Hey! How’s it going and stuff? It’s been half a year since I last posted on TravelSmart Woman. Now I’m back to the blog, even though the world continues to discourage those of us who used to take our travels for granted. It’s time to get back to it.
When the pandemic started (seems like a million years ago) and the world went into lockdown, like many others, I figured it would be just a few months until all was up and running as always. We live in a modern world full of scientists, right? Wow, was I ever naïve.
What TravelSmart Woman did during the pandemic…not much!
Then we slowly started to “travel” in other ways, trying to be optimistic. I did a post on U.S. destinations that could provide a bit of Europe. I took a few online “tours” to see places–very cool, but they only made me ache to go for real.
As 2020 progressed, my Road Scholar trip to the Scottish Highlands got cancelled, along with my Overseas Adventure Travel expedition to the Amazon and Peru. 2021 was just as bad: Vietnam, Scotland (again) and Central America waved good-bye. My Road Scholar credit has bounced around the globe, settling–hopefully–in Mexico in 2023.
Okay, so maybe group travel isn’t the best way to go, I thought. I’ve been wanting to do the “French Camino,” the Via Podiensis, that goes southwest from Le Puy to St. Jean Pied-de-Port. It’s not an easy walk, but I’m assured that the scenery and the food along GR65 will make those hills a snap to climb.
Brilliant! I order the map and the guidebook, Miam Miam Dodo (Clever title, named after French baby talk for “Yum-Yum, Night-Night”) and start to plan. The French gîtes are supposed to be nicer and cozier than the Spanish albergues on the Camino Frances…and the meals? Oh-la-la!
Having learned a ton on my Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, I plan accordingly: Pack only a silk bed liner and a wiser wardrobe. Brush up on my French; this is a less-traveled path with few English speakers. Take the alternate route that passes through the prettiest villages in France. Take extra days to explore. Carry more snacks.
I set my sight on a mid-April departure. Yes, THIS April…but here I am. My French has improved by leaps and bounds, but I’m not going anywhere. Yet. I followed the ever-changing French regulations for foreign travelers, and they were very complicated. I totally understand the rationale but felt deflated at the prospect. Maybe next year.
What’s different now? Can TravelSmart Woman bounce back?
Have I lost my enthusiasm? Is my only travel destined to be to the local Early Bird Special?
I don’t think so. There are several things going on here:
- We’ve lost over two years of travel. For us “Solo After Sixty” folks, that can be a big chunk of our future and our ability to keep exploring the world. Certainly, the past two years have brought many hardships and whining about not being able to go sounds like a “first world problem.” Maybe so, but it also equals several destinations that were high on my list. We’re granted only so much time and energy.
- Travel has changed and is not likely to ever return to its former state. Just like after 9/11. Foreign travel has always required a little extra oomph and now it’s a lot more. More expensive, more restricted, more everything. Long-established and treasured places closed. Those that are open to us often have limited hours and accessibility.
- There’s a new layer of uncertainty and emotion. This war. Terrorism. More virus variances. Countless plans have been cancelled, some temporarily, others forever. Many of us have paused to reconsider our priorities and where travel falls on that list. What’s our carbon footprint? Is travel the best use of our funds? Even, should we feel guilty because we want to go places?
Starting fresh–for different reasons
How is solo travel going to look as we go forward? I don’t see a drop in a trend that was really on the upswing before the pandemic. In fact, many experts predict a spike:
- After so much time spent with family or others, many people are craving “alone time,” and want to get away to just do something by themselves.
- It may be difficult to find a travel partner. Some people may remain reluctant to travel, others may need to return to jobs to make up for lost wages. As a result, solo travel becomes a natural option.
- For “mature” solo travelers, we lost two valuable years of possible trips. Certainly, TravelSmart Woman did…we’re feeling a time crunch as we look to fit in the travel we missed, combined with those destinations still on our list.
Another change is related to available options. As I write this, any travel to Russia is prohibited. Nearby countries are also affected. Although countries are opening up to visitors, it may be awhile before our wish-list becomes available. In the meantime, we may need to look to alternative destinations. An open mind is necessary, more than ever.
Finally, travel is going to get more expensive. Not just from soaring fuel costs, but other factors that the pandemic impacted. Extra costs for cleaning and safety; food supplies; wages and compensation, etc. We’re all aware that costs go up, but for the budget-minded, it can seem overwhelming. But NOT impossible.
Hear me: We just need to be smarter.
Brush off the dust from the last two years
Get out those suitcases and backpacks. Start to dream again. Make plans–and reservations. It’s a different world, but that has always been so.
Let’s do this, shall we?!!?