a sign in a building

Sorry to start off on a depressing note, but there’s no one reading this who isn’t at an age where death is a risk. From infants to the elderly, and everywhere in between, there’s no guarantee of health for anyone, and covid-19 has been a sobering reminder of how fragile the balance of life can be. The good news is you’re reading this, so chin up ; )

To anyone dealing with serious issues right now though, I’m deeply sorry.

It’s because of this that I can’t quite wrap my head around how much sadder the world would be, if we were effectively cut off from loved ones in their time of need, while the world waits for a vaccine? Recent headlines brought on by officials from the Pacific to Europe suggest that may be a reality, or at the very least until 2021.

Don’t get me wrong – I believe in the invaluable importance of adhering to stay at home orders and strictly following social distancing restrictions in every way possible. I absolutely cannot stand when someone wantonly walks too close to me, on my once daily outside activity.

I’m taking this crisis with full sincerity, just like the rest of you, but I’m increasingly discouraged by remarks from governments about when the possibility of travel will exist again, without any plan, or basis for the remarks.

My biggest point of frustration: not one country has mentioned communicating with others about creating an approach that works for all. Despite this being a global issue effecting everyone, each country is dealing with it on their own, as if they don’t all depend on each other.

a escalator in a buildingIn recent days, Spain and Italy joined New Zealand in the camp that tends to believe there won’t be any travel in 2020, and even 2021 is watch and see. As part of the Schengen Zone of Europe, they’re already sending different signals than other countries within the same group. That’s not supposed to be.

My problem with this isn’t about missed birthday parties, sunsets or even lost experiences, but the real possibility of not being able to reach loved ones in times of need. I don’t want to be responsible for endangering anyone else, but I don’t want to be disconnected from someone, if something were to happen.

With each day, it’s an increasingly real possibility. Just months into the crisis, 90% of global flight routes are cut, so it’s hard to imagine how much further that will go if travel isn’t rebounding until a vaccine – some 18 months away – is found. In other words – travel to where you need to go may not be there when you need it, with each day this continues.

In speaking to readers, even when health concerns are on the decline, people still express fear of random unilateral and unannounced border closures. The way governments have acted – selfishly and without thought – has people worried, and those worries are spreading fear on top of fear.

a man smiling for the cameraI’m 33, keep generally fit, but every day brings new challenges to everyone’s life, lock down or not. Every sane person has these worries, particularly since there’s no easy way of undergoing regular health screenings at the moment.

Early detection for other leading global causes of death like cancer and heart disease are being missed daily, and one that’s close to my heart, infant and prenatal deaths are said to be on the rise because mothers are finding it tougher to venture to hospitals, or don’t want to further burden an already burdened system and find it’s too late when they do.

Of course, it’s all for a vitally important reason, but it’s not like there is only one problem facing the world at any given moment, and this is why it’s all so hard to cope with. We’re all coping in different ways and struggling with different fears, but we must seek community, cross nation solutions based on science, statistics and intelligence.

Watching the news all day is hardly helping with any of those things, sadly.

I understand fully that as an American citizen, I could travel to the United States right now, and that my wife and daughter could join, but every day, there are fewer opportunities. And being married to someone from a different country, as an ever increasing number of people around the world are, it’s not like it would solve anything. It would just mean the other half of the family separated.

Why risk it?

There’s no immediate need to travel right now, and I certainly wouldn’t want to place my wife, infant or anyone else at risk so we’re staying put. Like many people, it’s the thoughts of future needs that are worrying.

As noted, there’s only so long governments and or cargo can subsidize these loss making skeleton flights, and before more country links are cut. That’s if – and it’s a big if – practical measures aren’t put into place to safeguard travel to an acceptable level and open up borders beforehand.

Is that going to be easy? Definitely not, but there are already decent proposals being discussed.

It’s precisely why I just can’t stand the irresponsibility of government leaders and ministers in Europe, Pacific and beyond, who are signalling lengthy travel ban end dates, when so much more information is necessary. It’s taking people from fear to panic, and the news is spreading it like spores in the air, except they’re pumped right into our homes.

The idea of waiting 18 months for a vaccine is one thing when it’s a boozy beach holiday at stake, but it’s another when it’s priceless time with family and loved ones in a critical time of life. If it’s truly the best solution, so be it. But once again, for every action there’s a reaction, and it’s hard to say what will suffer from such a move.

And sure, while we’re talking real world – the literal trillions of dollars being lost and the businesses like restaurants, bars, guides and hotels folding daily would probably like a more optimistic outlook as well. Thinking of this as purely travel centric is naive.

