Travel Tuesday: Will Other Countries Welcome Americans Back?
A few weeks ago, I pondered when we might be able to travel again. While that post explored some of the latest news on that front including continued travel restrictions, one thing I didn’t quite consider is that being allowed in a country and being welcome in a country are two different things. So, with the United States’ coronavirus outbreak seemingly taking a turn for the worse, will attitudes toward Americans abroad be impacted?
This thought hadn’t actually occurred to me until I came across a CNN article exploring the topic. In it, they spoke to some travelers who pondered the possibility of quarantine mandates and other restrictions impacting U.S. passport holders for years to come. To that point, while the European Union has just announced plans to reopen its borders to citizens of several countries (including our northern neighbors), the United States was noticeably absent from that list. Meanwhile, as one person CNN spoke with stated, “I think if I reach a place where I feel international (or even air) travel would be appropriate, then I’ll start asking myself if I think I’d be welcome.”
To be sure, I’ve never noticed any outright disdain for my clearly American status when traveling overseas. However, I can’t help but wonder if this current crisis could make for a different story. After all, it’s one thing to disagree with the U.S. government’s policies and/or wars and another to worry that travelers might be bringing literal disease with them. Fair or not, this could be the perception predicament we’ll soon be facing.
Of course, just like here at home, fears over the virus and economic realities tend to butt heads. Therefore, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where some countries might reopen their borders to tourists in the name of financial recovery, even if their citizens aren’t exactly thrilled with the potential risks. This, in turn, probably wouldn’t be a great situation for anyone involved. But, looking on the bright side, it may also give U.S. travelers a chance to ease these tensions and assuage such fears.
So what should Americans do when they are allowed to travel internationally once again? Well, it should go without saying but job one is following the rules each country has in place. Whether this means observing policies regarding quarantines or wearing face masks in public areas, respecting the laws, guidelines, or even social norms set in place in a given area is paramount. In doing so, you may well be helping to change the growing perception that Americans are unwilling to obey. Speaking of following the rules, for the next several months, it’s probably a good idea to keep abreast of advisories and limitations impacting your destinations so that you’ll know what to expect when you arrive and be prepared (or determine if you should even be traveling there at all).
If I may get somewhat personal for a moment, while it may seem trivial at times like this, travel is important in a number of ways. At the top of that list is the fact that visiting other countries teaches us about different cultures and what we can learn from them. A great example of this is that, having visited Japan and Hong Kong where voluntary daily mask usage has been common for several years, I don’t balk at the idea of wearing a mask when it seems as though that might be the best way to combat a pandemic. Additionally, thanks in part to my (short) time spent in China, I know that there’s a huge distinction between the Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party. Unfortunately, not everyone makes that distinction. For that reason and many, many more, it would be a shame to lose our connection to the world.
If it weren’t clear from that last shade-filled paragraph, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with the situation we find ourselves in — as I’m sure many other Americans have as well. It would appear that we’re also not alone in that frustration as other countries are taking notice. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that this interest comes with sympathy and, instead, could very well negatively taint global perceptions of Americans for years to come. So while many destinations will certainly be happy to welcome our dollars in due time, it remains unclear (at least in my mind) whether U.S. travelers will actually be a sight for sore eyes for some.
Also published on Medium.