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Travel in the Face of COVID-19

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

I had another topic in mind for this week's post, but because of recent spikes in daily coronavirus infection rates, and the holidays just around the corner, it seems more appropriate to talk about travel in the context of a pandemic and the inherent dangers right now of travel.

If you are reading articles on this site, you may consider yourself a certified travel junkie, unless you're a member of my family and you were cajoled into reading my posts. The arrival of COVID-19, dramatically and quite suddenly, changed everything. Personal and public safety are now paramount concerns, and, out of necessity, recreational travel has gone into hibernation. Though travel is technically still possible in limited form, the decision as to how you go about it, and the precautions you plan to take, really should be weighed carefully against need and public safety.

A Personal Account of Travel Impacted

In March of this year, my partner and I bought a new house. We made an offer on it on March 3 and the offer was accepted the next day. We decided to celebrate by going to Hawaii for a week. We bought airline tickets right away and reserved eight nights in a beachside resort on Maui. I was going to pick up the last two counties of Hawaii on this trip -- Maui and Kalawao on Molokai. A week later, COVID-19 became an immediate nationwide crisis. Businesses were shutting down, people were losing their jobs, or if still employed, transitioning to work from home, and travel plans were being postponed. Matthew and I cancelled our travel plans to Hawaii when it became obvious that travel of any kind would likely be a dangerous proposition. Instead, we resigned ourselves to staying in and staying safe. There would certainly be travel in our future once the crisis comes to an end.

By the time September rolled around, restrictions were beginning to ease, infection rates were down from their summer highs, and for the first time in six months, some small amount of travel, with the right precautions taken, could be possible. Matthew and I, along with my stepmother, Lola, planned a 4-day statewide driving tour, from the Pacific coast all the way to Spokane. We stocked up on masks and hand sanitizer for the car, and considered each aspect of our travel carefully, committing to practicing social distancing at all times, and largely limiting our contact with others along the way. Had it not been for the suffocating wildfire smoke that covered literally every square inch of Washington state during those four days, it would have been a fantastic experience of being on the open road after so many months of isolation.

Now, as the daily infection rate is soaring to an average of 200,000 cases, I have recalibrated my view of travel altogether. Not wanting to put recreation over health, I am instead planning future trips and putting more energy into domestic projects. The holidays, however, put more pressure on us to travel and be with family and loved ones.

Traveling During the Holidays

This holiday season may likely be the first time you are planning to take a trip away from home since March of this year. Before you set out to travel during the holidays, however, you may want to review the CDC's travel recommendations for the holidays. At a minimum:

  • Check travel restrictions before you go.

  • Get your flu shot before you travel.

  • Always wear a mask in public settings, when using public transportation, and when around people who you don’t live with.

  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who does not live with you.

  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.

  • Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose, and mouth.

  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.

  • Know when to delay your travel.

Of course, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas this year is to celebrate at home with the people you live with, but if you are committed to travel, as a fellow travel junkie, I urge you to follow the guidelines set out by the CDC above. There will always be time later to travel. Use this time instead to plan out and research your next great adventure. Give yourself something to look forward to. Practice patience and allow yourself to take the year off from travel if necessary. The open road will always be there . . .

. . . Until next time, dear travelers, may all your future journeys be safe and rich in experience!

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