Like a lot of folks under self-isolation or self-quarantine, I’ve been unable to travel. As I type this, we’re in Warsaw, Poland, and have been since mid-January. Poland closed their borders on March 13th, right as we were about to take a trip to Krakow for the weekend…
For better of worse, we’ve fairly quickly settled into a routine over the last month and change. As a digital nomad, I’m already fairly familiar with having the world around me change every few months. I’ve thrown myself into making board games (didn’t know I made games? Go check them out at entrogames.com), while acclimatizing to the new routines of a forever changed world.
Yeah, this sucks, but it ain’t all bad.
I’m doing more yoga, drinking less alcohol, spending less money on frivolous things, more time connecting with people I never would have met otherwise, more time creating, eating less junk food, more time cuddling my wife, and cooking more. While I hate the word ‘diet’, a belt size has disappeared around my still-soggy waist as a result of eating better, and I’ll need to add a new hole in the belt soon.
I’ve hesitated on writing anything here about the coronavirus, partially because things seemed to be changing so quickly that something written a couple of days ago might already be out of date… And blogs are usually more ‘evergreen’ focused than, say, a newspaper or a site that covers a fast-moving topic… Where we stand at the end of April 2020 is far from a stable point, but there are enough trends in place to begin considering the future.
Wait, what’s FOGO?
FOGO is the Fear Of Going Out. You remember FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out? This is the less hip, slightly paranoid cousin we’ve all met or internally wrestled with over the last month. Whenever you came to grips with the realization things were changing, you started dealing with FOGO. It’s almost something you can see in people’s eyes when you pass them on the street — it might be a wary glance or a full-on stare. You started social distancing, sanitizing your hands when you entered a shop, wearing a mask, stocking up on essentials, reading the news more… You’ve probably found it to require more energy to get stuff done because of the extra precautions.
FOGO doesn’t mean you’re literally afraid of catching the coronavirus. It means there’s another little weight on the scale on the side that says ‘don’t go out’. People will want to go out and travel and get haircuts and visit restaurants… but they won’t know if they should, or if it’s worth the energy. The at-home option might feel like the safer, easier, cheaper option on top of everything else.
The cure to FOGO isn’t clear, but it starts with facing reality with facts. Stop comparing yourself with everyone else on Facebook, for one thing, and choose to pay attention to the things that really matter to you. Those are two relatively easy ways to deal with FOMO, and FOGO seems related enough that it’s worth a try.
The future of international travel IRL is bleak for the next 1-2 years.
Sorry, folks, but it has to be said. I don’t like the reality of the situation any more than you do, but there it is. More than a few travel blogger friends have talked about what they’re doing now, and more than a few folks in the travel industry have pivoted to writing / creating content about something else. Until a provably effective vaccine has been given to the majority of a country’s population, rebuilding back towards the status quo has to be set aside for managing an unprecedented situation.
Even assuming airlines are ready to open up, plenty of countries have closed their borders. Some countries may be waiting for some sort of antibody certificate or ‘health passport’, while other countries may get their own situation under control but fear what will happen when tourists arrive. Nationalism, protectionism, and fear of ‘the other’ didn’t disappear here.
Virtual travel options are already here and getting better.
Right now they’re kind of scattered all over the internet — some use proprietary interfaces connected to the institutions that funded them, while others have flipped a switch and made a paid offering free. This is the perfect time and way to experience what virtual travel can be like.
Note, of course, this is not virtual reality travel — that’s around as well for those more comfortable on the bleeding edge of technology. By ‘virtual travel’ I’m referring to trips like the above, Pharaoh Ramesses VI’s tomb — a ‘tour’ that can be A: done in your browser, B: requires only basic mouse skills like click-and-drag, and C: are either free or reasonably priced. (This link is free as of the publishing date, BTW.) If you can use Google Street View or search for the term ‘virtual museum’, you can be a tourist around the world.
To be sure, it’s not a replacement for the sounds, the tastes, the touches, the smells, and the feelings that come with Real Travel. It’s definitely not a replacement for the feeling of exploring what’s down that side alley or choosing which path you’ll take — virtual tours make those choices for you. Now that people have had a taste of the virtual thing, I expect the travel industry to have to find a response to virtual travel as real-world travel gears up for a return.
Domestic travel and road trips will return sooner.
Each country is on their own journey of recovery, and their choices to re-open their economies or continue lockdowns are hopefully being made by competent people. Whenever that decision is made, there will be a rubber-band-like snapback of people eating out, getting haircuts, trying to get back to work… and of course, traveling.
Gas / petrol prices are lower than they’ve been in a long time (thanks supply and demand!), and I don’t expect them to return to ‘normal’ for awhile. I’d expect them to be lower / depressed for awhile, at least supply cuts back or the demand starts to approach normal. Assuming things are reopening or have already re-opened, you’re able to travel and have a car (or there’s decent intercity transportation, pick a city elsewhere in your country and hit the road.
Over to you
What do you see in your crystal ball?