2020 is not the year any of us expected but it is the year that we have. Dealing with the many problems that have emerged I know has taken a toll on everyone, including people like me who work in the travel world. Although we’ve had some setbacks in recent weeks, the fact remains that some sort of limited travel is now available to many people not only in the U.S., but around the world. I’ve taken a few short, regional trips in an effort to get back into the swing of things and to discover what the world is like after lock-down and during a global pandemic. While my trips have been much more modest than my usual adventures, they have been meaningful and I have also learned a lot along the way. Since many people have not yet taken that first trip back into the world beyond their immediate community, today I want to share some observations and lessons learned from my first forays out and how I think travel will continue to evolve in the next few months.
That First Trip
We have been through a global trauma. The fears of the pandemic coupled with forced quarantine have taken their mental toll on everyone, whether one realizes it or not. I knew I had changed to a degree, but I had no idea just how much until my first trip that took me beyond my local grocery store. Even though I traveled to a very rural resort literally in the middle of nowhere, there were certain shocks for which I was not prepared and at times I felt as if I was on the verge of a panic attack. Being trained to avoid human contact and to expect others to maintain proper health and safety measures, when these things don’t occur it is shocking for those of us who take all of this very seriously. The first time I saw strangers not wearing masks or social distancing I was astounded and angry. I was also panicked, a sensation I haven’t experienced many times in my life. Since then I’ve quietly observed folks via social media as they too have taken their first steps back into the world and I’ve noticed these same reactions. Whether it was a trip to a National Park or Walt Disney World, many have gone through the same stages of anxious fear as I experienced.
Knowing that this may occur is important, that way you can mentally prepare yourself. Not everyone will follow the rules but as long as you maintain your distance and do what is proper, you should be fine. That’s also why it’s critically important that you choose your first post-quarantine destination very carefully. If, after several months of lock down, your first trip is to Universal or Walt Disney World, I think it may be too much to handle. Instead, before those trips, I would very strongly encourage you to take a short weekend getaway somewhere close by. That way, if things get to be too much, you can always drive back to the safe haven of your home. It’s an important baby step I think in reentering normal life, especially in the travel context.
Rules are Rules
I have maintained, and still do, that one of the most important lessons travel has taught me is that almost anywhere in the world most people are good hearted. That is a fact and what I’m about to say doesn’t change that. Although they may be good people, they don’t always do the right things and you will encounter this many times when you travel again. By now I think most of us realize that masks are vitally important to curbing the spread of this virus. Not everyone agrees with that and even if they do, as soon as they’re inconvenienced their positions on the matter shift. Even if they agree, for some reason not everyone knows how to wear a mask properly – a phenomenon I witnessed fairly often on my limited travels. I have come to fully appreciate the fact that the average American will typically follow the rules if they are carefully laid out for them. However, given any opportunity to deviate and they will pounce on it. This is why it is so very important for the travel industry to step up and not only set rules, but to strongly enforce them.
The problem with this of course is that for the most part those individuals working on the front lines of travel have been taught over the course of their careers to avoid conflict. Now, suddenly, they are charged with rule enforcement, which can be extremely contentious. I’m sorry this happened to them, but it is what it is so now it is up to hotel front desk employees, flight attendants and theme park attraction operators to be enforcers of public health and safety. It’s weird but it’s where we are. Naturally, I would love it if the average person would just do their job and follow the rules, but I know now that’s not a reasonable expectation. I have seen far too many casual infractions of the rules to expect the best from my fellow citizens, so it is up to the travel industry itself to set and enforce these extremely important rules and guidelines.
Travel is Personal
Whether or not to travel right now is somewhat subjective, even though it shouldn’t be. Had the Federal government stepped up and assumed control, all Americans would know if it is ok to travel, where they would be able to go and so on. That didn’t happen, so oddly enough it’s up to us to make those decisions. I can’t tell you if it’s safe for you to go somewhere right now. That hinges on a variety of factors. What I can say is that if you are smart, responsible and considerate it is certainly possible to do something that doesn’t involve your couch or Netflix. I would also add that there is no place for travel shaming right now. None of us know what is going on with other people, and it is not for us to judge their decisions as long as they’re being responsible and following the rules.
Fun Is Still Possible
2020 is a bizarre year and the summer months have been no exception. This is normally the time when we hit the road to go on vacation and enjoy some time away from home. This year though that’s more important than ever but fear not, because it is still very much possible. By being thoughtful in how you travel and where you go, you can absolutely still have a fun and safe getaway. Just be smart and realistic about what life is like right now and I know you’ll have an adventure that you’ll never forget.