Pandemic Travel Tips for the Ethical Adventurer

We’re all looking at our passports these days with longing. Depending on the country you live in, you’re still under stay-at-home orders, or you’re free to travel but contemplating whether or not it’s safe, or morally acceptable to do so.

Those of us in the United States are in one of the world’s hottest COVID-19 hotspots. The decision on whether or not to resume travel is rife with ethical implications. So should you stay, or should you go?

all photos in this blog by Sara-Mai Conway

Will I Spread It?

If you travel like I do you love heading off the beaten path to destinations with ample street food and lots of stray dogs. Unfortunately, these things correlate with lack of medical infrastructure and sometimes lack of necessary health-related amenities such as clean running water and electricity.

To bring COVID-19 to a country that’s less equipped to deal with the pandemic than your home country is an epic moral failure. So before traveling, we must ask ourselves, what’s the chance I’ll do that?

As a US traveler, I must consider I live in a country where rates of COVID-19 are still climbing, and it’s likely community spread is high within my community. Even if I don’t have it yet, I’m at risk for contracting COVID-19 at the airport I fly out of. What good then, is the piece of paper I’m holding that declares a negative test from two weeks ago?

If I contract COVID before my travels or while I’m on my way I’m at risk for spreading the virus as an asymptomatic carrier at every destination I go to within the first two weeks of my visit.

If I say I’ll self-quarantine when I arrive, what does that look like? Two weeks in my hotel room or at my AirBnB? How will I get food and who brings it to me? If I’m at a hotel, will I avoid the public amenities? Who’s cleaning my room? Unless I’m certain I’m not a carrier, everyone who serves me is potentially at risk.

Will I Get It?

There’s the very real possibility that you will get Covid while traveling during a pandemic. Even the most carefully chosen destinations aren’t immune to risk. Especially if your destination is frequented by other travelers. If you aren’t in your home country, and you contract the virus, what will you do?

To knowingly get back on a plane and return home when you’re feeling symptomatic is morally bankrupt. If you’re driving, the choice to return home might be less problematic, but only if you can avoid overnight stays or stops along the way. This of course assumes you’re not too sick to drive, and your fellow passengers won’t mind being in the car with you.

The other option is to remain in place until you feel better. Guidelines from the CDC recommend remaining in isolation until at least 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications. Coronavirus symptoms can last for up to eight weeks. Are you prepared to shelter in place for that long? What would your support system look like? How will you get care, food and water during that time?

Tips for Essential Pandemic Travel

Travel to Mexico by land, ferry or commuter rail is restricted to essential travel only. This prohibits travel for tourism, recreation, gambling or cultural events. You can, however, travel by air, sea or rail for any reason you choose.

This effectively means travel between the US and Mexico has not been restricted at all. The onus is on the individual to decide what’s essential, and what’s ethical. Should you decide your travel is essential, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Get tested for COVID-19 (and get results) as close to your departure date as possible
  • While traveling, wear a mask, bring plenty of hand sanitizer, and practice social distancing as much as possible
  • Limit stops and layovers on the way to your destination
  • Plan for a 7-14 day quarantine when you arrive at your destination
  • When outside of quarantine, wear a mask everywhere you go
  • Opt outside. Avoid indoor restaurants or activities that keep you inside for longer than 20 minutes
  • Travel with a solid emergency plan. Know ahead of time exactly what you’ll do if you or one of your party gets sick

When Ethical Travel Means Staying at Home

As of August 6, 2020 the United States’ updated travel advisory recommends against travel to Mexico. The Level 3 Travel Health Notice reminds all travelers that rates of COVID-19 infection in Mexico are high, and medical care and resources are limited.

Of course, we’ve all heard the argument that now is the most important time to travel, especially to countries that depend upon tourism for economic health. If this is what you’re thinking, check your motivation.

If your motivation is indeed to care for others, there are several ways to help without putting the community you care for at risk.

  • Reach out to your favorite tour operator and the proprietor of your favorite hotel or AirBnB. Ask how you can help them or their employees
  • Seek out NGO’s and charities in the community you love to visit, ask them how you can help
  • Talk to your local Mexican friends and contacts, ask what’s going on in their communities and how you might help

If you wish to donate in Baja, check out the following organizations. Ask them how you can best help from your home country.

⬆️ If you have a favorite organization that’s not on this list tell us about it in the comments below. ⬇️

Safe travel will happen again. Until then, the more patient we can be about staying home, the sooner the virus will get under control. Wear a mask, do your best, and be considerate of your fellow beings.

Sara-Mai Conway is a writer, yoga and meditation instructor who really misses travel. Follow her at-home and nearby adventures @saramaic. Join her on a future retreat when we can all safely, and ethically travel again.

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