The COVID-19 pandemic has me heartbroken and saddened by the widespread fear. I began ''Discover Evolution" in February 2020 thinking that after 17 years traveling it was about time to share my experience backpacking and cycling touring across countries by creating a travel blog that will help the future generation of explorers to commenced their journey to the unknown. My wife and I went to Ao Nang in Thailand to celebrate this new beginning, the news started informing people about the virus and no one including myself will had thought that it will turn the planet to such a disaster.
Safe & feasible
When I first drafted this post, the leading question only related to the safety of backpacking,
By backpacking, are you putting yourself at risk, because of your own vulnerabilities to COVID-19? And
By backpacking, are you putting others at risk, by becoming a vector for the disease?
But there’s also an issue of Backpacking normally involves travel and public lands, and both are subject to be expose to the virus itself. What its going to be in the future?
1. The queue at immigration will be longer than ever before
We’re already seeing with China, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea - countries that feel like they are on top of their respective outbreaks - that the biggest worry now is new infections coming from the outside.
Malaysia for example is ordering all persons entering from the United States and Europe to quarantine for two weeks, even if they test negative for COVID-19. Those without a permanent residence are being sent directly to an isolation ward and it will not be free either, $35 for foreigners / $17 for locals. Manufacturers of heat cameras are seeing a spike in demand.
Even when lock downs in Europe are over and we start to travel again, countries will test at the border. If you thought the line immigration control was torturous before, now consider what it’ll be like as you line up, take a swab test and wait for the results.
2. You’ll tick that little box every time
We’re all very used to airplane bookings coming with tens of add-on once we’ve chosen our flight. Let’s be honest, most of us skip past speedy boarding, extra baggage, car rental and even seat selection.
One box that we won’t be skipping past anymore if we want to insure the flight. Be careful though: often this “insurance” doesn’t cover you for many things, including the outbreak of a pandemic. Either airline providers or insurance companies are going to have to change to accommodate our new reality.
3. You’ll take the train before the plane
Domestic travel will recover first (there’s no border control), and for most countries that means taking a train instead of flying. Not only will we be able to get back on tracks but they will also be more check point too.
Trains are less crowded, have windows that open and are much more environmentally friendly. Once the lock downs is over, I predict people will rush to take a train, just because they can.
WHEN will travel return to some kind of normal?
It’s difficult to see how the global travel industry could recover at all this year (2020). As the curves are beginning to flatten across Europe and countries are tentatively starting to open up again, we’re still far from where it used to be.
While some people may start to travel towards the end of 2020, these will most likely be essential forms of travel rather than travel for pleasure. With some experts predicting ongoing waves of the virus, it’s unlikely that travel will return to “normal” until a vaccine for COVID-19 is discovered. This is predicted to be at least 12-18 months from now.
In the same way that you are not allowed to enter some countries in South America without having a certificate to say that you have had your yellow fever ticked, will we have to show a COVID-19 Vaccine Card in order to cross borders in the future? While many vaccinations are currently highly recommended for travel to Southeast Asia, none of them are as of yet mandatory.
Restrictions on Tourist Numbers
When the crisis was just beginning, the trickle of travelers who were left behind in Southeast Asia enjoyed a type of travel that hasn’t been seen for over 30 years. Usually crowded tourist sites were empty and beach towns recaptured that local feel after all the foreigners went back home. Many travelers reported how much they loved the thinning crowds and having places all to themselves!
Way before COVID-19 reared its ugly head we had already seen the closure of super touristy places like Maya Bay in Thailand and Boracay in the Philippines due to environmental concerns. As we witnessed the flourishing of the natural world during lock down, will local authorities be in such a rush to open up these beautiful and popular places to the general public? It comes down to money vs. the environment. I hate to be cynical, but we know which one has been winning up until now!