Since mid-March 2020, I have accepted quarantine as necessary. By early June, I canceled over 12 international trips, speaking events, and two humanitarian projects. During May through June, Denise and I made a couple domestic trips (via car and via plane). In late June, I decided to travel internationally again. Since then I have taken 3 different international trips. So, what changed?
For once, Denise and I wanted to return to a more normal life, as normal as can be. We began to venture out more often, went shopping, attended dinner with relatives, and meetings with friends for afternoon coffee. We did not want to be fully isolated anymore. It was wearing us down. We decided it was acceptable for me to travel if the flights were not canceled. Another reason why I returned to travel included gaining first-hand experience, and a direct knowledge, of what travel is really like today, what has changed with immigration processes in the US and in Europe (short answer: Nothing!), and how restrictions are impacting travel. “How is traveling right now?” was a big part of the decision process for me, my hope being that my experiences will help you make informed decisions about your travels.
To Fly or Not to Fly
Airlines appear to have done a good job with enhanced cleaning protocols and reducing possible touch points during flights. Aircraft ventilation systems apparently reduce the likelihood of viral transmission, and, of course, everyone is wearing a mask. I did not see one instance of anyone without a mask or wearing one incorrectly during my flights. I did see one person waiting to board a flight in Dallas with no mask who did not seem to care that dozens of people were giving him the stink-eye. NOTE: He wore a mask during the boarding process.
How is traveling right now? Good, in some ways, and bad in others. Lines are shorter because of less travelers, so that’s a positive. When a bunch of people show up at the same time, though, they have less staff and fewer TSA lanes open, so lines bottleneck easily at airport security, for example. Many airport stores are closed right now (I have never done airport shopping, so this is a non-issue for me.) Options at airport lounges are reduced. These are minor details to consider as you decide when/if to start traveling again.
The main issue everyone needs to consider, though, is how to respond to other passengers. We have seen enough of those viral videos of fights on planes regarding masks and distancing. There are rules and regulations designed to keep us safe, but some people just are not going to follow them. You should think about this and your response to it before it happens. Gut reactions might make situations worse. If you decide to travel, stay safe, follow the rules, and have a great time.
In the end, travel during a global pandemic is a personal choice within the confines of any mandated restrictions. In my case, I carefully evaluated all the available information I could find on infection rates at my destination, packed my masks and hand sanitizer, and booked my flights. The bottom line for me is that I am traveling again; yet, I honestly do not know if my upcoming travel experiences will be the same as the recent ones.
I hope this offers you insight into what traveling is like right now as you weigh such decisions.
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