Almost two years in, there’s a lot of uncertainty and gray space around COVID-19 and international travel.
The pandemic has definitely changed many crucial aspects of society, from global markets to local communities and businesses, and education and working life. Although we’ve all come around to the fact that this pandemic will be sticking around for a while, it brings an important topic to light: traveling.
Do the positive trade-offs of international travel hold up against potential health risks and COVID-induced anxiety that follow? Will we be able to sustain our culture of traveling and exploring the world like our pre-2020 days? Are the risks of international traveling during a global pandemic offset by the travel and life experiences that can be gained? What is the final verdict on international travel during the pandemic era?
This will continue to be a relevant debate, as new vaccinations, testing methods, and unfortunately, new variants come out. Traveling has been an ingrained part of life for many, and marks important stages of our life from childhood to adulthood. Traveling has always been a way to stay in touch with friends and loved ones around the world. It’s also been a way of expanding our perspectives and healing from the stresses of daily life. International travel can even be a life-changing catalyst for big career changes, new relationships and friendships, and a new way of living and being.
Ultimately, the decision is entirely yours to make, and with the new CDC travel guidelines and more countries cutting down on their quarantine requirements (even testing requirements in some cases) it is entirely possible to travel in 2021. Testing and documenting COVID-19 results has become more convenient as well, thanks to products like the CityHealth RapidReturn Test Kit that we created for globetrotter and international travelers.
We’ll take a look at some of the pros and cons to help guide your opinion on whether or not this will be a worthwhile pursuit for you at this time.
Pros of International Travel During the Pandemic
The travel experience
The unique and all-consuming experience of travel itself is a pro that stands strongly on its own. I would always encourage taking the opportunity to travel and take on a new experience over not traveling. International travel can be especially impactful because there are so many diverse and eye-opening cultures and cities outside of the United States that we won’t ever experience until visiting.
On its own, traveling is always a worthwhile pursuit; the more you see of the world, the bigger your dreams, and the vaster your perspective becomes.
Digital lifestyles are perfect for travel
With remote learning and remote working practices bringing us to a new hybrid model of school and work (with some activities even transitioning completely), there’s a lot of newfound freedom around our schedules and physical locations. This new flexibility doesn’t just include travel, but even your travel budget as well.
Not only does this make it possible for you to travel more by allowing you to work and be present from any location around the world, but it also allows you to customize unique travel plans around your schedule to maximize your experience and budget. Remote digital lifestyles also allow more flexibility to coordinate traveling with friends, family, and groups. Anywhere with wifi is on the books!
Airlines are continuing to face volatility and shifting demands around the official CDC guidelines for traveling. This creates opportunities to find extremely cheap flights to dream destinations- just make sure to keep an eye on flights over a period of time to secure the best deal. Many people are now saving on rent prices, transportation, work lunches, parking expenses, and more, there’s an extra pillow of income that can finally go towards travel.
Destinations that rely heavily on the tourism industry have been devastated by the pandemic, and are lowering prices as a result.
If you travel carefully and are conscientious of COVID best practices during your stay, you can help to stimulate local economies that are be recovering from dips in the tourism industry.
COVID has fueled the move of everything to digital, meaning we can hold most of the important things of our day-to-day operations on our phones and other devices. This makes traveling and living in a foreign country easier.
There is also more information on travel online than ever before, with tourists, travelers, and digital nomads being able to create and share content. These convenient logistics can make the day-to-day and planning details of international traveling much easier and more accessible.
Counterbalancing lockdown boredom & stress
After months of endless TikTok scrolling and flipping through the same Netflix shows at home, a foreign vacation sure seems like a novel adventure. Some exciting travel experiences are one way to counterbalance all the boredom, stress, and anxiety accumulated from social distancing and quarantining since 2020.
Staying cooped up indoors with limited amounts of social connection can increase anxiety, stress, and tension. Going on a faraway vacation with the sole purpose of exploring and enjoying yourself can lead to inner peace. These foreign, eye-opening experiences can force you to disconnect for a while to find your center.
Self-growth through international travel
Experiencing and learning new things brings self-growth, and traveling is a really great way to do this.
