By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor
Our journeys seem to be about destinations, but they are about people—the people who make travel possible and who make places meaningful. We just published a story about the 95,000 people currently stranded in U.S. waters when a cruise ship becomes a hot zone. ‘‘The last place anyone wants to be during the coronavirus pandemic is stranded aboard a cruise ship, where disease can spread with lightning speed," writes Brendan Borrell. This is especially true for crew members of varying nationalities ”with no clear timeline for when and how they will all return to their home countries, some of which have closed their borders."
In a pandemic, there should be no difference in the care we offer passengers and crew members. Everyone is a traveler through life. But travel stories about hardships brought on by COVID-19 often elide the impact of outbreaks on the communities that make the tourism industry one of the world’s largest economic sectors, which supports one in 10 jobs (330 million of them) worldwide. Travel is at the heart of the global economy. For those of us who love to travel, our hearts should be with communities that are suffering.
We recently reported on how the pandemic has quieted mariachis in Mexico City. Since our report, the situation there has degraded, with hospitals in Mexico City reaching saturation point. “Over 90 percent of Mexico’s businesses are ‘microenterprises,’ small-scale operations with workers or owners completely dependent on each day’s earnings. Mariachis, cozy mezcal bars...such informal operations employ over 70 percent of the working population,’’ writes Jason Najum.
Economists predict a 31 percent drop ($355 billion in 2020) in travel spending by U.S. citizens. This will affect the people living in the world’s beloved travel destinations and the conservation efforts that tourism helps support. As my friend Andrew Evans writes, when we get back to traveling do it right by asking: “How can I make sure my adventure benefits the individuals, communities, cultures, and natural spaces I encounter? ... How can I help empower women around the world? How can I help protect the wildest bits of our planet and make sure they survive this century?"
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Your Instagram photo of the day
Memories of inflation: Ghostlike figures push up the sides of a hot-air balloon at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest ballooning festival in the world, in this archived photo. Says photographer Michael Clark: “I waited for this image for years, and painstakingly planned to get lucky with this scenario. The ghost figures in this image turned out to be the balloon crew pushing up the side of the balloon so it would inflate faster.”
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Today in a minute
Will virtual tours ever replace the real thing? During the pandemic, the bet has been that visuals and virtual tours would fuel tourism when we could travel again. It isn’t much of a bet, really—it’s all many destinations could do to keep travel front and center in a travel-less time, reports Angela Chen for Nat Geo. Are virtual tours here to stay?
Not fab: The Beatles, seeking spiritual enlightenment, made a mountainous part of northern India famous. But a half dozen foreigners, running out of money and unable to head home during the coronavirus pandemic, found a cave in the region instead. CNN reported that Indian police discovered them after nearly a month of self isolation—and moved them on Sunday to quarantine in a nearby ashram.
No tourists, please: Some mainland Americans, lured by $100 airfares, are riding out the COVID-19 pandemic in Hawaii, but residents are increasingly apprehensive, the Guardian reports. Many assume the tourists are not following the 14-day self-quarantine guidance, and will tax an already fragile health-care system. “People will always see this place as their playground,” says Troy Kane, a neighborhood activist. “And in this moment, as a Native Hawaiian, this is very reflective of many historical circumstances, where people from outside of the islands have come in and caused real harm to the native population.’’
Books and bread: Nat Geo travel book maven Amy Alipio got hungry reading Nevin Martell’s recommendations for 10 tasty travel reads, in the latest installment of our weekly Around the World in Books series. "So after I baked some bread," Alipio writes, "I turned to our readers’ tips for other books to inspire travel during lockdown." Eugenie (Oogie) McGuire praised 19th-century British explorer Isabella Bird’s A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains. Christine O’Toole calls Eric Newby’s The Last Grain Race, a “ripping yarn and uproarious first-person read from 1956.” And Jill Clardy says grounded travelers can’t go wrong with Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon. What travel books are worth reading under lockdown? Let us know!
The big takeaway
Moments of zen: Looking for calm these days? Writer Don George examines quiet refuges of rock, moss, and tree throughout Japan and the United States. Pictured: Japan’s mossy, bamboo-laden Giou-ji Temple belongs to the Soto School, the largest of the three traditional sects of Zen.
Subscriber exclusive: See a massive cave labyrinth hidden under Borneo
In a few words
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On Wednesday, Victoria Jaggard covers the latest in science. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Rachael Bale on animals, Whitney Johnson on photography, and Debra Adams Simmons on history.
The last glimpse
Minneapolis sunset: Just because you’re social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t properly watch the sun say goodnight. "It looked like an old-school drive-in movie theater,” photographer David Guttenfelder said of this sunset in the Minnesota metropolis. "People had parked their cars with wide spaces between them to watch nature's cinematic, wide-screen beauty.”