COVID-19: Should you cancel your travel plans? Absolutely!

Hi Trisha! I am Jamie from Ohio, USA. I have plans to go to Mexico in a week and because of the spread of the Coronavirus here in the USA, I feel irresponsible to go to an unaffected area. My dilemma is I may not have the luxury to re-schedule or travel at another time. Flights and hotels have already been booked and I waited a year to do this trip. I really want to push through but I am completely torn. Some say go for it but a lot are saying don’t. 

Jamie, USA

I haven’t published anything about the Coronavirus when it comes to travel but should you cancel your travel plans because of Coronavirus? ABSOLUTELY.

I shouldn’t be writing this article because there is no other answer to that question. But getting queries from readers of this blog, I am quite staggered by the lack of understanding of travelers who claim to be traveling responsibly. In backpacking groups, I’ve seen lots of ridiculous questions from people who are currently backpacking and in most Facebook groups like this, backpackers seem to be the people who care the least about this pandemic. I would say “I understand” because backpackers and constant travelers have the need to travel all the time but this time, I am not going to say “I understand.” I really don’t understand how we still choose to travel even if we are highly encouraged not to.

For full-time travel bloggers like us, our work and income are greatly affected by COVID-19 but which business isn’t? I still see some fellow travel bloggers galloping around the world like they’re invincible but this is not the case. At this time, all of us need to participate and do our part in making this virus spread slower.

Understanding COVID-19

Coronavirus also known as COVID-19 started in a market in Wuhan, China on 31 December 2019. A lot of viruses that make us sick actually come from animals, more often from birds and pigs. HIV/AIDS come from chimpanzee. Ebola virus was likely from bats. Wildlife farming is legal in China where animals arrive in markets (like in Wuhan) alive. There are a wide variety of animals in China, most likely animals we haven’t heard of or animals that are not available in our usual wet markets at home. In China, dead and live animals are all together – dogs, pigs, chickens, snakes, civets, bats, any animal you can think of, really. Markets like this are also narrow, cramped, and very crowded. This close contact makes it easy for diseases to jump from animals to humans.

“In the case of the 2019 Coronavirus, there is some evidence that it went from a bat to a pangolin, before infecting a human. While viruses are very good at jumping between species, it is rare for a deadly one to make this journey all the way to humans,” Vox reports.

China declares wildlife farming illegal after the COVID-19 outbreak. / Photo: Fox 5 San Diego

I am from Asia and growing up, exotic animals have been a big part of our consumption and that just makes me realize how all of these have something to do with the environment. We humans keep sticking our heads where it shouldn’t be. We have blatantly pushed ourselves to be part of these ecosystems and now it’s making us pay. If we think about it, COVID-19 has a lot to do with how we humans have completely fucked up the circle of life.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced: “In the past few weeks, the number of cases for COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold. COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”

Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. For the past few weeks, WHO has been very careful in using this word until they finally decided that COVID-19 is a pandemic. The word seems alarming but we should not panic. Remaining calm and following stricter quarantine advice is the best we can do. According to Worldmeters, there are 148,654 COVID 19 cases all around the world as of March 15, 2020. Of those, 79,254 cases are closed with 93% of the infected doing a full recovery and 7% of them dying. By comparison, the mortality rate of the flu is 0.1% while the mortality rate of Ebola is 90%. COVID 19 is dangerous but not AS dangerous as you might think unless you are a higher risk individual.

You may not be vulnerable, but others are

I’ve seen a lot of travelers argue on social media that they are young, healthy and they truly believe they will not get COVID-19. Self-assessment is one of the reasons why people still continue traveling but at this time, what we don’t understand is that we might not be vulnerable but a lot of people are. This is definitely not a time to only think about ourselves but to also think about other people. An attack to one of us is an attack on all of us so at this time, we need to take care of each other.

The COVID-19 outbreak has been very stressful to all of us, thus, we all respond to it quite differently. This might have put a lot of people in high levels of stress and anxiety but please, do not panic. How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.

COVID-19 spreads easily mainly from person-to-person. Two people with close contact to one another, for example in airports. Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas.

