After several weeks of lockdown, Europe is starting to slowly re-open again.
Talks about opening boarders across several European countries are starting to intensify. Airlines are slowly increasing the number of flights and adding more destinations. In some countries, hotels and restaurants are slowly starting to open again.
What seemed almost impossible only a short while ago is now actually happening: People are starting to talk about taking summer holidays.
This week, in fact, is the first time I saw the first evidence of fellow travel writers starting to hit the road again. Off course, in a completely new way and with all the necessary caution and security measures in place.
That is exciting news, or is it?
To tell the truth, I am not yet ready to start travelling again. Not right now. Maybe not even for a while.
And it is an inconvenient truth. Because, I am painfully aware how the whole travel industry along with so many local businesses participating from visitors, is currently struggling. Many are at the edge of losing their business and the only chance of survival seems indeed to be a quick re-opening.
Clearly, I am all in if it comes to support local businesses – and the wider travel industry – so they can survive this crisis.
But then, there is the other side of the coin.
We are still far from returning to normal. In fact, we are still a long way off.
Even with less restrictions and travel bans lifted, we are far from being able to roam around freely and have social interactions in the way we were used to pre-lockdown.
For the time being, travelling will require the discipline to maintain a strict security protocol to protect the health and safety of other travellers, locals, and hospitality staff.
This is not impossible to do. In fact, even once a vaccine is found and we can call the crisis a thing of the past, I would imagine we will continue to see several of the new measures which are currently introduced will remain in place. Which could possibly be a good thing.
Right now, however, the way travelling is possible with requested restrictions along with all the continued concerns about the virus, is still putting a halt on my own travel plans.
I am not alone with my concerns. In fact, many continue to be wary about travelling in these times. A recent survey in Germany has revealed that half of the people are not planning to travel at least this year, even though they now might be allowed to.
Even so it hurts, for the time being, I have decided I will be one of those not making any imminent travel plans. I am not ruling out to do some local trips later in the summer or autumn should I feel it will be safe to do so. These could be simple day trips to enjoy a different environment, going on a hike somewhere in the countryside and potentially even staying at a small rural hotel with limited numbers of rooms for a night or two.
However, when and where I might go will depend on the level of new Covid-19 cases reported over the coming weeks and how the general process of re-opening will work out.
In general, however, I am not planning to travel to far-away places (i.e. no flying involved) or do any extended stays this year.
I will instead continue to make the best of virtual travel opportunities, trying to engage as much as I can in online chats, virtual tours, wine tastings and similar.
Here are the reasons I do not feel confident to travel again before a vaccine for Covid-19 is found
There is still a significant risk to contract the virus
These days, in many parts of the world new infections are fairly low. There are now even some countries who are starting to proclaim they are almost free of Covid-19.
However, there continue to be local hot spots where new infections are high. That is especially the case where people are now starting to come together in larger numbers again.
In fact, with restrictions being loosened and people starting to return to shopping streets or other recreational places like parks and beaches, warnings about the next wave of infections are still heard loud and clear.
This coupled with a continued uncertainty how the virus is actually spread, and potential still unknown long-term health implications should you contract the virus, to me means maintaining social distance and staying away from highly frequented places remains number one priority.
Travel bans are lifted but travel warnings are still in place
As I mentioned before, some borders across Europe are now re-opening and many governments are no longer issuing outright travel bans. But even those that do not continue to advise against travelling.
The German government, for example, is slowly starting to open borders and even assures people they might be able to take summer holidays abroad. At the same time, they continue to say you should be careful to travel and if you do, you should carefully consider which destinations are safe, and go only to places that offer sufficient hospital capability.
That is not really instilling a lot of confidence.
In addition, even where borders might be open, you might still be required to observe a two-week quarantine when travelling to certain places.
Continued social distancing requirements will limit travel experiences
Hotels and restaurants are starting to open in several European countries. But with lots of restrictions in place.
One of the most important safety measures remains social distancing which means, limiting the number of guests.
Everywhere. From restaurants to hotels, museums, galleries, and even beaches.
Whilst this might not be too troubling in hotels and restaurants – at least for the guest while for many businesses it could mean operating below the line of financial feasibility – it could still mean you do not get the chance to go out and explore the destination.
You might not get lucky enough to be one of the few securing a ticket to a museum, or the beach.
You might not get a reservation at that restaurant you had on your list of must-go places once you would visit a destination.
You might not even be allowed to walk around some of the main landmarks, or your time there might be restricted. Like, you would be able to walk by but would not be allowed to linger and admire the place.
With all these continued restrictions, exploring a new destination will be difficult and you might possibly be disappointed about the experience. Which would likely not do the place justice.
In these uncertain times, no one should go as far as to suggest whether one should start travelling or not. This is a totally personal decision, based on all the individual personal circumstances.
If you feel happy to resume travelling, then by all means you should do so, with all the necessary precautions in place off course.
If you still do not feel safe, you should not feel pressured to go anywhere. Instead, try to find other ways to support the local travel community while you wait for the time to be right for you to pack your bags again.
How do you feel about traveling in the near future?
Will you go somewhere as soon as restrictions are lifted, or will you wait until we can be sure the virus is fully contained – i.e. until a vaccine is available?
I’d be really interested in your opinion.