Coronavirus and Travel – Why I canceled a Trip in my own country at this time!

posted in: Asia, India, Tips | 32

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.

That is me in Lombok a few months back. Traveling abroad is out of question - unless its an emergency.
That is me in Lombok a few months back. Traveling abroad is out of the question – unless its an emergency.

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

Dos and Dont's in times of Coronavirus
Dos and Dont’s in times of Coronavirus

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?

One Carrier can lead to quarantine of many
One Carrier can lead to the quarantine of many

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.

Airports are high risk centers in times of COVID-19
Airports are high-risk centers in times of COVID-19

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.

Do you know if you plane has made stops at international destinations before getting here?
Do you know if you plane has made stops at international destinations before getting here?

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

Namaste for now is a good greeting as against a handshake
Namaste for now is a good greeting as against a handshake
  • 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!

 

 

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32 Responses

  1. Langlet Stephanie

    You’re absolutely right!
    I just read in a Facebook group an article written by a US travel blogger. She was claiming something like “I’ll teach you how to travel responsibly in time of Coronavirus”. I would call her article “how not to travel responsibly”! Her article is full of me, me, me. “I won’t cancel my trip in this place because there’s only a few affected people. I’ll certainly cancel this trip there because too many affected people.” And what about locals? She doesn’t care. This morning, I was saying how India and USA took the right decision to ban “us” during this pandemic. It’s the right decision for the whole world. But when I see at the same time how this US traveller is selfish…

    • Ami

      Thank you Stephanie for penning down your views. I am so glad that you concur and feel as responsible. I just hope the other travelers too, get cognizant of this and halt their plans for a few days. Once it is all done, we are cool to go explore again!

  2. Kumar Tarur Parameswaran

    I am glad you share the exact same opinion I have and for the same reason I cancelled my plans for a trek in the Himalayas from Hyderabad.
    Destinations don’t go away; Good health can in a moment. Best to avoid indiscretion at a time when Govt has taken strong measures to curb the spread of the virus.

    • Ami

      I am so glad that you too, have taken some responsibility. While the government is doing the best they can, as people we need to do one small thing at our end. It might just help it get contained faster.

  3. Supriya and Sameer

    We are happy that you acted as a responsible travel blogger, unlike some who encouraged people to travel. We also cancelled our much-awaited spring trip to a remote European countryside. Health is the priority and in the pandemic situation like this, our responsibility towards society is even bigger.
    We can’t be just selfish and give in to the ill-informed advice of some influencers or travel-insiders. Now, it is best to avoid any unnecessary travel plans as encouraged by the WHO and by respective governments.
    You have put together the details very well.

    • Ami

      Thank you so much. With the scenario over the last few days, I am glad that I could do my bit about social distancing. It is important to spread the word so that more and more people do their bit to reduce this spread.

  4. Iuliana Marchian

    I will tell you about a similar story here (not corona virus related). In autumn, I had to go to Israel. My life was like in a washing machine though, I felt that everything was on the 5th speed. I felt I was putting a lot of pressure on myself, life, shoulders. I cancelled, lost the flight money + 2 Airbnb fees. Fast forward, my beloved cat which was my angel soul and love of my life, died three months later. These were the last three months I spend with here and I am grateful I cancelled that trip even though I didn’t know that at that moment. There’s always a different reason behind. We just react unconsciously.

    • Ami

      I agree and over the last few days, there have been enough signs to tell me that I did the right thing.

  5. Linda (LD Holland)

    We are hoping we make it home ok from South America. Not happy we have to deal with a hotel, three airports and two planes before we get there. We would love to be able to continue to travel locally once we are home. But I suspect that things we be much harder. If we were sick at all (even with just a sneeze) we could imagine how we would be looked at and isolated. And any sickness would lower our immune risk. You are right to worry about being a carrier. Or catching it from a random encounter. Hard decisions at every point.

    • Ami

      It is a much-required stop as I see. Things have not gotten better and if we as responsible travelers stop, hopefully others will follow and we will be able to contain the spread better.

  6. Joe Ankenbauer

    While this is frustrating, there is a season for everything. Right now, even though we don’t like it, we need to limit our interactions to keep things from spreading out of control. Thanks for the article and infographic!

  7. Amanda

    I would have been worried not about getting the virus or becoming a carrier, but getting stranded away from home and my family. I don’t think it’s selfish to travel, we each need to make that decision for ourselves, but it is something that needs careful consideration.

    • Ami

      I am sorry you feel that way. I do think that it is important for us to lead by example and stop the travel to contain this virus. Going by the way it has spread in Italy, we have lessons to learn and one of them is to restrict movement.

  8. Subhashish Roy

    Yes it is some difficult time that we are all facing now. And I so much agree with your views and the way forward. I too had thought initially that it would not be having so much of effect and was planning my summer holidays. It’s time to act and we all must take precautions and be responsible citizens.

    • Ami

      Hang in there for a bit. It makes no sense to risk other people for our travel by becoming an asymptomatic carrier.

  9. Clarice

    I totally understand your decision as I also did the same thing. We also cancelled our travel plans and did not bother thinking about the money since most of our reservations are non-refundable.

    Just like you, I opt not to deliberately expose myself nor I plan to be a carrier of the virus which can cause the death of others.

    • Ami

      That is a smart thing to do and as time passes by, I am more and more convinced that we did the right thing.

  10. Cat Lin

    I think, what you did was right. In times like this, we should prioritize our health than risking in going places that we are not sure we will soon encounter the infected individual or not. What’s the point of traveling when you afraid that it might be the last place you’ll be traveling because you might get the virus along the way? you cannot sleep, you cannot enjoy the view, you cannot be at ease. You can travel soon but for now, let our health be our top priority.

    • Ami

      Well said Cat. Indeed! It is better to travel in better times as you will enjoy the place far more than worrying right now!

  11. Yukti Agrawal

    I am 100% agreeing with you what you have written. As to travel now should be done for urgent travelers and not for fun travelers in present situation. We cannot force urgent travelers to stop but fun tourism for few days or months can take a hold. Anyways if we are going out by not listening all advice then also we cannot enjoy and relax while traveling as many hotels are deserted and even many cities.

    • Ami

      Thanks Yukti, Glad you feel the same too. It is best to avoid the non essential travel for sometime and prioritize your health as well as that of others around you.

  12. daniel

    Very Informative post!! I have had to cancel all my travel for this year, well at least for the next 4 to 5 months.
    There is no way I am going to put my health and the people around me at risk just to save up some money. yOu did well!! There will be plenty of time to travel, especially if your health is with you.

    • Ami

      Thanks Daniel. I am glad I made the call and it seems to have been the right one even more now!

  13. Yuni

    i agree with your article. very helpful info. I hope we all be kept away from coronavirus.

  14. Aman

    Thanks for this great post. I’m looking forward to get rid of all problems that occurred from corona virus. stay safe. stay motivated!

  15. Marcella

    I think you did the absolutely right thing.
    Today most of us are confined and the fact that we are not allowed to get out of our living spaces is pretty crazy. I hope you inspired lots of people to cancel their trips even before strict government rules as it is the only right thing to do. Good luck these days. I hope you will be able to carry out new travel plans soon!

    • Ami

      Thank you Marcella. I did influence a few and thankfully, the government shut down the rest. Hope things get better soon and we can fly again!

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