Those intricate carvings on the temple and that palatial residence! Add to that the enigmatic drawings on the walls – I was already dreaming of the place even before I got to it. I could see myself taking close-ups of those exotic sights. This has been my recurring dream since I got my first invite to this trip at the end of January 2020. I was due to fly out this week but with a stone on my heart, I crushed my own desire and declined this trip. What made me do it? That is the tale of my conscience, Coronavirus and Travel.
Coronavirus and Travel at the time of my travel confirmation
Yes, it was around even then! However, not in India. We were all fine, we thought it was all about traveling abroad. Domestic travel should not be an issue -should it? Well, at least at that point in time, I thought so.
Then came the first few cases in India, one in Hyderabad. It was all far off. Remote cases, no major deaths. Just fluke, we should be all good.
Freak incidents might happen anywhere. If I was destined to catch the Coronavirus, I will anyway. I might even die if a random block fell on my head. So why even think of not traveling. After all, it is the one thing I love. Not once did the thought of canceling came to my mind. If anything else, I dreamt more and more about the destinations I was to visit. I drooled over the pictures and fervently read the history of the place. I was all set!
My readiness to travel in times of COVID -19
While I continued to dream, the practical part of me researched about the precautions that I need to take when traveling in the times of Coronavirus.
- Avoid touching nose, mouth and eyes
- Keep a sanitizer with you all the time
- Use fresh tissues
- Wash your hands with soap – at least a zillion times.
- Avoid people with colds and coughs
- Wear a mask in case I develop a mild cold. Possibly self-quarantine for 14 days – basically someone leaving a tray of food outside my door.
I had it all planned – the precautions and the contingency. My tickets came by mail and soon, it was just a week left before my travel. And then,…..
What changed in the last few days?
The first case of COVID-19 appeared in Bangalore. And not just anywhere. But in the vicinity, I stay in. The victim was a male who had come back from the USA via Dubai and he had become a carrier for his wife and daughter. The teenage girl was as old as my daughter and was in isolation. Her classmates were being screened and a few of them were asked to quarantine themselves.
Schools shut down, offices asked their employees to work from home at least for the next few days. Dell -where the Patient Zero worked – had asked the entire 4th floor to stay home for 14 days. The apartment where the family resided was partially quarantined. The health department started contacting the parents of the kids studying with the affected child. Largely screening calls but enough to set worry among them. While all this was going on, 2 more cases cropped up in Pune.
My trip organizers sent me a mail about adequate precautions at their end. The places that I was to visit were not on the list of the affected areas. All was well there and for a day or so, I believed I could still live my dream. I checked with my hubby – “What do you think – shall I go ahead?”. He did not say no but his Yes was a little hesitant. He has always been supportive but for once, I saw some worry lines on his forehead.
However, then, I sneezed! It was a small irritant sneeze – not the runny nose one. But it was enough for me to wonder for that one second – did I? Was it? ….. The train of thoughts got me wondering what if someone did that at the airport? Or in the travel group? Will I always get conscious of people?
My thoughts went out to all the people who are right now living in that fear coz someone from their family was exposed to one of the three positive cases in Bangalore. They were already living with that fear. I realized that whether or not I got infected, I definitely did not want to be the carrier. I did not want to put 1000s of other people who are in touch with me under quarantine. What if as a carrier, my aged in-laws got it? Or the kind old man on the 5th floor who always takes 5 mins to say hi and ask me about my trip?
The consequences of that one travel began to weigh on me. It became even stronger as news poured in about 2 more cases in Mumbai. When Kerala went into a partial shutdown with additional cases, I realized it was no longer about me. It was about us trying to contain this threat of Coronavirus together. It meant that if one person like me stayed away from high-risk places like airports, one less threat and better containment of the disease.
So big deal – it’s just domestic travel!
I was confused. Honestly, I was. My travel friends had mixed reviews. There were some that agreed with me on self-containment. And then, there were others telling me that I was a “Fraidy cat”. It was just domestic travel and that too, to a place that has no history of COVID-19. The organizers are doing enough to keep you safe.
Hats off to them. They really are doing their bit to keep their part of the travel safe. But then, what about the other travelers that I will meet? What has been their travel history?
