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Blogger Gabby Beckford On The Difficult Decisions Made Traveling During The Pandemic


Several U.S. airlines are adding new flights, looking forward to his summer where Americans are willing and, in fact, very much want to travel. But some have been traveling, in a way, all along.

GABBY BECKFORD: My name is Gabby Beckford. I am currently in Dubai, UAE, but I am from the DMV, Northern Virginia. And I am a full-time - as of one year, a full-time travel entrepreneur.


SIMON: Gabby Beckford runs a travel blog and business called Packs Light. She especially tries to help people who don't think they have the means to travel, connecting them to scholarships, fellowships and more. She also shares travel guides and snippets of her life abroad.


BECKFORD: Today is Friday, but in the UAE, where I am right now, that means it's really Saturday - U.S. equivalent. So it's the weekend here.

SIMON: Some might think that Gabby Beckford's timing is a little off. She quit her job as an engineer to launch her new career just two weeks before the pandemic shut down travel. But Gabby Beckford was not about to give up on her dreams.

BECKFORD: One of the first things that begins to dawn on you when you can't travel is what travel really means to you. So I figured out pretty quickly that to me, travel wasn't flying 10,000 miles away from home, jumping out of planes. Like, those are great things about travel, but I do those things when I travel to connect with new cultures, to grow as a person and kind of reflect on myself. And I figured out that all of those elements that I love about travel, you could kind of detach them from the actual travel itself and bring them into your house.


BECKFORD: So, for example, one of the types of content I might make was to plan a group trip with my followers on Instagram Live, where we, quote, unquote, "traveled to Petra in Jordan." And I would have them all on their computers go to Google Earth with me, live and in person. And we'd log on to Google Earth, zoom in to Petra, and I would look up some facts to show them beforehand, like I'm a tour guide, and walk them around Petra. I was basically teasing them to be excited about travel for the future.


BECKFORD: By November 2020, I came to a point where I was offered by my friends to go on a group trip - three of us, not a huge group - a trip to Antigua. And I had a lot of back and forth. Should I go? Is the timing right? Am I safe? Will it be safe for the local people there? I had so many thoughts in my head. So I said, OK, this will be my test trip. I know that from the news that I looked up - I did a bunch of research - that it wasn't super crowded there, that they required a PCR test to get into the country, all those things.

And I ended up going, and I had a great time. It was very socially distant. The locals were actually surprisingly very happy to see us and really welcoming. And I think that is because a huge part of their revenue and their profits that they take home to their family comes from the tourism industry. And that's conflicting for me. Do I want to go and kind of support travel or promote travel at a time like this? Or do I not want to go and encourage people not to travel and these people don't get the money they need to eat? So it was conflicting. But when I went there, when I talked to them, they said, please, no, come. We're doing everything that we can be to be safe here. Our company pays for our COVID tests and our health insurance. Like, we're set up as much as we can be. Please come.


BECKFORD: My advice to travelers is just to keep a balance. There's a balance between needing to relax, needing to disassociate from the pandemic as safely as possible and doing it in a way that is conscious of others. So you can go to the beach if you choose and emptier your beach. You can go to the mall, maybe early in the morning when not so many people are there. Just kind of taking the small adjustments with your trips and daily life can make it more - safe society for all of us.


SIMON: Gabby Beckford, founder of the blog and business Packs Light. And she will be traveling safely around the world for the rest of the year.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.