My Thoughts on: Travel and Covid-19

Let me be clear about what this post will not be, it will not be a debate on whether or not Covid-19 exists. It will not be a debate on mask wearing. It will not be a debate on what we should or should not be doing. There are guidelines in place and each person needs to decide what is best for them, their family, their community. What it will be is a {probably unnecessarily long winded} write up of my thoughts on travel right now with the ongoing pandemic. 

I also want to state that the information that I have, everything that I am referring to, is Europe or European Union information. I haven’t been in the states for a year and a half and while I am reading, watching, and monitoring I do not have all the up to date information or resources. The best place to start would be with the CDC and your local state website (or the state that you are wanting to travel to). 

It has begun. The world has started opening up its doors again, beckoning travelers with open arms (and discount rates) to come and visit. And, while each country is choosing their own dates to fully open (and then again for the attractions within each country), if you live in the European Union you are probably able to travel not only in your own country, but also to other EU countries. If you live in America, you are able to travel much more of your own country than you have in the most recent months, and likewise for other countries around the world. While the pandemic is far from over it seems like a good amount of people are ready to start seeing more again and that, combined with the lowering of case numbers (in most places), is giving a good amount of us travel plans for the summer. 

In fact, we have just gotten the initial approval to travel outside of Germany (Summer Holiday here we come!) and are planning to take complete advantage of that. Now that this travel is feasible, is in our hands, and we are planning it, I got to thinking about what travel will be like with this pandemic. 

It’s a vastly different time to be living in right now and while I still think travel is incredibly important, I recognize that not everyone will feel comfortable with traveling. There are options for this, a lot of locations and tour companies are offering virtual traveling (check out Through Eternity- they are great with a lot of the Rome and Italy in general locations), or you can follow along with various bloggers and youtubers, reliving their travels through old videos or blog posts (which is also a great way to support them). Not traveling has also given us all a chance to see what we value and what is important in our home and day to day life. It’s given our world (and I’m talking in an environmental sense) a chance to rest and recuperate for a little bit. We’ve seen a lot of good come out of this lockdown period. 

However, it seems like things are very rapidly changing in a way that we didn’t entirely expect. I’ll be honest, it seems like once the transmission rate lowered then everyone went a little wild. This is to be expected (I mean we have all been basically locked up in our homes for the better part of 3 months and some change), but it all moved rather quickly. It is also still changing hour by hour, day by day. Here in our part of Europe, I felt like it rather quickly moved from nothing to almost everything (still no large gatherings/festivals, sporting events, or nightclubs, but we can now do just about anything else) and then once most things opened up, the “world became our oyster” once again. 

And travel is important. It’s important for us as individuals living in this world and it’s important for countries who rely on tourists to boost their own economies. However, I also feel like it’s important to weigh out the different options we have, do the research on how to travel (should you choose to) in a safe manner, following all the guidelines set out, and make sure we are making an informed decision for ourselves. Travel will most definitely look different in each place from wearing masks, to longer lines and/or smaller crowds. Dining on vacation may look different as will a lot of tourist hotspots (such as theme parks or museums). It definitely won’t be travel that we are used to, which is something else to factor into your plans. 

For us, we’ve made the decision to go and travel. There are several factors at play with our choice, none of which I will be getting in to right now, but ultimately we will be heading out to travel this next month (and beyond). We have been following all of the recommended guidelines in terms of lockdown and quarantine, limited groups and interaction, physical distancing, mask wearing (which is a rule here), and have been closely monitoring the numbers and information that has been put out across the board. I’m not justifying our decision (because again- this is personal and individual to each person), BUT I am in a place where we feel that we can continue to follow the recommendations and do a bit of traveling at the same time. 

So, what will you choose? Are you going to start traveling or do you not want to?

Round the Kettle ep.25 : In which I Speak Up and Share My Perspective

I am going to preface this by saying a couple of things. One, this is probably going to be all over the place. I’m working through my thoughts and feelings as many others are. Two, I don’t have the answers, I don’t have the words, I don’t know. Three, this is incredibly new to me, which is very indicative of my privilege in this area and I acknowledge that. Finally, Four, I want to champion the voices of those who are directly impacted. I fully believe that right now is a time for us to listen to those impacted, work alongside them. While it is powerful for us all to share and speak up, I would ask everyone to also champion/share/project those voices.

I don’t know if this is going to be any good. I don’t know if this is going to be helpful. I don’t know if this is a complete mistake. I just know that I needed to get all of this off of my chest and that is one facet of my blog. If there are any corrections, anything you would like to add, any tips/advice or such, please comment below and share.

