Words From a Traveler Amidst Corona Hysteria

It’s an odd time to be a traveler, especially one who does it for a living.

In normal circumstances, people often ask me what it’s like to travel so much. “What’s your favorite part? Does it ever get old? Do you love it as much as it looks on social media?” But these questions of wonder often morph into questions of concern.

“How do you manage being alone in other countries? Aren’t you terrified?” And sometimes just to make a point, I’ll ask “Terrified of what?”

They usually ask about things like, “Airplane crashes? Getting robbed? Diseases?” or my personal favorite, “Terrorist attacks?”

And in my response, I’ll usually ask the questioner a few questions as well.

“Well. Aren’t you terrified?” When they ask why, I respond with, “Of going to the movies? Or to a concert? Or to church? Or simply getting in your car and driving to work… where the possibly of getting in a car crash, being involved in a shooting, or contracting millions of germs are ever-present?”

I have adopted a mentality that fear is but a word we use to stop us from doing things. And while it is often useful, keeps us safer, or urges us to react when we absolutely need to react, it can also keep us dormant, uninvolved, or in constant states of worry. I decided a long time ago that the fear of death, uncomfort, or failure do not keep me from living, leaving my comfort zone, or striving for success.

There is nothing to fear but fear itself. -FDR

But in the last few weeks, as mass hysteria concerning the coronavirus has swept the globe, other people’s fears have been slightly derailing me and perhaps even made me a little hypocritical.

I have been nervous about traveling, not necessarily of contracting the disease or any other for that matter, but of the consequences of my travel.

First, there is how people treat me in other countries because I’ve brought my germs there, or even more so, how people react to me at home in between trips. I have cleared the space around me over the last few weeks by simply sneezing. Yes, beware the traveler and his foreign germs.

Even though that might sound frivolous, I can see there is kind of justification to it. I’m a 20-something with a decent immune system. I could be carrying some pretty potent stuff for someone who isn’t that lucky.

I’ve also been nervous of having to come home early, getting detained at airports, or my biggest concern, being told I cannot travel for a long time, which not only affects my job, but my happiness. Traveling is the thing I love most. This fear has been amplified over the last few days as I have heard of travel bans and the decisions for my office to work from home.

While in India about four weeks ago, the main airport was something out of a movie. Over 75% of the people (travelers and workers alike) were wearing masks. At boarder control, the officers would examine everyone’s documents, stamp the page, return the passport, and then immediately use hand sanitizer. Every. Single. Time.

In Africa two weeks ago, at one of the airports, an officer had to watch each of the plane’s passengers thoroughly use sanitizer on their hands and arms before they were permitted to enter the building.

I have seen several friends in my field post that they, too, have had to cancel travel plans, while also knowing that my office has canceled a few trips as well.

I get messages and comments daily from family, friends, coworkers, and random people about my health, which is comforting that people care about me, but unnerving that this virus has caused such a cloud of concern.

I have been slightly giving into fear, which in this case, is a little necessary. I take double the vitamins I normally take. I do immunity shots of juice elixirs. I wash my hands a little longer than usual. I use hand sanitizer obsessively. I wipe down things around me often, including everything I touch on an airplane. I’m annoying myself with how cautious I’m being actually, but it gives me comfort that I’m still traveling, yet doing everything I can to prevent illness.

Although I have concerns, and I will not be traveling in major capacities for a while (I was supposed to go to China in May, but that’s obviously not happening), I am once again not letting my fear control me. I refuse to believe that we should stop being around anyone. I don’t think we should give in to the mass hysteria of hoarding cleaning supplies or toilet paper as I have heard many are doing. As always, I absolutely think we should not treat people differently because they are from or have been to a place different than our own. Above all, I think we should not let fear keep us from living our lives; I am proud to currently be writing this in Ecuador.

As one of my favorite books, The Hunger Games, says, hope is the only thing stronger than fear. I hope you’re staying healthy—that you are washing your hands often and that you do your best to prevent contamination. I hope that if you do feel sick, you stay home to avoid the spread of germs. But I hope that you’re sensible—that you don’t completely avoid living. I hope you do not succumb to a disease that plagues us all from time to time: fear.

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