Super User

Super User

Fully vaccinated Globe Aware volunteers do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19, according to new guidance from the CDC. Currently, that means two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine as well as a two-week wait for their immunity to kick-in.


Fully Vaccinated Americans Won't Need to Quarantine After COVID-19 Exposure, CDC Says

Travel quarantine rules still apply regardless of whether a traveler has been vaccinated or not.

BY ALISON FOX
FEBRUARY 11, 2021

Fully vaccinated Americans do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19, according to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new recommendation, released on Wednesday, exempts those who have received the full dose of one of the approved vaccines from having to self-isolate if they are exposed. Currently, that means two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine as well as a two-week wait for their immunity to kick-in.

Individuals must also remain asymptomatic since their exposure but should watch for symptoms for 14 days.

However, the CDC recommends Americans only take advantage of this guidance if they have received their vaccine within three months of being exposed because it remains unclear as to how long vaccine immunity lasts.

covid travel cdc

"Although the risk of [COVID-19] transmission from vaccinated persons to others is still uncertain, vaccination has been demonstrated to prevent symptomatic COVID-19," the agency wrote, noting "symptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission is thought to have a greater role in transmission" than asymptomatic cases.

"Additionally, individual and societal benefits of avoiding unnecessary quarantine may outweigh the potential but unknown risk of transmission," the agency added.

Vaccinated international travelers are also not exempt from quarantine or the CDC's requirement to get tested before boarding a flight to the U.S. Vaccinated healthcare workers should also continue to quarantine, the agency advised.

 But just because vaccinated Americans don't have to quarantine, the vaccine doesn't exempt them from following health protocols like mask-wearing and social distancing.

"At this time, vaccinated persons should continue to follow current guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, following CDC travel guidance, and following any applicable workplace or school guidance, including guidance related to personal protective equipment use or [COVID-19] testing," the agency wrote.

The CDC also recommended double masking or opting for a tightly fitting mask on Wednesday, with findings showing that doing so can reduce the spread of COVID-19 by 95.6%.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

A recent BOTT survey shows that 52 per cent millennials are eager to take an international holiday this summer as COVID-19 vaccine ushered in hope that the end to the pandemic is on the horizon. Locations such as Thailand are high on the list of preferred destinations as well, where Globe Aware runs two of our volunteer vacations.


 

52% millennials keen on international holiday this summer: Survey

Feb 06, 2021

Financial Express

Things are looking up for 2021, as 52 per cent millennials are eager to take an international holiday this summer as COVID-19 vaccine ushered in hope that the end to the pandemic is on the horizon, according to a survey by BOTT (Business of Travel Trade) Travel Sentiment Tracker.

With vaccination drive against COVID-19 gathering steam across the world and restrictions on movements easing gradually, many millennials are keen on taking an international holiday this summer, according to a survey.

Things are looking up for 2021, as 52 per cent millennials are eager to take an international holiday this summer as COVID-19 vaccine ushered in hope that the end to the pandemic is on the horizon, according to a survey by BOTT (Business of Travel Trade) Travel Sentiment Tracker.

The survey was done online with over 6,000 millennial travellers across the country during January 2021.

As per the survey, 75 per cent millennials would prefer to go to foreign destinations with fewer COVID-19 cases while 71 per cent would opt for destinations with defined protocols for the pandemic to avoid unnecessary hassles.

The industry finds survey findings encouraging for the travel industry. The findings, they believe, will generate more confidence in an industry, which is currently disappointed by being ignored in the Union Budget.

“However, inbound and outbound are two verticals of travel that go hand in hand. We hope the government will look into opening up borders in India soon, and so will other countries,” Travel Agents Association of India president and the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality vice chairperson Jyoti Mayal opined.

The survey also showed that 62 per cent millennials would prefer Thailand, followed by Singapore (58 per cent), UAE (52 per cent), Maldives (46 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (40 per cent) in the short-haul category of foreign destinations.

Malaysia and Indonesia are chosen by 39 per cent millennials each Sri Lanka (36 per cent), Bhutan (31 per cent), Turkey (28 per cent) and Seychelles (24 per cent) coming close among the top preferred short-haul foreign destinations, it noted.

In the long-haul category, the top-ranked international destinations include France (53 per cent), Germany (51 per cent), Australia (50 per cent), Switzerland (49 per cent), the USA (46 per cent), Britain (45 per cent), Canada (44 per cent), Japan (38 per cent).

The ongoing vaccine drive coupled with dropping COVID-19 cases in India has instilled confidence in the travellers, especially the millennials, according to Outbound Tour Operators Association of India (OTOAI) President Riaz Munshi.

“The road to complete recovery is long and tough but we are definitely seeing an uptick in trip-planning and requests right now for the holidays and into 2021, as well as far-flung international trips. Many of our members are planning trips for 2021 and 2022 because they know demand will be high in popular destinations eventually,” he added.

The survey showed that 40 per cent millennials are open to spend between Rs 2-5 lakh for their holidays while 35 per cent would spend between Rs 5-10 lakh.

Around 34 per cent millennials would like to book luxury hotels with limited inventory while 25 per cent each would go for boutique and budget properties, it said.

Travellers are still looking for places with fewer crowds, it added.

