by Joe DiFranco
Our health is our greatest gift. We are reminded of this by people in our lives far beyond the exam room of our physician’s office. Family and friends who know us best and love us most remind us of this basic fact of life. Undoubtedly, we have all heard, “Well, at least we have our heath” when sharing with a neighbor our common challenges in life. Phone calls with old friends invariably include, “So how are you? Everybody healthy?” in the first 60 seconds of the conversation. We take our one-a-day vitamins religiously. We exercise, choose meals carefully, and eat responsibly (most of the time!…). Our health is, in a word, everything.
The coronavirus pandemic has reminded us of this like nothing else in our lifetimes. In some ways, it has served to accentuate many things we have always known and done, for better or worse. It has intensified, once could say, how we protect our gift of health. We have always refrained from hugging Aunt Pat when experiencing the sniffles; now we avoid visiting her altogether. We always washed our hands when returning from our weekly shopping; now many of us wash the groceries themselves. We always respected others’ personal space (at least in North America!); now we protect six feet of their personal space.
What we find so enlightening as we continue our voyage through these uncharted waters is our evolving interpretation of a simple term like “health”. There existed, particularly at the beginning of the pandemic, a singular interpretation for many: avoid contracting COVID-19 at all costs! With an unknown, unstudied, and aggressive threat, this strident reaction, we might argue, was prudent. Increasingly greater numbers of us now are taking a more comprehensive, and we can argue more, well, “healthy”, approach to protecting our gift of health. As we learn more about the virus as a society, we also are learning more about ourselves as individuals. We are learning that mental health – never independent of physical health – deserves equal protection.
The ill-effects of remaining hunkered down are surfacing in various ways never seen. One need not be a psychiatrist or sociologist to understand the statistical and anecdotal evidence now emerging. The health benefits of feeding our social nature as humans is proving irrefutable. The need to see people, connect with people, and meet new people is real, universal, and very, very healthy. And here is the great news: we are not faced with an either / or. It is not one or the other! Getting out, stretching our legs, seeing new places and meeting new people – in a word, traveling – is not simply something we do despite our health. We do it in support of our health.
Travelers are traveling today in ways that are responsible, safe, and very healthy. Airlines have been serving people for many months with precautions that make flying no less safe than any other part of our daily life. Hotels and resorts throughout the US, Mexico, and the Caribbean have in place protocols that are undeniably rigorous and effective. Hawaii has been open for a month with great success. Even places farther afield like the Maldives, Tahiti, and the Seychelles have been welcoming people safely for many months. The health benefits are enormous.
We are emerging back into the world in a way that is not only safe, but healthy. The next time we are asked, “Is it safe to travel?”, our response might be, “Is it safe not to travel?”