An icebreaker question came up recently, one of those “getting to know you” things. It was, Which people have traveled to ten countries or more? Out of all the questions, like “Who can type over 50 words a minute?” this was the one with the most people who answered yes.
I was one of them, although just barely.
It made me think about travel, and how much I miss it. But then those images of travel come from a world that has essentially vanished.
The point of travel is to see the world, learn about other cultures, and connect with people.
Right now, what I’m learning about other cultures is that most of them are doing a far better job managing the pandemic than we are here in the US.
The way I’m connecting with those other countries now is in shared adversity, knowing they have just as much reason to fear this issue as I do.
It’s different than something like an earthquake, hurricane, volcanic eruption, or wildfire, because those events are regional. Two of those are highly relevant to Californians, and two we just have to imagine if we want to try to share those emotions.
We probably don’t have to imagine the feeling that others are having under current conditions, of wishing everything would go back to the way it used to be. I’m sure almost every person on Earth feels that way every day.
I wish I could go outside and not have to avoid other people or see them as a threat or an infection risk.
I wish I could go to the airport with nothing on my face and hang out with nothing more stressful than making sure I board my flight on time.
I wish I could walk around downtown in any city, sightseeing and people-watching and going to museums.
I wish I could have a long conversation with some random person I met somewhere.
I wish I could strap on my backpack and go climb something and see the view.
I wish I could be with my family, a thousand miles away.
It’s legal for me to go visit my family. I could rent a car or I could book a ticket and fly there in a plane. There are two reasons I am not doing those things. One, it’s far enough that there is no way to get there without person-facing transactions, either at the airport or at a gas station. Two, I live in a hot zone and they don’t.
I feel that it is extremely unfair to travel even a short distance from a hot zone to an area that has been more insulated from the pandemic.
The farther the trip, the worse.
Basically, it’s just rude!
So I miss my family and I insist on traveling a thousand miles to be with them. Maybe I pick up the coronavirus along the way. (Again). I breathe this airborne virus all over the place, in every restroom stall and at every countertop along the way. I will never know, until I cross over into the next world and collect my karmic debts, how many people I might have infected.
Then I spread it to my own personal family?
And everyone they interact with?
Everyone in my family is still working. That is both a blessing and a curse. While my husband and I are our only cubicle mates, my other family members all have to go in person. Maybe they’re distancing, but so are most people in the country, and the pandemic is still spreading. There is obviously something we still don’t know that we aren’t getting right.
How can I waltz in and breathe into all that with my possibly tainted breath?
Like a super-villain?
I look at the records of some of the countries I visited in the past, and how they are doing with COVID-19. The first country I ever visited was New Zealand, and they’ve just eradicated it from their borders for the second time. Another country I visited was Iceland, which was doing pretty well for quite a while, and now maybe not so much. Neither of those island nations really needs someone flying there from Southern California right now.
It’s a moot point, because Americans can’t travel to those countries right now. Or most other countries. Most of those that are available require two weeks of quarantine, and who has that much vacation time?
This is the real question. How long will it be until the world is “normal” enough that it’s considered safe for people to go from here to there?
I live near one of the world’s busiest international airports. If I’m traveling, that’s where I’m going first. No matter where I’m trying to go, that’s what I have to consider. At this time last year, over three quarters of a million people passed through there every day. It’s hard for some people to remember, but this debate is not about COVID-19 and whether it is or is not dangerous. (I had it, and it is).
This debate is about whether mixing and mingling at international airports is a contagion risk of any kind. Obviously the answer to that is yes.
Technology is going to hit the market before this problem is solved. There’s already a helmet-thingy in the $200 range that might help. I have no problem whatsoever in wearing weird costumes in public. When results start coming back on this thing, such as how long it can be worn, I might buy one. I can wear it in the airport and I can wear it on the plane.
Is our future as a collective group of humans going to include leisure travel at all? Are we all going to be wearing goldfish bowls over our heads? Or are we going to be in AR goggles, wandering around our own living rooms while pretending to be somewhere else?
What is travel going to look like in 2025?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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