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Up The Road: More On Responsible Travel 2020

Kyle Sullivan, US Bureau of Land Management


This week I’d planned to head out on the first leg of our Great California Road Trip. But listener feedback convinced me that we need to talk more, first, about responsible travel.

One challenge, in putting together my four-minute show about California every week, is that I just can’t fit it all in. No matter what I do. And especially when I’m wading into complicated stories or complex issues—such as, how to travel in the time of coronavirus. On complicated subjects I tend to start a thought in one place, one week, and finish it in another. So, I count on listeners to remember what I was talking about, before—admittedly a big ask, especially when most folks can’t catch every show.

After a long coronavirus timeout, I started Up the Road again with two episodes on traveling responsibly—speaking generally, in the first one, at the end of July, and more strategically in the follow-up, in early August. Then I announced the Great California Road Trip series, more or less my “best-of”s for safely distanced travel.

So, I was surprised by a long email taking me to task for suggesting that people travel at all in remote or rural areas. Because: “In this time of COVID we should not be going into rural counties (or even leaving our counties, for that matter, for recreational purposes), where we can pass along viruses when we eat in their cafes and restaurants, stay in their hotels, Airbnb's, and inns."

I can understand this moral position, and why someone might embrace it. But I don’t share it. Assuming that travelers practice the same basic COVID-19 safeguards they follow in their own communities—wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands—and I assume all that about public radio audiences—there is no evidence that “outsiders” pose an inherent threat to rural communities.

But there is substantial evidence that many areas of California depend on tourism dollars just to survive. Economic development considerations, in fact, are also a moral consideration, which makes supporting local economies a cornerstone of responsible travel, internationally as well as domestically.

That said, I don’t want people to go anywhere, or do anything, if that poses a threat to themselves or others. Or if it even feels uncomfortable. Don’t do it. It can wait. Travel is definitely optional, which I’ve tried to say multiple times now. Besides, armchair travel is a noble pastime—for now, making mental notes for future trips. In fact, economic development aside, imaginary travel may be the most responsible travel of all, with absolutely no carbon footprint!

This side discussion on responsible travel has encouraged me to make one change, starting with this show. To help listeners explore the broad and very big topic of responsible travel, beginning today look for links to previous shows that focus on particular aspects of responsibility—an add-on at the bottom of each new show’s published script.

And by the way: If you miss an episode of Up the Road, or just want to listen again, find the latest episodes on the NSPR’s home page newsfeed. To access the entire archive—all, or almost all, previous shows—under the website’s Programs tab, up top, simply scroll down to Up the Road.


Up the Road Encourages Responsible, Safe Travel


Here are previous Up the Road episodes that explore why we should travel, how to do it responsibly, and how to travel responsibly now, in the shadow of COVID-19. Of course, not everyone should be traveling now, depending on your likely vulnerability to the deadliest effects of this new virus. But everyone who does travel needs to do so responsibly, to prevent viral spread.

Up the Road: Why Travel?

Up the Road: Why Travel in Northern California

Up the Road: How to Travel

Up the Road: Why Local Travel Matters

Up the Road: Travel That’s Not About You

Up the Road: Heading Up the Road Again—Responsibly

Up the Road: 2020 Travel Strategy


Kim Weir is the founder of Up the Road, a nonprofit public-interest journalism project. She researches, writes, and hosts Up the Road, a radio show and mini-podcast about California co-produced by North State Public Radio. Kim got her start as a travel journalist in 1990 with the publication of the first and original Moon Handbooks Northern California, a surprise best-seller. Six other Moon books on California soon followed. She is a member, by invitation, of the venerable Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Kim earned a BA in environmental studies and analysis, with an emphasis on botany and ecology, and also holds an MFA in creative writing. She lives in Paradise.
Matt Fidler is a producer and sound designer with over 15 years’ experience producing nationally distributed public radio programs. He has worked for shows such as Freakonomics Radio, Selected Shorts, Studio 360, The New Yorker Radio Hour and The Takeaway. In 2017, Matt launched the language podcast Very Bad Words, hitting the #28 spot in the iTunes podcast charts.