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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

Finally Travel Stopped

The coronavirus pandemic has abruptly virtually closed down the travel industry. Globetrotters, backpackers, all-inclusive lovers, sun seekers, weekend trippers and luxury escape indulgers are all despairing these days. We can no longer travel! Our priveleges have been taken away. There should be an amendment protecting our right to travel.

Or perhaps what is effectively a travel ban is long overdue.

Because we are all essentially spoiled brats.

Those of us that can, I mean could, actually travel internationally are all a part of a minority. The group of people has been growing fast the last few years thanks to the increasing availability of low-cost airline tickets, but we are still talking about the lucky few. Howcome? Because each of us that make up this advantaged minority has:

  1. Money to spare. You will actually need to afford maintaining a life at home while also being able to spend extra to actually go abroad, with all those costs that actually add up on a trip. This is typically the biggest obstacle to most people in the world. They will never make enough money to actually be able to travel. That certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t want to.

  2. Credit or debit cards. This isn’t essential, but it will in most countries make travel safer and more convenient. Cash may be king or queen, but not necessarily on the road (although in some countries, you will indeed need cash, preferrably USD or EUR). A lot of people will never be eligible for a credit card.

  3. Internet access. Yes, you may still call or visit a travel agency, but you can then only dream about getting the lowest prices. A lack of internet access is prohibitive for travellers.

  4. Time. There may be many reasons why people cannot leave home for days or weeks. You need to have enough days off from work and be able to actually let property unwatched and animals, kids or family at home or with someone you trust (unless they come along).

  5. A passport. This doesn’t only include being able to afford a passport, but actually having the opportunity to get one. Which means the need to live in a democracy or a semi-democracy, alternatively being very well-connected in a non-democracy. You will also need a passport to get a visa, which is mandatory in many countries (depending on your nationality). Not everyone has passports. 90 % of Norwegians do, but only 58 % of US citizens and a mere 48 % of French. In Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America the number is presumably much lower, despite a lack of statistics. In China less than 10 % of the population have passports, whereas only 8 % of Indian citizens hold one. Do note that people can usually travel to some neighbouring countries even without a passport.

  6. Freedom. A passport on its own isn’t necessarily enough. If your government is supressive or at war, you may not be able to leave even if you hold a valid passport.

  7. Vaccinations. Depending on where you are from and where you want to go, having certain vaccination can be smart, essential or even mandatory. Without proof of i.e. a yellow fever vaccination there are many countries that won’t allow you to enter, or even board your mode of transport. Anti-waxxers clearly cannot travel much. Which is yet another reason not to be an anti-waxxer. They’ll lose out on the 6 Cs of travel too.

  8. Experience. As with anything else, practice makes perfect. With experience you are likely to save money and make smarter choices with regards to where you go at whoch times and how you behave ther.e Then again, everyone will have to start somewhere so this isn’t a prohibitive obstacle, the lack of experience is more likely being used as an excuse not to travel. Which means that confidence may be a better term.

  9. Willingness. Some people have no desire to go anywhere outside their village, island, state, county or country. And no one is going to force you travel. But in every country in the world I have met people who would like to travel more. Their barrier certainly isn’t willingness but rather at least one of the above.

  10. A plan. Very few of us will travel without a plan, especially if you have never travelled before. And then making a plan can be quite an obstacle. Would you go to Yemen on a one-way ticket, and see what happens? I did. And I actually prefer to just go somewhere and see what happens. Letting impulsiveness decide is rarely wrong and comes highly recommended. Why not try it once? Chances are you’ll do so again.

Don’t get me wrong. To travel should be vastly underestimated by anyone who hasn’t properly done it. I have travelled a fair share and I manically love it. You can even say that I am truly, utterly, totally addicted, yet I’d never seek any cure. Because the most important thing to me about travel is to challenge and expand my own mind. Not to travel would be an insult to my intellect, my curiosity, my creativity and my understanding of other people, cultures, mindsets, backgrounds and faiths. And if travel doesn’t humble you, nothing will.

Perhaps have we taken it for granted. Maybe have we chosen to ignore the fact that we are among the lucky few that can explore the world. That doesn’t mean that the rest don’t also want to travel.

Now none of us can travel, we are all equal in that respect. Those of us with a few miles on the clock have realized its importance to us and how it helps us understand and connect with other people. Also with those that have never left the vicinity of their hometown. How about inviting a non-traveller from a faraway land on a leg of your next trip? All expenses paid.

The coronavirus has reminded us of the value of travel and how much we miss not being able to roam. Possibly has the pandemic also made us ponder over the inequalities in life. They are countless. And should include the possibility to travel. It’s a privelege, not a birthright.

All you need is a…backpack. Photo by Haakon Hoseth.

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