Why I’m ready to start traveling again soon

May 18, 2020

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If you’ve been following my COVID-19 antibody testing saga, you know that I took a Quest antibody test several weeks ago and it came back positive. I decided to get another test to confirm the results at a doctor’s office on Long Island, New York, and got a rapid pinprick test.

Frustratingly, it came back negative, sowing even more confusion.

I talked to my doctor and we tried to get the FDA-authorized Roche test, but he wasn’t able to prescribe it. I decided to try my luck at walking into a Quest testing facility near me in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, even though they didn’t have appointments available for a couple of weeks. It turned out you can register on an iPad at check-in for a walk-in test. They even let you wait in your car and text you when it’s your turn. I waited for about 20 minutes and, lo and behold, my results came back within 24 hours — positive yet again for antibodies. So I’m pretty confident I’ve had COVID-19 and my immune system fought it off. Although I never had any of the traditional symptoms, I was exposed to the virus when I did an in-person podcast with Nomadic Matt on March 11, 2020. He ended up getting really sick a couple of days later and I had minor symptoms that week — stomach issues and a scratchy throat — but nothing major.

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So now what?

Even though we don’t yet know what it means to have the antibodies, I  feel confident that with the right precautions, like wearing a mask and ideally flying in my own business class seat without a seatmate, I can start traveling again. It’s possible that I could contract a different strain of the virus, but I have done a personal risk analysis and consulted my doctor. I felt differently a few weeks ago, but with more knowledge and a professional opinion, I’m OK with the risks associated with travel.

And the more you know, the more easily you can make an informed decision. Airplanes, for example, may seem like a petri dish for the growth of a virus, but if you clean your area and wear a mask, they may not be not as dangerous as you think. According to a new story in the Washington Post, “The ventilation system requirements for airplanes meet the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use with COVID-19 patients in airborne infection isolation rooms.”

That said, the government, the airlines and cruise lines will need to do more to protect passengers and standardize safety procedures in the future.

Personally, I think that since I live in the NYC/Philadelphia area, one of the country’s major disease hotspots, my chances of coming in contact with the virus at home are greater than they would be in other, less populated areas in the world. Since I have the antibodies and will take any necessary tests before flying (and on arrival, which countries like Iceland require), there’s a lowered risk of being an asymptomatic spreader of the disease.

Until there is a vaccine or more information on antibodies, everyone is going to have to make their own personal risk assessment for everything they do in life, whether it is going to the grocery store or having dinner with friends. I think we should respect each other’s decisions, and refrain from travel shaming. For those who choose not to travel or are unable to, I fully respect that. If I were older with more risk factors and no antibodies, I would probably be doing the same.

I haven’t been on a flight since March 1, 2020, and have used this period to slow down. Like many people around the world, I have used the time to reflect and refocus on the things that are truly important in life. I’ve spent a lot of time with my parents with whom I’ve quarantined and focused on my health and sleep. In fact, staying put has allowed me to control my diet and workouts in a way that I can’t when I’m crisscrossing the globe. That being said, I’m definitely getting ready to travel now that the world is opening up, and I’ve already gotten and beaten COVID-19 without even knowing it.

Now the question is, where can I go?

Europe is essentially closed to Americans even though it’s starting to reopen. In the U.K. there’s an impending 14-day quarantine for visitors. Our TPG U.K. offices in London are closed for the foreseeable future; I’m not able to even go and meet with any of our employees.

One interesting option is Iceland, which is opening up by June 15, 2020. I visited in July 2014 and again in December 2018, and it’s magical at both times of the year. There’s a lot left to explore, so it’s definitely high on my list. Plus, nonstop flights are still operating from New York City on Icelandair.

(Photo by Matte Enrico for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Matte Enrico for The Points Guy)

 

Greece is in the process of reopening and may be open to foreign tourists beginning July 1, 2020, although a 14-day quarantine is currently mandatory upon arrival for all visitors and non-European Union residents are banned until at least June 1, 2020. We’ll have to see if those rules stay in place through the summer. In 2015, I wrote about how I wasn’t a fan of Mykonos, but now I miss the energy and vibe of the island. A toned-down, relaxed reopening might just bring back the charm it lost due to overtourism.

Read more: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Mexico will also be reopening soon, and there are lots of amazing places to visit in the United States. It might be the perfect time to take a road trip. One upside to that would be that I could bring my new Points Pup, Marshall.

I will be deciding this week where I’m going and I’ll be covering it all in the new weekly newsletter that I’ll be writing. I’ll also be including my insights on the travel industry and rounding up the most important travel news and offers.

I really miss being on a plane, the idiosyncrasies of travel (ah, the smell of Auntie Anne’s pretzels in the terminal). And even though traveling this summer won’t be anything like what it was in the past, I believe that travel is an incredible way to bridge cultural differences and learn about the world. And that’s not to mention that tourism supports millions of jobs and lifts countless people out of poverty. Simply put, traveling and experiencing other cultures makes us better people and supports local economies in the process.

Read more: Why now may be the time to book future travel

It’s going to be a long road to recovery for the travel industry. But I look forward to doing my part and sharing my stories with all of you. I’d also love to hear your thoughts on when you feel it’s safe to travel, and what it will take for you to get on a plane or cruise ship again.

Are you ready to travel again? Please share in the comments below.

Featured image by Sergey Usik for The Points Guy

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