Why I Can’t Feel Guilty About Traveling During a Pandemic!

Tourism is canceled! But like… all tourism? And travel? What do I do if I need to travel for WORK? The answer… maybe just GO. (very, very, carefully) This global pandemic has put nearly everyone on the planet in between a rock and a hard place. I was just starting my full-blown DISSERTATION process and guess what? My dissertation is on TOURISM. But the virus told me it was canceled. So, what do I do now?

After a few weeks of sulking and adjusting I found myself ready to face this new challenge. I planned on going to festivals, conferences, and museums during 2020. (And I was gonna have so much FUN!) But all the festivals and conferences I was planning on going to were canceled. Eventually, though, the museums opened up and I was faced with a question –

Am I willing to travel across the country during a pandemic all for the sake of my research?

The answer is YES.

YES, because this research matters to me and I can’t write about tourist spaces without visiting them in person. That just feels like cheating.

YES, because it is my job. My job right now is to conduct my research and write my dissertation. I cannot do that without GOING.

YES, because I can do so responsibly and safely. I can drive to these places, wear my mask, use my hand sanitizer, and have very little contact with anybody the entire trip. (Always bring a research assistant, though! Or just a friend who can come along for the ride)

YES, because small businesses, like local museums, are struggling and could really use the support! Some of the museums I planned on visiting were in danger of closing their doors for good. Thankfully, they have all opened back up!

YES, because I have to adjust. I cannot use this as an excuse to not do my work. (and cost me an extra semester of paying for college.)

YES, because I need to finish this damn dissertation and I’m not gonna let 2020 make me take longer than I previously scheduled.

YES, and I should not feel guilty about traveling responsibly, intentionally, and purposefully despite the circumstances.

NO, I do not feel guilty about traveling during a pandemic once the stay-at-home orders were lifted and small businesses were able to open back up at lower capacity.

BUT, if I’m being honest, this was not an easy conclusion.

I’ve gone back and forth. I did feel guilty at first like I needed to keep my trips under wraps so people wouldn’t judge me. I spent months in lockdown only leaving the house when absolutely necessary. I’ve only spent time with family members and have been very cautious of the virus and the potential danger all around us. But I made the decision to GO. And I don’t regret it.

So, we ate in my car the whole time, wiped every surface of the hotel, and carried a homemade COVID protection kit everywhere we went. (COVID KIT contents included: hand sanitizer, toilet seat covers, disposable gloves, Lysol wipes, and spray and extra masks.)

The point is….I won’t feel guilty about traveling for my research. It was something I needed to do. I didn’t travel for RECREATION, I traveled for RESEARCH.

Grad students are trained to feel like what we are doing doesn’t really matter. But, that’s a lie. It does. Research, no matter what the subject, is important.

I’m not mixing and dripping in a science lab, digging up ancient artifacts, or analyzing important government documents. And that’s okay. That doesn’t mean I have to belittle my research and feel guilty for conducting it.

I went on two research trips during a global pandemic. I gathered valuable data I needed to work on my dissertation. Writing a 200-page dissertation during a global pandemic is hard enough, I don’t need to feel guilty for trying to do my job. After all, aren’t we all trying to do our best to make it through this hell hole of a year? I was safe, responsible, and smart about my research trips.

What did you expect me to do? Sulk? Fake it? Change my dissertation topic completely? Do nothing while I pay for tuition? I don’t think so.

This is why I can’t feel guilty about traveling during a global pandemic.

(Oh and my dissertation is on MONSTER HUNTING… so I had to go out and hunt for monsters at least once. If I’m writing about cryptid tourism I have to go out and tour some cryptids!)

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Playwright, Theatre Scholar, Traveler, Horror Fan

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