COVID-19: Why I Cancelled My Travel Plans

I’m in Japan as I write this, curled safely in the comfort of an old friend’s spare room, enjoying a warm blanket and good health. This is my third trip to Japan so far, and there are a few differences to note:

  • Major tourist attractions, like Disneyland, TeamLab Borderless, museums and concerts – have been closed and cancelled indefinitely to reduce the spread of the virus.
  • If you switch on the news or open a newspaper, almost every report will involve Novel Coronavirus and its consequences: schools closing, new cases and the potential postponing of the 2020 Summer Olympics (which are supposed to be held in Japan). There is footage of empty supermarket shelves in TV but I’m yet to see anything like that in person.
  • Japanese people may have a reputation for wearing face masks, especially in winter – in the past, I could always spot a handful of people on the train wearing a mask. This time EVERYONE is wearing them, including foreign travelers. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single exposed mouth in a train or airport at any given time.

Given all of that, I’m not worried about my own personal health. From the information we have at this stage, Coronavirus wouldn’t pose a serious threat to my life unless I was very old, or in otherwise vulnerable health. Fortunately, I’m a healthy 24-year-old and don’t feel threatened by that aspect of Coronavirus. And yet – instead of carrying on to tour South East Asia as I’d planned, I’ve booked a last-minute flight back to Sydney. Why?

1: I Don’t Fancy Quarantine Or Travel Bans

Traveling from China or South Korea has proven more and more difficult with many countries placing travel bans on visitors from those countries, and it’s looking like Japan might be next on the list. With a growing number of cases and the northern island, Hokkaido, declaring a state of emergency, Japan isn’t in a favourable position when trying to travel elsewhere. I had intended to travel back to The Philippines until a friend informed me about new border questionnaires asking if you had travelled to South Korea, China or Japan in the past 2 weeks.

2: Not Keen On Being A Carrier

Coronavirus can take up to 3 weeks to show symptoms, and I’ve spent the past 3 weeks between airports, buses, trains and densely packed Tokyo. Statistically, I’m probably more likely to be carrying Covid-19 than the next person. Taking that information on board and proceeding to travel through South East Asia feels a little irresponsible on my part, and I’d prefer not to unknowingly carry an infectious virus across borders. Coming back to Australia contradicts that, but I will be taking measures to keep to myself for the next 3 weeks, and especially avoid those who are vulnerable (seeya in a while, Grandma).

3: Hospital In Third-World Countries Isn’t Fun

I was lucky enough to have had a small taste of Filipino hospitals on this trip, and it’s not something I’m racing back to repeat. This isn’t a criticism of the hygiene standards there (which were surprisingly good), but I would choose an Australian hospital – which is much more equipped and has a larger capacity – any day if I were to become sick again.

4: Seatbelts.

I’ll let Tim Ferriss take it from here. In his wise words, discussing his plans to mitigate travel: “Might that be an overreaction? Might I be misinformed? Totally. But then again, how many head-on car accidents have I had? Zero. I nonetheless put on my seatbelt every time that I drive, and we have great data on traffic fatalities.” Here is Tim’s full post if you’d like to have a read.

Travel can wait – in the meantime, you can find me where my health insurance is comprehensive and my family is near.

Pictured: some beautiful early blooming cherry blossoms – taken in Odawara, Japan a few days before I headed home.

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