In 2019, there were 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals globally – and, given that the planet only holds 7.7 billion humans, this figure alone suggests that a lot of us are travelling. The World Tourism Organization reports two major motivations for this – “travel to change”: the quest for local experiences, authenticity, transformation and “travel to show”: the desire for Instagramable moments and destinations.
I think both trends are fuelled by curiosity about the unknown, the unfamiliar. Humans have always looked for new experiences, ways to live, things to show to others. Travel magazines are strewn with articles about visiting “overlooked” and “unknown” places – and this curiosity has a long history.
Throughout his Antarctic explorations, Apsley Cherry-Garrard yearns for “unknown” places. Mary Kingsley describes the “sheer good pleasure” of canoeing down an “unknown” West Africanriver by moonlight, and delights in places “not down” on maps. A character in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness describes how “inviting” the “blank spaces on the earth” seem and tells us about his hankering for “the biggest, the most blank”.
Philosophy can also be about exploring the unknown. In one of his groundbreaking books on idealism, 18th-century Irish philosopher George Berkeley likened his investigations to a “long Voyage”, involving difficult travel across “wild Mazes of Philosophy”. Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume offers similar reflections halfway through his most radical sceptical work A Treatise of Human Nature.
Travels on a ‘boundless ocean’: Scottish philosopher David Hume.
He imagines himself as a sailor who has struck shallow water, narrowly escaping shipwreck. Safety tempts him to remain perched on the rocks, rather than venturing out onto “that boundless ocean, which runs out into immensity”. Yet Hume decides he will put out to sea again, in the same “leaky weather-beaten vessel”. Continue reading
Last year was the third year in a row Canada has broken records in its own tourism industry, Canada’s national marketing organization Destination Canada says, which saw an estimated $104.9 billion generated in tourism expenditures (a 2.3 per cent increase from 2018).
These numbers are up from 2018, which welcomed 21.13 million travellers to Canada and contributed $102.5 billion to the economy.
“The record number of arrivals shows once more that tourism is a strong and sustainable sector that benefits business and communities, large and small, across Canada,” Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages Mélanie Joly said in a statement. “By working together, we are inspiring travellers to visit more parts of the country in all four seasons, to experience Canada’s diversity and inclusivity, to taste its culinary delicacies and to discover its Indigenous peoples.”
Dr. Carmen Dolea, Head of the International Health Regulation Secretariat at the World Health Organization (WHO), answers questions about staying safe while travelling. If you are travelling or attending any large public gathering, these are the latest recommendations from the WHO »
WHO advice for international traffic in relation to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV with Dr Carmen Dolea, Head, IHR Secretariat at the World Health Organization
So far, the main clinical signs and symptoms reported in this outbreak include fever, difficulty in breathing, and chest radiographs showing bilateral lung infiltrates. As of 27 January 2020, human-to-human transmission has been confirmed largely in Wuhan city, but also some other places in China and internationally. Not enough is known about the epidemiology of 2019-nCoV to draw definitive conclusions about the full clinical features of disease, the intensity of the human-to-human transmission, and the original source of the outbreak.
International travellers: practice usual precautions
Coronaviruses are a large family of respiratory viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). In case of symptoms suggestive of acute respiratory illness before, during or after travel, the travellers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share travel history with their health care provider.
Public health authorities should provide to travellers information to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections, via health practitioners, travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at Points of Entry. Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) advice for the public published on the WHO website contains WHO standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses, to protect yourself and others from getting sick, to stay healthy while travelling.
WHO technical guidance on surveillance and case definitions, laboratory guidance, clinical management for suspected novel coronavirus, home care for patients with suspected novel coronavirus, infection prevention and control, risk communications, disease commodity package, and reducing transmission from animals to humans is available on the WHO website.
Travelling solo is an incredibly rewarding experience, but it can be scary to start. I did my first solo bike adventure when I was 21, and while I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and broke down (physically, mechanically, emotionally, etc.) a lot, it was one of the most important growth experiences of my adult life.
This December I went to the Nepalese Himalayas on my Shand Bahookie for a solo adventure. It didn’t all go to plan, but I had an amazing time. And it was still an important growth experience. It always is.
The hazard isn’t where you might suspect it is. Mingling in the airport with hordes of travelers—grabbing empty bins in security, touching hand rails on escalators, ordering food at counters, and sitting near the gates—is far riskier than breathing air near someone you hear sneezing or coughing a few rows away.
Airplanes have been designed to pump fresh, filtered air through the cabin ever since the days when smoking was allowed on board. (Otherwise all those planes would have been worse than the smokiest dive bar.) Commercial jets pull in half their cabin air from the high-altitude environment, where it is cold and sterile, while the rest of it is cabin air recirculated through HEPA filters.
Air exchanges occur 10 to 15 times an hour, and the air flows laterally across the row, not from the front of the plane to the rear. Because of the way the air loops, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigates potential infectious transmission on a plane, public health officers generally contact passengers in a zone just two rows in front of and behind the sick passenger.
But the pilgrims still come, in larger and larger numbers. If not explicitly the divine, what are they seeking? There are definite worldly benefits to pilgrimage. Almost everyone loses weight, for example (although not like I did — starting my Camino on the heels of a bout of stomach flu and thus in a radically fasted state, I lost 10 pounds in a week). Some treat it like a physical-endurance challenge, such as the shredded and tanned couple we met in Santiago de Compostela who had completed the entire 500-mile walk, starting in France, in just 24 days.
Some seek relief from emotional torment, and there is evidence they can find it: A study published in the journal Psychological Medicine reported that those who went on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, (another major Catholic pilgrimage destination) experienced a significant decrease in anxiety and depression, sustained for at least 10 months after the pilgrims had returned.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety. With that said, the vast majority of people are good. Recognize the fear mongers. Be properly informed. Be aware of your surroundings. Be respectful — you are a guest in their country. Don’t attract unnecessary attention — you probably already stand out enough.
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