Travellers tend to be both restless and self-protective, and while some have historically tended toward adventure, more have looked for relaxation and a pleasant change of pace. It is usually safest to stay home, but that safety can feel deadening. Wary after a year of dealing with an airborne virus, many people are wondering when it will be possible to plan a week in Paris or the Caribbean without worrying whether the pandemic will overshadow the fun.
Will a cruise ship ever again seem like a pleasure vessel rather than a deathtrap?Most adult would-be travellers in the US enjoy relative privilege and are gaining access to the vaccine, and while herd immunity remains elusive in the country at large, it is higher among more socio-economically privileged populations, and, perhaps, among fliers, the anti-vaxxers notwithstanding.
The cycle of modernisation dictates that new dangers emerge in one area as new safety measures pop up in another: cars are faster, but they have seatbelts; more people visit the Grand Canyon, but there are guard rails where visitors congregate. Will we continue to wear masks at 5,000 feet? Given how many ordinary colds I contracted after flights in the old days, the idea of exposing myself to shared, recycled, compressed air has becomedistasteful as a matter more of general hygiene than of mortal terror, though most airlines are employing advanced filtration systems.The pandemic is under better control in developed locations than in developing ones. This is not only a moral outrage, but also a problematic one for less wealthy countries where local economies depend on tourism.
Americans who fear COVID may prioritise travel to Britain or Europe. But what will they find there? COVID has closed down restaurants and museums, and they are reopening only very gradually, even in London, Vienna and Prague.In a time of celebrating the non-European ancestry of a near-majority of Americans, the urgency of visiting Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East is self-evident.
Decisions must be made country by country. Many travellers across the years have assessed reports of possible unrest, or considered whether particular places are welcoming to women, to LGBTQIA people, to members of religious minorities. We will continue to follow those COVID numbers as if they were both revelatory and predictive.
It’s comforting to be vaccinated and to go where everyone else is vaccinated, too; but there are ways to regulate trips to places where vaccines are less available and still stay safe while ensuring you don’t become a super-spreader yourself. Travellers can avoid crowded settings, wear masks and dine in places where climate allows them to do so.
The question of travel is not merely a matter of fun. Travel is a necessary part of our continuing education. The 19th-century naturalist Alexander von Humboldt wrote, “There is no worldview so dangerous as the world-view of those who have not viewed the world.” Much as the boundaries of our bubbles drove many of us slightly mad during quarantine, so being locked in our own country has been devastating for many of us. Every country’s success depends on the inquisitiveness of its citizens. If we lose that, we lose our moral com-pass. Travel is a two-way street, and let us hope that it will soon be bumper-to-bumper in both directions