It’s been a year since Covid-19 went from a scary-but-remote sickness to a full-blown shutdown around the world. Even then, I was deliberately stubborn/naive about the possible effect on travel. Now, we still wonder what to do while we wait to travel.
I have a few suggestions.
Way back in April 2020, I wrote about virtual tours of museums and attractions around the world. I provided a list of travel books to help with the cravings. A quick and temporary fix until things opened back up. So I thought. (These links are still good–and interesting! If there’s a Travel Silver Lining for the pandemic, it’s that we learned how much is available online).
At the time, no one could predict how long the pandemic would last. After all, this wasn’t 1918. We have better living conditions, right? Advanced medical care? Researchers and scientists as never before? Heck, the “novel coronavirus,” as it was called, had a genome sequence as early as January 2020.
Boy, was I wrong. Trips to Peru and Vietnam fell away…now Scotland seems unlikely. I understand why, but it’s discouraging.
No need to repeat what happened on the Covid-19 front. I feel foolish, on many levels. When my state finally “opened up” in the summer, I was one of the first out the door. I went to a nearby state park for an overnight and outdoor hiking trails–liberation! While the window was still open, I took my grandson to Springfield, IL for an overdue getaway.
So, what do we do for NOW??
We’ve been patient. We’ve complied with the guidelines. We’ve watched as favorite destinations struggle. We’ve gotten–or will get–the vaccine. But international travel is still a dream. Covid-19 testing, quarantine-on-arrival, and proof-of-vaccination requirements are in constant flux. Good luck trying to score a flight; planes aren’t flying. Experts say it will be at least another year before schedules will ramp up.
I see you there, arms folded and toes tapping. Sit back. Deep breath. It’s not time yet. But now we can finally do more to get ready. Here’s what we can do while we wait to travel…these aren’t free, but they probably won’t break the bank.
Virtual ideas to soothe your travel-deprived soul
- Take a Virtual Tour. Companies that cater to the mature traveler with a severe case of Wanderlust have wisely stepped in to appeal to our curiosity. For a fraction of an “actual” trip, join a group for few days of virtual exploring. Even better, choose your specific interest. Example:
Road Scholar: Choose a place, and there’s a multi-day experience. Choose a focus: art, culture, history, language. Go back to a destination you loved, or prepare for a new one. They include discussion times, so you’re able to connect with like-minded folks. (About $300-$500, or more, depending on how many days the tour lasts.)
- Attend a lecture. I recently discovered Context Travel. As an avid “Outlander” fan, I signed up for the 90-minute lecture by a Scottish historian. (60 minutes of lecture, 30 minutes of Q&A) It was terrific! I learned a lot about Scottish castles, culture, and the location sites for the series. Also learned less-traveled spots to get a similar, but less-trampled–experience. Less than $40, it felt wonderful to be learning again. Not a fan of time-travel fiction? There is a lecture for every interest. Most are less than $40.
- Take a course. The Great Courses has been around for as long as I know, at least 30 years. Whether you want to revisit a favorite trip, or get ready for your next one, find a comfortable spot and settle in. Partnering with the likes of National Geographic, the History Channel, and the Smithsonian, you won’t find any slouches here. You name it–travel, food, history, architecture–they’ve got it…for about $30.
- Learn iPhone photography. Ditch that heavy camera and take advantage of your smart phone. I’m an avid fan of iPhone Academy. For about $200, I’ve learned about photography and apps for landscapes, night, food, architecture…you name it. There are great editing classes, too. Phones now come with a zillion built-in features. Learn to use yours.
Make a list, check it twice
Okay, I know. You may or may not have the patience to dig deep into learning right now. What else can move you closer to your next journey?
- Decide on your next three places to go. Don’t go overboard. We all have a travel list that extends to infinity. By narrowing it down, you can start to really plan for time, budget, and authentic desire. Bonus: Happiness increases when you think about or plan for a trip!
- Plan for next year…and beyond. Don’t follow my 2020 denial and pretend that “normal” will return soon. (Or ever.) But with vaccines and smart planning, go ahead and invest in the next few years. Book that trip at least a year in advance. Give yourself time to dream…and of course, get travel insurance.
- Find the perfect AirBnb. I’ll just say it: I have never had a bad AirBnb stay. What a difference from a hotel, to find an authentic living space in a city center. This is especially true for stays longer than a couple of nights. It takes a little bit of clicking around, but once you discover that a nearby neighborhood–with a kitchen–is available, you’ll never go back.