I’ll be honest, I don’t speak about politics or world affairs or current events very often. The reason is twofold. One part is that I quite simply like to live in my happy little world, being a reprieve from the world that we live in currently. I think that in a lot of cases, we all need that little reprieve and I like to provide that little space for that.  I’m conflict avoidant by nature (any other Type 9’s feel this more now than ever?) and I’ve always just kept to the sidelines. Talked within my family to do what I could there and kept moving. An immense amount of privilege to be able to do that. The second part (and more important part) is that most of the time I don’t know WHAT to say. I don’t know HOW to help. I don’t want to offend those who are directly affected by doing/saying/projecting the wrong thing. So, again, I would say things with my friends and family, but largely keep silent. Always listening, always learning, always trying to understand.

See, that’s something you should know about me. I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to understand. So that when I do speak I do so from a place of knowledge. I want to use my little voice in the best way possible and so, I worked from the sidelines.

Something else you should understand about me is that I can, by and large, see both sides of the conflict. Now, let me explain before you go making judgements on what I am saying. When I am learning and listening I like to stay impartial. I like to know all of the facts, all of the stories, all of the information (both fact and what is construed) before I speak out. Not because I don’t feel passionate one way or the other, but because when I speak I want to do so from a place of knowledge. One could say that maybe that stops me from speaking out earlier, which in turn creates a domino effect, but I would disagree. I think by listening, by understanding each facet or side to a problem we can start to move forward to a solution. To effectively use our resources and create real change.

And right now? Right now, I feel helpless. I feel like I have so much to say, but no way to say it. I want to scream into the void. I want to hold everybody. I want to run away from it all. I want to see a different world. I want so much for things to change. I want people to feel like they can just be, just live. I’m watching scenes from across our country from a continent away and I feel frustrated. I’m seeing outrage expressed for a multitude of different reasons and I feel frustrated. I see the media simultaneously reporting the news and inflaming problems. I see people twisting information, construing facts, to support their own beliefs. And I see peoples own voices, directly impacted, on both sides, saying the same thing in different ways.

We are a country on the brink. We are teetering closer to the edge than we have in a long time. And it is up to us, to all of us to try and forge a new way forward. We need change.

What you are seeing in Minneapolis is a community in turmoil. So many have felt like they have no other way to make their voices heard. They’ve been peaceful, they’ve been “violent”, they’ve been anything they can be and still don’t see any meaningful change. You see the heart and soul of people who are tired. This is important to see. It’s important for us to recognize what is going on. It’s important for us to listen to voices on the ground (both in the community and in the police force- remember both sides have something to say and often times most are working towards the same goal).

We are also seeing a lot of protests going on across the country. We are seeing various “styles” (I’m cringing at that wording, but I don’t know how else to call it) of protest. Take note. Listen to what they are trying to do. Let’s work together to create a new world. I see A LOT of people wondering how the community in Minneapolis got to where they are at…well they started like the communities in other parts of the country and they didn’t see any meaningful change. They felt like they did it the “right way” and nothing happened, so what else are they going to do? They want things to change.

Again, we are on the brink. We are in a unique position where we can initiate a real change. A position where we can come together to listen and make changes. We can also teeter off into another civil war. The choice is ours.

Listen. Listen to the voices all around you. People are talking. People are sharing. All you need to do it listen to begin to understand. Don’t ask questions. Don’t put the responsibility of your education on others. Take responsibility to begin to understand.

Don’t try to speak for others. We need to champion the voices who are or have experienced these injustices. Again, listen to what they are saying. Share their own voices and take your queue from them. I see so many people who are trying to share content, to be an ally, but who in doing so are silencing other meaningful voices. Rather than assuming you know what people are hoping to achieve with their voices, listen to what they are saying about what they want to achieve.

Understand that different people are processing this differently. Personally, I believe that a lot of the change happens in our own homes, in our own friend groups, in our own communities. It starts with us raising our children differently, with us speaking up at our community events, with us all doing our part to change our thought processes, our society. It takes each of us doing our part, however little, to create change.

And learn. Learn from others. For me, that means reading. I’m bringing a lot of own voices content into my reading list for the next couple months, both in a fiction and nonfiction sense. I’m cultivating a list of both current and historical works to read (because looking backwards is important to not make the same mistakes moving forward). I want to create real change moving forward. I’m trying. I’m learning.

My Thoughts On: Traditional/Mainstream Media, Social Media, and the Rumor/Gossip Mill

I always said I was going to avoid these topics, but the times…the times call for them so here we go. Please note that this is going to be more catered towards the current Coronavirus situation, but can easily be applied to anything else…like I don’t know, maybe when the election politics start to really begin or when your neighborhood or friend group has a problem.

Untitled Design 48

I’ll be honest, I don’t really have any answers when it comes to our news and social media these days. I just found myself getting increasingly frustrated with what I was seeing across the board from the traditional media, to influencers, to our local community (aka gossip mill). I needed to ramble my thoughts out and figure out what I can do for myself about it.

