Travel shaming is so big right now, it made the New York Times. In an article titled “Shh, We’re Heading Off On Vacation”, the paper examined a growing phenomenon, where people are afraid to share their travel experiences online and on social media, for fear of backlash and hate.
As a travel blogger with a substantial audience, I’ve had more than my fair share in dealing with the increasingly polarized world we live in, and some of the cancel culture is misplaced.
Travel Isn’t Inherently Wrong Right Now
According to the New York Times, travel photos, once a staple of social media pride, are being tucked away into the lockbox, for fear of shaming in public. No more lovely sunset smiles, just fear of being bashed. The thing is, travel isn’t inherently wrong right now, but good luck telling that to some people.
Travel between two countries with robust health systems and preventive measures in place is not wrong right now, nor is it nearly as dangerous as people would have you believe. Covid-19 is yet another risk we all must face, and also do our part to mitigate.
Treatments and new insights into covid-19 are dramatically decreasing the rate of death, and the latest clusters aren’t reaching the grim tallies of the spring, at least for now.
That does not mean all travel is good though.
People must look further into the details of any destination before visiting, have the courtesy not to travel if any symptoms of being unwell arise, and out of respect to their own health and others, visit countries capable of handling rapidly shifting medical climates.
Risks Involved With Travel Versus Life
The chances of catching covid-19 through travel, like catching a flight, are nowhere near as high as someone would face taking many every day means of transit that people don’t think twice about. Nor is it more dangerous than working out sans face covering in a local gym, or drinking down at the local pub.
Travel between two places with similar levels of infection also presents very little change in risk, in terms of time on the ground in either location.
If the “R” in London is 5, and the “R” in Budapest is 5, you simply swapped places of equal risk. The time in transit may present more risk than staying at home, but lower risk than taking mass transit in any major city. For places where countries have slight variances in infection rates, but agree to allow travel, you can actually be improving your safety by traveling to a place of slightly lesser infection rate.
This is precisely why countries closed borders while infections were high and wildly unpredictable. Many of those same countries are now creating agreements with other countries, based on similar low risk levels and other factors, or based on robust testing procedures, to create more dependable borders.
Just yesterday, Iceland moved to only allow unrestricted travel within the country after two covid-19 tests have been taken, one on arrival, and another after 4-5 days of isolation. Only at that point will Iceland approve further movement. There are few places from where someone could be reading this, where that detailed level of risk management has been put in place.
“Human beings, we just are not good at estimating our own risk,”Ken Kolosh, National Safety Council
People are quick to say that air travel is dangerous, and are understandably afraid about venturing back out. I’ve done what I can to share first hand accounts of what airports and destinations are like right now, and will continue to as responsibly as possible.
In reality though, the chances of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 34 million. Recent MIT studies suggest that worst case scenarios for catching covid-19 on a plane are between 1 in 4,000, and more likely closer to 1 in 7,700. That’s catching, not dying, not that you want either.
Yet, people don’t think twice about hopping in a car, which offers a circa 1 in 103 person chance of death in a lifetime, and therefore a higher probability that their actions could also impact or kill others. The same goes for pedestrian deaths, which are of course caused person to person, which stand a 1 in 556 person probability.
Do staycations make you exempt from the hate?
Unprecedented numbers of people who turn their nose up at air travel, or international borders are taking to RV’s or hopping in cars for road trip “staycations” which carry more risk than any other means of travel. In many cases, they’re also then flooding onto beaches without social distancing in place.
We put others at risk every time we swing a door open, get in a car and drive, leave our front door, go for a bike ride, or install an air conditioner without even leaving our front door. Covid-19 is yet another risk which must be mitigated by all logical measures.
Social distancing works, masks work, test and trace works, and for travel to recover, there is absolutely a responsibility to each person who embarks on a journey to do their utmost to mitigate spread by adhering to these measures. I see no problem with shaming a person for refusing to wear a mask in a confined space, but just for traveling? No.
Because travel was less comfortable for many people prior to covid-19, it’s an easier target to ostracize and polarize. The movement of people may play a part in covid-19, but recent case spikes in many parts of the world have been linked to lax behavior from locals on the ground.
Recent spikes in Greece, Croatia, Germany and France were simply attributed to local areas throwing late night parties and losing their inhibitions. If travel was the problem, it would be very hard to explain how Florida, cut off from virtually the entire outside world for months, managed to spread the virus so heavily.
After months of lockdown, people are making up for lost time, singing, dancing and chatting to friends in close proximity, and often indoors. I share equal frustration for people who stay at home and do this without proper safety consideration, as I do for people who travel and do this.
Cancel Culture Commentary
Because travel is also seen as a privilege, which of course it is, people like to attack the sheer mention of it, rather than the underlying causes of why travel is a privilege. Hint: it’s rarely travel bloggers who set economic and social justice policies. Adding fear to the equation via covid-19 has created a molotov cocktail of angst.
Seeing comment sections every day, and social media postings, it’s incredible just how predictable comments along the lines of “wow, you’re talking about airline wine when there’s (insert ongoing world issue) going on in XYZ”, rather than just moving along to read an article about ongoing social issue in XYZ, at a good resource which regularly discusses things of that nature, rather than a blog focused on travel, points, and stuff like that.
The comment often says more about the commenter than the subject itself, as the commenter fails to consider the actions, contributions or support of the very causes they are championing, by the person who wrote the article. Worse, the commenter assumes they are the one who gets to play God in what subjects in life may, and may not be discussed.
I hate the New York Rangers, but I certainly don’t spend my days on blogs devoted to the New York Rangers inciting hate and stirring the pot. If you don’t want to talk about travel, or any subject right now, that’s fine, there’s absolutely no obligation. It just doesn’t mean you get to deride others who choose to.
For people who are curious about travel, first hand reports and “what to expect” style resources can alleviate huge fears, and actually make travel safer. Travel stories aren’t meant to replace fantastic investigative reporting and documentary making on the many challenges the world faces. They never were.
Travel Is Vital And Always Will Be
In reality, over 300 million people around the globe directly rely on tourism to survive, and cancelling travel could potentially bring hardship, or even death for many. Without opportunity, the world rarely shines.
There’s absolutely no pressure for anyone to travel right now at all. If it’s not for you, no one is going to give you a hard time about it. But at some point, whether it’s next week, next month, or next decade, you will call upon travel once again, and you’ll want to know what it’s like.
Covid-19 is yet another fear we all must live with, and for some more ‘at risk’ travellers it means sitting things out for a while. It’s not fair, and it makes me sad for many who would like to travel to catch up with loved ones, but cannot afford any additional risk.
With any hope, rapid covid-19 testing prior to flight and increased learning to help mitigate covid-19 risks all around the world will make many elements of life “more” fair. A vaccine might not hurt either. View From The Wing makes eloquent arguments in regards to the challenges travel faces without undue, or unjustified shaming aside, and I suggest the piece as essential weekend reading.