COVID-19 hasn’t made dating easy but virtual opportunities have arisen to help couples spend time together. Why not treat you and a loved one to a Globe Aware virtual experience, you can enjoy a romantic date by making cocktails live from South Africa, or even cooking Pad Thai together, live from Thailand!


Virtual date ideas for a COVID-19-safe Valentine’s Day

Virtual Date Night

BY SWETHAA SURESH
FEB 8, 2021

COVID-19 hasn’t made dating any easier. As people adjusted to a new lifestyle, relationships and in-person dates around the world have been put on pause. Though Valentine’s day will be different this year, many virtual opportunities have arisen to help couples spend time together. A perk of virtual dating is that it is designed to fit a college student’s budget and schedule, since they rarely involve additional costs or travel time.

Virtual tours (museum and world)

Confined to the indoors with limited options to hang out, many college students are missing out on the perks of being in New York City. If you’ve missed exploring the Museum Mile hand in hand with your loved one, some museums around the world have got you covered with their online, interactive exhibits. Here are some great ones to check out:

Google Arts & Culture allows you to explore artists, mediums, and art movements (including 360-degree videos that capture every angle). The Louvre is offering tours that show off its collections while preserving the architecture and views of the physical location. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has also gone virtual, allowing you and your partner to explore millions of specimens behind your computer screen. With the National Women’s History Museum’s online Women in NASA exhibit, you and your partner can discuss your views on anything from astronomy to history.

valentines day

If travel is more up you and your partner’s alleyway, some countries have turned their biggest attractions virtual:

If either of you loves history, visit the Palace of Versailles to explore a wealth of history, from how French royalty lived before the revolution to how the palace hosted the formal end of World War I. China’s terracotta warriors are an impressive sight even from across the world. Hike through Yellowstone without worrying about winter temperatures or injuring yourself in a hot spring.. While we may not be able to tour the International Space Station in-person regardless of the pandemic, put on 3D glasses while watching this video to feel like you’re really there. If you love Harry Potter, explore the Warner Bros. Studio in London with a quick stroll through Diagon Alley.

Building a virtual world together

There is nothing like working together with your partner to create something great. Some great platforms to build virtual worlds together include Stardew Valley, Minecraft and Animal Crossing. Each has its own perks, but can be boiled down to creating the perfect world, alone or with your partner.

Stardew Valley and Minecraft are both available on computers, mobile devices, and consoles including the Nintendo Switch. They both host servers where you can build a multiplayer world completely online with your partner. Animal Crossing is available on the Nintendo Switch, and allows other players to visit your island with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription.

Teleparty and chill

Teleparty (once Netflix Party) has expanded to cater to Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and HBO. The free platform offers synchronized playback to anyone who joins the link, alongside a live chat. Unfortunately, in order to use Teleparty, all users must have subscribed to the platform in question.

For those without subscriptions, there are free synchronized streaming platforms, such as Squad. If you’re not sure which TV show or movie that both of you would enjoy, we recommend The Queen’s Gambit, Money Heist, The Witcher, Vagabond, and The Umbrella Academy.

Boardless game night

Playing games is a great way to learn about your partner. Life can be hectic as a college student, and game nights can help you take a break from the stress of upcoming midterms or approaching deadlines. Over quarantine, a graduate of Pomona College put together this list of games, which are categorized by genre and include the recommended number of players.

Make a meal together or order each other food

The way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. While you may not be able to cook together in-person, you can certainly cook together online, whether it’s by playing Cooking Mama or by video calling while making the same meal (or your own). If neither of you are particularly kitchen-savvy, you can simply order each other some delicious meals. Then, you can have your significant other try your favorite meals and restaurants while you try theirs, or try new food from cultures and restaurants that you normally might not have ordered from. Some great delivery sites include Postmates, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash. If you live internationally, try foodpanda, or ask your partner what their preferred delivery method is. Once you both have your food, dig in together and chat as you would on a date!

If you don’t have a date for this Valentine’s Day, try some of these ideas with your friends (even if they’re on the other side of the globe) for Galentine’s Day!

Staff Writer Swethaa Suresh can be contacted at swethaa.suresh@columbiaspectator.com.
Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.
Follow Spectrum on Twitter @CUSpectrum.

In an effort to limit the spread of new coronavirus variants, many countries are requiring incoming travelers to show a recent negative test. For our U.S. volunteers, Globe Aware recommends two types of tests. The first is a test that detects the genetic material of the virus or a rapid test that looks for viral proteins called antigens.


 

Which COVID-19 tests are required for international travel?

It depends on where you’re going.

In an effort to limit the spread of new coronavirus variants, many countries are requiring incoming travelers to show a recent negative test.

The U.S., for example, will accept results from either a test that detects the genetic material of the virus — considered the most sensitive type of test — or a rapid test that looks for viral proteins called antigens. The tests must have been taken no more than three days before departing for the U.S.

Health professionals usually give more sensitive lab tests via a nasal swab that take a day or more to yield results. Rapid tests have a turnaround time of about 15 to 30 minutes and are increasingly used to screen people at testing sites, offices, schools and nursing homes. For some rapid tests, users can swab themselves at home.

child covid mask

With either test, the U.S. requires electronic or printed proof of the negative result from a medical laboratory. That means that even if you plan to get the faster test you’ll likely need to see a health care provider who can provide documentation.

