International travel during covid-19 has taken a body blow. However, while many appear to be chomping at the bit to book their jolly summer holidays and get ‘back to normal’, I have to say I’m feeling confused and conflicted. Should we be hopping on a plane at the very first opportunity? In fact, should we be hopping on a plane at all?
Alongside the additional costs and risks of international travel during Covid-19, I have also been thinking about how ethical air travel is?
Costs and Risks of Foreign Travel During Covid
Of course, pre Covid-19, international travel was already becoming an increasingly soul-sucking experience, with additional layers of security checks, economy travel becoming more and more like a game of sardines and the sheer number of passengers bottlenecking through airports.
Now there are yet more hoops to jump through if you want to travel internationally.
- Covid-19 testing: You need to factor in the cost of tests. Possibly multiple tests in both the country of embarkation and destination. If you are travelling as a family, these costs can rack up very quickly.
- Type and timing of the testing: Additionally, you need to think about the type and the timing of the testing. Certain destinations require a specific type of Covid-19 test. They may also require the test to be taken within a stipulated timeframe (e.g. It must not be more than 72 hours old when you land. This has left many travelers with problems when flights are cancelled/delayed en route.
- Flight Costs: Your flights may be more expensive than usual.
- Quarantine: Many countries have self-isolation and/or quarantine requirements for incoming travelers, which carry both a financial cost and a time cost.
- International Border Closures: Borders can close with little to no warning, leaving you stranded part way through their journey.
- Catching Covid-19 while abroad: Each country handles Covid-19 in their own way. You need to consider how would you feel if you contracted Covid-19 abroad. You may not understand the language or be comfortable with medical system.
- Unexpected Additional Costs: Will your insurer or travel provider cover flight changes or medicals bills that could arise from Covid-19? And if they won’t, who will picks up the tab? You? Your family? Your government?
- Vaccination Recognition: Even when fully vaccinated, your vaccine type or vaccine paperwork may not be recognised at you destination and even when recognised, may not exempt you from local testing/quarantine requirements.
What would you add to this list….?
Ethics and the Environment
Additional costs and inconveniences aside, the elephant in the waiting lounge, is the impact of international travel on our planet. There are plenty of other aspects of our lives that harm the environment, but perhaps because we’ve been temporarily grounded and ‘forced’ to go cold turkey on air travel, it has been on my mind.
From day one, the Covid-19 pandemic has felt like a giant red flag, unfurling against a global backdrop of locust plagues, extreme weather events, water shortages, overconsumption and pollution.
Meanwhile, there are calls from the worldwide tourist industry to get travel back on track. Many economies and millions of livelihoods are dependent on tourism and many want to travel not only for leisure, but for business and family reasons. Indeed, as somebody who both lives far from home and works in tourism, the lack of access to quick international travel has had a major personal impact.
On the other hand, I am also guiltily aware that airplanes and cruise ships are dirty great carbon emitters belching their way across seas and skies. There’s a famous saying “take only memories, leave only footprints*,” it’s a great travel mantra, but ironically, unless you are sailing across the oceans and crossing continents on horseback, the footprints we all leave will be made of carbon.
Of course, there is carbon offsetting to assuage your travel guilt. It sounds great – input your travel details – calculate the carbon it produces and pay to offset some or all of that carbon. Clear conscience. Only, it does nothing to reduce or get rid of the carbon produced by your travels. It funds projects that will reduce their carbon output going forward. So it’s not quite the magic bullet we’d like to believe it is.
As somebody who has had more than her fair share of world travels, I don’t have a leg to stand on suggesting that anyone else shouldn’t go on an overseas adventure and we are indeed hoping and planning for a trip home next summer, by which time it will be two long years since our last visit.
As I sit here chewing on the fact it’s not realistic to travel home for a visit while quarantine restrictions are in force….as I sit here wondering how to make less of an imprint with any future travel, some of the worlds richest are busy blasting off into space….
So what are your thoughts? Should we go for it, hold off, cut back or quit foreign travel? Is your answer based on the risks/costs/hassles of travel during Covid-19, concern for the environment or both?
*Quote attributed to Chief Seattle.