Our world is having contractions as something new is emerging. Whenever I raise my gaze from endless scrolling and the diversions of quarantine, I peer into a new existence. As a homebound traveler I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve lost writing revenue and my Airbnb has shut down but my partner still goes to his job in the seafood industry and we’re sheltering in place together. We’re in a holding pattern. Things could be worse.
One day we’ll look back at how topsy turvy this time was. What the view will be from that perspective is anyone’s guess but it’s going to be different than the past. Especially for travel. I’ve been looking at how to go forward and have found some perspectives on sudden disruptions in the past and strategies for moving forward. I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with all this too. Let’s talk about it and that starts with a comment. I look forward to our conversations.
What Industry Experts Envision and the Past Illuminates
The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Towers shut flights down. Again it was a time of fear. Americans stopped traveling but slowly returned to their favorite pastime and have become the largest traveling group in the world. In response, over the last ten years there’s been gigantic growth in the travel industry worldwide. Just a few months ago Deloitte released a deep report about the glorious future of travel. “Any way you cut it, the past 10 years have been the Comeback Decade for the travel industry, a decade defined by rising growth, surging prosperity and escalating influence.” What a difference a few months can make!
The report’s optimism has evaporated as the ravages of the virus linger, and travel has become one of the hardest hit industries. For instance, Deloitte reported a rosy picture for cruising, but recent traumas and health tragedies have led to much less support for the cruise industry. Many large ships have been unable to dock due to registration issues that were once advantageous to the owner’s bottom lines and limited their tax requirements. However those arrangements also limited their allegiances and therefore specific government support was blocked. Many passengers suffered in the interim. What will become of the big ships? Cruise lovers may to pivot to smaller boat travel but any trip requiring shared space and small rooms will have to meet demand for accountability and new safeguards.
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow delivered a state of the travel industry address at the National Press Club in March, 2020 and addressed some of the corona virus impact. “While visitation from China will be temporarily affected, all of the current expert advice indicates that business and leisure travel in the U.S. can and should continue as normal,” said Dow. “Previous events tell us that travel is quick to rebound after health-related downturns. We’ll continue monitoring and ensure our industry is informed at critical moments.” Again that was in March and six weeks later it’s hard to picture business and leisure travel rebounding to previous levels.
How we travel is going to be different.
The differences can be positive if we demand more conscious, balanced options to help the environment and the places and people we long to visit. There’s been telling developments. With far less automobile traffic we’ve seen clear skies over vast urban cities like Los Angeles and New Delhi. Wildlife has come out of the shadows. In Kruger National Park, a pride of lions was spotted lounging along a road once packed with camera touting tourists. Fish are visible in the sea grass at the bottom of the Venice canals instead of lurking in murky water stirred by gondoliers. Some visionary destinations like Milan, one of the pandemic’s early epicenters, are working on new plans for extensive bike lanes to help preserve the clear skies that emerged once traffic shut down for weeks. As travel became more affordable during the last decade, over-tourism began to push locals into hiding. Many Dubrovnik, Croatia, residents stay out of the way of tourists during peak hours. In other places locals are priced out of homes in popular destinations. With fewer visitors they’ll miss tourism dollars but hopefully will hopefully emerge to find new income opportunities. It will be a long while before the global economy recovers enough for tourism to rebound and the lost jobs to return.
For certain, a lot of people are out of work and hurting, especially in the tourism industry. Forbes relayed in early March, 2020, that according to WTTC’s president, Gloria Guevara, “Travel and tourism now is responsible for creating one out of every five new jobs worldwide. The global lobby group expects travel and tourism to generate 100 million new jobs worldwide over the next 10 years.” Clearly that is not the case now. If homebound travelers want to be part of the healing after this crisis, we need to get out on the road again. Use what tourism dollars we have to support the recovery.
Each of us has to make choices as we move forward. I still cling to my wanderlust and seek new ways to bring that joy into my constricted life. Walking different parts of my neighborhood helps. Last weekend my sweetheart and I took a drive out into the country east of San Diego. We pulled over at a farm stand close to shuttered Indian Casinos. Soon after we took a bag of fresh oranges and peeled them during a tail gate picnic on an abandoned road. It was a short trip but may be one of the longest I’ll be doing for the foreseeable future. Still, this homebound traveler softened her aching wanderlust and savors planning road trips to come.
Below are some tips and strategies to help ease your wanderlust
Strategies for the homebound traveler
Rediscover Past Adventures:
- Review, delete, and organize pictures and videos from previous trips
- Find new ways to share them – Send a few in an email, post to social media, set up a portfolio site online.
- Order prints – Squares, posters, or order booklets
- Scrapbook your memories
- Search your favorite or a bucket list museum. Many around the globe are offering virtual tours.
- Look for movies that take place in favorite exotic destinations
- Look for nature documentaries on the BBC
- Find new access to short films – GP Film Contest winners,, Nat Geo and NYT Shorts
- Listen to travel podcasts when walking or doing chores.
Planning nitty gritty – What’s still available?
- Prioritize who you’ll go see once the lock down is over. Make sure family and friends are up to having you visit without quarantine. I’ll be driving or flying up to see family in the SF Bay area and will stay awhile.
- International travel will slowly open up again. Which country would you visit and how? I live near the Mexico border and will drive into the Valle de Guadalupe or into Baja. I’d love to get down to La Paz or Cozumel for diving.
- DIY International travel is going to be harder to set up without experience in specific regions. Consider working with a trusted source, tour operator or travel agent to find out what remains open and available once the quarantines are lifted.
- Family travel takes longer to arrange. Start slowly and travel as a couple or with a few friends on a short trip.
- Consider visiting relatives or locations important to your family history in your own country first.
Local strategies as parks and beaches reopen
- Plan a short road trip and walk through a new place.
- Fill your trip with beauty.
- Plan a socially distanced potluck with friends where each brings a dish from a country they miss visiting.
- Support ‘Takeout Tuesdays’ and have a meal delivered. Supporting your local spots helps them weather the changes as well.
It’s all in the pacing
So, my fellow homebound traveler, I hope this makes the pain of these trying times a bit easier. We’re slowly finding our way through this and for the greater good, need to proceed carefully. Until I can pack a bag to launch into a new trip, I’ll fantasize about scuba diving and on my best nights, dream of tropical fish.