travel planning Travel Research Uncategorized

My 3-month travel plan is Amazon Prime and Netflix

a man sleeping with his eyes closed
John Malkovich – The Sheltering Sky

Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel and Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1991 film The Sheltering Sky came to mind as I considered clicking the purchase button for airline tickets to Amsterdam in June. The story centers on Port Moresby and his wife Kit, a married couple originally from New York who travel to Algeria, accompanied by their friend Tunner.

Tunner: You couldn’t leave tomorrow even if you wanted to. Can’t get any information about how to get out of this place. No buses, not even a fruit truck. Nobody speaks English. Anybody for a nightcap?

a man sleeping with his eyes closed
John Malkovich as Port Moresby in The Sheltering Sky

Bottom line is Port Moresby dies from typhoid while in a remote village in North Africa. His death leaves his wife Kit stranded as a stranger in a strange land.

Italy Cancelled

In January I originally planned to be in North Italy this week in March on travel from Rome to Zurich.

Coronavirus exploded in Italy over the past two weeks and convinced me that travel over the next few months is simply not worth the price, at any great travel deal price.

A cluster of cases were later detected, starting with 16 confirmed cases in Lombardy on 21 February,[4] an additional 60 cases on 22 February,[5] and Italy’s first deaths reported on the same day.

Italy as of March 9 has over 9,172 confirmed cases and 463 deaths.

a screenshot of a medical report

Only 17 days since the virus outbreak in Italy to more than 100 deaths per day.

The latest from the European centre for disease prevention and control is that 14,890 cases have been reported in the EU/EEA and the UK: 

Italy (9,172),

France (1,412),

Spain (1,204),

Germany (1,139),

Netherlands (321),

United Kingdom (321),

Sweden (248),

Belgium (239),

Norway (192),

Austria (131),

Denmark (113),

Greece (84),

Iceland (65),

Czech Republic (40),

Finland (40),

Portugal (39),

Ireland (21),

Poland (17),

Romania (17),

Slovenia (16),

Croatia (12),

Estonia (10),

Hungary (9),

Latvia (6),

Luxembourg (5),

Slovakia (5),

Bulgaria (4),

Malta (4),

Cyprus (2),

Liechtenstein (1) 

Lithuania (1).

As of 10 March, 532 deaths have been reported in the EU/EEA and the UK: Italy (464), France (30), Spain (28), United Kingdom (5), Netherlands (3) and Germany (2).

The Guardian – March 10, 2020.

The data coming out of Italy over the weekend is what created severe doubt in my mind that we would be able to travel through seven countries around Europe in June and July without restrictions, flight changes, cancellations or quarantines. The recurring thought plaguing me was self-identifying as a Port Moresby-type traveler seeking to find places that take me away from this American cocoon. Contracting coronavirus in Europe, possibly followed by weeks of sickness or even death would fuck-up my well-planned travel itinerary. Needless to say, my wife would be pissed off at me.

Think about this!

As a loyalty program analyst I enjoy playing with numbers.

Based on CDC flu data for 2019-2020 I came up with these statistics to make an elementary comparison of Covid-19 to the seasonal influenza virus Trump makes comparisons to for downplaying the severity of the outbreak as seen in his tweet.

a screenshot of a medical report

Since the data above is a significant range estimate, I calculated a rough comparative analysis of what the numbers look like for Covid-19 based on the limited data in the public realm.

If Covid-19 were to infect 49 million people over the next 5 months and 10% needed hospitalization, there would be 4.9 million hospitalizations compared to 620,000 flu hospitalizations. If 5% needed hospitalization, then 2.5 million hospitalizations, many needing ventilators to treat severe acute respiratory syndrome. There are currently about 800,000 beds in U.S. hospitals.

If 2% death rate among Covid-19 infections, then about 1,000,000 deaths would result in USA alone, primarily among the elderly population 65 and older.

Covid-19 has the potential to severely impact our health system in the USA.

The Director for the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, Robert R Redfield, MD is testifying to Congress as I write this piece. He just stated his opinion right now is air travel passengers from Europe are the greatest contributor currently spreading Covid-19 to new areas around the USA.

I have read articles from several travel bloggers over the past week stating they are not concerned for their own health and have no plans to stop travel. Youth and hubris create a sense of invincibility to sickness. Mitigation of Covid-19 spread is not in the forefront of thought among travel addicts.

My current 3-month travel plan is seeing other parts of the world through Amazon Prime and Netflix films. I am currently enjoying a Polish TV series Ultraviolet.

My next ticketed flight is San Francisco to Copenhagen in July. Time will tell if that trip happens.



  • P T March 10, 2020

    I have always appreciated your thoughtful analysis of situations. I commend you for this. My thoughts exactly. We have to act for the collective greater good in this one.

  • Jimmy March 10, 2020

    Ric, I’ve always appreciated your levelheaded analysis. We have a long-planned SFO-LHR trip in 10 days. On the one hand, if we have to get stuck somewhere the UK seems like a good choice. On the other, well, what you said. And how much do I trust the current administration to not just shut all the borders one day?

