Drone photo of pier in Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. The caribbean blue sea and white sandy beaches can be seen

Imagine a world where your local take out is the closest you’ll ever get to the real thing, where pictures of incredible waterfalls, sunsets, cityscapes, crystal blue waters and fjords are as close as you’ll ever get to touching them, and where you will never again experience immersing yourself, or losing yourself, in another culture.

No more hiking in Cape Town, no more sushi in Japan, no more sunsets in Sydney Harbor, no more picnics in central park –  no more travel. Perhaps not even a jump to catch up with friends or loved ones just outside of driving range.

Like most of the world, I’m still processing the things that are happening all around us, balancing legitimate health concerns with global madness, panic and fear. Fear is one of the most dangerous elements in any society, and long after health concerns have dissipated, I fear it will still be present.

The goings on of the world are extra hard to process for me at the moment, in part because I’m a travel blogger, and in part because my wife and I just brought a beautiful little girl into the world – who for all intensive purposes is currently growing up, experiencing her first months on earth, in a world without travel.

Many borders are closed, 90% of flights are cut in many areas and most countries won’t let non-citizens or permanent residents in. Worse, there’s no telling when exactly that will change. I think that’s the part that gets me. These steps are vital, but they’re hardly in sync.

There’s always a learning curve with anything new, but the lack of coordination between even friendly nations seems to have created longer lasting worries in travel.

If every country, in tandem said “ok, this is crazy and no one is moving for 60 days, so that we can insure everything goes back to normal after that date”, we’d be looking at a very different future and present. Instead, we have knee jerk reactions by the hour, and people who could travel yesterday cannot today. It’s not as if there wasn’t vital information available before.

I’d argue that it’s the uncertainty which is damaging the future viability of travel, more than any other health worries. People aren’t moving today for those reasons, but it’s the uncertainty which will force a longer recover period.

There’s fear way beyond what we’re experiencing and it’s legitimately worrying. No one wants to go somewhere and not be able to get back, and that’s the sticking point many will have, long after health concerns. The sooner people have concrete travel answers, the sooner they’ll put their faith into a transaction in travel.

Even though I know better days will come, I just can’t wrap my head around thinking that my little one is growing up in a world largely without accessible travel, where people are looting at supermarkets and trying to profiteer on essential health items. It’s unsettling.

Olive’s first trip was schedule about 30 days from now, and there is no way of knowing whether it will happen, for a million different reasons. Will the city be open for business? Will there still be health risks? Will the airline even be around? Will her passport get her anywhere?

She won’t remember this, but I’ll always remember wondering whether my child will get to see the thing around the world I’d so deeply love for her to see, or whether I’ll just have to show her episodes of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. I’d really love to know what his message would be right now.

Even if government restrictions are lifted and health concerns are alleviated, will airlines still be flying to the places we want to go? I can’t imagine a world where travel isn’t easily accessible, and airlines are currently seeking over $100 billion in global bailouts to weather the storm. However they get it done, let’s hope that they do.

People never appreciate the value of mobility until the need it themselves.

I was a kid in New York when 9/11 happened, and I remember how starkly different travel became after that awful day. It felt like instantly going from a boy to a man – real life problems – real world concerns, no more happy-go-lucky journeys. People weren’t quick to get back on planes back then, and some say this will be worse.

I sure hope not.

That’s the longer term concern. Will my daughter be able to see the world as I have, or will there be a lasting restriction on the movement of people, with additional checks along the way? Will countries fear another outbreak and start arbitrarily banning people from different regions of the globe without merit or fairness? We can’t let that happen.

Leaders around the world must share information, resources and consult with each other to create clarity. We will get through this, but we need leadership to work in unison to to restore confidence in the world and the people that inhabit it.

I just can’t imagine a world without travel.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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6 Comments

  1. In the end, this will be a memory that of a time and nothing more. Soon after travel bans are lifted, we’ll see life continue as usual for most. Granted we may see fewer airlines that could not weather this storm, however, it may give people more reason to see the world while the opportunity exists. I know for my family we have not given up the idea of travel post COVID-19.

    All is not gloom & doom for the future, stockpiling transferable points and miles with various programmes continues for us.

    I propose the US airlines work together during this time within the USA t split International travel and airports feeding specific “Domestic” carriers I.E.

    DL takes ATL/LAX/HOU-France & Netherlands feeds JetBlue for regional flights
    UA takes SFO/ORD/EWR-Germany, Austria, & Switzerland feeds SouthWest for regional flights
    AA takes SEA/DEN/- Spain, UK, & Ireland feeds Alaska for regional flights

    We must turn to the sun and see the bright side looking for opportunities…always!

  2. Welcome to the world of parenting where you want the best for your child and yet fear the worst. It will get better, we will all travel again. Just hold her close and live in the moment and enjoy the here and now.

  3. We’ll get through this and the world will return to a new normal with new possibilities, new opportunities and new adventures.

  4. Congratulations transcends the current crisis. My heartfelt congratulations to you both.

    As a trader on 9/11, we thought the world was ending. Today as an employer with a significant number of employees, I can say that they are not thinking about travel but pure survival.

    It’s just flu. A bad flu for sure but not the extinction event the politicians are telling us.

    Live life, love and don’t give up.

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