There was a time, not long ago, when no one could have imagined restrictions on travel. But our world changed overnight, and suddenly we found ourselves canceling travel plans, staying home and facing uncertain weeks and months ahead. A return to normal, whatever shape that may take, lives somewhere in the fog of the future. But I am optimistic.
As we face our first summer in a pandemic, and as the first phases of reopening our communities bring new rules and safety protocols, what travel will be permitted – and safe? Here are a few principles to follow:
- When planning travel to any destination, it is important to visit the destination’s tourism website to see what restrictions are in place (Northwest state/province websites are listed at the end of this article).
- Do not travel where visitors are not yet welcome.
- Follow the destination’s health and safety guidelines, which may include masks, social distancing, advance reservations and a limited number of visitors.
No crowds, beautiful scenery and small communities define rural travel. It could be a day trip in the countryside close to home or an overnight in a small town or resort that is open to guests. Think of rural travel as a country drive or a short weekend getaway. You will spend your travel dollars in nearby communities, a real benefit to local businesses struggling to stay afloat. And you should travel only with those you have been sheltering at home with. Exposure to others outside your immediate circle should be limited and should always follow distancing and safety protocols. Keep travel, for now anyway, close to home.
Before travel restrictions were in place, I often packed as many activities as possible into a trip. I wanted to see and do everything from morning to night. Of course, with more activities and places packed into a trip, I interacted with many people, not something I want to do right now. Small travel limits the number of activities and limits exposure to others. Think of one quality activity that really grabs your interest and that of your traveling companions and confine your time to that. As more attractions open, your options will naturally expand, but think small – and make big memories.
Some travelers are die-hard soloists. If you ask them why they won’t ever travel with a companion, they reply, “Why would I?” No compromising, no mutual planning, no dealing with likes or dislikes – that’s the beauty of solo travel. If you are comfortable being alone with your own thoughts, it can be the ultimate travel experience. Minimizing exposure to others, especially as destinations reopen, is another reason solo travel is likely to gain popularity.
As shelter in place restrictions are eased, some people are venturing out more and more to explore their own city. While many attractions, like museums, may not be open yet, there is nothing keeping you from driving or walking through a part of the city you don’t normally see. With hometown travel – also known as a staycation — you will discover places you will want to revisit when your city’s businesses and attractions eventually reopen if they haven’t already.
You have probably heard the expression, “It’s not about the destination, but about the journey.” Slow travelers dial back their expectations of what travel is. They are mindful about where and how they travel, what they do and how they receive and respond to the outside world. It is meditative at times, exhilarating too. The important thing is: Exposure to others outside your circle is limited, and you are as mindful of keeping yourself and others safe as you are about the journey itself.
What’s in Store?
As of this moment, depending on where you live, travel restrictions vary. In the Northwest, Alaska and Montana are requiring out of state visitors and residents returning to the state to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. The Canada-U.S border is closed. Washington, Oregon and Idaho are in various phases of reopening; the timelines for moving to the next reopening phases are dependent on the success of the current phase. Air travel should be restricted to essential travel only. Cruises in the Northwest are on hiatus indefinitely, most looking to resume in 2021.
When travel fully resumes, travelers will likely adjust to a new normal of limited capacity and social distancing at a minimum. Tourism providers will be held to a new set of health and safety protocols that will include more stringent cleaning requirements and more.
The future of travel, in my view, will evolve to the new norm, which will have its benefits. Overtourism and the environmental impacts of travel will decrease. Experiential travel – traveling with a light environmental footprint or to experience another culture – will be on the rise. Local travel will keep dollars within communities, bolstering local economies. While today’s rough waters are difficult for most of us to navigate, there will be calmer seas ahead. Now’s the time to dream of where you will go tomorrow.
Northwest State/Province Travel Alerts:
British Columbia, hellobc.com/what-you-need-to-know