Opinion | Think before traveling this summer

You should do your best to stay indoors during quarantine, but if you do go out, there are some important things to take into consideration.


A tent sits along the Iowa River on June 10, 2019.

Signe Nettum, Opinions Columnist

I have family on the west coast. I can only see them once a year, usually during the summer, and our trip only lasts a week. Due to COVID-19, our plans have drastically changed this summer. While traveling is certainly not the best of ideas, sometimes it is necessary to move.

As some states begin to lift pandemic regulations, while others are shutting down after resurgences of new cases, and some are even banning those traveling to their state or requesting travelers to social isolate when reaching their destination, a question keeps ringing in my head. 

Do I travel somewhere this summer? 

As a baseline question, the answer should be no. No, stay in your house, do your part, decrease the spread, and flatten the curve. 

But sometimes the scenario is not as simple as staying put. Family members might be on their last breath, and those who do not live near them might need to travel. On a similar scale, being cooped up in one place for a long time — whether you are in a safe, healthy place or an abusive one — is unhealthy for mental health. 

A little bit of travel can improve your mental health; even with COVID-19 looming over our heads, if you take the proper steps — like everything involving COVID — you can still enjoy simple pleasures such as getting out of your house or even your town for an afternoon or two. 

Interviewed by Psychcentral, Margaret J King of the Center for Cultural Studies and Analysis has said “With a short list of activities each day, freed up from the complexities of ongoing projects and relationships, the mind can reset, as does the body, with stress relief the main outcome.”

TIME magazine reported the side effects of staying inside all day: “Staying indoors all day may fuel anxiety, insomnia and that too-familiar sense that humans just aren’t meant to spend the whole day inside.” 

While I hope most of you are getting out at least once a day, I can admit that there have been days where the only time I feel the sunshine is through a window in my bedroom. 

TIME also said “Sunlight aside, a series of experiments from the University of Rochester found spending time outside in green, natural environments can boost your vitality—a feeling of physical and mental energy—by nearly 40 percent. Spending time indoors has the opposite effect.”

In the end, making sure you get enough outside time or enough time away from your usual surroundings is a good step in maintaining your mental health. 

Now, back to traveling. I do not mean on an airplane — even before COVID-19, those things were a petri dish of germs, I don’t think I ever went a trip without getting sick. 

I mean cramming yourself and three other family members into a small car and driving who knows how many hours across the state. If you do your diligent research of Airbnbs or camp grounds — make sure there is a place to go to the bathroom, even if it is outside — and you want to take the risk, be my guest. Taking a small two day break away from the house in a new environment has its benefits. Even a simple walk on empty trails boosts mental health and decreases stress — as long as you see nature around you. 

Please, be safe during this time. But also take care of your mental health. Sometimes, the simplest thing to do is to pitch a tent in your backyard and sleep there for a night.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.