Vacationing during a pandemic

Students share their opinions about traveling during quarantine

Senior+Sophia+Chen+and+her+friends+enjoy+a+socially+distanced+birthday+party.+Photo+by+Sophia+Chen+%2F%2F+Used+with+permission

Photo by Sophia Chen // Used with permission

Senior Sophia Chen and her friends enjoy a socially distanced birthday party. Photo by Sophia Chen // Used with permission

Mira Wagner, Staff Writer

T he debate between traveling and staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic became more complicated for sophomore Ankita Chaugule due to COVID-related issues affecting her extended family. She felt conflicted in deciding whether she should travel to India to support her family members and end up violating stay-at-home orders or offer support from her home. 

Photo by Jai Gupta // Used with permission
Sophomore Jai Gupta takes a photo of the view while on vacation in Texas. Photo by Jai Gupta // Used with permission

I honestly don’t think people should be vacationing because it’s not a main priority, but I also feel like many people, because of deaths in their family, [could] go [travelling] to meet them,” Chaugule said. “I think it’s OK to go visit those types of families to give them support. To an extent, vacationing is okay, but vacationing to an island or a theme park or anything … isn’t a priority.”

Sophomore Jai Gupta, who had traveled to Texas in December to be reprieved from the constraints of quarantine, agrees to some extent, but feels that making the decision to travel is mainly based on one’s feelings and mental health. While travelling, he observed precautions being taken to impede the spread of COVID, such as mask-wearing at airports. In general, airports also seemed much emptier than usual, according to Gupta.

“I wouldn’t recommend vacationing, but sometimes people feel the need to go outside and leave home which I understand,” Gupta said. “That’s basically what we did. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I understand if you do.”

Although senior Sophia Chen understands Gupta’s point of view and relates to the desire to go outside —  a need she fulfills by hiking — she thinks vacationing during the pandemic is irresponsible.  

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Chen said. “Honestly. I don’t think anyone should be traveling right now — more than just [for] their own safety, it’s a slap in the face for all the nurses and frontline workers in hospitals to be going out and trying to enjoy Hawaii. I just think it’s absolutely unnecessary; I can’t think of a single reason why it would be justified to go on vacation right now. There’s just no reason.” 

Chaugule shares a similar view as Chen on vacationing and correlates the amount of people breaking stay-at-home orders to the pandemic’s duration.

The whole point of the stay-at-home order is to literally stay at home, so vacationing just completely overrides that rule. I feel like the spread is not going to stop unless everyone stays home, but there’s not much we can really do.”

— Ankita Chaugule

“The whole point of the stay-at-home order is to literally stay at home, so vacationing just completely overrides that rule,” Chaugule said. “I feel like the spread is not going to stop unless everyone stays home, but in this situation there’s not much we can really do.”

Gupta understands the potential harms of vacationing that Chaugule mentions but finds that vacationing mainly is based on someone’s personal choices.

“I would say the most obvious downside is obviously getting COVID,” Gupta said. “The upsides are that there are less people wherever you’re going which could maybe mean cheaper prices. It’s really your decision whether you think the risk of getting COVID outweighs going somewhere.”

Beyond just members of her own communities, however, Chaugule adds that it feels even more detrimental when celebrities choose to go on vacations. She finds that celebrities don’t value the reach of their influence by “[ignoring] everything that’s coming towards them about COVID.”

“If it was someone from our school or something vacationing, I feel like we wouldn’t really care because it’s their decision,” Chaugule said. “But if it’s someone that basically impacts other people’s lives and educates them, I feel like they have to educate other people to do the right thing. They shouldn’t be hypocrites about the pandemic or anything else.”

Senior Sophia Chen goes on a socially distanced hike with her dog. Photo by Ivy Fan // Used with permission

The idea that celebrities should be setting a good example for their audience is shared by both Chen and Chaugule. Regarding these celebrities, more specifically TikTok stars, Chen’s disappointment in their behavior is furthered by the ignorance she believes they show in terms of frontline workers and their feelings.

“I think a lot of young people look up to them as their influence, so they have a lot of impact on what younger kids think, especially in the TikTok world and YouTube world,” Chen said. “They are bad role models — and as role models, they have a huge impact on kids behavior and what they think. It’s like teaching them, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter, you know there’s all these nurses and doctors working and all these hospitals are at max capacity, but we’re famous and we’re rich and we do this for a living, so we’re going to go on vacation and ignore everyone else’s issues.’ So I think influencers more than anything should be staying home and setting a good example right now.” 

Although Chen does not condone vacationing whatsoever, she understands the difficulties of being quarantined for long amounts of time and sometimes feels disappointed about missing out on aspects of her senior year, such as rallies. In general, however, she says she would never choose to vacation and potentially put others in harm’s way.

“I think it’s definitely tempting to vacation,” Chen said. “Obviously, we’ve all been locked up for a long time. We want to go out. But right now, if you were to hand me plane tickets to Hawaii, I’d be like, ‘No, I can’t do that.’ I think morally I just could not do that. I just think it’d be super inconsiderate. We all want to go on vacation right now, but we have to take into consideration everyone else in our community.”