Ever since the coronavirus put the world on lockdown, most of us have been waiting patiently for the day when our lives would go back to some semblance of normality. Despite the fact that things have started to open up across much of the globe, three months into the pandemic, we’re still waiting. But as stores, restaurants, gyms, parks, and other places resume their normal business, we too are starting to get back to a more typical routine. Granted, the new normal now includes face masks, social distancing, and lots of caution, but at least we can venture out into the world again, for good or ill. This of course begs the question, when should we resume travel and expeditions? The answer isn’t all that simple and mostly comes down to individual levels of comfort and willingness to take risks.
Right now, one of the biggest limiters on travel is that a lot of country are continuing to keep their borders closed. In an effort to prevent the reintroduction of COVID-19 many nations are choosing to stay locked off for awhile. That could mean that a place that you most want to visit may be inaccessible, which means you can’t go there for the time being anyway. That said, most borders look to reopen over the next month or two, with international flights resuming even to less frequented places.
Just because flights are about to get back underway and borders are reopening, does that mean it is okay to travel? Again, this comes down to personal preference, but when you consider the number of people passing through an airport on a daily basis, from all kind of different places from around the globe, the chances of exposure to someone who is positive for the coronavirus goes up substantially. The airlines are also struggling with finding a balance between being safe and being profitable at the moment, which means your flights may be another point of contact. Factor in that you will likely have to pass through multiple airports and be on multiple flights before you ever reach your destination, and you being to see why there is cause for concern.
Wearing masks can help reduce the chances of exposure of course, and social distancing can be of benefit too. That gets a lot easier to do once you reach a remote trail that you may be hiking or a campsite where you may be staying. But in-between your house and your ultimate destination, there are a lot of variables that will be beyond your control. Safely navigating all of them will be a big challenge for the foreseeable future and possibly for months and years to come.
Because of these challenges, there are very few expeditions taking place anywhere on the planet right now. Yes, there are a few explorers and adventurers who are in the field, but for the most part everyone is staying close to home. That makes it much easier to manage the risks and stay healthy, not to mention get the attention you need should you contract COVID-19. This doesn’t look like it will change much anytime soon. As mentioned on previous occasions, it looks increasingly like the summer climbing season in the Karakoram will be nonexistent and the fall season in the Himalaya seems unlikely too. The Antarctic expedition season is still too far out to predict, but at the very least it will probably be greatly reduced in size in terms of the number of skiers. Many sporting events have also been postponed or cancelled altogether, with the exception being the 2020 Tour de France. It’s still set to go in late August, even if it still seems like a really bad idea.
Honestly, to be entirely safe, we all need to wait for a vaccine. The most optimistic estimations on when that vaccine could arrive is in early 2021, although it could takes months beyond that to find a cure. Until we can get inoculated against the coronavirus however, there is a chance that we could become infected. Considering how easy it is to transmit it from one person to another, it seems like a major risk to go on an adventure right now. No matter how much we actually want to. As someone who is use to traveling multiple times a month, I have felt this as much as anyone. But for now, it just feels prudent to stay home and wait this thing out.
Obviously, some folks are more willing to take risks than others and they may decide that they’re ready to embark on an expedition before a vaccine is available. For those individuals and teams, I would only say, be safe, take all of the recommended precautions seriously, and take care of yourself as best you can. Getting the coronavirus while at home is awful. Getting it while traveling would be even worse, but falling ill with COVID-19 while in a remote location sounds like a recipe for disaster. And while you’re at it, consider the health of any teammates that might be joining you, as being in close quarters while at base camp would likely spread the virus to them too.
Personally, I’m taking solace in knowing that this won’t last forever and safe travel will resume again down the line. Until then, we should all be a bit cautious, whether we’re going to the grocery store or on a run through or are neighborhood, or loading up on an airplane and flying to a favorite destination abroad. Those places will still be there once the pandemic has passed, and we’ll probably enjoy them even more when we get to go next.