It’s a complete hassle to travel during this pandemic.

Sure, travel blogs like this always encourage people to travel, to go out there without fear but this is a completely different situation. It could be our new normal. If you push your travels at this time, you will go through a lot of hassles. First, airports all over the world have reported temporary closures in the unforseeable future. I personally know a lot of people who got stranded in airports for days and are having a hard time booking flights. You don’t want to be trapped in an airport while avoiding the disease. Places like airports are the last place you want to be in, especially if you don’t have the power to swiftly transport yourself to where you want to be.

Travel insurance companies don’t have a clear policy on coverage when you get hit by COVID-19 but when I bought travel insurance last month, they asked if where will I be traveling. The way I understand this is that, if I volunteered to travel to an affected area, then my policy differs. Of course, it will totally depend on what travel insurance you have but still, you don’t want to spend money on this without the security of getting it back from your travel insurance company.

Coronavirus came to us at a very strange time. Infrastarcture wise, the world is not prepared for this. If more and more people get the disease, it will weaken the world’s medical system. I am quite worried where I am now. As of today, there are less than 50 cases of Coronavirus in Mexico but my fear is that if I get the virus here (I am 100% in self-quarantine for the past 2 weeks, btw), the Mexican government is not prepared to battle Coronavirus. Imagine if you are traveling in a developing country, like Africa, for example. You don’t expect to get the care you need in these countries because they too are already having troubles on how to make their systems work. If we are not traveling, we are helping the medical sytem prepare for it by decreasing social contact. It may not have a bigger personal impact for us but every little step we do in order to decrease the spread of the virus helps.

Traveling is amazing but at this time, the places we want to travel to don’t have the infrastracture to attend to everyone so do yourself a favor and #staythefuckhome. Seriously, you don’t want to be sick in another country.

Photo: Getty Images

#STAYTHEFUCKHOME or go home if you are currently traveling.

You already booked hotels and flights. So what?

This is the main comment I get from readers of this blog: I already have my trip planned. I am sorry to be the one to break this to you but you have to cancel all those bookings. Most companies in the travel industry have announced their flexible refund or rebooking terms so please, don’t wait it out and cancel everything right now. You can always take that flight when everything goes back to normal. But then again, this could be our new normal so hang in there – you will still travel at one point. It’s not a no. It’s just a ‘not now.’

Another enticing factor that you should not give in to is the increase of cheap fares all over the world. I even saw a direct flight from Mexico City to Tokyo for less thatn $200 USD which is crazy. Normal fares in this route usually start at $1,500. That’s a big giveaway, right? It’s as if you’re being given a free flight. Again, don’t give in. As the pandemic developes every hour, these “free” flights can be canceled and you don’t want to be the passenger in the middle of it when that happens.

And finally, if you decide to travel, where will you go? Everything is closed. All tourist destinations and activites are not functioning. I mean, what will you do when you travel at this time? Well, if you are already traveling and is one of the passengers trapped in many airports around the world, then stay where you are. Self-quarantine and don’t push it. I know you’d rather be spending money at home but you already traveled at a very strange time despite constant advisories. Check yourself in a clean and nice hotel/Airbnb and self-quarantine. Do not go out and interact with anyone. It would be hard without being in the comforts of your home or family but this is the consequence of traveling while the virus is widely spreading.

And that’s not only it. There are many more consequences so don’t push it.

Reliable resources about the Coronavirus

Of course, I am not a health expert but I do believe that publishing an article on this travel blog, discouraging people to travel is the right thing to do, no matter how odd that could be. Travel blogs like this are not an authority when it comes to COVID-19. This is just my personal take.

Below are some helpful links that will help you in monitoring your travels (to go home, not anywhere else). These are updated real-time so always check these pages!

These days, there are a lot of fake news published on the Internet so always consider your source. I only listed three because these are the most I follow but if you have anything to add to the list of resources, please do so by leaving a comment below.

Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. Trisha is an ambassador of Girl Rising, a global movement for girls' education and empowerment. In no particular order, her favourite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv. Follow her life adventures on Instagram: @psimonmyway

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