What a world we live in today where we can learn just about anything at the drop of a pin. We get notified the moment things happen (sometimes even before they happen), we can share things at quick speeds with friends and family, and ultimately we can be inundated with information round the clock. It can be a truly wonderful thing and something that I have definitely been incredibly grateful for (especially living so far away). However, most good things also have a negative aspect and in this case, that negative aspect can be damaging.

Obviously with Social Media we have talked about how damaging it can be with cyber bullying and such, but that is not what I am going to be referencing today. Today I am going to be talking about what I think some of the other dangers of this rapid media, online world that we live in today.

Danger #1 Bias

Here’s the thing we are all biased. From a very young age we start shaping our mind and how we see the world around us. Our parents play a role, our community plays a role, our friends, where we live, what we see every day, where we go to school, all of these are factors in what our outlook is on the world. This outlook leads (or rather is equal to) our bias. So, we all have a bit of a bias when it comes to…well life. It’s just who we are. This doesn’t mean we are close minded or not open to learning, it’s just important to recognize that we all have a bit of bias.

Now, wouldn’t that make sense to then extend to our news outlets, social medias, friends, etc.? Now, I know, this may sound like such common sense, but I feel like it is so important to keep in mind. We hear about how certain news outlets are biased, but it’s important to remember that most of your news outlets are going to have some sort of bias. From who they hire, to what they publish, to how they advertise what they publish, there is a bias to just about everything. That’s just the nature of the world that we live in.

As with anything, I would check a variety of sources of anything that you read. Obviously, government entities are a good place to get the information from, but if that is not possible (sometimes it won’t be), then looking at various sources is your best bet. Make sure you take the time to fully educate and understand a situation before speaking about it…which brings us to Danger #2.

Danger #2 Misinformation

I think this is hands down one of the biggest dangers of living in the world that we are in today. Information moves so quickly and often times moves faster than the official authorities can actually put the information. For a specific example of this, we can look no further than the current crisis that we are in. In our community information about a confirmed case of Covid-19 was circulating across the community before the official channels could even say something. This led to not only misinformation going around (A LOT of that was going around), but a heightened state of panic started to break out due to that, AND the general public was then calling for answers from the officials in charge.

Now, two things from this…

  • It’s important to wait for information from an official organization. We could debate the merits of sources and of what we hear from our “people”, but at the end of the day it’s all hear say until we get full answers and information. Often times what we are hearing from those around us are only mild versions of what the facts are, that have been distorted by the amount of people that they have heard from. This is obviously different depending on your actual source, if you are hearing from a significant other who is right in the location in the center of the action that is different than someone who heard it from someone who heard it from someone. In most cases it is just better to wait for the official statement to stop any sort of misinformation going around.
  • A lot of times when a government organization or official organization (think Military, CDC, WHO, etc.) puts out information they have done so after collecting as much of the accurate information as they can AND exploring different solutions for whatever is going on. They present the facts of the situation and offer up what they are doing/recommending to combat whatever is going on. Often times, if you are getting upset with information NOT being put out, think about what they are trying to do. The first goal should be to collect the facts and implement immediate options for the situation. The first goal is not always notifying the public, this is how panic, and misinformation occurs. Honestly, would you rather be told “Oh hey, here is something serious going on” OR “Oh hey, here is something serious that has happened, BUT we have already taken steps a, b, and c AND here are our recommendations for the next little bit. I know I would rather the second.

If you are not getting answers from an official organization at the time that you are looking around I would either recommend just being patient OR, following the earlier advice of looking at various sites. Don’t go with the first article you read, but rather look across the board at various sites, read various articles, and draw the best conclusion you are able until you can get an official brief. Don’t prevent what you are finding as facts (unless it comes from the aforementioned official organization), but rather as what you have found for your own purposes. Personally, I always recommend that others do their own research and bounce things off of several friends in different sectors while we wait for information.

Danger #3 Too Much at One Time/Being Too Involved

We all know that too much of a thing may not always be good and the same can be applied to media/social media/etc. With just how easy to get the news, to see what others are doing, to be connected, it can become very easy to fall into the trap of being too connected.  It seems to be a fine line as to when the news and being connected is too much. I’ve definitely experienced this and have found that at times, less is more. With the constant news cycle, it is easy to get sucked into always needing to know, to be connected, to have all the information, BUT I find that in some ways this is counterproductive and dangerous. Unfortunately, I don’t really have an answer or solution to this as I think this is just the way our lives trend right now. The only suggestion that I have is to take time away. When you start to feel that way, just step back, step away and take a day to be not so involved.

So, what’s the answer? Again, I don’t really have one. I feel like this is going to be a revolving door issue as we continue to deal with a new vastly online world that has become even more online in the past couple months. I don’t know if any of this has made sense, or if you’re even still reading this (if you are-thank you!), but it’s been a little over 2 months of seeing these Dangers pop up consistently and I felt like something needed to be said. So, here’s me adding my small voice to the loud crowd.

