The past six months I have found myself wondering about this silly little contrivance we call travel — to move from one place to another, typically over a length of time. What does that even mean? Well, it doesn’t signify the same to me any longer…
Rather so, in true capitalist splendor ‘travel’ had to become an industry — filled with people making it better, or more equal, or more glamorous or who knows what they’re doing to be honest. Each trying to outbid, wit, smart the next in order to be crowned the ultimate travel wallop, or travel destination, or travel guru. Some individuals even call themselves ‘professional travelers’ or ‘travel influencers’ or ‘travel experts.’ Vomit. I love when my friend Lisa calls them ‘Instascammers.’
When I reflect on COVID19 and this year, travel seems immaterial to me, irresponsible even, but mostly ‘ready-to-be-revamped.’ Nobody needs a travel influencer in their life, we certainly don’t need a ‘professional traveler’ to tell us how to travel. Travel inspirer or travel story teller, well, now we’re leaning into a better direction. Adam Gopnik recently called Mark Twain the ‘archetypal exhausted American tourist’ and my ears perked right up – something interesting to think about opposed to look here at another new hotel or list of places to go. Newness isn’t sexy, sexy is sexy. So even more of a reason to turn the tide around – it’s time to claim travel back for ourselves and not to be held captive by some fool with hardly any gold.
I can only find it odd when I receive an email saying “Come to some gross shiny new hotel in Cabos, we’re being Corona-safe every day” or when fame-sick American travel writers post photos of themselves with their masks under their noses on the plane – well, there is a global pandemic and yes we can’t just shut down entire economies without repercussions (I’ve got you). But as New Zealand, Taiwan, and others, demonstrate if you have sound leadership and people who care about their fellow human, plus a better idea of what the word ‘freedom’ means — all things could be different. Speaking of ‘freedom’ if a silly little medical mask is all it takes to ‘rip freedom away from your bare knuckles’ we have to talk about how free you really are. Did Instagram just hear that, I am sure a mask ad is coming to all of us in just a moment.
You’re not free, nor am I. We’ve handed ourselves over to a fascist world. It starts small and builds. Did Margaret Atwood not warn us that history will come and hit us like a wave from behind? Did nobody notice that Americans had a handful of countries that they’re welcome in for months and months now – all because their government forgot how to protect its people? The virus isn’t a hoax, it’s also not the worst thing that’s ever happened. If we all stood still, cared about our fellow humans by wearing a mask etc. and staying put by traveling in our minds we’d be pretty much done with this crisis and we’d be back in the world. But oh no, we had other plans – hotels needed to make money, airlines wanted bailout cash, the pigs needed to get to the trough, and more. And the industry couldn’t play it safe and help their fellow humans, nope, promoting ‘safe travel’ was more important. Travel will return, but you’re making this worse than it needs to be. Yes, I am talking to you — the one that forgot about just basic science and a flicker of humanity. Winter is coming, good luck social distancing.
Speaking of airlines, no it’s not safe to get on a plane with COVID-19 in the air. No matter what the government tells you, or social media stars or even the airlines – if someone speaks, or takes their mask off, or walks around with a mask that’s not covering their face properly or the HEPA filter isn’t going at all times like a rattling manic you’re chances are higher than you want to believe. I’m not getting on a plane, not because I am terrified of getting the virus but because I may infect so many people on my journey if I do get sick. Yes, your immunity and yes herd immunity – I am hearing you. But I prefer to just stay in my bubble for now, respectfully thinking of others in plural, and my own family in singular. Slowing it down helps. Also being more mindful in general helps.
I have been on a travel treadmill for my entire life, planning the next trip whilst the current trip isn’t over. Spending up to 300 days a year on the road to see the world, to taste it all, to feel something new. Maybe this chasing of some kind of dragon is what led to beloved Anthony Bourdain’s demise; I can only postulate. So for now, standing still is giving me a moment to breathe. A few road trips feel more exciting than I ever thought they could.
And whilst I’ve been away, a whole load of things that I loath about travel have started to dissipate. Like why do you need to come into my room with the room service cart and explain to me (whilst I am on the phone) loudly what I have ordered as if I wasn’t there to place the order? Yes I know how I ordered my eggs thanks. I never want to speak to a check in desk person ever again in my life — I hate the artifice. I much prefer a check list of cleaning that now comes with the room — what the fuck were they doing before this little sojourner, I want to know? Hotel gyms attract the worst of humanity — people who speak loudly on their phones, leave the area a mess or horde the dumbbells all for themselves. A private hour in a gym now feels a delight.
Travel as we know it is over, and it is never coming back. Upon my return I fully intend to reinvent the industry — it’s been dying for a makeover.