TRAVELS IN THE TIME OF CORONA
Travel industry super publicist Geoffrey Weill recently spent ten days traveling around Europe. In this installment, here, Geoffrey reflects on this trip after returning home to America.
12: An American Epilogue
On September 11, 2001, four domestic flights were hijacked. Three were flown into iconic American buildings; one was taken over by the passengers and crashed in a Pennsylvania meadow. More than 3,000 people were killed in what came briefly to be known as the Attack on America and then simply as 9/11. Every single one of us was changed by 9/11. Everyone remembers where they were when it happened, just as those of us who are old enough remember where we were when we learned of the murder of President Kennedy.
In terms of travel, the immediate result of 9/11 was that Americans decided not to travel overseas. "Abroad" was full of dangers and demons. We seemed to have no problem traveling domestically, but abroad, at least until 2002, was out. The illogic was astounding. Four flights to from the East Coast to the West Coast were hijacked. Ergo, we mustn’t fly to Paris.
When I first floated the idea of traveling to Europe to visit clients in the fall of 2020, I was met with similar xenophobia. Had I suggested flying to San Francisco or New Orleans, I would have encountered mostly indifference. But I intended to cross the ocean. And, that, it seemed, was too terrifying, too irresponsible, for many to contemplate.
The xenophobia of 9/11 — that all-American Ellis Island rejoinder that the Old World spelled menace and the New World spelled security — had suddenly knee-jerked itself back. No matter that Germany and Switzerland, two of my destinations, had fought Covid-19 spectacularly and much more effectively than my own country’s fraught, frantic, quarrelsome, and pathetic performance. That seemed immaterial to the doubters around me.
So, armed with my special mask, my prescription ski-goggles, my forty gallons of hand sanitizer, and several dozen masks, off I went. Just as if I were in New York, I wore a mask. I gelled. I washed my hands raw. I ate mostly outdoors. I did everything I would have done at home, except that I did it in Portugal, Switzerland, Italy and Germany.
It’s now my ninth day back. Eight days of self-isolating and being tended to at home with all the care, kindness, services, meals delivered, ice-freshened, as if I were at Claridge’s (or "Amanhaworth," as my family decided to call it). On day six, I took a Covid-19 test. Today I got the result. Negative.
The thing is, I don’t think I was reckless. Certainly, I was fortunate, in that a European passport made this particular trip possible. And perhaps that wrought a little jealousy. But Americans CAN go to Britain, they can go to Ireland — albeit with quarantine — but as so many “travelers” are anyway working from home on Zoom, does it really matter if we do it in Massapequa, County Mayo, or Mayfair? Americans can also go to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, Bermuda, and much of the Caribbean. And Kenya. And the Emirates. And the Maldives and Tahiti.
But somehow, deep down so many of us choose to feel safer in America.
Or is it, perhaps, that, as in every election year, travel drops. Perhaps there are few of us who want to miss the 24/7 moments of drama, shenanigans, tantrums, and, hopefully, euphoria, of what will happen by January 20 in this disarrayed country we love and want so desperately to be set back on course to sanity.