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These Americans want you to rethink the pandemic phenomenon of ‘travel shaming’


When Kaytlin Snider, a recent college graduate, told her friends and family members she was moving to South Korea, she was met with confusion — and some judgment.

After all, health officials still warn against travel during the pandemic. But Snider had been planning her big move since last summer. For her, the teaching job waiting for her abroad was worth it — even though she knew her decision could prompt derision from those around her.

“I knew I wanted to get out and do something adventurous,” the 22-year-old, who graduated in May with a degree in psychology, told CNN. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do I just knew I loved to travel. Some people aren’t open to new ideas, and were like ‘why are you going?'”

The reaction Snider received from some isn’t new — in fact, last year saw a lot of what has been described as “travel shaming.”

Now, however, as the pandemic drags on, many of those who were quick to call out Americans for taking trips are realizing there’s nuance to these things: Not everyone is throwing caution to the wind to jet off to an exotic vacation.

There are grieving family members forced to fly to attend funerals; grandparents who had been counting down the days to get vaccinated and see their grandkids. And yes, harried parents who — trapped in a house with stir-crazy kids — feel they have no other recourse than a change of scenery.

In fact, some in the travel industry believe travel will pick up soon.

“Hopefully now that things are looking a little better with the vaccines, maybe people will start accepting it a little more” said Amy Graves, owner of Massachusetts-based travel agency, Endless Shores Travel. “We have to get back to what our new normal is, and to some people that is traveling.”

Here’s why some people said they are still traveling, shame-free.

Some people have to travel for work

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently not recommending a Covid-19 testing requirement before domestic air travel.

This week, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, advised the American public not to travel, even on domestic flights.

“We really, really would advocate for not traveling right now,” Walensky said during a JAMA livestream on Wednesday. “You shouldn’t be traveling anyway … especially as our numbers are coming down, we’re worried about the variants and we’re scaling up the testing capacity.”

But travel warnings aren’t worrisome to some people.

Last weekend was one of the busiest for pandemic air travel in more than a month, according to the Transportation Security Administration. More than 4 million people traveled between last Thursday and Sunday, the agency said.

For Samantha Osborn, being able to travel has been essential for her job as a personal appearance manager, which requires managing different celebrities and public figures’ appearances.

Many of these appearances revolve around large scale conventions — and like most things, the pandemic has forced these types of events to either cancel all together, or move to an entirely virtual format.

In 2019, Osborn said she traveled 185 days out of year, mainly for business purposes.

“Since Covid, my field got hit pretty hard,” Osborn, who is from Dallas, Texas, said. “I was actually unemployed and didn’t have a job to go to because events were canceled.”

Osborn, 40, said she has noticed events have started to pick up this year.

She is attending an in-person convention — Mad Monster Party in North Carolina — this weekend. She said she feels safe attending, since venues have strict guidelines about wearing face masks and social distancing.

“We have to resume life to some sort normalcy,” she said. “I can’t stay unemployed.”

Others want to reunite with their loved ones

For Allie Smith, 24, flying for the first time in over a year was worth it.

“The last time I was on the airplane was December 2019 for Christmas,” Smith, who lives in Kansas, said.

But earlier this month, she decided to fly to Maui, Hawaii, to visit her grandmother, who recently got vaccinated. Smith also brought a special visitor: her 7-month-old son, Luke.

Thanks to video chats and groups texts, Smith has been able to share the joy of the new arrival with family. But nothing, to Smith, beats being together in-person.

So she got tested before her travels — and then made the trek West.

“I kind of imagined I’d have my baby and my whole family would be around me,” Smith said.

She was the first family member her grandmother had seen in over a year.

‘You aren’t selfish if you go traveling’

This year Graves said she is seeing business pick up as more and more people inquire about planning summer vacations.

She said these days, many people have been expressing interest in visiting anywhere in Florida. Trips to national parks have become extremely popular due to the pandemic.

At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice whether or not to take the risk.

“You aren’t selfish if you go traveling,” Graves said. “There are so many people that are traveling, and doing it safely.”

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