I have been quiet here for a bit and finally I found some time to write this Monday Postcard update from Thailand.
Two years after the start of the pandemic – and every trip to Thailand during that time was very different. I went through the 16-day hotel quarantine in 2021 (you can read my reviews here) and I also did what was called the “Test & Go”, which required a night’s stay at a hotel until your PCR-test result came back negative. On my current trip, it is very clear that, despite another wave of Covid-cases, the country is opening up for tourism. Since the start of this month, many restrictions for travellers have been abolished.
I hoped that the pandemic would have an impact on our attitude to travel. I hoped that we would be more mindful and that mass tourism would not come back in the same way it was pre-Covid. I remember the stories of dolphins being sighted at the beaches of Thailand in 2020 and I also remember my walks in Austria where I saw so much wildlife. On my recent trip to Phuket, the water was crystal clear – before the pandemic, you had to watch out for the odd plastic bag swimming next to you. Frankly, I do not want travel to go back to the old “normal”.
But when I look around, I feel that we are going back there again. Maybe with even more enthusiasm than before. People have all been deprived of travelling for two years. Families were separated, people were stranded and the times where you could just hop on a plane and wake up on the other side of the world seemed very far away. Now that most of the world is opening up, people are hungry for travel. They want to get out of the place to which they were confined for two years. I can totally understand it. But at the same time, I find it concerning.
I recently saw a deal for a return ticket from Vienna to Rome on Ryanair for 9 Euros. Yes, you are reading correctly. Frankly, I find this price insane. First of all, a taxi ride from my home to the airport is more than triple that price. Secondly, for 9 Euros – how much can the airline really invest in salaries, service and safety? But again, people want to get out and explore. 9 Euros and a little more than an hour later, you are in Rome. With these types of deals we will see the crowds back. We will see the floods of wannabe influencers taking the same selfies. We will hear locals complain that their home has become impossible to live in.
In a certain way, I do know that I am part of this problem as well. I love to travel, I also have to do it for work and to see family. But over the past two years, I was forced – like most of us – to adapt and find alternative ways, especially when it comes to my work. I was not able to meet my suppliers and partners in India, for example. And while we made it work online, I do hope that this year, I will finally make it back. In a way, the pandemic has forced us to be creative and just make things work. What I learned from it is that I assess every trip and try to be as efficient as possible with my travels.
I really do not think it is necessary to exploit our planet and other people for the sake of getting a “cheap” travel deal. When I came back from Phuket, I looked around when we waited for our luggage. For most travellers, it was about this “cheap” experience. Thailand is open, many businesses had to close down and those which have survived are desperate to make ends meet. Naturally, they rely on special packages to attract tourists. And there are plenty of people who want to maximise this “cheap” experience. Eat as much as possible at the breakfast which was included in your price, only buy drinks during happy hour, no tipping at all. I would like to urge you to be mindful. Maybe you got a good hotel rate – but then also please venture out and support shops and restaurants in the area. Buy a coffee from the small shop around the corner. Tip the staff members at your hotel, they all have suffered a lot during these times. And also: when you explore, please take your trash with you. It seems like a really basic thing and it makes me sad that I have to write this, but it is crazy how people behave and what they leave behind.
I know that this is also coming from a certain perspective of privilege. Travelling is costly and for most people, the ultra-conscious travel experiences are simply nothing they can afford. But maybe we can change our attitude towards travelling: Maybe we should consider if it is really necessary to have bucket lists or a certain number of countries we have to visit by a certain time. Do we really have to go on that business trip or can the meeting be held online? Furthermore, with summer coming up in Europe, I feel that there is always a lot of pressure to leave our homes and show that we all can afford to go on holidays. When I was a child, it was perfectly OK to not travel and enjoy at home. I do think if that pressure was less, many people would reconsider their attitude to travel.
With these thoughts about travel, I am sending you all some sunshine for this week. Let me know what you think about travelling in 2022. Do you have any trips coming up? And has your attitude changed because of Covid?