So what do you do when you’re about to visit South Korea and the CDC puts out a AVOID NON ESSENTIAL TRAVEL red alert? Well obviously you put on your good citizen pants and cancel your trip.
Back in 2009, HOB and I came down with the swine flu at the peak of the pandemic. It wasn’t a big deal, but we had to stay home longer than we wished because we both had pregnant ladies in our offices and even then for a couple of weeks afterwords our coworkers were side-eyeing like they wanted to marinate us in hand sanitizer. Clearly, we are vulnerable to coronavirus just as we were to the swine flu but I don’t really fear getting sick as much as I fear passing on the illness to someone with a less robust immune system than mine. And anyway, our trip to South Korea was planned around public holidays, ceremonies and concerts which are now cancelled. I’ve also read that some outdoor markets are closed down. (Let it be acknowledged that, while I don’t particularly fear the virus, I am terrified at the idea of going to Korea and not indulging in all their delicious street food. That is truly a code red situation).
It sucks to put all that work into planning and not get to take the trip. And it sucks to take away business from all those nice guesthouse owners whose reservations I cancelled. It sucks for people who are sick or stuck in quarantines. Who knows, any day now we could code red in Chicago too. (But not to worry, Mike Pence has got this).
So here I am, for the first time in years, without a trip to plan. Well, I have a plan that isn’t a plan: wait a month or two. Arrange time off from our jobs. Watch the coronavirus situation carefully. A couple of days before out trip is meant to start, book tickets with frequent flyer points to a low risk destination.
This might be a good work around for lots of folks, but I’m a planner—like I need at least four months of planning. I NEED TO PLAN! I need to learn phrases in the local language and sort out the intricacies of public transportation for hard to reach places. I need a binder full of research. I need to learn culturally relative etiquette and how to find public toilets.
But what the heck…what if just for once I could wing it? I could get guide books on kindle and sort out lodging and transit as we go. We could throw ourselves at the mercy of tourist office staff and kind strangers and that might be kinda of fun.
Last week I attended a two day seminar and the woman I was sitting next to was from Mexico City. I asked her for travel advice and she said “I’ll send you my document of tips.” Another woman from work offered me her list of tips for Montreal.
No coronavirus in Mexico City.
No coronavirus in Montreal.
So this is the updated plan: watch the situation closely. Be ready to book tickets at the last minute. In the meantime, collect travel advice from savvy cultural tourists with similar interests who have done the research for me, so to speak.
I’m looking at you, global community of awesome travelers: hit me up with your best advice.
Desperately seeking: budget friendly cultural experiences.
Likes: art in situ, religious architecture, day hikes, UNESCO World Heritage sites, folk music, street food, public transportation and outdoor markets.
Dislikes: palaces with lots of shiny things, driving, tour groups, castles, torture museums, fussy food, luxury hotels, hot weather, neoclassical architecture, and global pandemics.
Thank you thank you thank you thank you!