Traveling during a pandemic is definitely not easy and can even become a huge source of stress. Travel restrictions, confusion, ever-changing regulations, extra research and safety concerns have all contributed to make the journey very difficult, if not impossible. Travelers who finally get to move around and choose to share their vacation on social media may experience some symptoms of a new plague: Travel shaming. This new trend is reserved for those people who decide to take a trip and boast about it on their profiles, while the world is dealing with millions of Covid-19 cases.
The reasons behind travel shaming and the motivations for shaming are evolving as quickly as the Covid-19 pandemic itself. According to Krista Thomason, associate professor of philosophy at the Swarthmore College and author of “Naked: The Dark Side of Shame and Moral Life,” travel shaming has been brought to a higher level during the pandemic because of new emotions related to health risks. These new impetuses lead social media users to shame other people.
Many people canceled vacations or canceled trips to see their loved ones. When they see others enjoying nonessential travel, they may be angry, envious and feel that it’s not fair. People feel like they’ve given up things that are important to them, so they’ll naturally be upset to see that others haven’t done the sameKrista Thomason, associate professor of philosophy at the Swarthmore College
1. Victims of travel shaming
US digital nomad Sarah Archer is a victim of travel shaming. Speaking with CNN, she revealed that she felt a sort of “pit” in her stomach during her recent trips to Europe, which made her adjust some of her behaviors. “I have a boyfriend in Switzerland, so I was trying to figure out a way into Europe. It was difficult with a US passport,” she explained to CNN. When Serbia reopened its borders to American travelers in late March, Sarah decided to go there to meet her boyfriend, who flew from Switzerland to Serbia. When Croatia finally opened its borders to US citizens, Sarah and her boyfriend rented a car and entered the country. From there, the couple was able to fly to Switzerland.
As a long-term traveler and being on social media while in these countries, too, I feel responsibility not to get (the virus) and not to spread it.US digital nomad Sarah Archer
Archer did the best she could during her trips to move around safely and legally. She even wrote an article explaining how she entered Europe and shared posts on her Instagram account. Unsurprisingly, she received some messages from her followers asking her if it didn’t seem irresponsible to travel during a pandemic. In that moment, she started questioning herself. “I asked myself: ‘Am I doing something wrong?’ You question yourself,” she revealed to CNN. According to Sarah, most people she met in Serbia, Croatia and Switzerland didn’t wear masks on the streets or in public venues. However, because of the shaming she felt on social media, Sarah and her boyfriend were both influenced to wear masks whenever in public, even when they were the only ones doing so. “As a long-term traveler and being on social media while in these countries, too, I feel responsibility not to get (the virus) and not to spread it,” she said.
2. Self-travel shaming
Sometimes travelers themselves are the ones doing the shaming. This happens when travelers feel guilty or ashamed about their own travel choices even when the travel shaming isn’t coming from other people. This is what happened to writer Mosaka Williamson, who had spent the lockdown mostly alone in her New York City apartment. “I’d been locked in my apartment, on Zoom and on the phone, pretty much the whole time. I reached the point where I just needed to go somewhere,” she declared. After much research, Mosaka and her husband decided to spend a few days together in Atlantic City, New Jersey. But the vacation was more stressful than restorative. She explains that she was always on guard and always washing her hands. Even her social media behaviour changed, as she didn’t want to be considered irresponsible and selfish. “The photos I did post from Atlantic City, I didn’t want to show people in them because most people weren’t wearing masks and I didn’t want to be associated with them,” said Mosaka.
3. A lack of norms generates confusion
According to Thomason, confusion around regulations, restrictions, and norms can affect how people shame on social media and how effective that shaming is. “Part of the issue with shaming is that it involves communal norms. So if you get to this point where you’re trying to hold this person up as an example of bad behavior, once you get to the point where it’s not clear what the communal norms are anymore, it’s a little harder for shame to get some purchase,” explains Thomason.
Michael Trager of Las Vegas casino and travel website TravelZork, has experienced some social media shaming when he flew from his home in London to Las Vegas to report for his website about the reopening of the casinos. “Every time I tweeted, somebody in the UK would say something like ‘You know you have to go to quarantine when you come back.’ People want to remind you about the rules with the implication that they don’t believe you’re going to do it,” says Trager. Although Trager knew he was respecting all norms, he still felt shamed. “As long as you’re following the rules, you shouldn’t have to feel self-conscious about it. But I know people are, because I definitely was,” he concluded.
You aren’t selfish if you go traveling. There are so many people that are traveling, and doing it safely.Amy Graves – owner of Massachusetts-based travel agency Endless Shores Travel
4. Are you selfish if you travel?
Some people can’t help but travel because of work reasons or family issues. For Samantha Osborn, a personal appearance manager from Dallas, traveling is an essential part of her job. Her job requires managing the appearance of different public figures during conferences and conventions. However, since the pandemic hit the globe, these types of events have been cancelled or moved online. “Since Covid, my field got hit pretty hard,” said Osborn. “I was actually unemployed and didn’t have a job to go to because events were canceled.” However, she has noticed that events are slowly restarting this year. Last week, she attended an in-person event in North Carolina. The event’s venue had followed strict safety guidelines about wearing face masks and social distancing. “We have to resume life to some sort normalcy. I can’t stay unemployed,” she concluded.
Speaking with CNN, Amy Graves – owner of Massachusetts-based travel agency Endless Shores Travel – declared that her business is slowly recovering as more and more people are keen on planning summer vacations. All in all, whether or not taking the risk of traveling is a personal choice. “You aren’t selfish if you go traveling. There are so many people that are traveling, and doing it safely,” she said.