Travelling At The Time Of The Corona Virus
By Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley
NS: As thousands of people die around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a question that seems to be becoming dominant in Western countries is: will we be able to go on holiday this summer? It is something that keys into serious economic issues of course, but is this perhaps a time to re-think the whole ritual/habit of “going on holiday”?
RJR: We are being encouraged to spend money, and get the economy going again. We are dealing with an invisible virus, so what will a holiday look like going “abroad” anyway? What do you think? The biggest issue for me is transparency – on all counts.
NS: One of the lessons of the coronavirus crisis is that planning ahead is a tricky and sometimes near-impossible task. (Today I was due to be on a bus travelling across the Peloponnese to Athens – but I’m stuck in south London.) For most people, their holiday is something they plan well in advance – and it is then something they look forward to for many weeks. Transparency and honesty (from governments and businesses) seem to be absolutely essential if people are to figure out what they realistically can and cannot do now. For those who go on “resort holidays”, ie they go to a holiday complex somewhere sunny and spend all of their time there, the only difference may be that they have to go through health checks, observe social distancing and perhaps wear a mask. For those who “travel”, the prospect of crossing several borders and using multiple forms of public transport could be fraught with difficulties – or it could just all become more of an adventure. I think (as it seems with every issue now) there will be the extremes: those who decide going abroad is just too dangerous and stay at home – and those who just carry on regardless.
RJR: I spent last year planning a big trip to Costa Rica. I tried to not think about the impact of the plane journey on our environment. I have never been on an adventure like it, so told myself that it was a one-off trip and that I was going in order to see wildlife there, both plant and animal. I flew out of London on 12 March. The virus was already spreading across London, and on my journey to the airport, people were crowded into the trains – with no idea of what was to come only a few days later. Those were the days when the whole world became heightened. By the time I arrived in Costa Rica, having nearly missed my flight, global panic was on the brink of erupting – I could feel it. I was, however, the only person on my trip to book my return flight home immediately. During the five days that I waited for my return flight, the entire country shut down, even though there were only a few cases (but they were doubling each day). It was totally the right decision. I write this because I want to share how scary it was – being in a foreign country, being in airports, and flying – with an invisible virus.
NS: This seems a timely warning. The possibility of being trapped somewhere where your health is at risk and where it’s extremely uncertain whether you will be able to get home is likely to be something that will put many people off even trying to travel this year. But a report today suggests that more than half of people under 30 in the UK are already failing to comply with lockdown rules. By July/August, there will be plenty of people willing to fly (literally) in the face of danger. I confess that I am among those who feel a need to travel. But is this one of the things that we need to seriously reassess in the light of the pandemic? Do we actually need holidays abroad? Are they vital to our lives? Or are they just something that we, in the wealthier parts of the world, feel we are entitled to?
RJR: At the moment, it is more of worry that people are travelling in England. Devon and Cornwall have rising rates of contagion now due to people travelling there for “a break”.
NS: Absolutely. It’s beyond me to understand why anyone would think it was OK to travel anywhere at the moment! Again, is it the case that people feel (whatever else is going on) that they are “entitled” to a break or a day trip to the seaside or a barbecue or a party in the park?
RJR: I guess it is one of the hoped big learnings of this time – that we all become more aware of our impact on others… We are all one.
NS: So, it seems the best thing is not to travel – or perhaps even plan to travel – before we can be sure that doing so will not have an adverse impact on the health of ourselves and, most importantly, others.
RJR: Well, it is everyone’s individual choice – but it would be great if we could all feel that our choices impact everyone else – not just ourselves. Is that how you feel?
NS: Yes – and it’s not just a feeling. I would argue that it’s a fact. Everything we do – however small – has an impact on everything else. Everything is connected.
RJR: Maybe it is one of the few “facts” that we can rely on at the moment. What do our readers think?