Most of my followers know that I’ve temporarily stopped publishing travel stories during the Coronavirus pandemic. However, while there may be less interest in my reading about my travel experiences at the moment, I suspect many of us are wondering about the future of travel after COVID-19. Right now, it feels like we’ll never leave town again, much less travel the globe. But at some point this nightmare will come to an end and life will begin to return to normal.
So, what shape will travel take in this new world? What will change for the better and what will change for the worse? Will the travel landscape be sharply different from the one that existed before or will it still be plagued with massive crowds of tourists jockeying to capture that iconic Instagram image?
I’ll be joining an online panel of experienced travel bloggers and experts live this Sunday, April 12, to discuss these very points. I’m the first to admit that I don’t have a crystal ball, and I’m not even sure I have an informed opinion regarding some of these questions, but I do think it will make for a fascinating discussion! The panel will be broadcast live from Queensland, Australia, at at 5 p.m. (6 p.m. Sydney, 3 p.m. Thailand, 9 a.m. UK, 4 a.m. on the east coast of the U.S., 3 a.m. in the Midwest, and 1 a.m. on the west coast of the U.S.).
There’s a controversy brewing here in Thailand. In a nutshell, Thais are becoming increasingly upset about farang (Caucasian foreigners) who refuse to wear a face mask during the COVID-19 outbreak. For Thais, the decision to wear a mask is easy. Thai culture (and that of most Asian cultures), places the good of society above the good of the individual. As a result, it’s common to see people across Asia wearing a mask when they are sick; they take extra precautions because they don’t want to infect others.
Farang are less likely to wear a face mask. Western culture is more individualistic in nature, with less regard for the good of the whole. We tend to regard masks as a means of self-protection rather than a measure to protect others. Not only has wearing masks never been common in western culture, doing anything that covers up our faces makes many westerners uncomfortable.
Conflicting information coming out of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S. and the World Health Organization has further confused the issue. The WHO website currently advises that if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection. They recommend wearing a mask only if you are coughing or sneezing. The CDC website states, “CDC does not recommend the routine use of respirators (face masks) outside of workplace settings (in the community).” Scientists, medical professionals, and researchers have all said that masks do not protect against getting COVID-19 and, in some cases, may increase the risk because people tend to touch their faces more when wearing an ill-fitting mask. Read More
For the past 13+ years I’ve traveled the world to bring my readers stories about far-flung places. Eight of those years were spent traveling with no home base, just me and my suitcase, going from country to country and city to city. As many of my readers know, about three years ago I decided I wanted a permanent home base again. Frankly, I was tired of lugging around everything I owned. I settled down in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which is located in the north of the country. Since then, I’ve continued to travel 4-5 months per year and returned home to rest whenever I’m not traveling. A month ago, that came to a crashing halt. Overnight, I was faced with the prospect of living overseas during the COVID-19 outbreak.
My travel plan for this spring was to spend April in Spain, then go on to Switzerland and perhaps to the island of Crete before returning to Thailand for the rest of the summer. This fall I was thinking about a trip to Mongolia and Bhutan, and a return visit to Nepal to visit my adopted family there. Obviously, none of that is going to happen. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve cancelled my spring travels and realize I may also not be able to travel this fall either. Americans residing or traveling overseas were faced with a decision: “do I stay or do I go?” A couple of weeks ago the State Department issued an alert, advising all Americans to return home or risk staying overseas indefinitely. Since my only home is in Thailand the decision was quite easy for me. This is as good a place as any to hunker down. Read More
On a jaw-droppingly beautiful morning, I climbed into a tiny inflatable zodiac boat at Paradise Bay in Antarctica. Wide swaths of sea ice stippled a dead calm ultramarine sea. On the horizon, mountains huddled beneath a blanket of unsullied snow, showing only their jagged black peaks. From every direction, crevassed glaciers marched from the mountaintops down to the sea. At their faces, immense blocks of tortured ice teetered, as if resisting the urge to take the polar plunge. Read More
The giant, ice-covered landmass at the bottom of our earth may be the remotest, coldest, driest environment on earth, but it’s paradise to the penguins of Antarctica. I was fortunate to have an up-close and personal experience with three of the four Antarctic species during my recent expedition cruise. I was quite surprised by how close I was able to get to them. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators recommend that visitors not approach within 5 meters (about 16.5 feet) of any animals. All passengers on my expedition cruise were required to sign an agreement stating that we would abide by this rule before we were allowed to set foot on the continent. However, the expedition leaders also said that the penguins might approach us…and that was perfectly fine. Read More
After the decline of Moai culture on Easter Island, a new cult emerged that revolved around fertility and the worship of migratory seabirds. As the Moai had represented the idea of ancestor worship, the new Birdman Cult was represented by the Tangatu-mana (birdman), a human body with the head of a bird. The village of Orongo was built exclusively for ceremonial purposes related to the new religion. Perched nearly 1,000 feet above the sea, on the precarious rim of the Rano Kao volcano, Orongo faced three tiny offshore islets where Sooty Terns returned each fall to lay their eggs and fledge their chicks.
Every September, chiefs of different tribes (or their representatives) swam across the shark-infested channel to the islet of Motu Nui. There they lay in wait for the Sooty Terns, each man hoping to find a tern egg. The first to deliver an unharmed egg to the main tribal house won the Tangatu-mana competition. It was from this ceremony that the Birdman Cult took its name. The new birdman was considered tapu (sacred) and lived in seclusion for the next year. Following his year of sequestration, legend says he was rewarded with a virgin to marry. Read More