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Where do travel writers go when travel is closed?

Nowhere, really.

It’s a strange time. A scary time, a sad and lonely time. The world is effectively closed and for someone who is used to treating every city they venture to as a second home, it’s only natural to feel a little lost.

Just before the pandemic, my family moved back to Texas from Canada. It was a weird time to be relocating, with lots of delays and changes of plans and quick adjustments. And in a way, we were “coming home” – but in another sense, the city we had left two and a half years ago had never felt more foreign. No visits to friends, no embraces from family. No housewarming, no quick drink with neighbors, past or present.

We can walk by the park, but I can’t let my son stop and play on the equipment. We can wave and smile from our front porch, but we can’t meet the people on our street. Again, for someone who has met all of my closest friends by walking up and introducing myself in Italy, Spain, England, Ireland, France … this isolation stuff is not just difficult, it goes against my very nature.

One thing I have realized is how much time a lot of us spend planning our next adventure. Thinking about it, shopping for it, looking at restaurants and activities, proximity to other sights, museums, train stations. We try to stuff as many things as possible into every trip, and then spend a good portion of it taking photos and videos and documenting and posting it so that we can barely remember a trip we’ve taken such pains to capture and never forget.

Instead of being disappointed that our June trip to Paris was cancelled due to COVID-19, I’m missing my mother. I wish there was a way she could come down to Texas from Michigan and tickle my son and read him a story and hold him in her lap for ten minutes. I wish we could go up to Michigan and stay in Traverse City and play on the beach with my dad.

It always comes back to that. Family. Friends. The people we love.

That’s what we miss most when travel is taken from us. Not the best beignets in New Orleans or the sweetest Sangria in Spain or the most beautiful beach in Greece. Instead, it’s the way your cousin laughs or your mother’s perfume. You wish to travel right to your grandmother’s house for a bowl of soup or meet up with a friend for happy hour at your favorite sushi restaurant.

It’s not the places we miss, but the people.

And that made me realize, it’s not really that we travel to see different places. Instead, we travel to see different lives. We like to walk in the footsteps of other people. We go to a Paris cafe and have a glass of wine — and the wine does taste better. But it’s because there’s a couple three tables down having a bottle, too. And there’s another restaurant across the street that is filled with people out front as well, sitting and sipping and talking and kissing and living.

It’s togetherness we miss most of all. It’s bustle and movement, noise and hugs and familiarity. So, even as I cancel hotel reservations and make new ones for later (fingers crossed), I carry these thoughts with me.

I will savor my moments with my family. I will hold my mom just a little tighter, and listen to laughter a little more. I will spend just a little longer at those outdoor cafes when this is all over, soaking it in a little deeper.

This travel writer isn’t headed anywhere anytime soon. But, when next I do, you can bet I’ll be taking it all in – reveling in the experience of the world, the people around me and the moment, wherever I am.

 

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