Two years into the pandemic, it has become clear that any and all questions surrounding travel will remain tentatively unanswerable.
The internet was alive with travel content a few years leading up to 2020. Vacation vlogs on YouTube, Instagram pages dedicated to posting snaps of exotic locations, even websites like our own, publications dedicated to pumping out travel-related content were more popular than ever. As the world slowly shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, it became clear that travel was no longer a priority or even an option.
As progress in the pandemic seems to remain in limbo, the question of travel remains unanswered. Some countries have opened and reopened borders, others remain under strict lockdown. The moral implications of hopping on an enclosed space, 30,000 feet in the air with a bunch of stranger holding the intention of transferring your germ-infested body from one side of the world to the other are of questionable morals in a pandemic. As the overused phrase, “the new normal,” seems to define our perpetual state of the world, how will the culture of travel inevitably change for good?
Perhaps the most tangible ways to mark how travel will change is through the physical acts involved. Airlines experienced a huge test on their traditional practices when flying no longer became a necessity to the daily world. Pre-pandemic, airlines held the upper hand, often enforcing expensive and inconvenient policies backed simply by the fact that travelers had no other options.
In an attempt to gain back a travel-hesitant population once again, according to Washington Post, airlines have now started to shift some of their most unjustified polices around. For example, customers are now able to change their flight date without insane fees as in previous years, and some airlines have even stopped unreasonably overpricing last-minute flights, whereas it used to be a well-known travel taboo to book a flight less than two weeks in advance. In addition to cost changes, airlines have also started enforcing the usage of masks, and acquired regular disinfection procedures in between flight groups – a practice which many argue would have been beneficial in the past as well. These few, seemingly minute changes have already proven to make a massive shift in the perception of flying as a whole. Getting on an airplane is no longer a task to fear spending an entire paycheck on or needing to be prepped with a hefty dosage of Airborne the week prior.
For many who rely (or relied, rather) on the mental benefits of travel, a government mandated order to stay home was similar to that of a real life nightmare. Complaining about your inability to continue your nomadic lifestyle, however, seems tone deaf in comparison to the hardships the pandemic has brought upon others. Yet, no matter how big or small, the pandemic has taken something from everyone, and the robbed identity of “traveler” is nonetheless felt by those who spent less time in their apartments than on an airplane.
Now, years into the pandemic, the parameters surrounding leisure travel are still fuzzy. If your co-worker admits to going on a Cancun trip, should you be jealous or judgmental? Where do the lines of morality intersect with reality?
It seems, until a comprehensive guide for the hesitant traveler is published, the answer to such questions will have to remain uniquely personal. Similar to other higher-risk activities, including: going to bars, attending music festivals, or even just leaving your house; everyday activities now come with a warning label: “blank at your own risk.” In such a world, context is everything. Maintain your common sense, do what you can to protect yourself and others, don’t travel to places with high infection rates, and don’t be insensitive to the problems of others. In a global pandemic, nobody is perfect but everyone can at least try. Until the topic of travel becomes less of a social taboo and more of a can-do, it seems that the best thing to do is you.