With the world on lockdown, is it wrong to be talking about travel?
what do we do now?
Ay caramba. The world has gone into lockdown on a scale that would have seen senior scifi scriptwriters balk.
Nearly all the big topics of conversation over the last decade have involved the movement of people: overtourism, immigration, refugees, freedom of movement in the context of the EU and Brexit, climate change.
And now, here we are. No-one is going anywhere. Not many people, at least.
In the context of all of that, is it wrong to be talking about travel? To share photos, itineraries and dreams?
I think not. And let me explain why.
- Check out our other articles on responsible travel and tourism. In particular, Rethinking Earth Day: Five Ways More Travel Helps the Planet.
Let me start by throwing in a few caveats.
- Encouraging people to break the law or ignore medical advice is nearly always wrong. In the context of the Covid-19 outbreak, please stay at home when advised and always follow the official advice from the World Health Organisation and Health Authorities of the countries you are in. That should be obvious and has always been my position.
- Please show some compassion. There is no need for unnecessary suffering but also, please consider that not everyone is in the same position as you. Some people are losing lives, relatives, businesses, homes, freedom, sanity and a sense of security. Tread carefully if you find yourself fortunate enough to have avoided all that so far. And please don't say "just stay at home, it's not that hard." For some people, it is VERY hard.
With all that said, here's why I'm choosing to continue to publish travel material.
1) travel stories can be a lifeline
I have asked readers this question in three different ways, on five different platforms. The results were overwhelming: over 98% of respondents wanted travel stories to continue.
"Let the rest of the world bury itself with Coronavirus. Let there be one corner of the internet not infected."
Another reader actually put me in my place:
"You are now known for travel rather than health. That is what people turn to you for so give them that."
Of the excellent mental health advice shared by the NHS for staying at home, one recommendation is to find things that you enjoy. If my work can in any way help with that, I would consider that work well done.
2) Saving the Travel Industry is Actually Kinda Important
For all its flaws (and which industry doesn't have flaws?) the travel industry also does an awful lot of good. Used correctly, it can promote the conservation of endangered species and habitats and even promote peace.
One in ten people earn a living from the travel industry. If that implodes completely then that leaves 10% of the world out of a job all at the same time.
This is not good news for anyone. People need to earn to feed and clothe themselves, to access healthcare. To feel safe.
For some particularly vulnerable countries, travel is the mainstay of their entire economy.
Many, if not most, businesses can't easily switch on and off. It takes years to put infrastructure into place, it takes months to put together information campaigns, it takes weeks for teams to work together and it takes hours or days to even do something simple like publish an article like this.
We can't put everything on hold until this is all over. Otherwise, it may never come back.
No work equals no money for many, including, for full disclosure, me. I want to keep state handouts for the truly desperate and for frontline health resources. I don't want to need them because my business fails. I'll not go down without a fight. I want to protect the people who work for me.
Also, if all these travel and leisure and gardening and catering businesses fail... Who will pay taxes? Who will spend in other businesses? It's always worth remembering that the economy is not all about "fat cats" with bonuses. It's about all of us and how we can keep the show on the road.
Doing whatever we can to help the world keep turning is essential.
3) Travel serves a higher purpose.
Travel is not just about "holidays." It is about connecting with different cultures, seeing other perspectives and learning more about the world in the ultimate outdoor classroom. It helps us to feel inspired, informed and part of something bigger than ourselves.
And all of this is true, whether or not we can ever travel again. I will always be seeking out travel stories and trying to learn about different places in the world - and I always have. Whether or not I will ever make it somewhere myself is really a distant second to all that.
What do you think?
PS - A lot of you are also asking about whether or not I will go back to work as a doctor in this crisis. I submitted my paperwork some time ago so we will see whether or not I am needed. It's an ever evolving situation.