England has a similar setup, accepting results from both types of tests. But health authorities there are imposing extra requirements, including that the tests meet certain thresholds for accuracy. Travelers are told to check to make sure their test meets the standards.

After countries instituted varying requirements, officials in the European Union agreed to standardize requirements across the 27-nation bloc.

Tuesday, 02 February 2021 16:14

Sustainable Travel 2021

National Geographic Traveler (UK) has included Costa Rica as part of its Best of the World 2021 list, which Globe certainly agrees. One of our most popular volunteer vocation locations, we offer three sustainable programs in this tropical paradise.


 

Best of the World: eight sustainable destinations for 2021 and beyond

From carbon-neutral cities in the making to destinations offering a blueprint for sustainable nature and wildlife tourism, these are the pick of the places that aim to safeguard our precious planet’s natural wonders.

BY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S GLOBAL TRAVEL EDITORS
PUBLISHED 17 NOV 2020, 12:42 GMT

city 3525093 1920

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Europe’s sustainable city pioneer

The widespread inequalities revealed by the pandemic have ignited global interest in making cities more resilient, equitable and healthy. One example, Copenhagen, is set to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.

“In Copenhagen we insist on green solutions because they pay off,” the city’s mayor, Frank Jensen, says in We Have the Power to Move the World, the sustainable transport guidebook for mayors produced by C40, a network of cities committed to addressing climate change.

Denmark’s capital has long targeted sustainability. The city has an efficient public transport network, and all its buses are switching from diesel to electric. CopenHill, a waste-to-energy power plant, meanwhile, produces clean energy for 60,000 families and heats 120,000 homes. In 2019, it opened outdoor play areas to the public. These included a rooftop green space and a climbing wall.

Planet-friendly urban planning — such as the cycle paths that over 60 percent of residents use every day — has resulted in Copenhagen having five times more bicycles than cars. A tour on an electric bike easily takes in the city’s most well-known places, from Nyhavn, a former industrial port now lined with restaurants and bars, to Rundetaarn, a 17th-century astronomical observatory housing exhibitions.

costa rica

2. Costa Rica

Celebrations for the pioneer of sustainable tourism

So, you want to escape? Imagine a country that’s one-quarter national park, a place where you could hike in a rainforest in the morning and surf tropical waves in the afternoon. Imagine an adventure Eden where sustainability was a strategy long before the world caught on, where jaguars prowl in the jungle, harpy eagles fly and Jesus Christ lizards walk on water before your eyes.

That country is Costa Rica. 2021 is the bicentennial of its independence, an anniversary it aims to celebrate by becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral country. Already one of the greenest nations, conservation has been cultivated here since the 1970s, with drives to protect areas, close zoos and reverse deforestation.

For a deep immersion, plot a course for the Osa Peninsula at the tip of Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast; an astonishing 2.5% of the Earth’s biodiversity is squeezed into 0.001% of its surface area. This was one of the last frontiers to be inhabited in Costa Rica, when the discovery of gold prompted a wave of migration in the 1930s. Today, the gold rush has gone, and much of the region is accessible only by boat, horse or hiking trail.

Some 80% of the peninsula is protected; much of it in Corcovado National Park, where visitors can follow guided trails with local groups like Caminos de Osa or Dos Brazos de Rio Tigre. Based out of luxury and backpacker jungle lodges around Drake Bay, activity options range from rainforest hikes to mangrove swamp tours, whale-watching, snorkelling or diving at Isla del Cano and surfing at Cabo Matapalo.

2020 will be remembered as a year with few upsides, but a desire to re-connect with nature and the great outdoors was certainly one. James Thornton of Intrepid Travel, itself a carbon-neutral travel company, says: “Time outdoors after a year of lockdowns and increased screen time will seem more important than ever”.

Costa Rica has been laying the green groundwork for decades. In 2021, its message could be perfectly tailor-made for post-pandemic trips.

helsinki 3778356 1920

3. Helsinki, Finland

Sustainable travel, made easy

Sustainability isn’t just a buzz word in Helsinki. The Finnish capital has vowed to be carbon neutral by 2035 and it’s part of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance. Helsinki’s bid to go green has also involved tourism, with a campaign by the city’s tourist board to ‘Think Sustainably’, which shows you how to put together the trip of a lifetime while going easy on the planet.

The Think Sustainably microsite on the tourist board’s website has all the information you need — not just pointing you in the direction of where and what is sustainable but explaining why. For example, the ‘what to do’ page carries an interview with a representative from the Amos Rex contemporary art gallery, talking about museum ventilation and renewable energy. Even the Löyly sauna — which has the potential to be the most wasteful of all attractions — has worked out an efficient wood-burning programme to heat the saunas.

As well as highlighting what to see and do, the microsite also shines a sustainable spotlight on places to eat, drink and shop. These include Juuri, a sustainability-focused restaurant which has been working with small, organic producers for 15 years, and sibling restaurant Pikha, which has upped its vegetarian and vegan options, in order to cut down on guests’ carbon footprint. There’s also an innovative burger bar, Bun2Bun, which has swapped beef for vegan ‘mince’, and uses biodegradable cutlery and wrappers.

