Anti-vaxxers may be public enemy No. 1, but holier-than-thou, can’t-mind-their-business travel shamers might be even worse.
Last month, Pres. Biden restricted travel from South Africa — along with seven other countries — where yours truly happened to be on safari.
US Customs could have busted me for bringing in biltong — South Africa’s much tastier take on beef jerky — but then couldn’t cuff me for packing Omicron: I had a negative COVID test to prove it.
Still, that didn’t stop the Uber driver who picked me up at the Billings Airport from giving me a 1-star review when he learned where I was flying in from.
“The first thing I’m going to do when I get home is shower,” he spat, visibly disturbed by my masked, vaccinated presence in his backseat.
I told him I’d tested negative. Still, he never offered to help with my luggage. He didn’t open the door for me. But he did break a speed record, and after dropping me off he peeled out of my neighborhood so fast our HOA president would have had a heart attack.
But it’s not just travelers — unlucky enough to be in South Africa when Biden dropped the hammer down — who are getting hate.
A New York-based blogger who recently traveled around Central America while six months pregnant told The Post that judge-y female friends ganged up on her after learning of her trip.
“There were some acquaintances who shamed me about the risk to my health and the health of the baby,” said Olga Maria, founder of Dreams in Heels. Meanwhile, in Guatemala, she encountered people aghast that she was traveling alone. They asked her if her husband had given her permission.
But things get way uglier online: If COVID doesn’t kill you, the comments will.
“I know tourism is important, but I think tourists need to do the research about the places they are visiting and know who they can putting [sic] at risk especially with two new strains of the virus popping up …” wrote one Instagram user after learning Maria was in Mexico, a country still associated with Zika.
Maria said that she always responds politely, explaining how she’s doing everything in her power to stay safe while traveling. But other travelers are taking a different approach: They’re simply not posting.
Vanessa Gordon said that she didn’t feel comfortable sharing pics from her October trip to Italy — one of the countries most associated with COVID early on in the pandemic.
The risk of triggering travel shamers was too much. After all, her travel companion was 88 years old.
“My grandmother said that it was the best travel experience she ever had,” said Gordon, publisher of the Hamptons’ East End Taste magazine, whose Instagram has 53,400 followers.
Worse still, her husband has elected to stop traveling altogether for now — not because of the health risks, but because of the blowback.
“The second something about where we were currently in the world was posted on my social media, my husband would immediately get a call from his dad and an argument would erupt,” said Gordon while on vacation in Mexico, a destination which the CDC advises Americans to avoid. “[But] I can’t be afraid. I just can’t live my life in fear.”
But it’s not just posh vacations that are at stack. New Yorker Harsh Patil, founder of travel company Xplore.earth, just backed out of a trip to India to see his recently widowed mother.
“I had planned this trip to bring her back with me to the US for the holiday season,” said a pained Patil. “I wanted to change things up for her and bring some well-deserved cheer.”
He was prepared for the strict quarantine requirements but he wasn’t ready for the tsk-tsking he receive for planning to go to the country with the second-highest number of confirmed cases (behind the US, of course).
Patil, who led a trip to Africa in November, is still nursing fresh wounds. He’s tired of being ostracized for his perceived proximity to the baleful bug. One of his close friends, a doctor, is ghosting him. People at a birthday party he recently attended abruptly abandoned ship when they heard where he’d been.
“It didn’t matter that I tested negative four times,” said Patil, who was left sitting alone at his table. “The insult was obvious.”
Patil said that it’s ironic for Americans to get on a high horse about where it’s safe and unsafe to travel when the US leads the world in COVID deaths per day.
“Most of these people will themselves be traveling this month to places with far more sustained caseloads of COVID infections.”
That haters are going to hate is a given, but Patil suggests: “Why not start in their own backyard?”