The world is still dealing with the economic and public health fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, but man it feels like things are slowly turning for the better. Mask ordinances appear to have slowed the spread, school is back in session, sports are happening, it really kinda feels like everything is relatively normal again. Since you’re on a travel blog reading this, I’m sure you have the same question that I’ve had quite often over the past few months: when can we travel again?
The answer is both simple and complicated, but I really think it boils down to this: except for a month or two, people never really stopped.
Domestic travel surge and the Year of the Road Trip
So many are viewing travel through an international lens, lamenting that places like Europe and much of Asia are still closed off to Americans. Firstly, that is changing day to day, and, secondly, there are absolute multitudes of places to see right here in the USA! From my visit to Zion National Park upon its reopening, to incredible places all across this great nation, there’s a renewed interest in the classic American road trip, which is nice to see.
Domestic holiday spots have seen unprecedented surges of bookings in the past few months. I was in Colorado over Labor Day weekend and there was not a single hotel room available from Denver to Colorado Springs to Summit County, for example. RV rentals have never been more in demand. If people have chosen not to fly, they certainly have chosen to drive. People are traveling.
Is it safe to fly, especially compared to driving?
Yes. It is safe to fly. I detailed the process through which American Airlines is going in this post, but to sum it up: airplanes are being disinfected and masks are required, not to mention that the HEPA filtration system on modern aircraft filters and cycles the air in an airplane every 2-3 minutes. It is safe to fly.
Now, I know me saying that sounds kind of hypocritical, as I’ve only done road trips since February, but I’m flying again beginning this weekend!
Thoughts on staying safe at home versus traveling and putting yourself (or others) at risk
“There’s a difference between not being dead and being alive. Be careful you’re not trading the latter for the former.” This was said to me by a completely immunocompromised person who has been encouraging people to get out and (safely) do whatever makes them feel alive. I tend to agree. I wear a mask whenever required and I’ve been tested numerous times for COVID-19, all returned negative. Now, let me be clear: traveling is probably not as safe as sitting at home. At some point, though, people have to start getting back to what makes them feel alive, they have to get their sense of sameness back. Sure, the world won’t be the same again (I personally don’t think COVID will ever go away) but there are some people who just need to get out and see it.
There will be people who disagree with me, and I absolutely understand. But please understand those who choose to travel, especially if they’re taking the steps necessary to minimize risk wherever they can.
Confession: I never really stopped traveling, and here’s what I’ve learned from it
2020 has been a big domestic travel year for me and my Tesla:
- Separate trips to Tucson, Tulsa, Kansas City, and Houston for my They Will Fly Again project
- Out to Utah for the reopening of Zion National Park
- Two trips to Cape Canaveral, once to watch us launch astronauts into space and to fly over Kennedy Space Center in a helicopter, and the other time to try and watch rocket launches but ultimately having to go home empty-launched because of launch delays
- My famed European road trip, where I visited Dublin, London, Moscow, Rome, and Milan…Ohio
- A Labor Day road trip to Colorado to test out a new camera lens
All told, I’ve put probably 18000 miles on my Model 3 since the pandemic began. I’ve wiped down 30+ Tesla supercharger handles before using them to charge my car and have visited dozens of truck stops and gas stations for road snacks. I heard a buddy say the other day that they were planning on driving to Colorado for the fall colors because they felt it was safer than flying. Having visited so many truck stops and roadside eateries…yeah, fly. I was actually called a terrible name in Mississippi for wearing a mask.
Ultimately though, I want to tell you the most amazing lesson I’ve learned from my travels. A few weeks ago I was in Colorado for some hiking and testing out that new camera lens.
I went to Rocky Mountain National Park and did their most popular walk, to Emerald Lake. It was so fulfilling to see friends and families walking together, enjoying nature. It was refreshing seeing people (with and without masks, it needs to be said) saying hello to one another as their paths crossed on the trails, sometimes poking fun at one another if they saw someone wearing an opposing university’s clothing.
The same was true on the way up and down Grays Peak the next day. During the pre-dawn hike, as my hiking buddy and I stopped to gather our breath, everyone who passed us made sure we were ok. On our way down the mountain we had fun chit-chatting with people on their way up asking about the trail ahead.
It was just good to be around people again. You know what I didn’t hear during any of those conversations? Politics. Religion. Debates about social issues. Just people enjoying beautiful scenery and each other’s company.
I’ve always loved traveling because I think a traveled world is a less fearful and more inclusive world. Traveling forces you into a bit of vulnerability as you interact with others, which can be a great thing, especially as we’ve built up emotional and physical fortresses during this pandemic. It’s tempting to want to stay where you’re safest, but do please consider getting out there and living a little for the rest of 2020, there’s a lot of beautiful experiences out there waiting!
Oh, and wear a mask 🙂