Finland’s design scene is of course legendary, and the website has crafted a sustainability checklist, which allows customers to rent merchandise, among other things. But it’s a boon for shoppers, too, directing travellers to places such as Pure Waste, where clothes are made from 100% recycled material, and LUMI, which produces eco-friendly bags and accessories. To get that cosy Nordic feel, Lapuan Kankurit sells handwoven soft furnishings with colour-popping modern patterns. With your sustainable trip mapped out, you’ll feel better about making the journey.

denver 790472 1920

4. Denver, USA

A green giant in the American West

Despite financial challenges related to Covid-19, Denver is powering forward with its goal of achieving 100 percent renewable electricity by 2023. Among the latest forward-thinking initiatives are 125 miles of new bike lanes by 2023 and solar gardens to be ‘planted’ on municipal parking lots, rooftops and vacant land in 2021.

“Investments in Denver’s clean energy economy will strengthen our community and address multiple concerns, including our carbon footprint,” says Grace Rink, executive director of Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency. Along with producing clean energy for public buildings, vehicle charging stations, and nearby low-income neighbourhoods, the gardens will grow jobs and a paid training program during construction.

Connecting climate action and sustainability to economic prosperity and social justice has helped Denver earn the coveted LEED for Cities Platinum Certification. To encourage business owners to join the effort by putting eco-friendly solutions to work, Colorado’s capital offers free, customised sustainability plans through Certifiably Green Denver. Thanks to the program, nearly 2,000 Denver business owners are creating greener, more efficient operations that use less water and energy, and produce less air pollution and waste.

“We’re so fortunate to live in this beautiful place, and with that fortune comes the responsibility to protect it,” says Adam Schlegel, co-founder of Chook, a Certifiably Green restaurant that champions sustainable food practices.

5. New Caledonia

Where marine life thrives in the south Pacific

Humpback whales, green sea turtles and dugongs gather in the waters of New Caledonia. This French territory comprises a group of islands that bejewel the southwest Pacific Ocean, 900 miles off Australia’s east coast.

Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, New Caledonia’s lagoons represent one of the world’s most extensive reef systems, with pristine waters and more than 9,000 marine species. In 2014, the government created the 500,000-square-mile Coral Sea Natural Park, which extends well beyond the UNESCO site. Christophe Chevillon, senior manager at the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy, says setting up the park was a “critical step for the conservation of New Caledonia’s waters, as well as the protection of the last virgin coral reefs in the world”.

Now, the territory has taken further steps to protect its marine sanctuary. Fishing, nautical sports and boats carrying more than 200 passengers are banned in large swathes, while in some areas all human activity except scientific research is off-limits. A coral farm will open on Lifou Island to restore reefs damaged by tourism.

Inland, the government is promoting ecotours and a new plastic law aiming to ban all disposable plastic products by 2022.

Alonissos Greece

6. Alonissos, Greece

Dive into the Parthenon of shipwrecks

Called ‘the Parthenon of shipwrecks’, the eerie remains of the ancient Peristera ship recently opened as the first underwater museum in Greece accessible to recreational divers. Located below the surface in the National Marine Park of Alonissos and Northern Sporades, the site is thought to hold cargo from a large Athenian barge that sank in the fifth century B.C. Limiting human activity in the 873-square-mile marine park — established in 1992, primarily to save the endangered Mediterranean monk seal — helped keep archaeological looters at bay, preserving the wreck site and its bounty of intact, two-handled wine jars.

To explore the submerged museum in person, you’ll need to be able to dive to depths of 80 feet or more on a guided tour (slated to resume in summer 2021). Or, visit the information centre on the small island of Alonissos and embark on a virtual reality tour of the wreck — no swimming required.

gabon 3871786 1920

7. Gabon

Africa’s ‘last Eden’

Gabon is a rare natural beauty. With 13 national parks encompassing 11% of its land, this is a place where elephants and hippos roam free; where dense inland forests, which make up 80% of its landmass, are home to critically endangered western lowland gorillas.

A remote central African spot, not all of Gabon’s national parks are readily accessible, but beach-blessed Loango is a boon for wildlife-lovers. Set on a lush river, just inland from Gabon’s Atlantic coastline, Loango Lodge offers electrifying encounters with a local population of western lowland gorillas. Closely regulated, just one group of four visitors per day is permitted to set out into the forest to try and find them; an exclusive, sustainable wildlife experience that’s hard to top.

In the north of the country, near the coastal capital of Libreville, Pongara is one of five national parks protecting important sea turtle habitats. Beachfront Pongara Lodge is the place for front-row views of critically endangered leatherbacks and migratory whales and dolphins. Global investment in the country’s transportation networks should soon make Gabon easier to reach; a sustainable development strategy that also promises to expand eco-tourism — helping ensure the country’s wildest places stay wild.

freiburg 3570532 1920

8. Freiburg, Germany

Schooling the world on green practices

One of early medieval Germany’s five great Stamm (tribal) duchies, the historic region of Swabia spans parts of southwestern Germany, eastern Switzerland and northeastern France. Swabians have a reputation for being resourceful, thrifty and inventive; no wonder, then, that residents of the region’s vibrant university city, Freiburg, readily embrace sustainable living.