The thing is: people listen to government officials, and they’re not doing much good right now.

a close up of a passportMany of us collectively *want* to believe that people in government are in positions of authority because they are deserving of authority. When these people then go and tell rooms full of cameras about a variety of hypothetical situations, which may or may not be within a year of reality, it disheartens the world.

Worse, it can expedite the downfall of an airline, hotel, or restaurant, which was holding out hope. There’s a balance, and governments aren’t striking it. Even countries within Europe’s Schengen Zone, which is supposed to act in unison, are signalling vastly different periods of recovery, from the early second half of 2020 to well into the second quarter of 2021. What good is that doing anyone?

Covid-19 has realistically been known to us for four months now, with only two where most of the world had a clue, at best. Saying there’s a further 18 months of being stuck in your local community before travel will be feasible again breaks spirits, without needing to. It’s creating added anxiety globally, and it’s ludicrous.

I’d like to think I’m fairly pragmatic and that actually I’m one of the least affected by this crisis. I run a successful blog with little overhead, a generously loyal audience and I’ve always worked from home on the rare occasion I was home. News of long sustained global travel shutdowns from positions of authority cast doubt in my mind, and until countries ban together and discuss bilateral exit strategies it’s all just useless noise.

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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  1. The head of our government in the US is actively encouraging people to revolt against the government.

    I don’t know what other definition of v
    treason there is.

  2. @Henry LAX: Isn’t that DXB? 😉

    Gib, I share your sentiment and I think our family situations fall into a similar position…

  3. Seriously, the govts are basically denying many people to meet their aging parents one last time, and destroying international families.

  4. “Many of us collectively believe that people in government are in positions of authority because they are deserving of authority”

    LOL, There’s your *real* problem! Once you get over that fantasy illusion you can begin making some headway in regards to dealing with the here and now. Hard to believe someone would actually put those pixels to screen.

    You’ve not mentioned the big winner in all this? Your ideological idol, Greta! Speaking of which, if you admire her so much, how do you reconcile that with your whining about future travel? Cognitive dissonance?

    Man-up, and book some flights instead of reading the Daily Mail hysterical headlines.


  5. Debit – the definition of treason is being told small business owners are going hungry and Marie Antoinette Pelosi standing in front of her luxury refrigerator saying “Let them eat $13 a pint ice cream!” This American queen is the definition of revolting.

  6. I totally agree with your view of the situation. My fiancée is living in Asia and I am still living in Europe. We planed to get married and move together at the end of this year, but at the present time we both think that our changes to go through with it are pretty slim to nil.
    Every country is locking its self down and fighting a global crises not as one, but in over 200 countries each for themself with no real plan in place.
    It is really sad and even I am a normally a very optimistic person, I think this will change our world not only for the next one or two years, but for decades to come.

    1. I could have written the very same comment just changing the word Asia with Brazil. And in my case is not only a matter of private affairs but also have several businesses to run there and a year lasting project of moving definitively to Brazil. Which had to be for June.
      Besides that I used to be a Frequent Flyer for work.
      I agree with you Gilbert, what’s panicking and driving me insane, is not the situation itself and the present lockdown, but the lack of a realistic, pragmatic and coordinated scenario elaborated by these so called experts and politicians.
      All I can say is that my life and all my projects went in pieces literally from one week to another. Like for many other people in this world. That’s not selfishness, it’s reality.

  7. I don’t get it. I’m still traveling.

    Why is everyone saying ‘omg, traveling is scary’ – that feeds fear.
    Why not be a good blogger, hop on a plane, and tell the world that it’s actually…. really amazing.

    I’m flying every week, week in week out. It’s easily some of the best times traveling I’ve ever had. It’s just… painless…

    I will remember these days for my entire life as the best travel days of my life.
    I don’t get why other people aren’t out there. It’s just so… not-logical.

    1. Other issues aside… Where? Asia is all but closed, Europe much the same, Australia, New Zealand.

      And what to see when you get there?

  8. The whole thing is bullsh*t for crying out loud, get a grip! Protect people that are vulnerable (like everyone does w/ flu, etc) and go about your life. My neighbor died of the Wuhan Chinese virus although he was in an auto collision, wise up and stop w/ the “woe is me attitude”

  9. There may never be a vaccine for this flu strain. Not everyone needs to get tested and if there was a post-covid19 exposure test it would open the world up to discrimination.

