December 27, 2021 – 12:00
The old adage, “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” is true. But the greatest truth is that you knew what you had, you never thought you would lose it. This is how I feel about travel and how the current scourge has put a damper on my globetrotting life.
Of course, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel between BC and Florida for the past two years despite the pandemic… but I’m talking about traveling with a capital T. You know, about a month in Tuscany… a long stay in Paris or Madrid. enough for traders to know you by sight if not by name.
In the grand scheme of things, losing the privilege of traveling the world is not among the top 100 pouting things. Having said that, I never really thought it was something that could be taken away. Even if you don’t travel much… in better times, it’s there… within your reach. It’s a bit like New Yorkers… they don’t visit the Statue of Liberty often… but they know it’s there in case they ever want to go.
Now, of course, we have the Omicron variant of COVID-19… and it’s more transmissible than previous strains of the virus. Thus, travel – international or otherwise – has simply moved away a little more … in fact a lot more.
Last week, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added the whole country of Spain to their travel advice list… the second most popular destination in the world before the pandemic… a place I’ve passed several months to visit over the past 50 years.
My mood darkened when I read the news last Monday… Spain… now I can’t go to Spain. To be clear, I wasn’t planning a trip to Spain next year… I just knew it was there if I chose to go.
They had already taken France, the world’s number one destination. What’s next… Italy… another place that feels like a home from home for me? Too late, it’s already on the list. So Germany… damn it, I spent over two years of my life in Germany… in Greece… really they took Zorba’s house too? Damn, I might as well take away my Anglo-Saxon heritage … oh, the whole of the UK … is it gone too?
Yes, all of these countries – Europe and beyond – are “Very High Level 4: COVID-19” category risks. How can a virus be so greedy … so antisocial? Apparently it’s not that difficult. The CDC added seven more countries around the world to its Tier 4 ranking last week.
These are – in alphabetical order – Bonaire, Chad, Finland, Gibraltar, Lebanon, Monaco and San Marino. Bonaire… a Caribbean gem that offers some of the best diving and snorkeling you’ve ever seen… and a home for Dutch citizens who hate bad weather. Again, it wasn’t on my list of choices in 2022… but I went… and, well, just another disappointment.
OK, Chad… I’ll give you Chad… it’s been on the list of nations at risk because of Libya’s terrorist activities for years… so, no Chad… no problem. Ditto for Lebanon… stuck between Syria and Israel, and quite close to Iraq… I have a low death threshold, so I left Lebanon off my to-do list years ago.
Finland… I love the Finns… and I’ve been there a week or two a few decades ago… I think they called it summer. I’ve been to Gibraltar a few times… it’s smaller than Vernon… so another visit wasn’t likely anyway.
The most serene Republic of San Marino is… well, a gem of a country totally within the borders of Italy. I have been there and it is aptly named. I will miss San Marino.
And there is Monaco… another gem. Monaco is a city-state and next to the Vatican, the smallest nation in the world… again, smaller than Vernon. One in three people living in Monaco is a millionaire … usually several times. I’ve been there a few times… and I still feel like an extra in a James Bond movie. I will miss Monaco.
By the way, Gibraltar, Monaco and San Marino – all small nations – are examples of a warning about traveling to places without reliable health statistics. A week ago they were all in the CDC’s “unknown risk” category… and went from last to first… if you consider high risk first. Chad was another sleeper… moving from a “level 1: low risk COVID-19” country… straight up (or down depending on your perspective).
Some of those countries had low immunization rates – like Chad – but in Spain, over 80 percent of residents were fully immunized… and most of them also received booster shots.
The truth is… now more than 90 countries are in the CDC’s “Level 4: Very high COVID-19” risk category. Another truth is… I would love to go to most of these countries… either again… or for the first time.
There are a lot of things that I miss because of this pandemic… but the travel – which has always been like a cultural doctorate for me – well, it makes me really sad to think it’s not in my future immediate. I’m not getting any younger… time goes by… and travel bans are not conducive to removing some of these countries from my to-do list.
It’s my wish for anyone with a little bit of stray DNA in us that in 2022 or 2023 traveling, you know, with a capital T, something we can all do again.
In the meantime – and I think so more than ever – I wish you a new year which brings you health, happiness, prosperity… and with a little “travel” because we deserve it.
– Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and Florida. In a career spanning more than 40 years, Don has worked as a journalist, speechwriter and CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. Passionate and compassionate man, he enjoys writing as much as good dinners accompanied by great wines.
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