3 Reasons why you need to travel during the pandemic

Travel during a pandemic?

Brașov, România

During this time of uncertainty, many people have refrained from traveling. There’s a whole good list of reasons as to why we shouldn’t travel during a pandemic. The main one being (aside from increased risk of viral spread, of course) that entry and exit requirements tend to change all the time and without warning.

Buying plane tickets that actually get you to your destination might take an alignment of the stars- flights can be cancelled if countries set new restrictions, you could test positive right before getting on the flight and be prevented from going, and it’s possible you could even get stuck in a country you’re traveling in.

But none of that matters to someone who has a wicked travel bug. And if you haven’t been watching the prices of airline tickets over the past year, they’ve been on a fire sale. Seriously.

They’re cheap for a reason, too. Many places around the world are in desperate need of some tourism to support their economies.

So if you’ve got an itch to travel, right now presents a perfect opportunity to score cheap plane tickets and explore.

After an exhausting night of bartending back in June, I sat down at my computer to see if there was anywhere I could go to take a break from my demanding job. On KAYAK I found a map of all the countries that U.S. citizens can travel during the pandemic. At the time, one of the few countries that was completely open for travel was Romania.

Without little concern for where I was going and what I was going to be doing, I simply sought out the cheapest ticket on Kiwi.com to take me across the globe and bought it.

It was the best $300 purchase I ever made.

My bike at the Palace of Parliament- Bucharest, Romania

Romania might be considered an unlikely destination for travel. I’m pretty sure when most Americans think of Europe, they conjure up images of the Eiffel Tower, and things Italians do with their hands while they talk. Or they think of British accents, and the Germans.

When I told my customers at the bar (mostly men over 50) that I was going to Romania for a month, they always gave me a puzzled look and asked things like “Where? You mean Rome?”, or “Isn’t that where Dracula is or something?”. They could never remember the name either- “When do you leave for Guatemala?”.

What always accompanied my customers’ thoughts of the unknown land were warnings of how dangerous the rest of the world is: war torn, dog-eat-dog, full of poor thugs who are willing kill you for a few dollars, who’d love to chop up an American and steal my credit card.

The thought of this happening to me terrified me. But it brings me to my first point why people should travel in general:

Travel teaches you to think for yourself and discover who you are

Anthony Tori, Unsplash

Okay, so what did I find in Romania, this poor, unknown and dangerous place?

I found it to be the most beautiful country, with the friendliest and most hospitable people.

What these guys were telling me kept me from being naive and making stupid decisions, like following people down alleyways at night.

But what a lot of people (Americans in particular) don’t realize about the rest of the world, is that, more often than not, it’s much more safe than many people understand it to be.

There’s likely a whole myriad of reasons why so many of us across the pond experience a degree of paranoia when it comes to foreign countries. I think it’s fair to attribute a large part of it to the fact that fear sells so well in the media.

If you want to know what the world is actually like, you simply have to get out and experience it. There’s always an ulterior motive when it comes to mass media depictions of the world, hence you really shouldn’t rely on it for constructing your own perceptions.

The main reason why I go through the trouble of explaining this is because the pandemic did an excellent job of getting people to look at their screens. By sitting inside all day, I know that I personally became overly preoccupied with social media, news, and political drama.

Eric McLean, Unsplash

It’s an amazing way to get in touch with yourself, to get out of your comfort zone, to see what you’re capable of, and so much more. Travel is an excellent way to get back to reality.

I can hardly say enough about travel and personal growth. It’s something I’m very passionate about and I believe it cannot be understated.

Online jobs and finance are evolving

The number of online jobs and passive income streams out there have exploded in recent times.

When the pandemic sent everyone home, many jobs went online. Administrative work, accounting, coding, teaching, and loads of others. Freelance jobs like writing and digital art grew in popularity.

