I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant to write about today’s topic. Because it remains controversial for many people: Traveling.
This past Thanksgiving and Christmas season, there was a ton of travel. (Though granted, way less travel than non-pandemic years, but certainly the most travel we’ve seen since this global nightmare began.)
As a result, predictably, we saw COVID-19 rates surge across the country. So today, let’s take a look at how it affected some of the people in my little corner of New York—and then, we’ll discuss whether pandemic travel is actually safe…
COVID has the potential to take out entire families
I recently saw a younger, asymptomatic patient. He had just flown into NYC to visit family and wanted a COVID test. Well, it turns out, he tested positive—and soon after, so did his entire family.
I also know another family that had a friend stay over who had just traveled abroad. One week later, the entire family of six was infected with COVID.
Meanwhile, a colleague wanted his parents to come visit for the holidays—but they didn’t want to travel, as they are older. So they decided to invite people to their home for the holiday instead. Three weeks later, sadly, both passed away from COVID.
So… is it really safe to travel in the midst of an ongoing pandemic?
Take precautions before leaving your home
Here’s the good news: It is possible to travel safely. Ultimately, you just have to weigh your own risk. And you must avoid potentially putting your life—and other citizen’s lives—in danger.
I personally drove to Vermont to be with two friends and their child for the holidays. They had quarantined before I arrived, and as a doctor, I am tested regularly. So we knew we had taken the necessary measures to gather safely.
But as I made the six-hour drive to their house, I could not believe my eyes as I passed rest stops filled with cars and people shopping at malls. I was disappointed and more than a little angry with the obviously cavalier attitude on display.
Basically, travelling safely boils down to being aware of all the potential risks—and doing everything you can to mitigate them.
For instance, airlines will tell you traveling by plane is safe. But you have to evaluate the whole picture. Sure, maybe your time on the plane may be safe—but what precautions are the airports taking? Because remember, you’ll spend time checking and receiving luggage, going through security, waiting in the terminal, and boarding and getting off the plane.
As for road trips? Well, there are real risks to consider before hitting the road, too.
If you’ll be traveling with passengers, then you should all be tested before getting in a car together. Then, analyze whether you’ll have to stop anywhere on the way—and be prepared. At a minimum, you may have to stop for gas. But depending on how far away your destination is, you might also have to spend the night along the way. So it’s a good idea to plan your route and book a hotel room ahead of time. And don’t be afraid to ask questions—about air ventilation systems, cleaning procedures, etc.—before staying somewhere for any length of time.
And, as always, no matter what mode of travel you choose, you’ll want to wear a mask, keep your distance, and routinely wash your hands.
Traveling evokes joy—but remain cautious
One reason I bring up this subject today is because everyone I know—myself included—is dreaming of post-COVID travel. And according to a new study, frequent travelers are happier with their lives than people who don’t travel at all.
This study also found that people who follow more tourism-related information and talk about travel plans with friends are more likely to vacation regularly than those who aren’t always daydreaming about their next trip.
In fact, the travelers in this study reported routinely venturing at least 75 miles away from home—and researchers found these travelers were also seven percent happier than their non-traveling peers.
As a frequent traveler myself, I can tell you that I was at least seven percent less happy in 2020—when my traveling plans came to a halt.
So, to me, this finding really illustrates the importance of being able to get out of your routine and experience new things. And travel definitely does this for me. (I have often written about how fulfilled I feel after a journey to an unknown place, or even just to visit friends across the country.)
It’s invigorating—and best of all, when I return, I’m always really happy to be home. For me, it’s the best of both worlds—anchored by that incredible sense of renewal upon returning from a good trip.
So while we may be missing out on our usual travel right now, this can’t and won’t last forever. And as pandemic travel restrictions begin to relax, we can start looking ahead to new ways to heal from the pain and suffering we’ve had to endure this past year. (All while remaining vigilant.)
But until then—make smart choices until this is all over. If you’re overwhelmed by what could happen… if you’re anxious about any possible encounter with others… if you and the others around you aren’t following pandemic mandates and aren’t being tested… if you or your family members are considered high-risk… just stay home.
Because as the stories I told you today illustrate, the consequences of too much freedom can be tragic.
P.S. Of course, before you travel, I also encourage you to ensure your immune system is firing on all cylinders. And my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity is a comprehensive report that outlines how to do just that. To learn more about these top immune health recommendations, click here now!
“Frequent travel could make you 7 percent happier.” Science Daily. 01/04/2021. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210104094654.htm)