I traveled to New York in January 2020 for a long weekend girls’ trip. Never in a million years did I expect that to be my last trip for the next year and a half. Never did I imagine that my spring break plans to go to Florida (Sarasota and the Keys, where I’d never been before) and summer Eurotrip to Croatia and Italy would be canceled. Never did I imagine that over New Year’s I’d be sitting home instead of on the beach at a resort in the Caribbean. I couldn’t fathom that a long-weekend trip somewhere in the US would be potentially impossible. Reflecting on 2020, there are clearly many things I miss about travel.
But wait. Can’t I travel?
Yes, you can! Don’t get me wrong… It isn’t completely impossible to travel. In fact, many people are doing it, while maintaining safety precautions and minimizing risks. Many destinations have precautions in place that make them even safer than the cities we live in. For example, some countries require COVID tests prior to travel and upon arrival! However, nobody is traveling at the same rate they were before. If they are, I’m impressed.
I looked back at my 2019 planner where I made a list of all of my intended trips for 2020. Once COVID hit, my travel dreams were crushed. The risks outweighed the rewards, so I’ve had to resolve to feed my travel bug through books and movies. In quarantine, I planned all of my adventures for a post-COVID time… whenever that may be.
There are some things I miss about travel that deserve an honorable mention, and I’d love to share with you how I’m filling some of that void from home.
The feeling you get when you walk into a city’s central region (the main square, a plaza, a downtown area) and look around you and see what makes that particular city unique… that feeling is everything for me. It has to be the biggest thing I miss about travel. Most travelers will agree that when you visit a new place, whether it’s a city in your own country or a foreign land, the exciting part is exploring someplace unknown. Seeing things you’ve never seen before, exploring new places, understanding a place’s history and culture. The exploration is the one thing I cannot wait most for.
During this pandemic, I spent time researching new things in my own city. New buildings, landmarks, restaurants, and exploring them in COVID-safe ways. I ordered take out from new-to-me restaurants. My mom and I drove around to new landmarks. I even spent a weekend exploring my own city on foot, while social distancing and wearing a mask. I did whatever I could while making sure I felt safe doing it. Now did this give me the same feeling travel gave me? Not quite, but it sure was nice to get out of the house and see something new!
Speaking of new restaurants, a huge part of travel is trying the cuisine of a new city or country. One of the things I miss about travel is getting to try new foods in new places. I had dreamed about eating fresh Italian food al fresco in Italy. This didn’t happen in 2020, but I did find ways to ensure I was still getting my foodie fix. Chicago is such a foodie city, so finding unique restaurants from different cultures wasn’t hard.
My family and I took turns picking what to order in for dinner, switching off who would get to pick and what cuisines we’d try. We finally tried a local Korean Fried Chicken place that has been in our neighborhood for years. Ramen, Mexican food, Chinese food, Southern Cooking, Georgian food, Kyrgistani food, American classics, and many others were also on our quarantine rotation. Overall, we had a great time eating (and drinking) our way around the world from the comfort of our home.
I also took on a brand new hobby during the pandemic – cooking! I bought a few cookbooks and began to embrace the extra time I had at home by cooking (and baking) my way around the world. My brother and I made Classic Indian butter chicken, Chinese sweet and sour chicken, and even our own homemade bread. I learned I have a talent for baking cookies from scratch. Most importantly, you can’t forget the Italian dishes I made that I was able to enjoy in my backyard – al fresco. It wasn’t Italy, but it was as close as I was going to get in 2020.
Picture yourself on a boat on the Danube, a sunset in the background, and the parliament of Budapest in the background. You’re sipping on a glass of white wine, a book in your lap, and not a care in the world on your mind. Close your eyes and picture it, take in a deep breath. For a second, you can feel yourself there. The feeling you’re picturing right now is the freedom I feel every time I travel. Regardless if it is a work trip or a vacation, every single time I travel, I find a few moments a day to take a deep breath and breathe in my surroundings. That feeling of freedom and relaxation is another thing I miss about travel during COVID.
I won’t lie, this has been the hardest thing to recreate from home. Instead, I’ve forced myself to find new habits that help me feel free of responsibility for a few minutes. I started taking walks through my neighborhood and listening to audiobooks and podcasts to clear my mind. Anything I can do to unplug and forget about COVID for a few minutes gets me a little bit closer to the feeling of freedom I love during travel.
Share What You Have Been Doing
What have you been doing to recreate the feeling of travel during COVID-19? What do you miss most about travel? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to find other ways to recreate the feelings associated with travel from home until it’s safe for us all to travel again.