The gateway to the Black Forest, Freiburg is remarkably green, both in appearance and in action. Woodland covers more than 40 percent of the urban area. Renewables, such as solar, biomass, wind and hydroelectricity power the city, which converts its trash into biomass energy. Walking, biking, e-buses and trams are the main modes of transport, boosting chances Freiburg will meet its goals of cutting CO2 emissions in half or more by 2030 and achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Cooperative housing with solar panels, urban gardens and incentives for living car-free are integral to Freiburg’s Vauban district, built on a reclaimed brownfield site and acknowledged as one of the world’s most sustainable city quarters. Quartier Vauban, meanwhile, has grown into Freiburg’s most densely populated district, proving that if cities build sustainably, people will come.

Trying to keep out COVID, tiny Bhutan relies on its Gross National Happiness index, and hopes tourists will return

By Natalie Jesionka
Sat., Jan. 23, 2021

Travelling through the beautiful mountainous Kingdom of Bhutan with its cloud-covered forests sounds idyllic in a pandemic lockdown — a dream being marketed by the tiny landlocked nation whose vital tourism business has been crushed by COVID.

With a population of 750,000, the eastern Himalayan kingdom has reported just 850 COVID-19 cases and one death from the virus in early January, and is negotiating the purchase of a million vaccines from India. But there are challenges ahead as the nation begins to consider easing its lockdown restrictions in a bid to reopen.

The country is banking on its remote location, COVID response strategy and its unique Gross National Happiness index (GNH) to help guide restoration of its biggest source of employment.

bhutan covid

Online, there are rumblings on social media and comments on articles in local newspapers questioning the lockdown, and expressing worries over lost livelihoods should the lockdown be extended.

And according to Bhutan’s national newspaper, the Kunsel, there is concern about evictions and rent increases, and retail businesses are struggling to make sales with few customers. Bhutan’s economy has contracted 6.8 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

But while the economy is an important metric, the country’s Gross National Happiness index, which measures equitable socio-economic development, environmental conservation, preservation of culture, and good governance, is equally important.

“The use of the phrase ‘happiness’ is a little bit unfortunate — they aren’t speaking of happiness in the Western sense, it’s very much rooted in the Buddhist understanding of deep-seated contentment,” said Kent Schroeder, an expert on GNH and executive director of the Toronto-based Bhutan Canada Foundation.

“Some people dismiss GNH, thinking the Bhutanese aren’t all that happy, but GNH puts the enabling conditions in place for people to choose happy lives. You want to create a society that has health care, education and employment.”

Things are not so happy these days for Sangay Wangchuk, owner of Dhumra Farm Resort, a luxury agricultural farm hotel with spectacular views of the mountains of Phunaka, in western Bhutan. Business was strong until the end of last February, and in March the resort shut down completely during Bhutan’s first lockdown.

“In 2019, we had 1,500 tourists come to the resort, but in 2020 we didn’t even get to 100 people,” said Wangchuk, who has been able to avoid layoffs because of the working farm on the property, and a small grant from the royal COVID relief fund. His staff are cultivating new crops such as bananas and using the time to make repairs around the property, waiting and hoping that tourism will return.

Since March, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck has implemented a COVID strategy that uses the complex metrics of GNH index including psychological well-being, time use, community vitality, good governance and living standards while working to mitigate spread of the virus by closing borders, waiving loan interest and tapping into his relief fund built up over years from a special tourism levy, to provide a basic income for Bhutan’s 150,000 jobless workers.

The king also rented apartments for the diaspora community affected by COVID in New York City, and ordered the government airline DrukAir to fly to different countries to pick up Bhutanese living abroad and bring them home.

Some of those who tested positive for the virus received phone calls and visits from the king, who is known for travelling the country on foot to meet his subjects.

Officials had hoped tourism could restart in March, but Bhutan’s director general of tourism, Dasho Dorji Dhradhul, now says reopening will be reliant on whether neighbouring countries can gain control over the pandemic. The tourism council has been supporting out-of-work guides with jobs in infrastructure construction projects and giving them language lessons.

Much of this support comes from a daily $315 tariff that tourists must pay. It includes housing and guides, but $80 is also put toward a sustainable development fund that is usually used to support free health care and education.

Bhutan is well prepared for tourism to resume, says Dhradhul.

“There will be a so-called new normal post-COVID for many destinations,” he says. “But it won’t be new to Bhutan. We have been practising this for the last 50 years. High value, low volume.” Dhradhul expects to see a shift in global tourism with individual travel, less crowding, and avoidance of over-tourism as priorities.

Never miss the latest news from the Star, including up-to-date coronavirus coverage, with our email newsletters.

Stephen Couchman is a Canadian who left Clarksburg, Ont., for Bhutan in October 2019, to work as a project director building the Trans-Bhutan trail, a 16th-century path running 430 kilometres from Haa to Trashigang. In a month-long hike on the trail, trekkers can discover red pandas, black neck cranes and snow leopards in a rhododendron forest.

“Bhutan is putting up a strong defence partially because they don’t have the desire or capacity to fight COVID-19 head-on medically,” Couchman says. “The crisis has been a reminder of the country’s need for independence from India and others for food, fuel and labour, and of their reliance on tourism, which will impact the economy for many years to come.”

Couchman points to Desupps, a mandatory national service organization, also known as the Bhutanese guardians of peace, as an example of the Bhutanese commitment to co-operation. Desupps, who serve for one year, are highly honoured, and are trained in preparedness for national calamities. They fight fires, serve as a border patrol, and now they are handing out masks, and staffing COVID response centres.

