It’s no question the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years, and it’s going to change the world as we know it. Right now, there are countries whose borders remain shut, and it wasn’t so long ago we were all restricted and on lockdown in our homes. It’s wonderful these limitations are lifting, but it also raises another concern.
Because every person you interact with is a potential carrier, every surface a potential bed of virus cells just waiting for an unknowing person like you to touch and continue the spread of the disease. It’s already hit our fellow countrymen hard, we’ve lost lives, businesses have been shuttered, and there’s still no cure in sight.
I for one, have been playing it safe these last few months. Cancelling a couple of trips that were on the cards (including one planned to New York which I’m grateful I was able to secure a refund for in the days just before the full crisis hit), but it’s very likely that more people are going to be travelling in the weeks and months to come.
And that raises another question of its own. How do you stay safe, and travel smart, while the effects of the coronavirus still linger?
Protect your space
Social distancing is the latest buzz word, but for good reason. It works. There’s been study after study that highlight the biggest risk for infection is getting close to other people. Especially if you’re going to be spending any amount of time in a highly populated area where one person can infect a large cluster of people. Like in the confined space of an airplane or a train, or even the crowds at a station or an airport.
You need to protect your space, and try to stay at least 6 feet away from the people around you. It’s not always possible I’ll admit, but you should be aware of it and try your best to maintain this by shifting to different areas of the restaurant with fewer people, keeping your distance when waiting in line, and just being aware of who is around you (especially if they’re showing any signs of sickness like a stubborn cough).
Protect your face
If you’ve not been wearing a face mask now would be a very good time to start to use one. Because you’re not always going to be able to maintain social distancing, and having face protection is your next line of defense. Wearing a face mask helps to limit how often you touch your own face.
Covering your mouth with a N95 respirator can filter out most of the airborne particles, but don’t forget there’s another vulnerable area of your face, your eyes.
You need eye protection from all of the airborne droplets, to help keep yourself virus free. I’d recommend sunglasses at a minimum, or a face visor to ensure you’re fully protected if you’ll be in an area with lots of other people. I also like to wear a hoody when I travel, it’s comfortable and with the hood up it’s a whole other level of protection from the people around me, while also not making it so obvious I’m wearing a mask.
Protect your hands
Your hands are one of your most at-risk extremities, and while the virus can’t penetrate your unbroken skin, it can sit there quite comfortably until you happen to touch a different area, like your mouth or rubbing your eyes. Once is all it takes for you to get sick.
It’s not always comfortable to wear latex gloves, so ensure you’ve got a liberal supply of hand sanitizer that you can use each time you touch a foreign surface. A few drops will go a long way in effectively killing any virus cells you happen to touch, on a doorknob, elevator button, or any other troublesome area if there’s nowhere to wash your hands nearby.
Part of this that I’ve really struggled with is shaking hands, it’s such a common thing to do (we’ve been taught this for so long), but it’s actually one of the riskiest activities in the post coronavirus world. I shake hands with people almost automatically, and then shudder when I realize what I’ve done. That’s when a good dose of hand sanitizer comes in real handy.
Protect your clothing
One area many people forget can transmit the virus is the clothing you wear. Each time you venture out into a crowded place, you’re at risk of collecting virus particles on your clothing. Which can be transferred to your kids who hug you as you walk in the door at home, or anyone else you come in contact with once you get home. Someone sneezes or coughs behind you? Your face may be protected, but your clothes are now viral.
You should always treat your outside clothes as a contaminated object, and ensure you strip off and wash both them and yourself after returning home from a public place. Mine go straight into the machine so I don’t need to touch them again, and then I enjoy a nice soapy shower. That way I’m minimizing any chances of cross contamination from where I’ve been, and limiting the chances I introduce the virus back into my home.
Protect everyone else
I’ve seen lots of people debating whether or not to wear masks, but there’s one point many people forget. While a cotton or cloth mask won’t protect you as well as a proper respirator, what it does help is to better contain your own breath. So instead of being a “super spreader” of your own doing, you’re putting a shield up and showing that you actually care about protecting the people around you, with something as simple as wearing a mask of your own. It’s a small thing, but one I believe is critically important too.
The coronavirus has indeed changed the world, but with the right approach you can be a smart traveler – one who doesn’t get sick the first time you leave the safety of your home.