The Truth About How Coronavirus Affects the Way I Travel – Part 2

People ask me how the Coronavirus affects the way I travel. Will I cancel travel because of the Coronavirus? Here’s the truth about how Coronavirus affects me as a traveler — part two.

Those Words Brought Back Memories

Dan and Stacey Wittig pose for a photo next to cruise ship railing with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background
Twenty years ago, Dan and Stacey Wittig celebrate their honeymoon on Princess Cruise with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

“Everything is under control. Not to worry. Not to worry.” The memory of those words spoken in an Italian accent bubbled up through long-buried memories. The recollection of  the ship captain’s voice that had filled our Sky Princess Cruise cabin twenty-one years ago smacked me alongside the head as I read the recent news. On a morning two decades ago, we’d heard the bell call for the crew to muster. “That’s not a drill,” shouted my new husband Dan over the din. I clutched at the robe around me wondering if I could brave Pacific waters half-clad. We were on our honeymoon cruise to Alaska and the old boat was on her final Princess voyage.

“Everything is under control. This was just a drill. Just a drill. We’ve got the fire out,” the captain said as if announcing the next bocce ball tournament. Short story: the engine room fire left an astringent smell of burnt wire casings, which stung our nostrils for several hours. Perhaps everything was under control, yet we floated at sea for hours without propulsion. I should have learned on that trip that the Italian version of “Everything is under control” is quite different from what I might consider ‘under control.’

I’d heard those words before

So when I read the news earlier in this Coronavirus episode, I shot my husband the ‘knowing look’ that spouses sometimes exchange after 20 years of marriage. And then I read him the words of an Italian news report … in a really bad Italian accent:

‘Everything is under control,’ said Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, stressing that the government was maintaining ‘an extremely high level of precaution’ against the virus.

I read this on February 22 when only three cases of the Coronavirus were reported in Italy. One, a 38-year old, who worked for Unilever in Lodi, 29 miles southeast of Milan, was in intensive care.

My upcoming trip to Italy included flying into Milan

Milan Cathedral and piazza before the Coronavirus outbreak
Duomo with Milan Cathedral and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II © Steffen Schmitz (Carschten) / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

My upcoming trip to Italy included flying into Milan, spending three nights and then taking another flight to Sicily in the southern part of Italy. After my honeymoon cruise experience, I should have known better and canceled my trip. However, I rerouted my flight from Milan to Rome. With everything ‘under control,’ Rome, 357 miles south of Milan, should be safe from Coronavirus closures. Therefore, I canceled my EasyJet flight from Milan to Catania in Sicily, losing $168 and bought a new flight on Alitalia from Rome to Catania. I should have known better.

If you’ve been watching the news, you know that the Prime Minister closed all of Italy earlier this week and today over 12,000 cases of Coronavirus and over 800 deaths due to the virus have been reported in Italy. That’s less than three weeks since Italians first reported cases.

TBEX2020, the travel bloggers convention that I was to attend in Catania, Italy

Harbor at sunset with silhouette of Mount Etna volcano steaming in the background
Catania harbor with Mount Etna steaming on the horizon

Twenty hours before my flight left Flagstaff, I canceled all my flights to #TBEX2020, the travel bloggers convention that I was to attend in Catania, Italy. Organizers canceled the event the day before and promise to reschedule later this year in Catania. I could have traveled to the Italian city anyway as some events for “TBEX Survivors” were still scheduled. Since I was still hacking up phlegm from the illness I got 10 days before, I decided that I wouldn’t want to be sitting next to me on a transatlantic flight.

How Coronavirus Affects My Travel

Besides the changes that I reported in my first article about how coronavirus is affecting the way I travel, the biggest change has been the cancellation of my business trip to Italy. To be totally transparent, here’s a breakdown of my losses so far:

  • EasyJet flight Milan to Catania/Palermo to Milan $176.96 ($14.23 taxes refunded)
  • Alitalia flight Rome to Catania RT $268.60
  • $53.06 in international phone charges while trying to get flights refunded.  Can’t win for losing.
  • I was able to cancel my flight from Flagstaff to Italy with no charges incurred because I bought the flight with American Airlines Aadvantage Frequent Flier miles.
  • Hotel in Milan $112.00*

*Booking.com was able to get one hotel to change my booking to a later date, another reason to use Booking.com.

I’ll keep you informed on how my travel insurance covers my losses.

So what? The flu kills every year – this Coronavirus outbreak is no big deal – or IS it?

