In a few days it will be six months since I flew home from our Martinique rowing tour. And have not been on a plane since or done much travel except a camping getaway, cottages visits and day trips. Everyone assumed that I would be missing travel, joking that I likely drive regularly over to the Winnipeg airport to pretend that I was catching a flight.
In fact, I have not missed the travel. I have been too busy cancelling and rescheduling trips, communicating with our wonderful and understanding guests, pivoting to try new styles of travel like our Independent Rowing Experiences and Hybrid Explorers which are better suited to the Covid-19 circumstances and much more. I have been genuinely enjoying being rooted at home for a bit. At the end of a very hectic and travel-packed 2019 I felt that I needed to travel a bit less in 2020. Be careful what you wish for! This summer in Manitoba was spectacular, and that likely contributed to the joy that I felt staying put and exploring locally. I even learnt a lesson at Caliper Lake.
Perhaps a change in the weather, with cooler temperatures and a few yellow leaves appearing is part of it, but my attitude is changing a little bit. I have closely watched the debates about travel restrictions and the requirement for 14 days self-isolation or quarantine upon arrival and/or return. I have not wanted to inadvertently spread the virus, as much as I know very directly how tourism businesses are suffering. We are all making travel decisions and I was comfortable with mine.
I felt a first stab of longing when flipping through back issues of cooking magazines and came across an issue of Gourmet magazine featuring Paris. I had taken that issue with me on one trip. Suddenly I wanted to be back there. I just recently started nurturing some green shoots of hope with increased talk of two step testing linked to air travel, which seems to offer a reasonable and rationale balance to facilitate travel while still prioritizing safety. And sure, one day there could be a vaccine.
What is it that I am missing right now about travel? Beyond the obvious. Running my business normally takes me to beautiful places to enjoy my favourite sport with wonderful friends, plus staying in interesting accommodation, eating superb meals and enjoying local wines. Who wouldn’t miss that?
As Yuval Noah Harari points out in his book Sapiens, travel is a human construct, something that we have broadly bought into individually and socially, but in essence it starts in our head. There are two things about travel in my head right now, even as I am not likely to get on a plane for a while yet.
I miss the privilege to add to my storehouse of travel memories. I am fortunate to have a rich stock of them, especially delightful when they pop up unbidden at odd moments. Almost always guaranteed to bring a smile to my face (for a most recent example, check out the video from that Martinique trip below).
It saddens me slightly that the store is presently finite. I am definitely grateful for what I have, but still am greedy for more. Perhaps I am really just recognizing that all good things come to an end at some point, whether caused by Covid-19 or something else. Perhaps I am just missing infinite possibilities.
The second thing that I am presently missing is less philosophical and much more pragmatic. I miss when travel decisions were easier. A mild raising of eyebrows is permitted, remembering the overwhelming choice that we have at times confronted when travelling or planning travel. At the time it sure did not seem simple, even for people booking the easiest of cruises or resort vacations. But now is added the anxiety and indecision about health. I want to go and see my elderly mother in Nova Scotia. But it is 14 days quarantine when I arrive, and 14 days again when I come home to Manitoba. That’s a month and I still have not seen her, plus the actual travel time, especially if I were to drive there, halfway across Canada so a week in each direction. Even if the restrictions were lifted, what is the responsible approach? What are my options if I get a positive test while travelling? Should I try to find a N95 mask or is a regular one sufficient? This on top of the same complexities from before.
Everyone has been impacted by the pandemic. Our experiences and responses are very individual, even as we are reminded that we are all in this together. They are also evolving. Perhaps missing these things about travel is the first step towards emerging from my summer torpor and rolling up my sleeves again to face the current situation and how I plan to respond. Maybe there will be travel in my future, sooner rather than later.