Cryptocurrencies skyrocketed at unbelievable rates, giving birth to more information on trading and reading technical charts than was available in years prior. Mining and staking cryptocurrency became worthwhile again. NFTs created opportunities for people to make an income playing games or make ridiculous money through speculation. This whole blockchain revolution has sparked innovative ways of creating passive income streams through numerous means of decentralized finance.

And all of this money can be made from home… I mean, technically wherever you want.

1984 Daihatsu Hijet — The van I lived in during the pandemic while I took classes online

I know a lot of people really hate it, but I think it is truly amazing that we have the opportunity to make an income from wherever we are in the world.

You might say that a lot of money made online isn’t really worth it though, that it’s mostly just chump-change. But this is also what I think makes it motivating to work in another country. More often than not, the US dollar can be stretched pretty far in other countries. So even the smallest of dividends can assist in the everyday necessities.

Heck, I was drinking high-end, speciality coffee everyday in Romania for just over $1 a cup. And it was the most delicious coffee I have ever had by far. The best part? All I had to do to pay for it was turn on my PC at home before I left for my trip, and let it mine Bitcoin to generate ~$5 a day.

Thomas Foster, Unsplash

Just $5 can go a long way in a place like Romania. $5 is a ticket from Bucharest to Brașov, or like, 10+ pieces of iconic covrigi.

But what if online work isn’t an option?

What really paid for most of my trip was living frugally at home and saving my paychecks for a couple months. This was a little easier for me however, because I don’t have anything like underlying health conditions nor any kids. I understand this won’t be the case for every reader.

However, what may end up being true for many readers is that expenses at home end up exceeding what your expenses might be abroad. By keeping it cheap- opting for humble meals, sleeping in hostels, walking/biking/taking public transportation, I only spent around $1200 in a month.

$1200, not including flights, but including things like tours and train tickets, the occasional taxi or Uber.

$1000 alone is the average monthly rent cost in my hometown for a one bedroom apartment. So, it’s probably cheaper for me to just stay abroad overall.

In short, flights are cheaper, and, depending where you’re from and where you are, life can also cheaper once you’re abroad. But this brings me to my next point…

Many countries need our help during this time

Some countries are far cheaper to visit now because of the pandemic, albeit in a devastating way. Deflation and desperation go hand in hand.

Taylor Brandon, Unsplash

While on my trip last month, I took a week-long detour to the country of Jordan. Located in the heart of the Levant, Jordan borders Saudi Arabia to the South and East, Syria to the North, and Israel to the West.

I met a shopkeeper in Jordan’s capital city of Amman who sold various antiques and souvenirs. He told me that unlike Jordan’s neighbors on the peninsula, the country does not produce any oil. While lacking natural resources, the country is abundant in historic monuments and due to such the country’s economy is almost entirely dependent on tourism for its income.

When the pandemic hit, the number of tourists in Jordan fell off a cliff. The shopkeeper has since needed to slash all the prices off his goods; to begin liquidating his inventory and take losses on his goods just to be able to afford daily necessities.

Upon my visit to Petra, the Bedouin people there told the same story. Tourism, for them, was the basic income for their entire village. People used to clog the road leading to the city, which was void of any tourists upon my arrival.

The conversation of two young Bedouin boys echoed up and down the Road to Petra. I later gave them a harmonica of mine.
Pre-Covid Petra, The Treasury, 2019 — Tracy Jensen Winegarden
My visit to Petra, not a great picture for comparison, but there were very few non-Jordanian tourists there. 2021

Without travelers using their leveraged dollars overseas, there are many countries like Jordan where wealth leakage may prove to be a serious problem.

We ought not to only consider the financial benefits that travel during the pandemic can provide for us, but remember that there are people on the receiving end that depend on our travel for their own livelihoods.

Travel is not only a gift you can give to yourself, but to people you don’t even know yet that live on the other side of the world.

Thanks for reading!

-Masen

A traveling anthropologist from Alaska. Here you will find pieces on culture, economics, philosophy, and life.