Shhh! We’re Heading Off on Vacation


All it took for Lauren Pearlman, who lives in Gainesville, Fla., to discover what she called a friend’s “shame-cation” was some shrewd digital sleuthing. One hint? A rogue Instagram post — depicting a lake cottage in a decidedly vacation-y setting — by the friend’s husband.

“I feel like it compromises our friendship because it exposes very different philosophical approaches to the pandemic,” said Ms. Pearlman, 37, a history professor at the University of Florida. “And if you’re going to go on vacation, then own it and say that you are. If you don’t feel like you can advertise it, then obviously you aren’t positive it’s the ethical thing to do.”

Dr. Jordan said the pandemic — thanks to its unprecedented nature in modern times and patchwork of geography-based restrictions — remains a gray area for ethical norms. Whereas most people would agree that shoplifting is unacceptable, for example, so far there is no universally agreed-upon consensus about whether or not to travel.

“Some people think any trips of any kind are bad; others, meanwhile, are off flying to hot-spots,” Dr. Jordan said. “If you think it’s fine to travel and some people don’t think it’s fine — but you’re not persuaded by the opposing argument — you may feel motivated to hide your behavior.”

That can be true even when travelers feel confident they’re taking proper health precautions. Ms. Gaudino plans to stay in Airbnbs and campgrounds; except for grocery shopping — while wearing a face mask — she will not participate in any public indoor activities. To prepare for a 14-day quarantine upon her return, required by New York for anyone coming from states like Arizona and California, she has stocked her fridge and pantry with long-lasting provisions.

Catharine Jones, 39, also prioritized hygiene and safety when in June she drove with her family from their home in Rochester, Minn., to a lake about three-and-a-half hours north. They stayed in-state, wore masks and bunked in a self-contained cabin.

Watching her children — ages 2, 4 and 7 — play happily by the lake at dusk, she did what many parents might do: She took a photograph and posted it on Instagram.


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