We Chose To Only Travel Locally During The Pandemic
Some people questioned our decision to travel locally during the pandemic. Others wondered why we have not travelled further.
While it may seem contradictory, no decision was made without a lot of thought and assessment. We felt it may help to share our thoughts.
We wanted to stress that our decisions to travel or not are dictated by our situation and risk assessment. Any decisions we made should not be construed as an endorsement of travel at this time. Or as condemnation of those that made other decisions. The safest decision may always be to stay home.
Our resolve and decision making may be challenged with no escape in sight from the cold Canadian winter!
Should We Travel At All?
Making a decision to leave home for any reason required so much thought each time we did it. We are more at risk of getting the Covid-19 virus than many others. And our health is really important to us. And if we picked up the virus and wandered around asymptomatic, we would hate to put others in danger.
Several years ago we downsized to a small condo when we decided to prioritize travel. We bought a condo on the waterfront in Toronto with access to local waterfront trails. This was perfect when we travelled about 6 months a year. But not so great when we were trapped inside for long periods of pandemic lockdown. And not a great location when the city parks and paths were so crowded we often avoided going outside.
When the lockdown period ended and infection rates stayed low in Canada, we had options to travel locally during the pandemic. We followed and often exceeded all Covid-19 precautions. And used a set of decision criteria for our local travels. So we got fresh air, sunshine, exercise and helped our mental health. Local spots were discovered this year. And a little money was put into the local economies.
Over the 8 months we have been at home, these local trips account for only 20 days. We believed when we chose to travel locally during the pandemic that the benefits far outweighed the slight risk we took. But on every local trip we took, we were fully prepared to abandon our travel and return home if it did not feel safe. And as infection rates rose in Canada, our local trips dwindled.
Our Local Travel Decision Criteria
Like so many others, we cancelled all of our travel plans for 2020. Although we were lucky and almost finished an amazing South America cruise before the pandemic sent us home. That early experience with the pandemic taught us some lessons and prepared us for local travel.
But during the summer and early fall in Canada, infection rates were relatively low. And local travel was safe and needed to help the economy. Even if we still could not travel to many of the other provinces in Canada.
- always followed Covid-19 precautions – wear masks, socially distance, wash hands and avoid crowded environments
- travelled mid-week when crowds were smaller
- visited places where infection rates were low
- planned most of our activities as outdoor fun
- took our own car
- booked at the last minute and only did short trips so we had known local conditions and requirements to contend with
- be prepared to return home immediately if we felt any risk
We took our responsibility to protect ourselves and others seriously when we planned and executed local travel during the pandemic.
Why We Limit Travel To Local Spots During The Pandemic
Travel requirements constantly changed at home, at destinations spots and for any interim stops. This resulting uncertainty stopped us from booking any long trips, international travel or cruise trips.
People wondered why we were ok to travel locally during the pandemic but had not booked any big trips. For us, the list of reasons was long:
1) What We Know About Covid-19 Kept Changing
So much of our knowledge of Covid-19 continued to change. Initially we worried about surfaces. But we learned that the virus was spread largely through the air. Results on immunity after infection and on gestation time remained variable.
The symptoms watched for changed regularly. Most places used temperature as a key gating factor. Even when it was known that fever was not always present. And so many people were infectious but asymptomatic.
While we had a better idea of the short term damage to the body, it will be many years before we understand the long term damage that people may live with. We worried that getting Covid-19 was a long term crap shoot even if we did not have severe complications or die!
2) Travel Offerings and Cancellations
With travel numbers down we saw there were limited flights and hotels available. We knew that even with booked reservations there were potential changes due to local situations on either end of travel.
We returned from Miami after we got stranded cruising in South America during the pandemic. And we were on the last Air Canada flight out of Miami for a long time. With the changing pandemic situation, we feared that it might be hard to get back home quickly, easily or cheaply.
3) Travel Bans
Every day it seemed there were changes to the list of who can travel where. In the early days when Canada’s infection rates were low, there were many places that still accepted Canadians. Even if there are still places in Canada we cannot visit!
But as infection rates at home and abroad changed, that list became hard to track. Booking travel for dates out more than a few days always added risk that the destination would be closed to us. And changing or cancelling booked plans was increasingly risky.
4) Quarantine Rules
Countries and even local places have implemented quarantine requirements for people entering or returning from travel.
We have the flexibility and means to travel for longer periods and could in theory be fine with spending 14 days of our vacation in quarantine. But that assumed there was a place at our travel destination that would act as a quarantine base at a reasonable cost. But for people wanting a short getaway, the quarantine requirements at the destination was not acceptable.
Canada required 14 days quarantine for anybody who returned from abroad. Although there are currently some trials being done to replace this with a series of Covid-19 tests on arrival.
