By Sofia Silva de Almeida e Souza Netto || Contributing Writer
Most people around the world love to travel. The excitement to pack and prepare for yet another adventure is one of the best feelings you can ever have. To be at a certain place – alone or with friends and family – and take pictures to remember that moment forever is even better. However, after the outbreak of COVID-19, traveling is not only full of joy anymore. Instead, it is a mix of feelings: joy to be going away and fear of the crowded airports and planes. That was exactly how I felt when I went away during the fall of 2020. During both international trips I had during the pandemic, I was scared. The flight back to Brazil was packed and, at the airport of Guarulhos (in São Paulo), gigantic lines with no social distancing were a big problem. There wasn’t social distancing on the plane as well, and many were not wearing masks correctly. With all that, how can we feel safe?
For many of us, international and domestic students, traveling is part of our college experience. We have to pack our lives in suitcases and leave our homes to a life we know nearly nothing about, especially if you’re a first-year! With COVID, that trip became scarier than ever. Even with the vaccination process having started in many countries, it is likely to stay that way for many months. Wearing two masks and having a hand sanitizer with you all of the time is part of our daily lives right now, and when flying, it is no different. We do our part and expect airline companies to do the same. However, that is often not the case.
A few days before going back home, my flight got canceled. Not the international one, but the domestic one. I was reallocated to a packed flight, with every seat taken. While I was glad to (finally!) come back home, I could not avoid feeling anxious and worried all of the time. It was a strange mix of feelings, I confess. The worst part was seeing how airline companies did not do anything to enforce social distancing inside of the plane. And while I do know that the air is constantly being refreshed, those small changes can make a big difference. Also, airports were not as strict as they could be about lines and distancing. The seats in waiting rooms were all separated, but you often would find yourself with someone standing a little too close to you.
Can we expect anything to change for the next year? My answer is: not really. Some might feel more comfortable with traveling after being vaccinated, but we will still face restrictions and unexpected problems like flights getting canceled out of nowhere. And of course, there is the risk of being infected. We will still need to be as careful as possible and the most important thing will be to not let our guards down even if many airports and airlines do. After all, it was through international travels that COVID spread to the whole world.
First-year Sofia Silva de Almeida e Souza Netto is a Contributing Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.