Summer 2020 vacations will be remembered as the most unique (for now) for most of today’s generations, but not for all.
Some time ago, rest was not associated with international travel, beaches, or exoticism. In fact, those who suffered the worst of destinies in the first wave of this pandemic in Spain experienced a war, the post-war era, and, in many cases, emigration – both theirs as well as that of those around them. For these people, vacations were an opportunity to reunite with loved ones in their places of origin, mostly villages in rural areas, which today are known as “empty Spain.” Vacations felt like their childhoods, with traditional meals and folk dances at the celebrations held on August 15.
This now-distant or non-existent memory for most of us was rapidly dismissed by the new generations. Young people, who had grown up in a different context, understood vacations as a special time, exclusively for their own enjoyment: first they went to the beaches, then on international trips, ecotourism, to the mountains; each individual had the ability to design their vacations according to their budget and situation. It was hard to not find a vacation destination where you could spend your days of rest with offers that bombarded us and were just a click away.
Performing an exaggerated, categorical comparison, we skipped going back to our place of origin in order to visit other destinations; it was easy to travel to other countries in a hyper-connected world. However, this new way of doing things had its downside: without realizing it, the risks and vulnerabilities were also increasing.
Everything we learned from the places we visited, in most cases, was not achieved in a way that respected either the environment or the societies of those destinations. Remember that years ago, before this health crisis, there were already demands for quotas to limit tourism so as to eliminate the pressure mass tourism put on the historical downtowns of important cities, or on unique natural environments. However, most of those who traveled at “low cost” prices did not understand the need to control an activity that “left such a nice taste in our mouths.”
We had become accustomed to stoically managing our vacation budgets, and adapting them to the economic reality we were experiencing, to the seriousness of the crisis that each generation was facing. But we were not prepared to awake from a bad dream and face the cruel reality that the expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic had to do with global interconnection and the lack of preventative measures in the face of such levels of population flow.
Today, in a year in which we experienced spring through our windows and we suspected it had started to get hot only because the school year was ending, we have faced the most unique summer of any in the age of markets, as stopping the virus depends on us, and our civic responsibility.
Without a doubt, planning this year’s summer vacation has been more complicated than ever. Many decided to stay at home because with the economic instability they’re experiencing, they don’t feel up to spending money. Others sought out nearby destinations known to them or those around them, thereby reducing their feeling of risk and vulnerability. There have been those who, seeking rest, do not feel up to long journeys, and found in rural areas the peace the city cannot give them; and so the days will go by, choosing less risky destinations, and with much less social activity than what we were accustomed to before. And if, to all this, we add the fear, the possible exposure to the virus for at-risk individuals and dependents, It didn’t seem like we were looking at the best of the vacation prospects.
It seems the key to returning to our real normal, and not this hybrid that is unbearable for all, is for the population as a whole to accept the need to reduce group exposure to a minimum, move in small nuclear family units, look for leisure options that weren’t as popular before, and reduce physical contact with family members and close friends.
I joyously received the campaign by the General Nursing Council with all of the recommendations that must be followed to safely get together with family members and friends. At a moment like this, for which none of us was prepared, it is essential for national and international institutions to endeavor to prepare individuals and explain to them what they can and must do to continue to socialize with precautions.
It is great to know what we can’t do, but it is also necessary to have conversations about what we can do and why it should be done that way. Individuals need socialization and it must be done with the highest guarantees; if we decide to improvise, the results are not always appropriate.
Perhaps we should use this moment to reflect upon what our real needs are, where our longed-for happiness lies, and what type of world we want for everyone. Without a doubt, it would not be a bad idea to reformulate some of our values to be more collective, more pro-community, equality, justice, and sustainability, to name a few.
Rebeca Cordero Verdugo is professor of Sociología Aplicada at the Doble Grado en Psicología y Criminología