“There is no question as to what needs to be done and that community takes precedence over individual freedoms. From an outsider’s perspective, the intentionality and co-ordination here represents humanity at its best,” said Couchman.

The trail is part of the king’s vision for a symbol of national unity, and part of the infrastructure building pandemic response plan for jobless guides.

Matt DeSantis is the founder of MyBhutan, a tour operator that connects travellers and schools with authentic local experiences in Bhutan. Ten years ago, DeSantis left Connecticut for Bhutan for a month-long trip. He now largely lives there full time.

“Life is very comfortable in Bhutan,” he says. “It is a very safe and peaceful community surrounded by undisturbed nature. The two coexist with each other.”

DeSantis says he has helped reshape travel in Bhutan by making the experience more seamless, so travellers would not have to use bank transfers and instead, could send payments directly to Bhutanese tour operators.

Tours are already booking as early as April, DeSantis says, and certainly in September. But he’s quick to add that the reopening is in flux.

Desantis is working with the voluntourism organization Globe Aware and he plans to bring 150 volunteers in from Canada and the U.S. in the fall to help build a community centre just outside the capital, Thimphu.

“Even with Bhutanese becoming more exposed to outside cultures,” says Desantis “their roots remain true to this concept of finding well-being via natural, responsible and sustainable practices.”

Natalie Jesionka is fellow in global journalism at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto

Saturday, 16 January 2021 14:23

US Covid-19 test requirement for travelers

Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that all air passengers ages two and older must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to enter the United States. Globe Aware is ensuring you can be tested safely at your volunteer vacation location before traveling back home.


The new US Covid-19 test requirement for travelers: What you need to know

Shivani Vora
CNN
January 16, 2021

(CNN) — Earlier this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that, as of Tuesday, January 26, all air passengers ages two and older must show proof of a negative Covid-19 test to enter the United States.

The new rule includes US citizens and legal permanent residents.

Following the travel news, panic and confusion ensued, according to Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and founder of Atmosphere Research Group.

covid 19 traveller tests

"The order created a lot of anxiety, partly because the timeline from the announcement to when it goes into effect is so short and partly because it was unclear exactly what it meant," he says.

Both US residents who are currently abroad or had plans to go abroad and return January 26 or later as well as international travelers who are scheduled to fly to the United States have numerous questions about what they need to do to ensure their entry into the country, says Harteveldt.

In addition, some resorts and local governments are scrambling to get prepared to offer testing to US-bound fliers.

Questions -- from what kind of negative Covid-19 test you need to the documentation you're required to show when you're at the airport, and to whom -- are addressed below:

US testing questions answered

What kind of Covid-19 test is considered acceptable for travelers?

Travelers bound for the United State on international flights must have a viral test, according to the CDC. PCR and antigen tests both qualify.

How far in advance can I get tested before entering the country?

The test time frame is no more than three days before your flight.

CDC spokesperson Caitlin Shockey says that if you are flying on a connecting flight into the US, a valid test is one that is taken no more than three days before your flight departs to the United States but only if the entire trip was booked under a single passenger record.

Also, each layover between those connections can't be longer than 24 hours.

If your connecting flight to the US was booked separately or you have a longer connection, you need to get tested within the three days before your final flight departs for the US.

If you are flying out of the country for less than three days, you can take a test in the US before you depart and use it for your return or take a rapid test before your return flight.

If your flight is delayed past the three-day window, you must take another test to board your flight.

What happens if I'm traveling internationally now and come back after January 26?

It doesn't matter when you left, according to Shockey: If you are returning to the US on or after January 26, you will have to be tested and show proof of being Covid-19 negative before being allowed to board.

I'm visiting a US territory, do I need to get tested?

No. US territories and possessions of the US are exempt, according to the CDC.

If I'm a US resident and have to pay for a test while I'm abroad, will my health insurance cover it?

It depends on your insurance plan, says Zach Honig, the editor at large of the travel site The Points Guy.

But Honig says that you should definitely file for reimbursement. "It never hurts to ask," he says.

Who is checking test results at the airport?

It depends on the destination, but you'll likely be asked for documentation of a negative test result from the first airline employee you have contact with when you're at the airport, says Harteveldt.

That could be at the ticket counter if you're checking in bags or with the gate agent if you have no checked bags.

Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers before boarding and must deny boarding to anyone who doesn't provide documentation of a negative test or documentation of having recovered from Covid-19, according to the CDC.

Honig says that the new mandate may mean that you won't be able to check in online for your flight to the US. "You'll have to check in at the airport, so be sure to arrive in advance to give yourself enough time to do so," he says.

I'm flying to the US by private plane. Does this new requirement apply to me?

Yes, the order applies to commercial and private flights, according to the CDC.

What kind of documentation do I need to show?

The CDC is requiring fliers to have a paper or electronic copy of their negative test results.

Harteveldt highly recommends that travelers have a hard copy of their negative test results as opposed to having them only on their phones.

"It may be difficult for an agent to read the document on your phone, and you don't want to give them an excuse not to board you," he says.

I already had Covid-19. What kind of documentation do I need?

If you've recovered from Covid-19 within the past three months, you will need both proof that you tested positive in the past three months before your flight and a letter from your doctor stating that you're cleared for travel.

If you recovered from the virus more than three months ago, the CDC's Shockey says that you will need to retest and show proof of negative results before being allowed to board your plane.