What about the guy who gives me my boarding pass at the airport – the place that has already received dozens of possible carriers?
And then the lady at the security who has scanned tons of passengers – Indian or International?
The lady sitting next to me on the plane?
Any one of them could be a carrier. And thanks to that, I might become one.
Honey, you might get Coronavirus even when you stay put in Bangalore!
Yes, I might if destiny has that planned. However, I am at least not deliberately exposing myself to it. With that, at least, I can’t blame myself for passing it to my family or friends. I don’t want to spend the remaining 20 days or so in the fear that I might be a suspected carrier. Post-travel trauma is real and you should check out my friend – Manjulika’s blog post on the same. She went abroad and after her return, she did live in fear of possible contagion.
I wanted my conscience to be clear. I know that at least from my side I have done my bit to help contain the virus. For me, that good night, guilt-free sleep is the most important.
And with that, I made my decision. I punched in a number and politely canceled my trip.
My personal thoughts on Coronavirus and travel
The moment I said no to travel this week, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Sure my dream was incomplete but the place isn’t going anywhere. I will visit it on my own – later in better times.
As if to reiterate the positives of my decision, articles popped up on my Google feed. Like this one by a doctor from Italy – Young and Unafraid – Good for you . Stop Killing People. The article talks of how the young and unafraid in Italy continued with their plans, the consequences of those choices and how as a country they are struggling to contain it all. It appeals to people to think “Not for themselves, but the others around”. The earlier we contain the disease, the better our future would be.
There will be plenty of you saying that I am overthinking this bit about domestic travel. Maybe I am. However, I am not willing to take the risk of exposing myself deliberately to areas like airports. Do I know where my aircraft have been coming from – a lot of them have flown to smaller international destinations and then are flying domestic. (Check my friend- Shrinidhi’s post on the same) I might be careful but are the other travelers as conscientious as they should be?
India is getting into a lock-down. Visas for the first time, have been canceled. Certain states are asking people to avoid gatherings of over 20 people. The logic for all this is to minimize contact and spread. Things are not so bad right now in India and maybe by travelers like us curbing non-essential travel, we will recover faster as a nation. And then, yes, domestic travel is all good.
Future Travel Plans and Suggestions in the times of COVID- 19
- Firstly, I recommend avoiding high-risk areas like airport. Travel if you really need to and if possible in your self-driven cars.
- Stay tuned to official websites for updates on Coronavirus. Do not make the mistake of believing even the popular news sites like TimesNow. I made that mistake last night when they set out an alert on “Karnataka shuts offices“. Stick to these websites –
- Please switch off your Whatsapp! Especially the panic forwards that come without research.
- Beware of people around you, especially the ones who have a cough and cold. Stay at least 100 meters away from them.
- Avoid physical contact like a simple handshake for a while.
- If you are feeling unwell, please visit a doc and get your diagnosis. Stay home.
- Future travel plans can be put on hold. If you have booked your tickets, unless you are traveling in the next few days, just hold on to them. Assess the situation in 10 days or so and then, take a call. I too, have one such planned travel in the first week of April. Optimistically, I might go ahead with it if things are contained, no new cases emerge. Else, I am ok to cancel the same.
- Unless your flights are canceled, don’t expect a refund. However, in times like this, that loss of money would be a prudent choice.
There are a lot of people who have still opted to travel around you. I have nothing against them and nor am I, anyone, to question their choice. I am sure they have their own reasons. However, if you are in a dilemma like me, I can only help you by sharing my personal experience with you. I cannot make up your mind for you. Nor can I force you to change it.
I am sure some of you might feel that I caved in for no reason but I know one thing – I don’t have any guilt weighing me down. Today I did not travel because I was not afraid for myself. I did what I did because it was the need of the hour – the need to contain a possible epidemic. I can never prove that what I did made a difference or not but I do know that for the next many nights, I will get a good sleep!
Stay safe everyone. Do think of how your actions impact people around you and well, while we may not do real travel for a while, there is no reason to stop dreaming or taking on a virtual journey. After all, that is what the rest of my travel blog is all about – virtual journeys for you and memories for me!
Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug.
I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don’t find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through this travel blog. My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including BBC Travel, Lonely Planet India and Jetwings.