So, the new variant of Covid has not succeeded in completely derailing my trip… yet. Crossed fingers and toes, it doesn’t manage after I’ve begun.
I had some very hard thinking to do when we started hearing about Omicron. I mean, a brand new, super-infectious form of Covid that wasn’t successfully defended by vaccines, and that was overwhelming southern Africa… six weeks before I was scheduled to leave for southern Africa? I could’ve made that up in a story and any good editor would tell me that it was too pointed and unrealistic. It looked tailor-made to force me to stay home. And the first thing I asked my travel agents at the time was whether or not I could put off the trip again without walking away from my money completely. When they told me yes, the second thing I asked them was how long I had to decide.
But they gave me a few weeks to make a final decision, bless them; and so I sat tight and waited for more information before I did anything else. Eventually we got it. Yes, Omicron is super-infectious, and yes, the two-dose vaccine doesn’t seem to do much to keep people from catching it. But the three-dose version does more, and I’ve had my booster shot. And both appear to be much more effective against serious illness than they are against simple infection.
My parents don’t want me to travel. Neither does my doctor. I admit those factors made it really hard to decide. But from what I can see, it’s not a whole lot safer in Seattle than it is in Africa by this time — Omicron is everywhere. It was never an “African variant” in the first place; the best we can tell, it was brought to Botswana by European diplomats. And it’s already the dominant variant in most of the United States, including my city.
From what I can tell, my biggest points of risk will be in the airports on the long haul flights coming and going, and I won’t be in those for long. I’ve already successfully gotten through a multi-day flight with several airports during this pandemic, with the whole family in tow. None of us got sick. We were super disciplined about masks and sanitizing, and that tells me that I know how to be. That was the Dominica trip last year, and I’ll tell you about it sometime.
I think it’s fair to hope that I can once more be disciplined enough to stay safe — especially since I have private seats this time. I’m flying in business class, in solo seats with little barriers around them for privacy, and that’s about as safe as flying is going to get right now. During the actual tour, I’m going to be outdoors in the open air, in safari camps that hold only a few people. And my agents say the safari camps are really careful about keeping everyone masked and socially distanced… their livelihood is dependent on keeping travelers safe and comfortable.
The final factor is simple. I’ve already put off this trip for two years. And I’ve got no real reason to be certain that it’s going to be better next year than this year. We didn’t know about Omicron till a few weeks ago; I certainly couldn’t have predicted a year ago that this January would be an especially difficult time to travel.
So I would be lying if I said that I’m not scared. Heck, I would be scared even if I didn’t have a good reason — anxiety disorder, remember? I know that there’s an absolutely realistic, even if pretty low, chance that I’ll get sick despite all my carefulness. Even seriously. I know that I might end up regretting this decision.
But I’m going anyway. Sometimes, you have to stack the odds as hard as you can… and then roll the dice.
Wish me luck