Traveling helps you expand outside your comfort zone, and helps you develop more self-awareness by creating time for observation and introspection. It can help you reflect on how you live your life at home, and the different lifestyle choices and options that you take.
Traveling can also inspire creativity and expression. Being more creative leads to new ideas and self-growth. There’s nothing more creativity-inducing than all the new smells, sights, sounds, and sensations of a new foreign country.
Communication & language
The last pro is for the foreign language learners out there! Many of us travel to practice a foreign language or learn a foreign language to travel, or some blend of the two. Traveling to the native country of whatever language you are learning is definitely a great way to speed up and solidify your learning. Especially with the stay-at-home quarantines of 2020, you might have had a lot of time to practice.
Hunkering down at home and self-studying is great for the basics, but you want to ultimately be able to communicate with others in that language. Now might be the time to accelerate your learning by booking a trip and living and interacting with locals.
Cons of International Travel in 2021
Health & safety
The first downside of international travel in 2021 is most evidently the health risk. With COVID-19 still very much in circulation, any kind of traveling involves additional risk. International travel adds yet another layer of risk by requiring flights and airport interactions.
Although the hours in the airplane cabin might not be the biggest risk thanks to airplane HEPA filters, being at large international airports exposes you to a lot of strangers and high-touch surfaces.
A pandemic view of the local culture
You might be the kind of traveler that is most interested in experiencing the candid daily life of the destination you’re traveling to. If you’re hoping to get a glimpse of the everyday culture, it might be hard to get the full experience depending on how that country is operating.
Depending on where you go, there’s a high possibility that many public events and gatherings might be canceled, and locals might generally be wary of venturing out too much or interacting with strangers. Nightlife might be stunted compared to normal times, and local small businesses might be temporarily closed or out of business.
If you travel during the COVID pandemic, you might end up paying for certain services or provisions that you maybe wouldn’t during your usual travel planning and budgeting.
For example, you might pay more for a flight without layovers, and you might take a private taxi instead of public transportation to avoid transportation transmission risks. Most people will still take COVID tests before and after their trip, and the US requires a negative test result to return to the country, so you’ll be paying for COVID testing. CityHealth’s RapidReturn test kit is a convenient option for international travelers, as it contains two tests, and can be easily packed into a carry-on and administered anywhere in the world.
Due to the uncertainty of travel circumstances, travel insurance and trip insurance have become popular add ons for tourists. Although it’s a good idea to look into having this kind of insurance anyway, it can definitely bring your travel budget up.
Traveling to a foreign country can be a handful and require a lot of careful planning, even during non-eventful times. There’s a lot of logistics involved, potentially a language barrier, and you don’t have all the conveniences or contacts that you’re used to having on hand at home. You might be also far from pharmacies, clinics, or hospitals, depending on where you’re traveling to.
During a pandemic, anxiety levels can rise given the general uncertainty that COVID brings. Combining the two factors can absolutely be stressful, but there are definitely ways to mitigate and create the setting for a stress-free and relaxing vacation. For assistance, check out our blog about dealing with travel anxiety.
Unpredictable international travel plans & protocols
There’s a chance you might have to quarantine in a foreign country, or that the entire country will go on national lockdown, while you’re there.
This will definitely affect your travel itinerary, and you might have to make additional accommodations like extending your hotel stay, switching around flight tickets, or more (also something that makes travel insurance such a good thing to consider).
Lastly, many official travel guidelines are structured around COVID safety best practices, so if you test positive for COVID before your return you can expect heavy disruptions in your travel plans. We’d advise bringing some self-testing COVID-19 kits for your own peace of mind, and for verified documentation for traveling back to the States.
Ultimately, there’s a lot of pros and cons to consider with traveling. Some are fundamental to travel, like planning a trip, spending money, having some anxiety around a new foreign experience. Unique for travel in 2021 (and possibly 2022 as well), travelers also have unique pandemic concerns to consider as well.
It doesn’t seem like either will be coming to a halt soon, so hopefully, you’ll be able to make an informed choice and go from there – whether that’s a whirlwind tropical adventure or a staycation closer to home.
Leave us a comment down below and let us know if you think 2021 and 2022 is the right time for an international adventure.