Cooped up in my home is a time for reflection. I’m sure the Covid-19 Quarantine has caused many of us who enjoy traveling to reminisce, reflect, and re-evaluate our travel. The question that has been spinning in my head is, What kind of changes will I make when I travel in the future?
As I reflect on past trips, I wondered how many times “germs” were lingering nearby. I had traveled for years on cruise ships with my spouse and kids. Hearing reports of Norovirus outbreaks never put-off our plans. We were fortunate. We never got sick. And it wasn’t because I was vigilant about deflecting germs.
I was wonderfully oblivious at Christmas time when I flew the family year after year to see grandma and grandpa. During the height of the flu season, I would hear folks cough, kids with stuffy noses blubbering, and sometimes a passenger admitting that they “just got over a high fever….but they were on antibiotics, so they were good-to-go.”
And what about the homemade burritos and tamales I bought from tired-looking women on the beaches of Mexico? I had no fear of salmonella. We visited Mexico so often that the family and I rarely got sick. Don’t get me wrong; there were a few times that a stomach ache cramped up a day, but, hey, that never stopped us.
Certainly, there are risks for travelers. We risk missing a flight, train, or boat schedule. We risk staying at places that weren’t entirely what they claimed to be. We risk getting lost, paying too much for a service or souvenir, losing our money or credit cards. We risk a possible injury, but bad experiences don’t shut us down. They serve to make us smarter, stronger, and more resilient than ever.
As I deal with this Pandemic, can I move forward by being smarter? By now, we all know the obvious: wash hands frequently, create more space between yourself and strangers, and wear a mask in confined spaces. But there’s much more. As restrictions ease, availability of rooms, seats on flights, tables at restaurants will be limited. So planning ahead(possibly weeks) may help obtain travel goals.
With the onset of disinfecting requirements, there may be even longer lines at airports, cruise ships, bus terminals, and resorts. Making reservations at a restaurant instead of expecting seats to be available may become a good practice. Unexpected delays may occur. Smaller airports may be harder to get to. Longer air routes may take affect. Countries will have their own “Opening Schedules.” So coordinating travel may be a challenge. There have been rumors about using thermal imaging cameras before guests can enter onto a property. (I can’t even imagine what the reaction will be when a guest is turned away)
Using sites on the internet to keep informed about health standards and cleanliness of an establishment will probably be more prevalent in my preparation for travel. For example, the CDC site has a list of ships reporting the frequency of Noroviruses since 1994. Listed are the number of cases, the name of the cruise line, and the week or weeks the virus occurred. The link is at the bottom of this post.
If you are an Airbnb or VRBO user, I would guess that an additional line will be added regarding the protocol for cleanliness. I will be looking for this added information and scrutinize reviews.
Bringing items that provide “comfort” while enduring unforeseen “hiccups” during travel will be a goal. Like most seasoned travelers, I have tried to find my “happy place” that eases discomfort or aggravation. I bring soft fuzzy socks or slippers during long flights. The taste and smell of my favorite teas relax me. A soothing voice from an audible book or listening to music releases tension. My girlfriend has a more direct and simple approach. On her long flights to New Zealand, she simply has a glass of red wine and pops a sleeping pill.
As I consider and implement the changes that must occur after a Pandemic, I find myself a little smarter.
Travelers, especially those that like to travel independently, rely on their problem-solving abilities. There is always help along the way. I sought out help when my husband and I were in Peru. Our return flight hadn’t assigned us seats. We had a choice to either stand in a long line at the airport or call locally, acquiring the seats before arriving at the airport. My Spanish wasn’t that good, so the receptionist at our hotel set up the call. An English speaking agent helped us. The problem was solved.
We manage our schedules, decide to explore unfamiliar territory, and invent new ways to communicate when language barriers arise. An additional skill may need to be added moving forward: how to handle germs effectively.
Will I need to be a “germ warrior?” What weapons will be my best defense? Do I need to get crazy about the spaces I will occupy? Sanitizing wipes will clean the surfaces around me as I sit on planes, trains, taxis, cinema or theatre seats. Lysol aerosol will disinfect the air; however, I’m sure it will have its limited use in public spaces. Hand sanitizer will need to be applied any time my hands want to touch my face or eat or enter my room for the night. And maybe I will be more prone to put on that face mask when I hear someone with chronic coughing on the plane.
Supporting my immune system with healthy eating habits will certainly help. I’m one of those meals-from-fresh-ingredients advocates. However, healthy eating seems to be a challenge for my husband. He loves his caffeine and cocktails! Cranking up the vitamin C, drinking echinacea tea, taking zinc before and during travel, have been known to support the immune system. Creating a new conglomerate of supplements could be my best defense.
But I am only human! There will be times when my strategies will breakdown, and that’s OK. I will shake the hand of a stranger, touch the same dish a waiter placed on my table, and breath the same air hundreds or thousands of folks breath. I am part of a collective, a small component of humanity. Allowing “germs” to hold me back means the germ has won. I am stronger.
Once a traveler, always a traveler. It’s in our blood. We deliberately face unknowns: new cultures, new foods, new places. Sometimes we are put into situations where we have to make adjustments at a moment’s notice. We face obstacles and endure. But these things don’t detract from the allure of travel.
The world we call home has so much to show us. There is beauty in nature and beauty in the kindness of a stranger. We will roam as long as we can as much as we can. And we will adapt. We are resilient.
CDC site on Norovirus: