A recent loosening of my employment and relational commitments has afforded me the opportunity to do some unencumbered international travel. My intention is to spend a month or more in a single locale so I can get to know the culture and learn from their perspectives. This is something I've wanted to do for a while, and this would be the perfect time, but... COVID-19.
How COVID-19 changes things
New failure modes:
- I get turned away or quarantined upon arrival in my destination due to outbreaks in the US, particularly in the Bay Area (which has the most cases in the US so far, not to mention being a densely-populated metropolitan area with a lot of ties to China).
- There's an outbreak in the country I'm visiting and it becomes difficult, expensive, or impossible to return to the US due to travel restrictions.
- I carry COVID-19 to a new location and become responsible for a new outbreak.
- It becomes more difficult to socialize at my destination due to fears around COVID-19.
- I contract COVID-19 during travel due to the cramped/crowded conditions.
- I develop pneumonia from COVID-19 in a country where:
- I don't know anyone who can take care of / watch out for me.
- I don't know how to navigate the medical system and/or don't have medical insurance coverage.
- The hospitals are insufficiently resourced to be able to handle my case.
- Cheaper flights due to other people's travel cancellations.
- Escaping the Bay Area during the possible pending outbreak.
- Should I go?
- Where should I go?
- Is there poor thinking or relevant information I haven't considered?
Should I go?
- Any of the bad scenarios listed above. I realize some of these can be mitigated, but not all.
- I have traveled abroad before, but always with a group that had established connections and a clear itinerary, so this is a self-stretching exercise to begin with.
- I am a software engineer, so I can probably get a job that permits full-time remote work, enabling me to do this at a later time. But I will still have the obligation of work, and I may also become committed to relationships that make this much harder. I may not get another chance this good.
- Timing: It seems the best policy is to get out of here ASAP while the likelihood that I am infected remains minuscule and travel restrictions/quarantines can be avoided. But the longer I wait, the more information will come out about the virus, and the more time I will have to plan for contingencies.
Where should I go?
My criteria for places to visit:
- Spanish language (strong goal to improve my proficiency)
- Decently developed (low crime/disorder, and importantly in this case: good hospitals)
- Hot, dry climate (poorly-suited for viral transfer)
Current plausible candidates include Spain and the west coast of South America, though outbreak in Spain seems likely now that some travelers to/from Lombardy have tested positive. Absent COVID-19, my first choice would be Buenos Aires, but the climate isn't as hot or dry. That said, maybe I'm overweighting that in the decision (last I heard, the magnitude of the weather effect is very uncertain). I also worry that the particularly handsy and cheek-kissy South American culture could be a much more important factor in viral transmission.
I am currently very conflicted about this but leaning towards stay. I'm sure there's more clarification I could do around this, so I welcome further inquiries. Thanks for your thoughts!