- Make your own itinerary. You’ve got time now to do a comprehensive itinerary. Go to Google Maps List, TripAdvisor, and any website you trust and start to build a collection of attractions/restaurants/coffee shops/walks that fit your style. Researching and crafting a fantastic itinerary takes time. You’ve got it now.
- Remember UNESCO. In our over-trampled world, it’s gratifying to know that places are being protected. I wrote about UNESCO for Travelers back in 2017. Budgets and Covid-19 continue to threaten these classic and un-replaceable destinations. Please support these unique spots of world history. Explore the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites and see for yourself.
- Return to your favorite hotel brand. AirBnb aside, sometimes you just need a hotel room. If you haven’t settled on a favorite hotel brand, now’s the time. I’m a Hilton Girl, because of the international possibilities. My son, who travels extensively for his job, prefers International Hotel Group. Pick Marriott, Hyatt, Choice, or any other. The point is, because of the pandemic, hotel chain generosity and loyalty points abound. For a night or two, you’d be foolish not to take advantage.
- Perfect your packing lists. Why wait until you’re ready to leave to decide what to bring? Packing light is essential for successful travel. Find or make your list for future trips: weekend, city, international, outdoors, etc. Even better, get out your suitcase take a trial run to prove that you really can get by with fewer items.
Anything else to do while we wait? You bet!
- Support local destinations and businesses. Permission to travel abroad isn’t going to be granted for awhile. Learn to “bloom where you’re planted” and go to nearby cities, attractions, and restaurants when they re-open. Pretend you’re a tourist–the community and economy will thank you.
- Visit a domestic place you’ve never been. I’m guilty of this; I’ve been to London at least five times, but can’t tell you a thing about Maine or Vermont. Now’s the time to explore our own country. Do the same research as if it were an international hot-spot…but without the language barrier.
- Organize travel guides, photos, and notes. Maybe it’s just me, but when I consider a new trip, I purchase a guidebook. During my travels, I carry a notebook and write furiously. I pick up brochures and pamphlets on local attractions. I buy special booklets in museum gift shops. I take a zillion photos. Then…it all languishes. Now’s the perfect opportunity to sort through them all, organize and keep what’s useful.
- Cook favorite foreign foods. I love to take cooking classes when I visit other countries. I also try to find a cookbook in English so I can recreate favorite dishes when I’m back home. There might not be a better time than now to actually make meals from places you went.
- Make Pinterest boards for future travel. There’s nothing quite like Pinterest to gather ideas for future travel. Pinterest is firm that it’s not a social media platform. Rather, it’s a “digital bulletin board’ for you to store information in one handy spot. YOU decide what to search and what to keep. It’s fun and easy.
- Learn a new language. Admit it, you’ve always wished you could converse in French/Spanish/German/Italian/Mandarin/Swahili/etc. Great! The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get comfortable speaking and reading in another language. Just a few minutes a day will do the trick. Try. Duolingo–it’s free!
Taking care of ourselves while we wait to travel
It’s a hard truth: We’ll have lost at least two years of “travel time” before we can fully explore the world again. For those of us who are older, there’s less time to get to destinations on our lists. Staying healthy is a priority.
- Take a virtual hike. Walk with a goal! Since I signed up with The Conqueror Virtual Challenges, I have racked up 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago, 46 miles climbing Mt. Fuji, and 90 miles following Hadrian’s Wall. Choose from 15–and counting–destinations and distances. The latest is the Pacific Crest Trail, 2485 miles/4000 kilometers. Walk solo, or join/create a team. Get postcards along the way, and a tree planted for every 20% of your journey. AND get a magnificent medal for each completed walk!
- Watch your intake. Of everything. Not just crappy junk food, but alcohol, drugs, social media, and toxic news stories. Maintaining a positive mental outlook takes some effort, so be careful about what affects your health–both physical and mental. Self-care comes first.
- Keep looking ahead. Things will even out again, even if they will look a little different. Stay upbeat by watching travel films, reading about other places, and subscribing to travel magazines. Make a board with your favorite travel quotes. Get out your past travel journals and revisit adventures. See if there are lessons that you learned and can share with others.
- Help others. It’s a fact: volunteering makes you happier. While we wait to travel, let’s make the world a better place. Donate blood. Make food for someone who can’t get out. Drive people to get their vaccines. Help a child with their remote assignments. Actions don’t need to be huge or cost a lot–and you will feel better.