Losing your luggage, forgetting your airplane ticket, or missing your flight are just a few things you worry about when traveling. These worst-case scenarios tend to cross our minds when we plan to visit our favorite people and places; Something we never had to anticipate when traveling was contracting a rapidly spreading virus.
The COVID-19 pandemic created a whole new meaning for travel anxiety. Throughout the pandemic, travel of any kind has been highly discouraged. Even a simple trip to your friend’s house in a neighboring town or a visit to a loved one’s house poses a risk.
For many people, not being able to travel takes a toll on their relationships with friends and family. Several college students have made the decision to not come home to lessen the risk of spreading the virus to loved ones.
Like many people, Brockport student Ashley Zarcone worries about spreading the COVID-19 virus to her elderly grandmother.
“I am the primary caretaker for my 92-year-old grandmother and must take care of her,” Zarcone said. “When I am at school, my father is very helpful, but it is not the same for her. I have a responsibility of cooking for her, helping her clean, making her bed, helping her get ready, and being there for her as an emotional support.”
When classes began towards the end of August, several people like Ashley had to jump back into living with other students. It was difficult to tell where these students have been or if they have been following the COVID precautions.
“I had to move on campus during this past fall semester because I had an in-person class. For her safety I chose to stay on campus and live away from her because I knew it wasn’t safe for me to be coming in and out of the house and exposing myself to those with COVID,” said Zarcone.
College students like Zarcone must adapt to a different lifestyle. Before the pandemic students had the opportunity to go home any weekend they wanted, take a road trip to near-by town or even visit friends at other schools. Now, the simplest trip can pose the greatest danger.
“I request my friends, who I visit or see, to have masks on, for my sister and father to keep their social distance from her, and to clean and sanitize surfaces. It truly is the little things that make a difference, just to ensure that she feels safe and comfortable,” said Zarcone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted information on their website about what people should do before and during their trip. According to the CDC, travel increases the risk of attracting COVID and those who do travel must stay in quarantine for 14 days following the trip of any kind.
Trips that require air-travel are still worth the risk for some people. This past month, Rochester resident Autumn Chapman took a trip to Puerto Rico with her parents. As a person who travels often, Chapman said this trip looked nothing like the ones she has taken before.
“Everyone was wearing masks and I felt extremely safe in the airport as well as on the aircrafts.” Chapman said. “All seating is arranged to ensure social distancing on the aircraft, and signs saying, “wear a mask” or “wash your hands” or “6 feet apart” or “social distancing” littered the airports.”
Chapman mentioned that some parts of the journey were a hassle. It was extremely difficult to obtain timely COVID tests, which were required upon entry to most of the Caribbean islands. A CNN article expressed the importance of covering your face throughout the entirety of the flight.
“The airports were eerily quiet though, almost every single store or sundries shop was closed,” Chapman said. “Though everyone was wearing masks, I had no clue where these people had been, what they had touched, or if they were taking off their masks to eat or drink or sneeze or what not.”
For Chapman, it was difficult to stop thinking about COVID throughout the course of her trip. With traveling being one of her favorite past times her experience in Puerto Rico was nothing like the trips she has taken in the past.
“There’s so much to learn when traveling, and so much of it comes from other people, who grew up in a different environment than you and have so many experiences to share. COVID has completely changed that.” said Chapman, “The only interaction I had with another person, other than my parents, was my waitress. She told us about how more than half the staff had been laid off, and her 6-day work week had been cut down to two days.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has given those who enjoy traveling difficult choices to make; risk contracting the virus if it means you can see your favorite people and places or go without traveling and seeing friends and family.