe, class, country, race, neighborhood…) Let’s see if enough people learn something to change our society as a whole…
    Don’t worry about shaming! You are so conscientious I feel totally at ease to encourage you to live your life the way you feel is right. And continue to report what you find, realize, experience – so we all can learn through you, too! 😊 👍😇

    • Thomas, thank you for the encouragement. The older I become, the less that I am bothered about personal criticism. What really frustrates me though, is our public discourse. People have become so mean and rude while hiding behind their computer screens. I try to look at life as a detective, in every problem, crisis, and event positive or negative, there is a lesson to learn. Sometimes those events knock me over the head again and again, until I learn from them. Life is wonderful, yet challenging at times. Right?

  4. I travelled to Panama for all of June and felt safer there than I ever felt in the US. Everybody there is wearing their mask; most of them properly! I stayed away from crowded places, stayed mostly outdoors…
    I think you need to worry more about the forest-fires, heat, and drought situation in Greece at this time, than covid… But, maybe I’m just used to covid, like a carpenter is used to his table saw, just minutes before he cut his two fingers off! 😝

    According to the International Peace Index, 2/3 of all countries in the world are safer than the US. two thirds!!! And that is before – or without – looking at the average covid attitude…

    I’ve lived in several places in the world, and vacationed in many more. Nowhere but the US – and here in pretty much every city I’ve lived – could I hear gun-shots close by regularly in the night. Nowhere else did I ever see people run around with guns on their hips (except police, and in many places not even regular police has guns). You won’t have to worry about a mass-shooter, or a being caught in the cross fire of a random shootout, or catching a stray bullet when you’re in Greece…

    In Austria a guy was pulled over for transporting a mattresses in his SUV, with part of them sticking out in the back. He was fined, prevented from continuing on, and can anticipate a court proceedings! In the US there’s not a single day where I do not see at least one pickup truck or trailer with loose items laying unsecured on the truck-bed, while the car is speeding down the highway! Nowhere else in the world did I ever see as much debris – made up of items that has fallen off vehicles – on the side of the freeways, highways, and country roads. Here, going 5 miles down the road from your home carries a significant risk of getting into an accident due to unsafe vehicles and vehicle loads. You won’t have to worry about that in Greece – at least as much as I remember…

    There are several other behaviors in the US that make life more dangerous than in developed countries. (Isn’t it a shame, that the richest country in the world, can not really be considered a developed country? Terrible school system; terrible healthcare, accessible only to the rich; not taking much care of our old people, nor long-term ill, nor mentally ill; no decent public transportation system, except in a very few large cities; voting hindered rather than encouraged; and so much more that are issues taken care of well in developed countries)

    So,I agree with Maria Magnolia! I also think you guys are safer overseas than back home. Any day! But especially in the covid times.. especially, with the precautions you are taking, and the approaches you are planning on applying during your trip!

    Don’t know how the attitude of the average population is in Greece, in Austria it is still much better than the US – even though the US ideas of “personal freedom”, and “covid-denial” are finding fertile grounds in some parts of the population there, too… Just not (yet!) in such large numbers!

    I’m curious and looking forward to hear what you’re observing there. Enjoy your trip!

    • You are absolutely right on, Thomas. I wish more people would be willing and open to have some serious discussions about the state of our home country. Unfortunately, we have been brainwashed with a sense of personal freedom and nationalistic patriotism that override common sense and the need to protect our communities as a whole. There is a fine balance between individual and group ideologies.
      Your comments always make me delve deeper. Thanks for that. I hope to write about our trip to Greece with an emphasis on these points you brought up.

    • Sue, that is exactly why I want to write about our experiences with international travel during a pandemic. Thanks for expressing your sincere thoughts. I am nervous, too…but I think this is something that we will all have to live with for a long time. I will be the cautious scout and report back to you how it goes. Hopefully, successfully.

  5. Well said! How ironic and sad that your international travels could keep you and Ron safer than running errands back home.

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