I remember the first time my husband and I went out for a beer after spring lockdown ended. It was simultaneously nerve-wracking and exhilarating. Should I touch the chair? Wipe down the mug? The first sudsy sip grounded me in the moment, and it felt so good to be out of our apartment.
It wasn’t all that long ago, though it feels like years. Since then, we’ve all become accustomed to walking on rocky terrain, navigating a DOs and DONTs list whenever we want to leave home (that is, if we’re even allowed). It’s no wonder that the WHO Regional Office for Europe published a report on pandemic fatigue and reinvigorating the public. Sometimes it feels like we’ve lost all the meaningful distractions that used to get us through hard times, like meeting up with friends or family, getting lost in the crowd at a concert, or taking a relaxing vacation.
The pandemic has turned me into an avid video chatter, and I’ve surprisingly enjoyed tuning in to live concerts, interactive standup comedians and cooking demonstrations. But I must say that virtual tours of faraway destinations aren’t sustainable substitutes—the whole basis of travel is leaving home and exploring unfamiliar territory.
Travel isn’t just about seeing a monument or eating a meal and checking it off your list. It’s an experience that can challenge and change you. Sometimes, too, we just need to take a break away from home for our personal well-being. And, perhaps more important now than ever, travel helps sustain local economies. So let’s talk about travel planning and why it’s good for you and the world right now.
Pandemic fatigue is real
I’m exhausted, you’re exhausted, we’re all exhausted from the drumbeat of coronavirus coverage. It seems like the news is only filled with doom and gloom, but there is hope out there. Vaccines will be here eventually, and they will help facilitate a return to normalcy (whatever that is).
What is best for your mental health and well-being now is not to focus on these things that you can’t control. Take a break from the news. Spend your free time on activities that bring you joy, like travel planning. Yes, seriously. Although you may not be keen to hit the road tomorrow, simply having an adventure to look forward to can boost your mental health. It also gives you a different conversation topic for the next time you’re video chatting with your bestie.
One of my closest friends lives in another country. All year, we’ve been talking about her and her husband visiting us. First it was spring, then fall, and now spring 2021. Although it hasn’t come to fruition, we love discussing the sights we’ll visit, the restaurants I think they’ll enjoy and which day trips are worthy additions to the itinerary. No flights have been booked, but that doesn’t make the trip any less real and exciting for all of us.
Tourism is important globally
As tourism continues to be severely impacted by the pandemic, countries are encouraging domestic travel to help stimulate local economies. But many of the world’s countries don’t have huge populations that can help in this way, nor can local citizens afford enough leisure travel to help prop up the sector.
Many economies around the world depend on foreign visitors. Just take the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, where 90.7% of total employment is centered around travel and tourism. The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that more than 197.5 million jobs in the global travel industry could be lost due to prolonged travel restrictions.
If you’re worried that international travel is insensitive at this time, don’t forget that they are struggling too. Your visit is helping to put food on the table and pay the bills. The important thing is that all tourists act responsibly and follow WHO’s travel advice.
Exploratory travel gives us valuable life skills
Travel has been linked to all kinds of personal benefits. Among them are strengthening your critical thinking and increasing your risk tolerance. However, you need to act outside your comfort zone when you travel to repeat these benefits. You can do that by navigating an unknown subway system, trying to communicate without a shared language (hand gestures and expressions go a long way!) or just exploring by foot without an itinerary and acting spontaneously.
Skyscanner’s New World of Travel report reveals just how important these benefits are to travelers during this pandemic:
Travel has supported a skillset that’s become critical during the pandemic: the ability to cope with the unknown. Travelers are more able to cope with the psychological challenges of the new world of COVID-19.
Exploratory travel affects us emotionally, too. “Travel leads to greater empathy, respect and understanding for all people, places and cultures. These values have never been more important,” the report continues.
Your well-being matters
Saying that it’s difficult to stay optimistic during a pandemic is certainly understating it. But travel planning is actually a great way to get out of your own head and get excited about a future event. You’ll start getting lost in the details—comparing hotels, searching for day trips, drooling over photos of local cuisine—and that familiar feeling of travel-planning excitement will take over.
If you are keen to take a trip in the near future, travel can be the coronavirus stressbuster you need. A relaxing getaway where you can disconnect from the stressors of everyday life will help reset your mind and boost your mental health and emotional well-being. You don’t need to travel far to reap these benefits.
Every service that touches tourism, from restaurants to accommodations, has amped up their health and safety measures. So you can feel confident that others are looking out for your well-being too.
On top of that, tourism is at an all-time low. This means that you may actually encounter much fewer tourists than usual and, in some instances, have amazing attractions all to yourself.
Find Zen in travel planning
I could spend hours comparing accommodations. That’s probably why it’s one part of trip planning that I’m awful at. I have a knack for selecting subpar accommodations (but not on purpose!). When my husband chooses a place, it ends up being amazing. Despite that, I still enjoy looking at our options. It helps me learn about the destination’s different neighborhoods and gives me a sense of costs for budgeting the rest of the trip.
Thoughts of travel have been a welcome distraction for me throughout the pandemic. Daydreaming about my next getaway has allowed me to take a break from work and worry. If you’ve been hesitant to do the same, why not give it a try? Plotting the ins and outs of a multi-destination adventure is sure to take your mind off the news cycle for a significant period. And if you have PTO to spare and are eager to travel now, then maybe your next adventure doesn’t have to be as far off as you might’ve thought.
Disclaimer: The decision to travel during the pandemic is wholly your own, but make sure that if you do go, you’re well prepared. Before you jet off, check government travel advice and the restrictions at your destination. Those working in tourism are risking their health to keep their businesses open. Be respectful when you arrive by following the WHO travel advice and any requirements imposed locally.
Need inspo? Read more
- 2021 travel trends and how traveler focus is shifting. We looked through tons of our own data to see what the new world of travel looks like.
- Empty sun loungers and zero queues: 2020 travel first-hand. First-hand experiences reveal what it’s like to travel right now.
- The U.S. National Parks Pass: Everything you need to know. A practical guide on how to get access to 421 national parks for one price.
- 11 Warm Places to Visit in January. Ring in 2021 and then start it off right by taking a trip to a destination that’ll warm your body and relax your mind.