Photograph by Carl Court, Getty Images
Photograph by Carl Court, Getty Images
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How is the coronavirus outbreak changing your travel?

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

“When passengers booked their vacations on the ill-fated Diamond Princess, they were likely looking forward to hanging out in a hot tub, not a hot zone,” writes Vicky Hallett in our recent article about how to stay healthy on a cruise ship (pictured above, the quarantined Diamond Princess). “The fact that the largest outbreak of COVID-19 outside of mainland China is happening on a cruise can’t be reassuring to travelers who are already skittish about health issues on boat-based trips, which are well known incubators of gastrointestinal illnesses.”

Travelers are vigilant—a quality that always comes in handy (especially when they’re washing their hands). As the novel coronavirus continues to tear through China (with more than 73,000 confirmed cases), many have had to make hard choices. Two weeks ago I asked readers if global events would keep them closer to home this year; in short order I received 80 responses—the majority indicating that they will steer clear of Asia until the epidemic is under control. Many are tracking the CDC’s coronavirus page and U.S. Department of State’s China Travel Advisory page for guidance on navigating this evolving situation.

But you can’t keep a traveler down for long. While coronavirus is sidelining many Asian journeys, other destinations will see an uptick in visitation. Tory Marks canceled a May trip to Japan and booked Switzerland instead. Robin Hunter has revised plans for a December trip to Cambodia and Vietnam and is considering Morocco instead. Sally Gasik writes, “With all the uncertainty surrounding this new virus, we have decided not to go to Vietnam. We are thinking about Hawaii instead.”

Many readers are taking a wait-and-see approach and quite a few expressed caution about health safety in airplanes, at airports, and on cruise ships (read our article!). Judith Newcom was proactive in her planning and “bought ‘cancel for any reason’ travel insurance, not knowing when the coronavirus would be contained or how far it would spread.” (FYI: Here’s how travel insurance works.) Lester Greenup is optimistic, to say the least: “Am I concerned about travel to Asia? Sure, but it'll blow over like all the rest of the scares. I'm keeping my ear to the ground for some super deals in Asia travel later this year.”

Finally, a few readers echoed Corinne Schmuck’s sentiments: “Much more than global events, I would assume that our planet’s sustainability is a reason worth thinking of changing our habits, don’t you think?” Elizabeth Mullard notes, “Unless I can find a way to jet to Asia from Boston and be carbon neutral, I’ll be exploring the U.S. by foot, car, or sailboat!”

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Your Instagram photo of the day

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Big: This outsized, gold-painted Buddha also was big with our Instagram readers—more than 420,000 people liked it. “Big Buddha” is perched among the rice fields of Thailand's Ang Thong Province. It stands 302 feet tall and took 18 years to construct.

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Today in a minute

Word: You don’t have to be addicted to Scrabble or crosswords to know the power of words. Enter Planet Word, an interactive museum opening in May dedicated to words in all forms. The Washington, D.C., museum aims to “bring language to life,” the Washington Post reports. Planet Word will join several museums worldwide to tackle language and reading, including in Toronto, the Netherlands, and Mundolingua in Paris.

The path less traveled: Why hit crowded national parks in Colorado and Utah when you could bike the 142-mile Kokopelli’s Trail? That’s what Aaron Gulley, who pedaled through the open range of cinnamon-colored sand and scraggly juniper, asks in March’s National Geographic magazine. “It’s big, wild country,” says Chris Muhr of the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association. “It’s land that’s hard to resist.”

Recline or not? A debate over comfort in crunched-together airplane seats has heated up, with Delta's CEO saying you should ask the person behind you for permission before you recline, the New York Times reports. Many commenters told the airline chief that a little more space between seats would solve the problem.

A ‘breakcation’: Where do you travel after your heart has been broken? Someplace you didn’t go with your ex, for starters. “Breakups are usually a time where a person looks to self-reflect and do some self-exploration … so that they don’t repeat the same mistake in the future,” Colleen Mullen, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells the Washington Post. Experts caution that travel won’t be a quick fix; travelers should be realistic about the time needed to heal the pain.

The big takeaway

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Beyond New Orleans: Skip the beads and the sequined heels. In small communities in southern Louisiana, Mardi Gras means it’s time to chase the chickens. There are masks and conical caps that evoke centuries-old celebrations in France, writes Hannah Chenoweth for Nat Geo. Above, festival participants run through the fields outside Eunice, Louisiana, during the Faquetaigue Courir de Mardi Gras.

Read: Here’s Mardi Gras like you’ve never seen it

In a few words

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Come back tomorrow for Victoria Jaggard on the latest in science. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Rachael Bale on animals, Whitney Johnsonon photography, and Debra Adams Simmons on history.

The last glimpse

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The museum of me: Visitors play in a ball pit of emoji at the Museum of Selfies (I'm not joking) in Los Angeles, where tourists can take pictures with creative backgrounds and learn about self-portraiture in history. The image is part of an article that examines how the idea of beauty is changing across the globe.

Subscribers can read: The shifting idea of beauty worldwide (it’s becoming more inclusive)

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Eslah Attar selected the photographs. Have an idea or a link? We'd love to hear from you at david.beard@natgeo.com . And thanks for reading!