We’ve all been itching to get back out there, to travel, to do whatever we want, whenever we want. All of those things have been put on hold for over nine months, and we just can’t wait “for things to return to normal.” With the deliveries of the first batches of vaccines to combat the virus, hopes are extremely high that there is an end in sight to the pandemic.
But, as many scientists and physicians have said, vaccines won’t protect us. It’s the vaccinations that will. Some countries have tried the “herd immunity” experiment of letting masses of people get infected, espousing the theory that if “everyone gets infected, then everyone will be immune.” That theory might have worked if getting the virus actually made you immune to its effects later on. Unfortunately, that experiment failed.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Things will not return to the old normal. There will be a “new normal,” just as there was post-9/11 when we learned to remove our shoes, belt, toiletries, and all metal items before going through the screening process at the airport. That hasn’t changed much, and it’s been almost twenty years. TWENTY YEARS!
So, what will our “new normal” look like? There won’t be anything normal about it. There will be those who will object, probably even demonstrate, against the actions that will be required to ensure that we can travel safely and securely. Unlike the restrictions at the airport where if you don’t want to follow them, you aren’t allowed on a plane, the “new normal requirements for us all” won’t be administered by any governmental agency. We, as a people who care about others, are the ones who must enforce them.
Face masks will probably become a part of our everyday attire. In my numerous visits to SE Asia as America’s International Travel Expert®, I frequently observed a high percentage of people wearing face masks even decades ago. One of the reasons for them was that it was a part of caring about others hygienically, and it was also a way of not opening displaying their mouth. Some wore masks to keep their faces warmer in the cold months, and some women wore them when they didn’t have time to put on makeup.
Regardless of the reasons, Asians have no predisposition against wearing a face mask, unlike many in America. It’s possible that some object to wearing a face mask for political reasons, but that’s not what this article is about.
Back to the original question: what will travel be like “in the future”? People are still traveling, just not at the numbers they were pre-March 2020. Personally, I cancelled several trips, both international and domestic, in March, and knew that I wouldn’t be making any more travel plans through at least the end of the year. Well, the end of the year is here, and I’m still not making any plans for several months out, at a minimum.
Seeing a significant percentage of people receiving a vaccination is going to be very important. You can be as safe and healthy as you want, but if you go someplace where very few people have been vaccinated, it is still possible for you to get infected. I am not a scientist or a physician, so I don’t know what that percentage of vaccinated population should be. The numbers I have heard from reputable sources are in the range of sixty to seventy percent. Admittedly, that’s a large number. But just as I wouldn’t travel to a country where the Yellow Fever vaccination is recommend (or required) without the vaccination (and other precautions), it is prudent to know as much information about your travel destinations as you possibly can.
Many destinations might require proof of vaccination against Covid-19. Showing that you’ve tested negative for the virus will no longer be enough; you will have to prove that you’re safe. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is working on a plan to have a digital vaccination pass that it hopes will be adopted world-wide. This is a worthy and admirable plan, and one that will probably be accepted by many countries as well as travel industries. As with the best of plans, there will be hold-outs who won’t accept the digital pass, but then these are likely places you don’t want to go anyway, unless you are working on your checklist of visiting every country in the world.
Probably the most important piece of advice for “travels in the new environment” is to recognize AND to accept that there will be some delays in many of your travel-related activities. Not everything is going to go as smoothly as it did in the past. You are probably going to have to submit more information than you had to do before when making reservations. Just as we’ve all had to allow ourselves more time to get through the lines at the airport post-9/11, plan that preparing your travels might take you a little more time now.
Here are a few things to take with you as you prepare for your next travels, no matter where you are going:
Face masks—have several with you, including ones you can wash and/or sterilize
Sanitizer—have a small container with you at all times, and purchase a large bottle if you are going to be somewhere for more than a few days
Cleaning wipes—these are handy to take with you to wipe down surfaces that you will be touching, whether they’re on the plane, the bus, the taxi, the hotel room, the restaurant, etc.
The main thing to keep in mind as you ponder your travels is that you are fortunate in being able to travel. There are many people in the world, and some of them are right around the block from you, who do not have the health or the resources to be able to travel. Also remember that most of our ancestors had to deal with much harsher terms, for longer times, during war time, especially World War 2.
We’re going to get through this. Accepting that our “new normal life” will be new, and it won’t feel like normal, is a good first step.
I’m looking forward to traveling again; perhaps we can even meet up someday, somewhere!