Well, that didn’t go according to plan!
My annual “Travel Plans and Dreams” post from January of this year is so far removed from life as it is now, in the summer of 2020, that reading it feels like looking back on another lifetime. Life, let alone travel, didn’t go according to anyone’s plans in the first half of this year, and it doesn’t look like we will be getting back to normality for the second half, either.
When I wrote a blog post on my experiences of lockdown after seven weeks, things still felt strange and surreal. Now – 17-and-a-half weeks since I started working from home – it all feels weirdly normal. I don’t think twice about grabbing my mask before I go out the door, using hand sanitizer after I pick something up off a shelf at the shops, or staying physically distant from other people. States are opening up, but in our area at least, there is the caveat that mask wearing and social distancing remains in place (which seems sensible, given that the number of U.S. cases continues to rise).
In such tumultuous times, then, it seems frivolous to say you miss travelling, but the fact of the matter is I do miss it.
Travel, to me, means many things. As someone who lives outside their home country, it represents the ability to spend quality time with family and friends. As a writer, it offers me creativity in leaps and bounds (there’s just something about being somewhere new that jolts my imagination into action). And as a holiday maker, it simply makes me happy: I thrive in those few days or weeks of spontaneity and relaxation that are such a contrast to the nine-to-five and our everyday routines.
Luckily, Mr. Stories My Suitcase Could Tell and I did manage to squeeze in two quick adventures at the start of the year, before borders closed and we all retreated indoors. At the start of February, we spent two days in Philadelphia to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, and had so much fun we talked of going back for a few more weekends in the spring. (Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen!) Then at the end of February we spent a long weekend in Tucson, Arizona, visiting my in-laws, where we ate a lot of good food and went on lots of beautiful hikes.
So what does the rest of the year hold?
None of us have a crystal ball, and different people are taking different approaches to travel, depending on both their personal health and their location. I know some fellow travel bloggers in the UK (like Jayne at Girl Tweets World, and Laura and Claire at Twins That Travel) are planning on local staycations. Here in the U.S.A, some people are staying close to home and focusing on day trips, while others are flying across the country.
As for me? Honestly, I can’t see myself making any grand travel plans. (That ten-year reunion trip to China is definitely not on the cards, now!) The one destination I am holding out for is, of course, Scotland. I’ve lowered my expectations to the point where I know it is unlikely I will be able to get back to the Outer Hebrides this year, whether that’s because of concern of spreading the virus, border regulations, or quarantine-on-arrival rules that are unworkable when you only have limited time off.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve lost all hope. I’m saving my “vacation days” just in case the impossible happens and I can get home. I’ve had an October visit marked as “out of office” on the work calendar since January, for a now-postponed wedding; I’m leaving it there just in case things change.
When it comes to travel on this side of the Atlantic, maybe – and that’s a big maybe – we could drive north to Maine for a long weekend to visit family in the early autumn. Honestly, though, I’m making no travel plans right now, other than for some local, socially-distanced outdoor picnics with friends. I don’t feel quite ready to go back to normal, yet.
The short and the long of it is that I (along with many of you) have no idea what my 2020 travel plans look like anymore.
Instead of my usual adventures, I’m going back to the mantra of local travel I first fell in love with in Lewis, and focusing on the microadventures than can be found just outside our door, like watching the sunset after dinner, or going for a hike in a nearby park. When we can only dream of travelling further afield, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that sometimes, adventures can be closer to home than we might imagine.