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5 Pandemic Travel Tips

It’s clear that while the coronavirus pandemic has worsened over the last several weeks, that inconsiderate, selfish behavior has worsened along with it. As members of the LGBTQ+ community and the LGBTQ+ ambassadors for Hello Ranger, we couldn’t help but notice that a rash of this bad behavior was in fact coming from our community. And while we are not interested in perpetuating gossip, this was too proven and too poignant to ignore. 

Over the New Years holiday weekend in locations like Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, there were more than a few gatherings of large groups of gay men in the vein of gay circuit parties. For those unfamiliar, a gay circuit party on the surface looks like a dance floor blasting house beats with mostly gay men packed pretty close together. Depending on the venue, the theme, and the purpose of the event, a whole host of other things could also be included, but those are the basics. And while these parties are a niche area of gay subculture, like any subculture they do not represent the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.

One might think that during this especially dire time in the course of the pandemic, an event like a gay circuit party would certainly not be possible due to CDC recommendations, lockdowns, and local laws. But apparently not. Gay circuit parties were successfully planned and attended over the New Years holiday weekend. One of these parties, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, included a party boat with too many attendees—which caused the boat to sink. And since the gay internet is dependable, photo and video evidence of everything has been meticulously recorded and shared, and have found their way onto social media accounts created specifically for the public shaming of those that participated. The briefest of internet searches will garner any evidence you may wish to review. 

Now, we are not interested in calling out, but we are always advocates for calling in to be accountable. So please indulge us for one moment: if any of you who did attend those parties are reading this right now, we want to say… 

Gurl, you know better. Stop endangering other people. You can water down your own vodka sodas at home. 

Since so many of our own community have recently shown us exactly what NOT to do during this time, we wanted to compile a list of 10 Travel Tips that might be helpful if you are considering travel during what has become the current height of this pandemic. 

Photo courtesy of Dusty Ballard and Michael Ryan

1) Just Don’t.

As of January 2021, the numbers of COVID cases, in America at least, are literally soaring. Infection and death rates are at an all time high, new COVID variants are appearing (and more contagious), and at this time, it is honestly a risk to go anywhere or see anyone, especially if that involves extensive travel. So, maybe just don’t travel at all. 

2) Consider Other People.

People spread COVID. Therefore, you and I and everyone else are the means by which the virus continues its track. When we stay put, numbers go down. When we move about, numbers go up. That’s just how it works. So, remember that risk is a two-way street. You may be okay with putting yourself at risk of catching COVID, but the act of doing that also puts someone else at risk, and that person may be more at risk because of underlying health conditions. 

3) Ask Yourself If It’s Really Necessary.

Do you actually need to make this journey? Could you plan an extended phone call? Could you send something? Could you “get away” without actually going anywhere? While travel is a hobby turned side hustle for us, we acknowledge that traveling even somewhere about two hours away is currently a serious matter. Unfortunately, we cannot access the resources outside of our homes in the same way we could before this pandemic, so deeply consider whether it is really necessary to actually go anywhere. 

4) Okay So It’s Really Necessary. What Is Your Plan For Getting There?

So, it’s necessary. What is your step-by-step plan for getting from one place to another? Are you going to fly, drive, take a train? All of these come with different things to consider. You may also need specific documentation in order to go somewhere. Check the requirements of the place you are traveling to in order to know what you need to prepare. 

5) Set Your Ground Tules.

Whatever your plan, set clear ground rules for yourself and others with you.  Remember that while driving may feel like the easiest option, it is not a guarantee that places like gas stations and restrooms are in buildings that follow any COVID protocols. Being around other people indoors is putting yourself and others at risk for contagion. 

6) Have All of Your Necessary PPE. 

Y’all, PPE on a travel day through an airport is tough, but necessary the entire time from the beginning of your journey through to your final destination. Make sure you have plenty of reusable and disposable masks with you, as well as hand sanitizer, gloves, face shields, or any other equipment. And make sure you have enough for the duration of your travel in the event you can not find more to purchase. 

7) Wear Your Mask.

The current CDC guidance is that we should be wearing masks at all times outside of our homes. This includes outdoor spaces and hiking trails. While, yes, outside is less of a risk for exposure, most trails are not over six feet wide, and you will probably pass others on the way. ALWAYS have your mask when outside on trails. There is no excuse for not doing this. It’s very easy and considerate practice; put it on when passing others and lower it when you are alone. 

8) Don’ Gloat.

If you are fortunate enough to make the necessary journey, now is not the time to show off to others about where you are and how magical it is. In a time where so many people are ill and so many people have lost family members, we do not need photos of you on an adventure looking like everything is okay. 

9) Be Prepared to Quarantine.

Are you prepared and ready to quarantine upon arrival or if you become exposed? While it is very easy to focus merely on arriving safely, it is also necessary to be prepared with a plan for if you become positive with COVID while you are away. Will you have a place to stay? Can you extend? Are you prepared to actually hunker down for the CDC requirement of 10 days in order to keep others safe? Do you know if the county you are traveling to is at hospital capacity? If you are not, then maybe…

10) Just Don’t.

It is possible that numbers can lower by following CDC guidance and through vaccine distribution, and it may be possible to safely travel in areas that are considered “in the green” sooner than later, but for right now remember to consider others, wear your mask, and play your role in mitigating this pandemic. After being at home for almost an entire year, we are all anxious to get out and explore, but remember the sites will still be there when the pandemic has calmed and the curve has flattened. But until then, maybe just don’t travel.

Header photo: Albert Hu/Unsplash

Dustin Ballard and Michael Ryan are the co-hosts and co-creators of Gaze at the National Parks, the Podcast, a show that features one hiking trail in one national park, one park at a time.

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