People who have been vaccinated are still required to have a Covid-19 test before entering the US.

People who have been vaccinated are still required to have a Covid-19 test before entering the US.

I've gotten the Covid-19 vaccine. Do I still need to test?

Yes, the same requirements apply.

How do I find a local testing site while I'm abroad?

It will vary by country, but Honig strongly recommends making sure that you'll be able to get a test at your destination before you leave the US. "It can be challenging in some places to get tested, so it's important to get confirmation of a place before your trip," he says.

You can find a testing location by asking your hotel in advance of your trip or checking the destination's official tourism site.

In addition, in the past week, a growing number of hotels, especially in destinations that are popular with American travelers, have started to offer on-site testing.

In St. Lucia, for example, more than 20 properties and villas will offer free rapid testing.

Baha Mar in the Bahamas has rapid tests for $25 and PCR tests for $125. At La Colección Resorts throughout the Dominican Republic and Mexico, rapid testing is free. And at Curtain Bluff in Antigua, testing is $250 a person for either PCR or rapid test results.

The return time for test results varies by property.

Are airlines allowing passengers to change their flights so that they can arrive in the US before the testing requirements take effect?

Some are allowing free changes including waiving the difference in fare.

Delta, for example, is waiving the fare difference through February 9 for customers who were booked to travel internationally to the US through February 9, if they rebook their trip to begin on or before January 25.

American Airlines and United Airlines are also waiving the fare difference for customers because of the new requirements.

With American, customers who have flights scheduled from January 12 to February 9 can rebook for no charge if they're departing from and arriving into the destinations on their original ticket. However, their trips must start on or before January 25.

With United, the fare difference will be waived for fliers rebooking international tickets purchased on or before January 12 for scheduled travel to the US through February 15.

My test result came back positive. Now what?

Shockey says that you should self-isolate and delay travel if symptoms develop or a predeparture test result is positive until you recover from Covid-19.

Dallas Tickle Bar Creates Sensation

By Eric Griffey Dallas
Jan. 09, 2021

DALLAS — There is nothing lewd about the Tickle Bar. The website and Facebook page of the new Mockingbird-area business make it clear that illicit activities are strictly forbidden here. Yes, the half-naked woman splayed on a bed whose image is prominently featured on the place’s website appears to be in mid-moan, but that’s strategic, according to owner Kimberly Haley-Coleman.

What You Need To Know

The Tickle Bar offers experiences, like tracing and scratching, designed to produce endorphines

The business does not offer massage or traditional spa treatments

tickle mockup5The Bar's owner, Kimberly Haley-Coleman, founded the business when the pandemic slowedher nonprofit, Globe Aware

New business offers services that benefit children on the autism spectrum

“I knew we weren't going to spend millions of dollars advertising,” she said. “So, if I did this with a bit of a wink, we would be able to get more attention. If I’d called this a ‘back-scratch store,’ I wouldn't have had as much attention, and we needed that.”

The Tickle Bar is a Mecca for sensory indulgence. The “bar” offers services that include scratching, skin tracing, and other light-touch-induced modes of serotonin-drenched euphoria — all while enjoying a sweet treat or a glass of wine. What you won’t find at The Tickle Bar is a massage package. Haley-Coleman said her model was the Drybar, which focuses only on blow-drying hair with no cutting, coloring, or any other services normally offered by salons.

“There's a sense of luxury to your surroundings,” she said. “So the idea is that you're getting kind of a feast for all the senses, not just for your skin, but you're getting a little cookie and a little wine, you've got all these soft gauzy textures, quiet music, and people are whispering.”

Her business is one of a growing number of pandemic pivots. While many small businesses around the country have been crushed by the COVID-19 shutdowns and other restrictions, there has also been a surge in new businesses this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By the week ending Dec. 5, the bureau reported, business applications were up 43.3% over the same period in 2019.

This uptick, however, is offset by the fact that about 28.8% of small businesses were closed for good as of mid-November, compared with the start of the year, based on data tracked by Opportunity Insights, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research organization based at Harvard University.

For her day job over the last 20 years, Haley-Coleman has served as executive director of Globe Aware, a Dallas-based nonprofit that offers people “volunteer vacations,” combining wanderlust and altruism.

When COVID-19 strangled the U.S. economy and ground travel to a halt back in March, Globe Aware limped along, hosting online events and virtual fundraising. Haley-Coleman brainstormed ideas for ways to bring in money — a business that could support her and donate its profits to the nonprofit she founded.

She said she asked herself a series of questions that led to the creation of The Tickle Bar: “What do people want? What are they hungry for? What did they not have right now? And what do I want? what do I miss?”

“Frankly, if I had all the money in the world, I'd rather get my back tickled than a massage,” she added. “I just started thinking, ‘You know what? That is so crazy that I think I'm going to do it. And if I'm ever going to do it, now's the time.’ ”

The reaction to her business has been mixed, she said. Some people find the idea of a tickle bar brilliant, while others just don’t understand the concept.

“It tends to evoke a very hot or cold response,” she said.

Though the name might conjure certain salacious or just plain silly imagery for some, the work of The Tickle Bar is backed by science.

Some of the techniques employed by Haley-Coleman’s staff have proven beneficial and calming for people on the autism spectrum, for example. Still, that hasn’t stopped the imaginations of faceless internet trolls from weighing in.

