Travel-shaming is a thing now as pandemic-fatigued people skip town and post pictures and videos of their vacations


  • As the pandemic approaches the 11-month mark, people are starting to get weary of staying home.
  • Those who travel in the pandemic may be at risk of catching the virus, and also catching flak online.
  • Travel shaming happens when people receive criticism for posting photos and videos of their trips.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Before the pandemic, travel-shaming was targeted to people who didn’t travel enough. Now, with over 100 million worldwide coronavirus cases, it’s reserved for those who leave home to take a trip and boast about it, the idea being that, in the middle of a global health crisis, traveling can be dangerous.

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we travel. And the decision to travel in the first place is ultimately a personal one.

As we reach month 11 in this health crisis, more people are starting to get weary of quarantine. And with most social venues like restaurants, bars, and theaters closed, many are looking for other reasons to get out of their homes. Some are even looking to take a trip – domestic or international.

Those who decide to travel in the pandemic not only have to worry about becoming victims of the virus but also of the newest addition to cancel culture: travel-shaming.

Travel shaming happens when people receive criticism for posting photos and videos of their trips.

With coronavirus cases continuing to rise, so has the number of people traveling. In July, airlines saw more than 700,000 passengers per day over the July 4 weekend. On September 4, the Friday before Labor Day, 968,673 people passed through a TSA checkpoint.

Even as the CDC urged Americans to stay home for the holidays, more than 2 million people passed through airports on December 18 and December 19, ahead of the Christmas holiday, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

Are travel-shamers holding people accountable or are they just jealous?

Shaming is not new, in fact, it’s been around since the pandemic began.

There’s mask-shaming when someone is criticized for wearing or not wearing a face covering. Diner-shaming happens when someone is criticized for eating out during the pandemic. 

Now travel-shaming is part of the newest pandemic shaming trend.

Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, told USA Today it’s natural for people to criticize others during a stressful time like a pandemic because “we’re all looking for someone to blame.’

As travel blogger and podcaster Matt Long traveled throughout the pandemic, each trip brought a different type of shaming.

Long told The Washington Post he took a sponsored trip to the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pennsylvania, over Memorial Day weekend. Most of the comments on his posts were positive, but Long was surprised by some messages from friends.

“They said, ‘I haven’t gone further than my driveway in two months, so forget you. My daughter can’t go to swim lessons, but you’re going to a resort. No, that’s not fair,'” Long told The Post.

According to Long, he doesn’t feel ashamed of his trips, and the travel-shaming doesn’t affect him.

“As long as you’re smart about it and you’re not putting others unnecessarily at risk, I personally don’t see a problem with [traveling],” Long told The Post. “But for the foreseeable future, I think we’re going to have this travel-shaming.”

Sue Scheff, co-author of “Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate,” told USA Today there’s nothing wrong with telling family members and friends your concerns about traveling in the pandemic, as long as it’s not attacking.

“You can say, ‘Hey, you know what, Europe sounds like a great idea, however, let me give you some advice (on) how to do it safely,”’ she said. “If you can be constructive rather than combative, people will listen.'”

Earlier this month, Pope Francis condemned those who left lockdown to take a vacation as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, according to a translation of his Sunday prayers from the Vatican.

“But those people, good people, did they not think about those who stayed at home, about the economic problems faced by many people who have been floored by the lockdown, about the sick?” he said. “They thought only about taking a holiday for their own pleasure. This pained me greatly.”

A lack of stern restrictions from the previous administration made it easier for people to move freely

The coronavirus started spreading in the US in late January or early February 2020, according to a report by the CDC. And then-President Donald Trump was dismissive of the coronavirus from the very beginning, claiming it was a “hoax” to hurt his reelection. 

In an interview last January with CNBC, Trump said it was “under control” after a 35-year-old man who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, became the first confirmed case of the virus in the US.

On March 19, the US State Department issued a “Level 4” – the highest warning – travel advisory on all countries, urging Americans not to travel overseas. On August 6, the US lifted the global travel advisory, according to Reuters.

With conflicting guidance from the federal government, each state had its own restrictions for incoming travelers, while one key measure, a federal mask mandate, had yet to be implemented.

No one is “off-limits” when it comes to travel-shaming, not even the rich and powerful

Regardless of social status, travel-shamers are willing to call out anyone disregarding COVID-19 restrictions.

In November, Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler recorded a Facebook video urging residents to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel. But Adler did his video call from a timeshare in Cabo San Lucas with family and other guests.

When beauty mogul Kylie Jenner took a trip to Paris last summer – a destination from which Americans are currently barred – critics were quick to call her out.

Travel influencer Barbora Ondrackova told Insider’s Sophie-Claire Hoeller she received criticism after posting a “2020 wrap” on TikTok that people claimed was “tone-deaf.”

Ondrackova, who has over 500,000 Instagram followers, told Insider she traveled mostly for work and took safety precautions.

“I personally do not understand how a person who never met me, doesn’t know me personally, and has nothing to do with me, has the courage to say that I am breaking rules, not wearing masks, and ‘spreading COVID’ – which I didn’t get to this day – based on a 25-second-long video,” she told Insider.

“I think some people might have been jealous,” Ondrackova said of her critics. “I know that we are in the middle of a crisis and that many people are jobless right now, however, traveling is my job and if I am allowed, I will do it – safely.”

Despite two weeks of “multiple health screens” and quarantines, critics shamed Kim Kardashian for surprising her closest friends and family with a trip to a private island in French Polynesia for her 40th birthday.

The travel and tourism industry was one of the hardest-hit industries throughout the pandemic. Now that COVID-19 vaccines are being administered, people looking to travel can start planning their next adventures.

But as to whether travel-shaming will go out of style as vaccines become widely available, only time will tell.

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