  10. Very pertinent article Gilbert. While my daughter and I are American, my wife is not. I am not allowed into her country, where I’m a permanent resident and she is not allowed to the US until her US permanent residence is approved (she was supposed to have her interview in March but consulates closed unfortunately). In any case, flights are not operating right now so it’s a moot point. Meanwhile, our daughter is growing up so quickly. Thank God for video calling!

  11. Remember a few weeks ago I said don’t book any of these ridiculously cheap offers on business and first because airlines would either go bust or you wouldn’t be eligible for a refund because it was booked while the corona virus was on going?!
    Well here we are: no major travel until next year, big airlines getting bailed out ( but that few billion won’t last long) Virgin Atlantic weeks from going bust, Lufthansa shutting German Wings and cutting major routes on all of its airlines. Etihad selling billions worth of aircraft and now with the oil crash dangerously close to major financial meltdown. I know this is your livelihood Gilbert but some of the naiviety coming through is astounding.

  12. All of this talk about a vaccine is just mind boggling to me. There isn’t a vaccine for the flu so why would there be a vaccine for this virus? Also, isn’t that H1N1 vaccine still in the works? It’s only been 10 years in the making.

  13. The overreach and fear is beyond insane. Politicians just want to get re-elected. Pandemic doctors are scared to death to be even mildly positive. We need to live. Period. Will some get sick and possibly die? Yup. Always. It’s how humans work. And these 18 to 36 month “predictions” are just that. Predictions. Many out there will say I’m cold or just wrong. That’s cool. We cannot continue to hide in our homes. Those that are risk need to take extra precautions. Is that fair? Of course not! Current environment? That’s not living. That’s existing. This is not black and white. It’s exceedingly grey.

  14. Comparing every major pandemic, disease like Small pox, HIV and even the flu, Covid is at the low end of deaths. The world has never shut down for any other major outbreak. Who stands to benefit from this shut down? Don’t Think it’s the common person who is sitting at home without a job or a small business going down the tubes.

  15. There won’t be a vaccine in 18 months. There may not be a vaccine in 18 years. SARS and MERS are two decades old, and we’re still waiting for a vaccine for them. (Well, I’m not, but …. you get the idea.)

    And if someone DOES magically come out with a vaccine in mere months, I wouldn’t touch it with a proverbial 10-foot pole. God only knows what’ll be in it, or what the adverse effects might be.

    If future travel is predicated on the development of a vaccine, it’s safe to say no one will be going anywhere for a very long time … and I just don’t see that happening. Too much of the world depends on tourism and business travel for its existence, and too many people just want to go somewhere, anywhere.

  16. This article shows the glaring cultural differences between small pacific nations and Europe/America. Yes, we have shut our borders. To us, people are more important than economies. Some pacific island nations have no Coronavirus, so why would we encourage foreigners to come and bring disease that would decimate our people and overwhelm our one, small hospital. We can survive off the land and the sea. Our people are our priority, not business, not airlines, not foreigners. We understand you gave different priorities. We understand how important business is for you. But we don’t impose our culture on you, so please don’t criticise our governments, who have the full support of our people.

  17. I love your blog. As a 65 year old retired Army Officer with a wife who is a retired Army Officer and 2 time leukemia survivor we have a different place we are coming from. As I read the various news posts I am reminded of my grandfather’s era when he moved from the deep south to Texas and started a grocery/gas/fruit stand in the early 1900’s. When he left his family he never went back and he never saw them again………not so much that he didn’t want to but that just wasn’t a choice. He focused on his family that was in his midst and he focused mainly on farming and the simple uncomplicated life that offered. Most everyone is on this optimistic curve that says the summer will ease up and then sometime next year we will have a vaccine. Perhaps that will happen but what happens if the virus is more elusive than that? As a military leader I was trained to plan for the worst and hope for the best. I actually think we would find more contentment and inner peace if we were to expect that the new normal was actually going to be this way for a number of years. If a miraculous vaccine appears then you can certainly all come to my house and drink some of the most fantastic Napa wines ever! But in these times I am drinking the great ones first and saving nothing for tomorrow!

  18. Yes, there are some people whose relatives are scattered around the world. And in current time it’s extremely tough not being able to see anyone. It’s usually quite comforting to tell yourself that someone you love is “only a 10 hour flight away”. You can always hop on a plane if something is wrong, you can always just book a flight and be reunited shortly thereafter. This option is dying right now because of flight cancellations and entry restrictions. I am happy to see that travel is rebounding in the US and hope that more people get off their couch and onto a plane so that more and more flights go ahead.

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