COVID-19 couldn’t have come at a worse time for many travelers. Depending on where you are in the world, you have likely canceled vacation plans that were meant to soothe spring fever or realized you won't be able to take that one last trip before summer wraps up. I’m right there with you. I recently had to pull the plug on two of my own trips and would be lying if I said there wasn’t some very un-adult sulking involved.
As the situation has unfolded, however, I’ve realized that holiday fun isn’t where my focus should lie right now. It’s more important to practice social distancing for the sake of others. For my immunocompromised boyfriend. My aunt who’s in the middle of chemo. My 80-plus-year-old grandparents. And for all of your favorite people who might also be at higher risk.
That being said, I still spend a lot of time thinking about travel because one day, I’ll be able to re-book those vacations, and planning for them makes me hopeful. And we can all use a little hope right now, right?
In the spirit of looking forward to brighter days, here are some travel-inspired ideas that can help you make lemonade out of lemons.
1. Deep dive into travel guides.
I’ve never met a travel guidebook I didn’t like. There’s nothing like glossy images of verdant rice fields and the charming geometry of Scandinavian cityscapes to make me stop balling my hands into tiny stress fists. Not to mention the insights into everything from local restaurant recommendations to what clothes to pack in each season. Get lost in the pages to relax and rekindle your excitement for future vacays.
Tip: Many destinations offer free guides on their official websites. Head straight to the source for the travel-planning hookup.
2. Get digital.
Online travel blogs and magazines offer another great source of inspiration. Alex in Wanderland is currently revisiting many of her 2019 trips — a brilliant idea that restores a bit of normalcy in days that can be very stressful. Adventurous Kate shoots straight from the hip and is an excellent source for both entertaining vacation stories and practical advice, as is Practical Wanderlust.
Digital travel magazines are great for travel inspiration, too. I’ve been re-reading AFAR’s 7 Lessons Learned From the Happiest Country in the World lately, and have been annoying friends talking about the Finnish principle of sisu, or inner grit. As a child, I was often found surrounded by stacks of the yellow-rimmed National Geographic issues that opened up the doors to new cultures and landscapes, so naturally I recommend their travel page.
3. Make a travel-planning notebook.
Pull out one of those old journals or three-ring binders you’ve unburied during your quarantine spring clean and indulge in some manual Pinterest. Dedicate sections of your notebook to dream destinations and then go wild. Fill it with lists of places to see and foods you want to sample. Give it a cheerful look by pasting in pictures from magazines or sketching some maps.
Or, stick to traditional Pinterest and create boards filled with trip itineraries, must-try noodle shops or coffeehouses, dream hikes and more — whatever suits your style and gets you ramped up about travel.
4. Socialize (from a distance).
True, many of us are stuck at home and unable to go out unless it’s for groceries or a run around the neighborhood. But we’re fortunate to live in a world where technology lets us stay connected. Start a weekly Google Hangout with friends or relatives you want to travel with, so you can dream about — and plan for — vacations to come. Likewise, digitally meet up with fellow wayfarers and swap fun stories about past trips. You’ll pick up tips, but perhaps most importantly, brighten your day.
Naturally, we can’t forget social media. Search Instagram places for pictures that get you hungry for your next adventure, and follow travel influencers. (I’m partial to @wheresandrew, whose posts feature a vibrant mix of people, animals, culture and gorgeous architecture.) Interact with travel writers, photographers and the destinations themselves on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Many are happy to answer the questions of kindred travel spirits.
5. Explore virtually.
There are plenty of ways to experience cities around the world without even stepping foot outside your door. For example, in San Francisco, you can admire current exhibitions at the Contemporary Jewish Museum via their online gallery. Party the weekend away with Discover Puerto Rico’s Instagram Live events, including salsa lessons and cocktail-making classes. (Keep an eye on their feed for upcoming fun.)
Or, escape to Colorado where you can wander quaking aspen groves and unwind to the sounds of babbling alpine streams via their #ColoradoCalm campaign. You can find these daily high-elevation delights on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
6. Have at-home vacation weekends.
While you can’t jet off to Quito or Oahu right now, there are things you can do that will both prepare you for future trips and get you excited about visiting one day soon.
Read up on destinations’ histories, wildlife and cultures to get a better understanding of where your adventures will take you. Need to learn a language for your expedition? With the help of a spunky green owl, you can study 30-plus languages on DuoLingo (for free!).
Add a little extra fun by making destination-themed weekends for the entire household, by watching films and TV shows or listening to popular musical artists from places you want to travel to. Cook meals traditional to those areas or, better yet, support a local business and order delivery.
There is light at the end of this tunnel, and we will be able to set off to exciting new places near and far one day soon. Until then, use these ideas to keep your wanderlust flames burning and to keep spirits high.
Find additional insights, research and recommendations in Miles Partnerships' Clarity in a Time of Crisis resource center.