We would not welcome a 14 day quarantine when we returned. But this time we would be prepared for that before we travelled. We would not clean out all of our cupboards and our freezer of food. Basic supplies would be well stocked. And we would order fresh groceries for delivery in advance of our return. We certainly were not that well prepared when we returned from South America at the beginning of a pandemic lockdown.
But many people could not take a 14 day quarantine when they returned home without major hardship.
5) Travel Destinations May Not Be The Same
With pandemic requirements in place, many activities were closed. If they were not closed, there were limits on the number of visitors. Reservations were required in advance. So we couldn’t always plan to visit at the time that we wanted. This was not the time to travel far distances to see things we may never get to see.
Hotels were also operated under strict requirements and many services were removed. So many hotel stays were no longer the luxury retreats we often sought when we travelled. We got lucky on several of our overnight stays with hotels that largely had most facilities in operation. But so much of what was available varied with local conditions.
6) Testing Requirements Were Challenging And Risky
As travel re-opened, Covid-19 testing requirements were put in place as pre-requisites. The testing requirements varied and changed. And which tests were needed also varied. We know people who travelled to distant places only to be turned away in transit or at the destination.
We were also quite skeptical about how safe some of the testing requirements were. Because of delays in getting test results, many places accepted test results from up to 72 hours before arrival. So much time to be infected in that 72 hours.
And even destinations that implemented additional testing on arrival have not kept infection rates at bay. The virus may not be detected for some time after infection! Several cruising companies thought they had enough testing until the infections spread onboard despite several rounds of testing.
7) Cost Of Cancelled Travel
This year we cancelled many of our travel plans. We still don’t have all the money back that we prepaid. Many companies never returned money for travel cancellations. And others offered only future travel vouchers that may never be redeemed.
Many travel brands changed their cancellation policies and made it easier to cancel and get money back. But most of these still had conditions that were buried in the fine print.
Sadly, we believed that many travel companies may not survive the pandemic. We were hesitant about putting down money on future travel. We were worried that companies will cease operation or go bankrupt in a way that put our money at risk.
8) Health Insurance May Not Cover Us
Most health insurance policies will be void if there are advisories against travel. In Canada, the federal guideline says “Avoid non-essential travel outside Canada”. It goes further and says “Avoid all cruise ship travel outside Canada”.
As such, it would be very hard to get any travel health insurance that covers regular medical emergencies, never mind the costs if we got Covid-19. There are now new supplemental health insurance policies available. But the fine print included so many restrictions that we would still be responsible for many health issue related costs.
The other health issue of concern related to availability of treatment at our destination. With health resources stretched to the limit in so many places, we worried about the ability to get care. And if we wanted to get that care in Canada, we may not be able to get home if we were sick with Covid-19.
For generally healthy people, it may be worth the risk to travel without adequate health insurance. It was not possible for us.
9) Beliefs And Behaviour Of Other People
We believe in the science and the Covid-19 precautions that are generally required. We do not believe this pandemic is a hoax. But we knew that not everyone shared these beliefs.
Even when businesses put the required processes in place, they were only as good as the people who followed them and those that enforced them. And even on our local travels we found far too many people didn’t believe, refused to follow or just paid lip service to the rules.
When we travelled locally, we always had the opportunity to quickly, easily and cheaply remove ourselves from risks. We were always prepared to return home. We walked zig-zag paths to give ourselves social distance. And we stayed away from crowded places.
But if we travelled far from home, it would not always be possible to easily remove ourselves from risk. How do you get space in an airplane?
We Kept Posting About Our Travels On RetiredAnd Travelling
During this pandemic, we questioned whether we should continue to publish travel posts. We had about 100 travel blog posts in draft. And we started to travel locally.
We polled the people on our mailing list and the response was overwhelmingly in support of continuing to publish. Many people still dreamt of or planned future travel. And our travel posts helped fuel that wanderlust. And one day we got the most amazing email that spurred us to keep sharing our travels.
“Your creative work has been a tremendous source of vicarious pleasure … I’m trying to hold on to my dreams and your gorgeous photos and descriptions are facilitating my dreams and enhancing my life … Thanks for what you’ve created and the joy you’ve brought to me and many others!“
Thank you Andi for such encouraging words. They truly made our day!
As we travelled locally, we wanted to share our experiences for others who wanted some tips on how to travel a little more safely.
So we kept posting travel content on RetiredAndTravelling.
Why We Travel Locally During The Pandemic And Not Further
We loved the opportunity to travel locally this year when it was safe to do so. But we never travelled without conscious thought or risk assessment. We believed the benefits outweighed the risks. We hope this blog post helps people to understand our decision. And provides some input on things to consider when making plans to travel locally during the pandemic.
Our long list of reasons why we have not travelled or booked longer trips may resonate with many people. But we accept that many people don’t have the same concerns. Or have different risk tolerance levels that we do at this point.
We look forward to the day when we can fill our calendar with travel bookings!
Did you travel locally during the pandemic? Are you travelling much further afield?
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