In the midst of the pandemic, the travel industry has become a lynchpin. Travel facilitated the spread of the virus and the industry will bear the brunt of the economic impact thereafter.
Travel is a privilege, and yet it has also become integral to the way our world functions.
Travel as a Privilege
Travel is not just a luxury. It is how business is conducted globally.
Travel enables boardroom meetings to solidify relationships in person. It also moves goods and products along the global supply chain.
Everyone from truck drivers to CEOs, from sun-seekers to musicians, from politicians to medical personnel…we move between places to do our jobs, our life’s work, our passions.
Travel is a privilege but also a necessity.
If anything, this pandemic has highlighted the many ways and routes we take to get between places.
Its rapid spread showed us how the movement of people is inextricably part of our global infrastructure.
It also highlights how social humans are for survival.
We are not solitary beings, we survive and thrive in social networks and settings.
We rely upon each other in ways most other species could never compare.
Humans need to socialize as much as we need to work together for success.
That became abundantly clear as lockdowns spread and isolation set in for many.
So what happens when we cannot travel?
How do we survive and thrive when we cannot move freely?
Well, that’s a whole other can of worms.
To travel freely is, in itself, another level of privilege. The strength of your passport (and the mere privilege of obtaining one) grants access to certain spaces and places. Or it can, after a series of barriers are crossed.
Freedom of movement is not a right; it is a privilege. At least, that’s the way our world currently works.
Arbitrary lines divide people and places while infrastructure determines who may cross those invisible lines, when, and how.
We have made travel into a privilege of great distinction.
The way we build our nations and divide ourselves along random lines – race, religion, language, history – forces us into segregated groups. And those groups tend to stay fairly stationary.
Despite that stagnancy in society, the pandemic spread.
Because we still travel.
Despite the challenges, red tape, borders, and limitations, we travel. In the face of barriers, we still choose to push forward to travel.
For professional or personal reasons, we travel.
Is it an Ancestral Link?
We used to travel constantly. We followed our food and the seasons to survive. Along the way, we started farming and growing crops.
We have since established sedentary lifestyles.
So maybe those of us who constantly travel feel a pull from our ancestors.
Maybe our form of survival is constant motion, pushing toward the sun and toward a new opportunity.
Perhaps we shirk the sedentary lifestyle for this life of motion and discovery out of some intrinsic need — a calling from the past.
I don’t know the answer, but I do know I feel that call. The moment the option to travel is taken away from me, I desperately crave it monumentally more. The second I feel restricted, I push harder than I ever have before to get out.
When I had to wait 7 months for my UK residency to be processed, I could not travel anywhere.
And I was a caged animal.
I paced and fumed and, by the time my passport was returned to me, I was so enraged with my confinement that I fled the country entirely.
My initial reaction to seeing travel blocked off this year was, surprisingly, easy and painless.
I was devastated to cancel my visit home to see my family, but had zero qualms about its necessity to protect my loved ones.
As the weeks dragged on, I felt claustrophobic, and that familiar rage set in. I wanted to flee to anywhere but here. I felt desperate and anxious and angry.
In the months since, I feel settled.
Maybe this is the first time I’ve given myself the time to actually choose life here and now. Or perhaps this is just another temporary stage like acceptance and anger. Denial? Perhaps.
I may look at travel as an escape, a luxury, a privilege, but it is also my way of life and business.
Without Travel, I Am Lost
But I am more than willing to feel this way for the good of others. I am perfectly fine feeling lost, knowing that it is a temporary status, knowing that it means others may stay safe.
Finding the right balance in life is an ever-present goal.
I am grateful for the support of the Wanderful community this year. That global group of women has been a balm.
And I’m grateful for the stillness this year has forced upon me. It’s given me the luxury of time and space to think, plan, wonder.
It’s amazing how much time is in a day when all you need to do is be.
Travel will come back — that’s inevitable. I just hope that, as it does, we all do what we can to make travel better.