Some Thoughts on Consumerism

Untitled Design 6

You know what’s a funny thing? I heard or participated in a similar version of what I’m about to write about around 3-4 times in the past week. And to be fair- it’s kind of opened my eyes a little bit to something that I had felt, but hadn’t articulated.

Here’s how it all started…

I, and a couple of friends were having a conversation about some of the differences and struggles about living in Germany as compared to living in the United States. A question was posed: “On your weekends, what did you do?”  My friend and I sat there for a couple seconds, wondering if it was rhetorical or a trick. “Uh, watched football?” “Ran errands?”  We responded. “Exactly. We watch TV and we shop on our weekends.” We hesitantly agreed and then the magic happened…”We have to realize that there is more to the world than Walmart”.

“We have to realize there is more to the world than Walmart”.

Maybe it’s not Walmart, maybe it’s Target (be honest- it’s probably Target), maybe it’s Nordstrom, or Marshall’s/TJ Max’s, maybe it’s boutique stores. You can interchange Walmart with just about any store and come up with what fits you and a true statement. And with a lot of these stories we have the ability to do this 24/7. The internet has made the possibility of shopping literally wherever, whenever  I mean, how many times have we all just “amazoned” an item?) and often times stores then try to compete with that by staying open later on weekdays and opening up all weekend. We are also consuming high levels of media. In homes, TV’s tend to be more on than off, we are almost always on our phones in some way, not to mention computers and tablets.

This boggles my mind. How is it that we manage to spend our free time doing these things? How is it that we are so inundated with this idea that we need to buy all the things, watch all the things, be a part of this lifestyle that we forget that there is so much more to life. There is more to the world.

I’ve been 100% guilty of doing this. I was someone who spent most weekends at home, in my comfiest chair, TV on, book in hand, phone never too far away. When we would leave the house 60% of the time it would be to go to a store of some sort. Oftentimes a trip to the grocery store would also involve a trip to the Target shopping center. I bought a lot of things on Amazon (some we needed; most we didn’t “need”) for the convenience. We had the option of just clicking and buying whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. So, why not do that?

Have you ever heard…”Go into Target for one thing, come out with a dozen other things and not the thing you needed”? THIS. This is what I’m talking about. The idea that just going to Target to do a quick shopping run and buy ALL THE THINGS and this is the cool norm now? That’s wrong. Whether you can afford it or not, there is more to life than just one big long shopping trip.

When we moved to Germany things were vastly different.

For starters, there are a lot more outdoor markets in the different regions. Fresh produce from right down the road is always available for purchase. Fresh seasonal flowers (some of which you can cut yourself) are around. In town grocery stores are smaller than they are in the States and have smaller carts/are intended for smaller trips. The festivals tend to feature more local artisans than not.

Stores close EARLY (and I mean like anywhere from 5-6PM) and are all always closed on Sundays (except for Shopping Sunday which happens every couple months). Life here is focused on the in-person connection. Meals last for hours at restaurants, allowing people the time to really forge connections and conversations. There are not a lot of people that you see on the phone while out in public. It’s a vastly slower pace of life, without that massive jump to buy. There are a lot more outdoor activities, from hikes to biking to canoeing to paddle boating.

There is also a much bigger focus on travel here. Most people spend their “free money” and savings on traveling, seeing new places and learning about new things. We’ve quickly caught that travel bug and that is where a lot of our budget goes toward. We have been finding that we did not actually take enough weekend trips previously and how easy those types of trips really are.

It’s such a different way of life and one that I’ve really found loving. I’ve quickly settled into this slower pace lifestyle. My shopping has been cut down quite a bit (due in part to convenience and in part to just general shipping times for online shopping) and I’ve really found myself evaluating a couple of lifestyle choices. I’ve been wanting a bit of a change for a while and Germany has kind of given me the push to make that change. These are changes that I want to keep whenever we do go back stateside as I find them to be such positives and something that I think more people could benefit from.

We need to make a point to spend less time shopping, less time watching TV, less time lounging in our own home, and more time getting to know our world. Putting the digital world aside on the weekend and living in the real world. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with watching TV, or having the occasional trip to the shops (beyond grocery shopping), but the way that we have started treating our lives in the States is kind of scary to think about.

Is the 24/7 convenience of being able to shop nice? Yea, but how many times are we really needing that convenience? Is this something that can wait till the next day? Better yet, is it something that we really need or something we think we need because of the mentality?

Let me know your thoughts on consumerism as I’d love to have a discussion about it. This is something that has been itching in the back of my mind, this difference in culture and mindset, and I’d love to speak about it with others!