In the fall of 2019 National Geographic sent me their 2020 Expeditions Travel Catalog.
I immediately read it cover to cover and found a trip that sounded fascinating. It was a 24-day globe-trotting trip in October that included 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Most of the countries on the itinerary were ones I was more comfortable visiting with an organized tour group of people than on my own. I could see Machu Picchu and Easter Island, Lhasa, Tibet and the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. I would shop the open markets of Marrakech. It would be a thrilling and exotic adventure.
However the onslaught and worldwide spread of Covid put an end to that happening!
Since March of 2020 I’ve done very little travel. The Brookings Institute says that in the first year of Covid, international travel declined 73% from 2019. A lot of us have been doing very little travel.
My alternative is to travel in place by putting together trip plans and ideas at home so that eventually, when normal travel can resume, I’ll be ready.
My husband wants to do a Canadian Rockies trip which we’ve expanded to include Alaska. I have the entire trip itinerary – almost 6 weeks if we drive it. It includes taking the ferry across Lake Superior from Ludington, Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. A week to visit Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper National Park. We would do Alaska by cruise on the Norwegian Bliss.
I also have an alternative for it, taking the Trans Canadian Railway instead of making it a driving trip. Planning the trip isn’t as rewarding as taking it, but it’s fun and keeps me traveling in my mind.
Our travel now is for those back-and-forth trips from PA to FL which started in 2014. Our route takes us through WV, VA, TN, NC, and GA. We do the trip in three days to eliminate long driving.
We often add days and look for alternate routes that get us to new places along the way. We’ve spent a few days in Gatlinburg, TN and stayed at the Snow Bird Mountain Lodge off the Cherohala Skyway at the very top of the Smoky Mountains in Robbinsville, NC.
In Georgia we took winding back-woods roads, some of them unpaved, to the secluded Glen-Ella Springs Inn in Clarkesville. Another time we enjoyed a fabulous gourmet food and wine weekend with four other couples at the rustic Beechwood Inn on the hill above Clayton.
In Pine Mountain we spent a couple days at the Calloway Resort and Gardens. The rhododendron were in bloom throughout the 2,500 acres of grounds and the hawks, falcons and other raptures put on a fascinating show at the outdoor amphitheater where we were warned to not stand up to take pictures!
In the fall of 2021 we added a leisurely two days to stay in Mount Airy, NC, the inspiration for the original Mayberry in the Andy Griffith show. There weren’t many tourists there, but shops and restaurants were surviving and people were so friendly. Seems we are all starved for normal; a bit of conversation with a stranger is therapeutic, its food for the soul, a shared experience.
Being on Facebook I see that lots of people are still traveling, ignoring the pandemic and possible risks. I have a niece who lives in southeast GA. She and her husband hit the road every chance they get, mostly to different Atlantic beach towns in Florida. Sometimes its longer trips across the south to Texas and Louisiana. Covid hasn’t slowed them down a bit. I am glad they do it, and glad that many others do it also.
They keep the hotels, restaurants, shops, RV Parks, tour groups, and all the interesting destination places – the museums, galleries, activity centers, theme parks, and historic sites open and functioning. They keep airlines, railways, and cruise ships operating. They keep 272 million people employed world wide who count on the travel and tourism industry for their livelihood.
I hope that travel, and life in general, will soon return to a time when we no longer mask up to board a plane or train, or worry about getting seriously ill on a ship. In the meantime I satisfy my wanderlust by exploring new destinations from the comfort of my home. I look at the excursions in my Seabourn, American Cruise Lines, and National Geographic catalogs, check out the voyages offered by Silversea and Viking, and the railway journeys on unique trains that offer luxury and adventure.
Travel is near the top of my “to do” list. But staying healthy is at the very top of that list. So I avoid the risk. For my brave friends who venture out now, I say “You go and have fun; Enjoy your life; Come back safe; and Tell me all about it when you do.” Vicarious travel is better than none!
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”Anonymous
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Another great blog post, Carol. Really enjoyed hearing about your “local” trips – Mt. Airy is on my bucket list since I am an avid Andy Griffith fan. Anyway, we have done the Canadian Rockies and strongly advocate that you take this trip. Having lived in the Colorado Rockies, the Canadian Rockies were even more spectacular (especially Lake Louise). We have also done 3 Alaska cruises and have loved each one. You may want to consider a cruise/Denali segment. I would encourage you to get to Calgary as soon as possible and then head west. You can also take the train from Calgary (and Banff) to Vancouver to get the cruise ship. Whatever options you choose, it will be a great trip. You are always invited to fit Boise into your plans – we are only 8 hour drive from Seatle and 10 hours from the Canadian border. Meanwhile, have an enjoyable time going back and forth to FL and PA.