Flashback to September 2020. I was sitting in this same chair, looking at a similar computer, and canceling our flights to Japan. It’s September 2021 and once again I had to cancel our flights to Japan. Just like last year, I’ve known the trip wouldn’t happen for a while but I waited as long as possible to pull the trigger on actually going to the airlines’ websites and asking for a refund. Fortunately, airlines have made the process as painless as possible with only a few clicks needed to undo hours of finding the perfect flights.
Our trip was supposed to happen at the beginning of November. There’s an infinitesimal chance that Japan will start opening up by then with Japan getting through the 2020 Olympics and rising vaccination rates in the country. While Japan might relax the rules at the border, I doubt they’ll open the floodgates. I’d imagine they’ll start with business people and students. After that, they’ll limit it to countries with low cases of COVID, which the U.S. is definitely not.
I’d say that we’re just going to put the trip off until 2022 but there are already several trips we’ve put on the calendar for next year so we might be looking until 2023 before we’ll get back to Japan.
Where does that leave us with travel plans?
I’ve been reflecting on 2021 and what to expect for the rest of the year and 2022. For a while there in April and May, when cases were lowering, I made plans thinking that things would be continually getting better. We know now that’s not the case. For the short term, where we’re willing to go depends on the situation and subsequent restrictions in place at the time.
In 2020, I was making plans intending to avoid other people as much as possible. At first, that meant renting cabins in the woods and finding socially distant locations. If cases went up, we wanted to be able to avoid as many other people as possible. We eventually became more comfortable about being near people and staying in hotels, when more information came about the risk involved.
While we still have to make decisions based on apparent risk, it isn’t the same as before. We know much more than we did at the beginning of 2020. More about how COVID spreads and what activities are safer than others. There’s also one more big thing we have in 2021 that we didn’t have last year – vaccines.
We can see firsthand that the vaccines are working and are very effective at preventing severe disease and death from COVID. Being vaccinated, I’m not afraid of ending up in the hospital or dying just from going to the supermarket. That was the idea behind putting off non-essential travel plans. Surviving long enough that science would find a way to protect us. Did it kill me not to go to Schlitterbahn for a year? Of course not. That’s why I got tired of people saying that I was living in fear, which I wasn’t. (BTW, I think I had a pretty good take on the situation.)
I’m sitting here thinking about where to go and unsure about what to do. I’m probably going to do the same thing I did last year, think about several trips at the same time. Back then, we were only taking road trips so I didn’t have to make advance plans. That’s not true anymore. If we’re going to fly anywhere I have to decide soon because of the limited space on flights, rental cars and hotels. I don’t have the luxury to see what’s going to happen before making any reservations. My best option is to make plans with favorable cancellation policies and hope for the best.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary