Travel shaming, is it a thing? Is it a natural emotion born out of … out of what? Envy, economics, frustrations, illness, sadness, manipulations, where did it come from?

Let me just start by saying that if you ask 100 people the same question, it’s a good bet you’ll get 100 different answers. I did my homework before putting fingers to keyboard and what I found is that just like most everything, there are a multitude of perspectives when it comes to the topic of this post. Travel shaming.

Travel Shaming

I came across the subject of travel shaming when I spotted an article headline in the New York Times. Curious, I clicked open, read the article and thought…yep. It’s a thing. The story focused on a young woman who was planning to fly across country, rent a car and take a road trip to the national parks in the southwest. Sounds ideal, right?

She made the decision to not post any highlights of her road trip on social media. She wanted to take a break and see some beautiful country without having to deal with potential travel shaming.

Travel Shaming
Lake Bled, Slovenia

The article drove home my own struggle with how to write a travel blog while being cognizant of, and sensitive to, the big picture. With that thought in mind, I posed the following question, along with a link to the article, on our Facebook page and asked readers and fellow travel writers to weigh in on the topic.

  • “If people have the resources to travel and they take all of the necessary precautions to travel safely, do they have to justify their travels? Is travel shaming a thing? If you were to travel, even for a daycation, would you think twice about posting on social media in this time of Covid-19 when so many are hurting?”

We’ve stopped all travel for the foreseeable future, and sharing very little travel information on social media. We feel it is irresponsible to travel and promote it under the current circumstances. At this point in the lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have made a conscious decision what matters most to them. They are either part of the problem or part of the solution. No point arguing with them, nor shaming them.

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Travel Shaming
Malaga, Spain
A Balancing Act

Travel writers, bloggers, photographers, etc., are trying to navigate the impact of the pandemic on the travel industry. It’s a balancing act. Thankfully, we have not experienced any shaming. At the same time though, we have significantly reduced our presence on social media and we are not publishing posts on our site as often. Some of these decisions are natural consequences of not traveling, while others are born out of respect for this pandemic life.

We do feel responsible, more than we ever have, about what we write and how often we publish. Each and every one of us has to define our path until the world regains some sense of balance. It’s a constant dance.

An Age-Old Notion

I suppose shaming, in any form, is an age-old notion. It’s sad, isn’t it? Why do we have to make other people feel bad, to make ourselves feel better?

The young woman featured in the NYT’s article just wanted a break. I think we can all understand that need, which is how I came up with my original question. Does she have to justify her want/need to take a vacation if she can do so with reasonable precautions?

I couldn’t care less if people try to travel shame us. We’ve been more than careful, always wearing masks, washing our hands, and keeping our distance from others as much as we can during the pandemic. We’ve stuck to essential travel – but if we decide we want to do more than that we will, and will do so responsibly and safely within all the rules. There will always be shamers of some sort. Part of getting older is ignoring those people.

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Lake Mondsee, Austria
A Double Edged Sword

I actually struggle with all of this because I believe it to be a double edged sword. A young woman who wanted to quietly take a road trip is, in my book, not the same as 100,000+ motorcyclists roaring in to a small town in South Dakota for an annual biker rally. It’s a long-standing tradition, The Sturgis Motorcyle Rally. Yet, to see the bikers proudly boasting they took no precautionary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, does tend to invite a whole lot of judgement. It’s one thing to disregard personal health, it’s another to blatantly ignore the potential ramifications of spreading the virus to others. Which one, if either, deserves a dose of travel shaming? The young woman or 100,000+ bikers?

The Definition of Travel

Maybe, the question of travel shaming lends itself to the actual definition of travel. Is there a line in the sand so-to-speak as to what constitutes travel and in turn, what warrants travel shaming?

  • “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Maya Angelou
Traveling Shaming
Durnstein, Austria as seen from the Danube River

We try to keep the desire to travel at bay by exploring within 100 miles of home, a.k.a. Daycation. Does a daycation fit the definition of travel? We think so, but we also feel it’s an example of responsible travel. It’s actually proven to be quite enjoyable and it’s a way in which we can explore while utilizing all the precautionary measures. We drive our car, we pack our cooler with food and drinks, and we have our hygiene bag. Of course we have our masks and protective eye wear, along with disposable gloves, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. Does a daycation warrant travel shaming?

Is it the experience of boarding a plane or ship or train that feels as if it more clearly defines travel? RV rentals and sales are on the rise as people try to define travel in a way in which they’ll feel safe without worry of spreading, or contracting, the virus. Airbnb rentals are back in business as well. We have friends near Asheville, North Carolina and their Airbnb rentals occupancy has steadily increased over the course of the summer. Do these type of self-catering travel accommodations warrant travel shaming?

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Is it a Global Thing?

I got to thinking, is travel shaming a global thing, or is it more prone to happen in the US? We know several people in the EU who are back out there traveling. The world is moving forward, but the US is not.

For those who long to travel abroad, they cannot do so if they travel with a US passport. We’ve mentioned this before; with a few exceptions, the EU and many countries around the world have a travel ban against US travelers. It is still in effect and sadly, I don’t think it’s going to end any time soon. Not with the current administration denying the width and depth of the spread of Covid-19. To date, in the US, there are 6.26 million reported cases and 188,000 deaths, and the numbers continue to climb. It’s heartbreaking. It’s terrifying.

Do the US statistics lend themselves to travel shaming? Is it more prevalent in the US because so many are hurting?

Great Falls National Park, Fairfax County, Virginia
What’s the Answer?

I have no idea what the answer is, I don’t believe any of us do. In the US, a country of 328+ million people, it’s not conceivable to mandate everyone stay home, not work, not go outside, or shop, and certainly no travel. It’s impossible. It’s impossible because millions, and millions, of people are not going to adhere to the mandates. They won’t even wear a mask. The virus is here to stay. So, does that mean no one can travel, in any way shape or form, until there is a worldwide vaccine,? Or, if they do choose to travel do they have to keep it to themselves? I don’t know. What I do know is that travel shaming serves no purpose. It isn’t going to change minds one way or the other.

  • “The happiest people I know are always evaluating and improving themselves. The unhappy people are usually evaluating and judging others.” Lisa Villa Prosen

With all of that being said, I’m going to circle back to my original question and invite you to weigh in with your thoughts.

  • “If people have the resources to travel and they take all of the necessary precautions to travel safely, do they have to justify their travels? Is travel shaming a thing? If you were to travel, even for a daycation, would you think twice about posting on social media in this time of Covid-19 when so many are hurting?”

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