  • Carl WV March 10, 2020

    I retired a little over a year ago. While I’ve done a lot of travel, it’s been mostly in the US, with some to Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, etc. Hawaii twice has been my most distant travel.

    I’ve built up a good stash of points and miles, and his was to be my year to venture out to Europe, etc. So much for my timing.

    Much like you I’m now in a wait and see model

  • Carl WV March 10, 2020

    Mode that is.

  • Boraxo March 10, 2020

    I mistakenly assumed you were going to write about using Netflix and amazon Prime overseas, which is highly problematic unless you have a VPN.

  • PSL March 11, 2020

    I think many seniors like myself are reassessing travel plans not only for now, but over the long haul. I know my zeal for international travel has waned, at least for now, and I’ve definitely ruled out any cruises in the future.

  • Larry March 11, 2020

    I respect your opinion and decision but it is definitely not mine. All tweets and theories and speculations aside, we have real data and experience from China, the first country to be infected. Infections shot up quickly, it peaked quickly (in about two months) and it is dropping significantly as expected. The rest of the world is a couple months behind. There are currently just over 80,000 cases in China– in a country of 1.4 billion people- an infection rate of .00006% of the total population! Let’s say it keeps gong up a bit and hits .00007. That’s equivalent to around 25,000 cases at its peak in the US, with the vast majority being non-fatal. So you are talking about around a thousand deaths of the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Assume containment efforts here are worse than China and double or triple the numbers. Nowhere near a million. Not even remotely close. The assumptions and calculations above are just ridiculous. This kind wild overreaction and hysteria is what is sinking the stock market and causing global panic and unnecessary disruptions to everyone’s lives. I plan to avoid travel to China and Italy and any other place with current outbreak for a few months. Other than that its business as usual.

  • Ric Garrido March 11, 2020

    @Larry – China’s response to the virus has included strict social distancing, more than a month of city-wide lockdowns of Wuhan and surrounding areas, extensive public monitoring of citizens, as well as various methods of punishment and rewards to encourage adherence to such measures.

    The efforts have been praised by the World Health Organization, which concluded in a report last month that China’s “bold approach” had “changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic”. It added: “In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile, and aggressive disease containment effort in history.”

    Feb 16 – CNN
    Nearly half of China’s population — more than 780 million people — are currently living under various forms of travel restrictions as authorities race to contain the spread of a deadly virus.

    On Sunday, Hubei announced new measures, including province-wide traffic restrictions on all non-emergency vehicles and the closure of all non-essential public venues. Already there are reports of residential compounds being completely sealed off, with no one able to go in or out except in rare circumstances.

    The cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, Shiyan and Xiaogan have completely sealed off all residential complexes and communities, while the use of non-essential vehicles on local roadways is also banned. Residents in each city receive daily necessities from neighborhood and community committees as they are not permitted to leave their homes.
    Some of South Korea’s measures have been controversial. For example, people who are confirmed to have coronavirus are tracked by GPS, and a live map of their locations (without their names) is available for anyone wishing to avoid them. That may seem invasive, but it sure sounds better than having surveillance drones take people’s temperature and spray disinfectant everywhere, as officials are doing in several parts of China.

    Democratic governments in Europe probably provide a better indicator of how the virus spread and response will be in the USA. Of course, we do not have a socialized medical system, which will likely compound our response in the USA.

  • Julie March 11, 2020

    I’m with you, Larry. The average age of those who die in US is 82 — that’s 82 years of age with underlying severe medical problems. That population ought to stay home. The panic is what’s driving problems and stressing our medical community. Thank you CNN for running near-constant “pandemic” alerts. Japan’s population seems largely unconcerned, and it’s business as usual there. We won’t be traveling to China any time soon, but haven’t canceled our upcoming cruise. Waiting for prices to drop even more before booking more.

    Rick, CNN and The Guardian are not the most balanced sources to rely upon.

  • Ric Garrido March 19, 2020

    Update 9 days later:

    Italy 35,713 cases, 2,978 deaths including 475 deaths in past day. Spain 15,014 cases with 640 deaths. EU total cases and deaths surpassed China’s total yesterday. China had no new cases reported yesterday.

    EU closed borders and restrictions on travel in most member countries. Baltic nation citizens returning from Germany cannot cross Poland land borders. Must take plane or ship to repatriate.
    UK has delayed implementing shelter in place rules after most of EU has these restrictions. UK seems to working on a ’28 Days Later’ plan for their Covid-19 epidemic.

    Australia and New Zealand closed borders.

    IN USA – borders with Mexico and Canada closed for non-essential travel.

    The COVID Tracking Project
    U.S. Totals = 8,131 positive Covid-19

    Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center
    U.S. Totals March 19 = 9,415 positive Covid-19 cases
    150 deaths.

    NY Times March 18
    Younger Adults Make Up Big Portion of Coronavirus Hospitalizations in U.S.

    New C.D.C. data showed 38% percent of patients sick enough to be hospitalized were aged 20 to 54.

    But the risk of dying was significantly higher in older people.

    A comment I heard from one front line doctor is death is possibly not the worst outcome. Living decades with severe lung damage might even be worse.

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