Screenshot of Johns Hopkins dashboard of Coronavirus outbreak
Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)

While I was trying to decide whether or not to cancel, some of my Facebook friends accused me of being “cowardly.” Here’s what one of my longtime Facebook friends had to say:

Facebook Friend: “Don’t cancel. It’s all fear mongering”

Facebook Friend: “Look. If it pans out as they say, you will be no safer at home. It’s a bug. Not as bad as flu. Wish it was not being blown out of all proportions.”

Me: “Actually, I have been doing a lot of research. It is a bug. Where did you get your info on ‘Not as bad as the flu’? I’d like to fact check that.”

Facebook Friend: hmmm let’s see. Death rate so far 1 % in vulnerable groups. If healthy seems no worse than a bad cold. You can live in fear Stacey if you wish. I choose not to. I drive…I fly in planes..I cross the road…life has a 100% mortality rate..checked those facts too”

Me: “Hadn’t seen 1% – would like to check because I am writing articles about Coronavirus. I certainly don’t want to have the wrong figures, so I always check the source… I thought you knew me better that to say, ‘You can live in fear Stacey if you wish’.

The health experts at the WHO and CDC seem to footnote projections on mortality rate with, “We don’t know enough yet,” or “These figures are just an estimate we are early into this.” I hadn’t heard anyone give solid numbers. A quick Google search found Al Jazeera reporting,

“COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has killed about 3.4 percent of confirmed cases, globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) – a figure higher than previous estimates and far above the seasonal flu’s fatality rate of less than 1 percent.”

There are plenty of trustworthy places to get information including the award-winning LiveScience.com. See what the scientists have to say in their article entitled, How does the new coronavirus compare with the flu? 

So how has Coronavirus affected the way that YOU travel? Did I make the right decision? 

RELATED STORIES:

The Truth About How Coronavirus Affects the Way I Travel – Part 1

Solo Female Travel Guide Features Advice by UNSTOPPABLE Stacey

How COVID-19 Hobbled These Veteran Globetrotters

Check out my thoughts on travel vaccines from back when Swine Flu was an issue: What vaccinations do I need for Africa? Swine Flu vs. Travel Fun

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16 thoughts on “The Truth About How Coronavirus Affects the Way I Travel – Part 2”

  1. Hey Stacy, Sue McCamley here in Germany. I enjoyed your read, and when you mentioned the large international phone bill, wanted to let you know we use Skype phone, really cheap. That’s how we do all our calling through the states.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Sue. I had no idea I would be on hold so long… or that the International calling rate on my cell would be so high! Surprise! Thanks for the tip. Can I use Skype calling to an airline service desk? Its been so long since i used Skype…

      Reply
  2. Thanks for a great article, Stacey! My opinion is that while you personally may remain healthy while traveling, you can’t control the protection measures that others are going to implement, and may find yourself stranded in a foreign country. So I totally agree with your decision.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the support, Donna. Now we have to decide how much we are going to “social distance” here at home.

      Reply
  3. I personally would just like to get on with the quarantining of ourselves in this country so that we can move on. If this took place for two weeks, life would be a lot more secure. We’ve all been on a diet for two weeks. How much worse could this be!

    Reply
    • Great comments, Linda. I think a lot of us will be self-quarantining. I am trying not to shake hands and if someone does shake my hand, then I go wash my hands right away. Some of my friends still want to hug – but after how sick I’ve been, I wouldn’t want to hug me. I think we need to be sensitive to how others are feeling right now.

      Reply
    • Well… I read that one was surprised that he couldn’t be a hospi (albergue host) after Camino closures announced…

      Reply
  4. Painful and disappointing but, as we know now, you made the right decision. I had three trips cancelled, by me or the host, and am hoping that the measures taken to flatten the curve will not be suspended in the interest of 45’s campaign for re-election.

    Reply
    • Yes, it’s easy to see in retrospect that I made the right decision. I am surprised by how many people are still not doing their part “to flatten the curve.” If not us, then who?

      Reply
  5. Thank you Stacey. This is so very helpful!
    Looking forward to reading about your future travels & learning about your adventures. Keep up the great work!

    Sharon Emery
    The Pinewood News
    Munds Park, AZ

    Reply
    • Thanks so much Sharon. I just spoke to my friend who flew from Portugal to LAX. She could not get off the plane until they had been screened and filled out forms. Better news than your nephew’s flight into Miami – maybe that’s the story!

      Reply
  6. Stacey,

    No question you did the right thing. You would have been stranded in Italy. As much as we all love to travel, health and family come before travel. There will be more safe travel opportunities when this is over.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the encouragement, Cori. It was a hard decision – at the time. From our standpoint today, it would be much easier.

      Reply
    • I don’t recommend traveling during quarantines. The report that I just heard was that business travel is way down on airlines, and those flying are going to visit family members. Very little vacation travel at this time.

      Reply

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