3 Ways to Cope When You’re Banned From Traveling

Travel bans are costly, frustrating, and even painful. You planned your trip months ago, but a travel ban is forcing you to stay home. Or maybe you can’t return home after a vacation; you’re banned from traveling because of a health pandemic such as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

How do you cope with a frustrating travel ban? When I wrote What to Do When They Won’t Let You Board the Plane I wasn’t banned from leaving Nepal, but I was banned from entering India. My experience at the Kathmandu Airport — discovering I couldn’t board my flight to Varanasi, a trip I’d planned for months — wasn’t due to a travel ban, but it was hugely disappointing.

Whether you’re banned from traveling home after a vacation or dealing with the problems a trip cancellation brings, you’re left with one question: What do you do when you can’t leave a city or country because of a travel ban?

My neighbor’s daughter is stuck in Florence, Italy because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). I know there are thousands — maybe even hundreds of thousands — of travelers coping with similar circumstances. The travel bans in Italy, the U.S., China, Hong Kong and other countries aren’t just disappointing. They’re stressful, frustrating, and anxiety-provoking.

How Do You Deal With a Travel Ban?

If you’re banned from traveling home from a European vacation in somewhere like Italy, you may not be getting much sympathy from friends and family. I have to admit my first reaction to my neighbor’s daughter being stuck in Italy was a mildly sarcastic, “Oh, what a drag, Emma is forced to stay in Florence. Poor girl.”

Which leads me to my first tip for dealing with a travel ban: Be prepared to respond to ignorant people like me. People who just don’t understand how frustrating and painful it is to be banned from leaving even the most beautiful city or country, going home, and resuming normal life.

1. Surrender to – and creatively mitigate – the costs of being banned from traveling

My neighbor pointed out the financial, academic, social, professional and personal costs of being stuck because of a travel ban:

  • Missing the last month of university classes before final exams (Emma is a fourth year global economics student on an exchange program in Italy)
  • Possibly missing final exams themselves, jeopardizing her university graduation
  • Letting her boss and coworkers down by failing to show up for her scheduled work shifts, which puts her job at risk (her supervisor understands and is sympathetic, but needs to hire a worker to take Emma’s shifts)
  • Borrowing money to pay for additional nights at the hotel and eating meals not budgeted for
  • Living with the uncertainty of not knowing when the travel ban will be lifted so she can return home
  • Worrying about catching the COVID-19 coronavirus disease (Emma isn’t in the official at-risk population, but she is coping with health issues)
  • Struggling to find ways to renew her prescription medication. If she doesn’t get a renewal of her medicine, she will get sick. Her immune system will be compromised, which increases the risk of her catching the corona (COVID-19) flu virus
  • Worrying about finding healthcare in Italy if she does contract the corona virus (there aren’t enough beds or ventilators in Italy to keep up with the demand)
  • Feeling homesick and missing her boyfriend, parents, dog and being at home

I didn’t realize how expensive, stressful and scary coping with a travel ban can be — even to travelers who are stuck in beautiful countries or cities such as Florence, Italy. I suspect there are other costs associated with travel bans, especially for parents traveling with children or elderly travelers with health concerns. 

How do banned travelers get the financial, medical, and other types of help they need? If you have practical tips or creative ways to mitigate the cost of a short or long-term travel ban, please comment.

2. Express your fears, frustrations and anxiety in healthy ways

How Do You Deal With a Travel Ban?
Dealing with the stress of travel bans and corona virus

If you’re banned from returning home after a vacation, write or talk about your pain and frustrations. Expressing your stress and anxiety will help you process your thoughts and cope with your emotions. You’ll also educate people like me, who have never experienced a travel ban and don’t understand how painful it can be.

Are you stuck on an ocean liner because your cruise to somewhere like the Caribbean or the Greek Islands is suspended? When I was on Hong Kong Island last month I met a couple from Washington, DC. They were in Hong Kong — the port their ocean liner was leaving from — for a couple extra vacation days before the cruise ship departed.

During our walking tour, the cruise planner texted and said the cruise would be delayed for one night. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) had been in the China news for about a month; the cruise ship captain wanted to take extra health precautions before departing. A few days later, the cruise ship was quarantined because a passenger tested positive for the flu virus. Nobody could get off or on the ship for two weeks.

It is crucial for you to find healthy ways to relieve your stress and anxiety when you’re banned from traveling. If you suppress your stress, you compromise your health and immune system. This increases the risk you’ll get sick — not necessarily from corona flu virus, but in general. Your body is similarly at risk if you live in chronic anxiety and stay immersed in your fear or stress. Finding healthy ways to express your feelings will help keep you emotionally and physically healthy.

Do you have a travel journal? If you’re stuck in a city or on a cruise ship you don’t need to the best travel journal – but writing is a healthy way to express yourself.

3. Expect nothing and prepare for anything the travel ban might bring

Next month I’m planning to go to the TravelCon media conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference itself is only three days, but I’m going for a full two week trip because I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans! My flight is booked, and it’s nonrefundable — I didn’t get flight insurance. I booked the Pelham Hotel for my first two nights; it, too is nonrefundable. And of course the travel conference is nonrefundable (though I believe the organizers said that if they have to cancel the conference, they will either reschedule or the tickets will be valid for next year’s TravelCon).

I have no idea if the current travel ban will prevent me from flying from Vancouver to New Orleans in six weeks. I also don’t know if I’ll be stuck in New Orleans after the conference is over. Maybe I won’t be permitted to re-enter Canada, or maybe the United States will be sealed shut. Then I’ll be coping with — and writing about — the financial and other costs of travel bans. 

how to deal with a travel band
How Do You Deal With a Travel Ban?

And right now, in this present moment, it doesn’t matter to me. I have no expectations, I am open to anything, and I choose to live in joyful curiosity and acceptance! Above all, I trust God. I travel in faith whether I’m walking my dogs in the neighborhood or taking the Dukoral vaccine to prevent traveler’s diarrhea. Trust God, but tether your camel :-)

Whatever happens is fine with me.

How do you deal with travel bans?

Maybe you’ve been planning a trip to New York City or vacation in Venice for months. A trip to America or Italy has been on your travel bucket list forever…and a travel ban has forced you to cancel your flights, hotel booking, and car reservations. Maybe you even bought tickets to a Broadway Show in New York City, or are scheduled for an ocean cruise from Genoa, Italy to the Amalfi Coast.

Your thoughts on coping with a travel ban — big and little — are welcome below. If you have any tips or tools for travel that transforms you, please do share those. We love tips and tools :-)

If you’re stuck somewhere and can’t go home because you’re banned from traveling, read Are You Traveling Alone and Feeling Homesick?

Travel in faith, and be transformed.


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