In a socially distanced world, travel shaming seems to be the new trend of cancel culture. Travelers were once cool people. Everyone wanted to hang out with us and hear our travel stories. We had this certain class and sass. We were called brave and inspiring. Being a free spirit was a good thing.
Well, that’s now diminished. It’s 2020 and we travelers are treated like people with an STD. I first experienced travel shaming this summer when I posted on Instagram about how excited I was to be able to travel around Europe, where we were in something like a travel bubble. Some random person felt obliged to comment and tell me I was irresponsible and that I was spreading Covid. Then there were the friends who didn’t want to meet me, not even in the park, after I’ve returned from a trip. I have been on a plane and apparently being on planes is worse than being in Chernobyl right now. Or this Tinder guy in Lithuania who was “delighted to match me” but when he found out I was a traveler told me he didn’t want to meet me because he wasn’t keen on a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Say what?
Suddenly, your whereabouts, health, and behavior are everyone’s business. “Do you really need to be traveling right now?” If I can do it legally and no authority stops me, do you really need to be asking me this question? Two-thirds (67%) of 4,000 Americans surveyed by Ketchum Travel expect to judge others for traveling before they themselves think it is safe. And half expect to censor their social media posts to avoid being “travel shamed” by those who are more cautious.
Words like “entitled,” “spoiled,” and “selfish” are thrown at travelers who seem to be taking the blame in a similar fashion the Chinese did when the virus first started spreading globally. Until a new scapegoat emerges. I travel and I have had multiple Covi-19 times, more than your average person touching products at the supermarket––all my tests have come out negative so far, after having been to 7 different countries since July.
Just being an American can also make a person subjected to travel shaming. Comments like, “ugh don’t go to Mexico, there are too many Americans there” are not unusual, on top of the American passport being rendered useless at the moment. Meanwhile, Sweden is shunned by pretty much the rest of the world, and having a home base in the UK makes you seem sick by default. Even if you have been tested and have been traveling to “safe” countries for weeks, no one asks you to clarify your situation. They just cancel you.
The truth is that travel shaming won’t stop anyone from traveling. If anything, it makes me want to travel more. My perception is that people travel shame because they are depressed and because they feel powerless. Almost everyone I have talked to about depression says that they’ve experiencing it in the past few months, with some even experiencing suicidal thoughts. Maybe travel shaming is a way for some to exercise a little bit of power, or to try and pull others back down. “How dare you try to have fun in times like these, performing such outrageous non-essential activities?!”
Right now, travel is not even remotely fun. It lacks social interaction, it feels like a vacation in a hospital, and you have to keep up with the quarantine regulations that change daily. Eventually, you will get stuck somewhere at some point, or end up quarantined in one country after another for 14+14 days. I have been there! And I won’t even discuss how painful the Covid test can be and how uncomfortable it is to experience this over and over again, when you already know the feeling of being “stabbed in the brain” with a nose swab.
If you’re the one who’s travel shaming others…
There are people who make a living off of traveling. Not every job is “essential” (such an outrageous and discriminating term) but everyone has the right to be concerned about their livelihoods. Or about their mental health. I have personally dealt with depression for most of my teenage and university years and travel is the only thing that helps me overcome this, even after having done a ton of inner psychological work on myself. It’s my way to keep my mental health in check, on top of it being related to my work. You think you have the right to tell others that their mental health or livelihoods are not important? Consider this:
- Your shaming won’t stop anyone from traveling, neither will make you feel better about your own life or the situation that you’re in
- Some people’s livelihoods depend on their ability to travel and they have no choice but to take a risk and keep doing it
- People travel to meet their relatives, partners, and loved ones. And that’s essential for some
- Your hatred will likely backfire and you will receive a similar or no reply
- The fact that we have to socially distance doesn’t mean we have to display anti-social behavior
- The tourism industry is scrambling to survive. We are helping it survive. You will surely miss it if it dies with the pandemic
- Travel shaming divides us further in the current reality that feels dystopian enough
- There are many countries that allow entry without coronavirus travel restrictions and a number that let travelers enter with a negative test