Travel in the Time of COVID

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Strange things start happening when your passport is basically useless. Check any travel map, and it appears that the world is blacked out if you hold an American visa. Stay out. Not welcome. Scram!

Vacations are delayed or cancelled, working from home and living at work start to become the same thing. Memories of holidays from years past loom large in your mind. You realize you can’t really even plan for future adventures, as there’s really no firm idea of when the world will reopen to residents of the United States.

So, instead, a trip to the grocery store or the plant nursery becomes a mini-adventure. A new flower blooming in the backyard becomes sightseeing. A neighbor stopping at the end of your driveway for a chat becomes an event. Everything becomes a little more immediate, local, and we appreciate the world immediately surrounding us a little bit more.

Of course, if you’re a traveler, this doesn’t completely satisfy your wanderlust. I often find myself looking at hotels in Mallorca or an Airbnb in Malta. I’m researching the top 50 most beautiful places in America and combing through reviews of the best oyster restaurants in the U.S. I estimate that perhaps next spring will be safe and so, I am checking out the best patisseries in each Paris arrondisement, or vineyards near Barcelona. The feeling is that if I look at enough photos and prepare enough plans, somehow the universe will bring me all these experiences for which I am longing.

But there is also a sharp feeling of being trapped – of realizing that your passport isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Once it seemed like the world was my oyster, open and ready for me to slurp it up; but now, that ticket to ride is just a book that no one will stamp.

But if Americans are good at anything, it’s being hopeful. So, we continue to plan, to purchase travel clothes, to cross our fingers and hope that a winter getaway just might happen. We smile at our neighbors under our masks and notice the bird that built a nest in the yard or rejoice over a new patio furniture set to better enjoy our holidays at home. When we can’t escape, we have to make the best of our own space.

I see my neighbors repainting their fences and sprucing up old furniture. I see them planting in their gardens and power-washing their houses. I see a father on a Zoom call on the porch and his kids playing in the yard in front of him. So many people had big plans for the summer. So many people had trips booked and flights paid for, and like us, I’m certain they are disappointed by their inability to holiday or explore the world. But it’s these same people I see enjoying more time with their families, taking opportunities to make their yard a more beautiful place or investing more time and effort into their immediate community or home to make it a little more like a vacation every time they open the door.

Strange things happen when the world closes up. We may have less choices and less control, but we also have more time and more appreciation for our own place in the world. It may not be Spain, but you can still mix up a sangria to sip on the porch. It might not be whitewater rapids, but you can still take the canoe out on the lake. Strange times call for a little hope, a little creative thinking and a safe place to tuck that worthless passport.

There’s always next year.

 

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