“I get that there might be a sense of humor around anything that has the word tickle in it,” Haley-Coleman said. “There seems to be 20 or 30% of the population that can't get past the giggling nature of it, despite the fact that there is a very serious [health benefit] to sense of touch, whether it's massage, kids on the spectrum, or even people enjoying getting their scalps scrubbed from getting shampooed.

“That sense of touch, to me, has nothing to do with giggling or anything inappropriate,” she continued. “But for a certain segment, it's hard for them to get past that for whatever reason.”

Monday, 11 January 2021 13:46

Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is nestled high in the Himalayas between China and India. Its storied history, unique culture, and pristine environment are inextricably linked, and make it one of the few destinations left on Earth where people and nature exist in harmony.

Globe Aware is working directly with His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck and his representatives to allow select groups of guests to explore deeper into Bhutan. Reflecting our deep-seated commitment to local development and sustainability, all of our experiences and projects involve support for the kingdom's most important environmental, community and/or cultural initiatives; including wildlife protection programs with the Royal Government of Bhutan and His Majesty’s private initiative to preserve Bhutan's tangible history.

Work Project

Over the past ten years, Thimphu (the capital city of Bhutan) has experienced an increase in population from 85,000 to 125,000 people. With this increase, the average age has decreased. This is largely due to young adults leaving their family farm homes in villages with the goal to partake in the capital’s growing service economy (largely tourism).

With less opportunity than demand for entry, these Bhutanese youth often struggle to earn a living. While Bhutan remains one of the safest countries in the world, locals have noticed an increase in crime and depression in this age group. At the teenage level, there is very little extracurricular activity available in Thimphu. After class, students either return to their homes or sit with friends in the main clocktower square. This lack of programs prevent the youth from finding hobbies, networking and/or developing ideas to help their personal growth.

  • Bhutan1
  • Bhutan2
  • bhutan1
  • bhutan2

Thimphu has not been able to develop infrastructure to keep up with the population increase for this type of community program. The ultimate goal of our program in Bhutan will be to construct and outfit a community center primarily focusing on the youth of this community. The center will provide a positive, safe, and conducive environment for recreational and social activities, programs and projects, access to information on youth related issues and access to counseling and referrals for both the youth and their families. The intention is to help the youth become productive and responsible, respecting and resilient citizens. The center will have a library, indoor games, internet, printing, binding and lamination facilities.

In addition to the community center project, larger groups may also work on similar community focused projects such as; working with the Bhutan Olympic Committee to build Bhutan’s first baseball field for the youth in Thimphu; assisting with the construction of the city’s first community-based library; Restoration of the 13th Century Jamtoe Goenpa in Haa District; or help with the construction of an animal rehabilitation facility in conjunction with the Department of Forest and Park Services. Project specifics will vary on group size, needs of the community at the time of travel, availability of supplies and weather. Project specifics will vary on group size, needs of the community at the time of travel, availability of supplies and weather. Smaller groups will work on various community driven projects that also support the community, such as; Whitewash temple with resident monks, work on trail maintenance with one of Bhutan's leading environmental stewards/activists; tree planting (Bhutan is the world’s only carbon negative country in the world!); or making Tsa Tsa with monks (clay mold usually made in memory of Bhutan's deceased or to keep away obstacles, diseases and/or accidents).

Food and Lodging

Volunteers will stay in a hotel with a distinctly local flavor than many other hotels, with Buddhist artwork found throughout the hotel. All first-floor rooms (and eventually, all rooms in the hotel) feature large, colorful auspicious symbols painted directly on the walls over beds.

All of the hotels’ rooms have free wifi, refrigerators, wood floors, flat screen TVs with international channels, modern bathroom fixtures, laundry service, room service, and complimentary coffee/tea and bottled water daily. All rooms also include a complimentary 20-minute massage at Aru Spa.

A restaurant adjoins the lobby, offering Indian, Chinese, Bhutanese, and Continental fare, as well as salads, soups, sandwiches, and pasta dishes.

  • Accommodations
  • Accommodations
  • Accommodations
  • accommodations
  • accommodations
  • Accommodations

Leisure and Activities

There are many cultural opportunities to partake in while in Bhutan. Visiting remote mountain temples, taking scenic hikes, exploring the lush and untouched nature, and enjoying traditional customs in cultural exhibitions are just a few. Volunteers will have many opportunities to enjoy meals and activities with local community members in a truly immersive experience.

  • Culture
  • Culture
  • Sports
  • Culture
  • Sports
  • Culture
  • Culture
  • sports
  • culture
  • sports

Arranging your Airfare

A visa is required to enter the Kingdom of Bhutan. We ask that you book a trip at least 60 days in advance to give time for proper paperwork to be done. We will provide you with the necessary documents from the government of Bhutan, but the volunteer is responsible for applying and obtaining their visa.

Volunteers will be picked up and dropped off at the Paro International Airport according to your flight schedule. This is a Saturday-Saturday program.

Safety and Security

Widely considered one of the safest international travel destinations, Bhutan reports some of the lowest crime rates in the world. You will be accompanied by our local coordinators and government tour guides throughout your stay to guarantee you are well taken care of. Globe Aware volunteers are provided travel health insurance in the event you need to see a doctor while on site. The hospital is within easy driving distance from our program site.

Back to top