From deadly viruses, to racial equality movements, the world seemingly turned upside down in 2020, with many deeming the year as a rough chapter in future history books. Specifically, the ongoing pandemic has altered people’s lives in many different ways, including the way in which we travel. The pandemic prevents being able to spontaneously visit or see loved ones out of fear of spreading the virus. The wound inflicted by the pandemic in the travel industry is very deep, and those who have taken the risk to travel recently have experienced it firsthand.
The world of tourism completely changed after the COVID-19 pandemic plagued the world. Although most airports, borders and tourist sites are now open, their methods, structures and safety measures are no longer the same.
Regardless of the destination, the use of face coverings is required at all times in airports and in public locations.
“We never took off our masks for any reason during my trip, and we took alcohol and hand sanitizer to clean our hands with us all the time,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior Martina Rojas explains some of the safety precautions her and her family took during her trip. “Also, in the airplane they would spread everyone out so no one was near each other, and there were small bags on our seats with essentials such as food, water and sanitizing wipes to avoid contact with the plane personnel.”
Through implementing various safety measures, travel airlines claim to be doing their part to reduce the spread of the virus. In the case of international travel, senior Bryant Velasco, who recently traveled to Mexico, feels more comfortable traveling when more precautions are set in place.
“In Mexico, masks were required at all times. They took our temperature and they handed out a questionnaire asking whether or not we had symptoms like fever or cough,” Velasco said. “It was more comfortable because there were not that many people in the airports so the immigration and check-in lines were shorter. The baggage pick up was easier to get through.”
Another location, New York City, has always been an ideal travel destination for thousands of people all over the globe, and therefore its streets used to be packed with tourists all year long. This year however, was among the first to see lack of foot traffic at sites like Times Square and Central Park. The lack of people has heavily affected those who work for bus tours, hotels, restaurants, stores and shops.
Another popular destination in the states is Chicago, where Rojas traveled to. She noticed that the state of Illinois was more strict with the pandemic than other states.
“All museums, observatories, and restaurants were closed, you couldn’t dine-in places, they were only available for take-out, so that affected the dynamic of my trip a lot,” Rojas said.
Rojas’ trip took her some adjusting as she was used to being able to sit down to eat and take her time in places, but in this case, she was forced to order food and eat it in the streets or take it to her hotel.
Just like Chicago, there are many cities and countries that are taking the pandemic and the spread of COVID-19 very seriously. In many South American countries, there are not as many resources in hospitals to sustain large amounts of people getting sick. Junior Daniel Girolamo saw this firsthand during his trip to Cali, Colombia.
“There were a lot more restrictions for COVID in Colombia than in America; they had hand sanitizing stations everywhere I went [and] they took your temperature everytime you would enter somewhere,” Girolamo said. “During the holidays, there were a lot of curfews that were heavily enforced, like on December 24th, no one could be out in the streets after 10:00 p.m. until 9:00 a.m. the next day, and on December 31st, the curfew started at 9:00 p.m. and continued until January 3rd at 12:00 p.m.”
Girolamo was amazed seeing the difference in how strict Colombia was regarding the virus.
“The digit numbers of your license determined which days you could go out in stores; even ID numbers could go out to malls and stores on even calendar days, and odd ID numbers had to wait to go out until odd calendar days,” Girolamo said. “Apart from these things, we still took our own precautions like spraying our shoes with alcohol when we got back home from outdoors, washing our hands at all times, and keeping our distance from our other family members.”
The huge change in the travel industry is evident. The world pre-COVID and post-COVID are two completely different ones, and traveling during this holiday season has made that clear to many.
“In the past, there were more people, more crowd, more contact with others; I felt more calm and safe because I did not have to worry about having my mask on at all times, or keeping my distance from the person in front of me, or being aware of anyone who coughed or sneezed,” Velasco said. “Two of my family members have died from COVID-19 so my family in Mexico is now more paranoid than ever, so when I went, I was locked in a room for some days and my mask had to be glued to my face; it has everyone in a state of fear so traveling is not as fun as it used to be.”
Due to the notable differences in her mid-pandemic trip, Rojas missed the usual travel experience, but enjoyed the opportunity.
“This trip was very different from others I’ve had in the past, but I’m glad I at least got to travel and get to know new places during this difficult time the world is going through,” Rojas said.
Although traveling around the world has been greatly altered, its citizens have grown desperate to return to their usual adventures and have found a way to make new memories in the end.