Many months into the pandemic, or as my husband calls it, on this ‘new planet’, I have started to dive deep into my travel files, my memory bank, and my bucket lists. It is a guilty pleasure of mine during this unique moment in time—dreaming up future travel adventures. I have lofty ideas, pages of research, and plenty of notes, hidden in places on my phone that I can’t ever seem to locate.
The ‘new planet’ concept didn’t win me over at first. I didn’t get it. I wanted my old planet back.
But did I, really?
Surely, there were things on the old planet that I didn’t like. Appointments that clogged my calendar, soccer car pools on faraway fields, and countless, ‘critical’, school-related meetings, that used up much-needed bandwidth in my brain.
To use another analogy (which is not my strong suit, I’ve often been told) is that we have all been dealt a new deck of cards. But, I was comfortable with that deck. We had a history.
Back to the new planet analogy, which is less competitive, less chaotic, and (gasp!) even relaxing, in some ways. I realize I need to stop comparing this new planet to the old one. I need to stop telling myself, ‘just wait until Thanksgiving’, or ‘we will be back to normal by Christmas’. Time wasted waiting for life to go back to the way it was. I don’t want to go back to the way it was. Not exactly.
There are big worries on the new planet; political worries, parental worries, and global worries. For those who know me, worry is my middle name. I come from a long line of worriers. The ability to look at this planet as a way to start anew, with things as they are right now, not as they were, is a nice concept. I have decided to give it a try.
The new planet
That said, I am still craving some things from my old planet. Travel, for one, which isn’t a surprise. But more specifically, the way travel makes me feel. The freeing sense of exploration, and the sometimes scary, exhilarating sense of adventure. The needed escape from reality.
I started to wonder how I could recapture some of those feelings. Could I figure out ways to travel again on this new planet? Travel is bound to make comeback. Recently, I heard it referred to as, ‘Travel Revenge’. That seems a harsh term for something that brings such joy. Instead, I’m going create my own term, ‘Travel Comeback’. It sounds more Rudy, and Friday Night Lights, rather than Ozark, or the Avengers. More liberating. More inspirational.
Having lived most of my adult life in cities (New York, Tokyo, Washington DC) I am keenly aware of how important nature escapes are to my personal well-being. Rarely does my family take a city vacation, unless it happens to be tacked onto a broader trip. For instance, we spent three days in Barcelona, one summer, on our way to the Spanish island of Mallorca.
Cities are inherently frenetic, and I travel to leave frenetic behind. I thought about our past trips, the ones that organically lended themselves to the current travel climate. Just this summer, we were able to have two nature-filled experiences that (depending on personal views) fit into the parameters of ‘safe’ travel. One was planned, the other, was on a whim. Both turned out to be better holidays than we could have imagined.
What follows are the five travel experiences I am using as a template for future trips, and to create what I will coin as my very own ‘personal travel comebacks’. Hello, new world.
Head to a National Park
National parks were a natural, natural choice, so to speak. Domestically located, filled with fresh air, and with wide-open spaces. We flew to Utah to visit Canyonlands and Arches, but could have just as easily taken a road trip to a closer park, as many travelers are doing this year. Why didn’t I have the foresight to invest in Airstream?
National parks had not been on our radar before, which was partially due to the fact that national parks are known to be crowded, and crowds are something we tend to avoid when we travel. This particular summer, however, crowds were not an issue, and therefore sounded much more enjoyable.
The visitor centers were closed, but the trails, campgrounds, and roads, all remained open. There was no concern about finding a parking space, crowding on the trails, or being stuck behind a snail-paced tour bus. A global pandemic turned out to be a great window in time to visit, a silver lining, indeed. Social distancing was hardly an issue.
Our second nature escape involved seizing the opportunity to spend six weeks at my parents, currently empty home, in Stowe, Vermont. The luck involved with having this chance was not lost on me. Before this idea came to our minds, however, we had been considering a reasonably close driving distanced Airbnb. We were banking on the idea that any change of scenery was going to add value to our family life. We were right. At least that investment paid off.
Stowe offers an overabundance of activities, including hiking, biking, climbing, and swimming in waterfalls. While we hardly ventured beyond a five mile radius of the house, we felt like we were granted a new lease on life. My loss of freedom in DC was recovered, and changed my state of mind exponentially.
When I think back to the holidays where I have felt the most relaxed and carefree, it is without a doubt, a sailing holiday. Maybe, it has to do with the lack of ‘things’ needed on this kind of trip. Flip flops, shorts, bathing suits, cover ups, sunscreen, and a toothbrush, could truly suffice. No need for make-up, hair dryers, fancy clothes, or jewelry, which is part of what makes this a unique kind of luxury vacation.
Our family has sailed in a number of ways, and in a number of places. From bareboating a monohull sailboat in the British Virgin Islands, to privately chartered catamarans in the Windward Islands, to fully-crewed gulets in Turkey, Croatia, and Greece.
Each version of this vacation is extraordinary. However, when boiled down, it is the scenery, and the people, that ultimately makes it so. Of course, a crew and a cook helps, if that is your thing (it’s mine). Or, hoisting the sails, and battling gusts of wind is your thing (not mine). Regardless, it is liberating to see the world from the bow of a boat, where the landscape of the islands passing by like a National Geographic documentary.
This kind of trip is made for the here and now; built-in social distancing with our own pods, and endless hours spent out of doors. Once hurricane season passes, the sea is ours.
Go treasure hunting
Caribbean travel typically requires a plane, and airports, which are understandably a little less appealing than they used to be. Wait, were they ever appealing? Lately, I think more about the feelings involved with those island trips, and how I can recapture those feelings closer to home.
For someone who doesn’t like salt water, cold water, swimming, or waves, I certainly gravitate towards beach trips more than makes sense. What I love about beaches has more to do with the natural elements; the vastness of the ocean, the colors, the weather, the shells, and found objects. My head is often directed at the shoreline, searching for hidden treasures high tide has left behind. My kids find this highly embarrassing. I don’t care.
A few summers ago, we spent a week at the beach in Bridgehampton, New York. I liked watching the sea birds stand at attention on the glossy, wet, sand, all facing the same direction, unwilling to get their feathers ruffled. Their colors embodied every shade of gray between black and white, and reminded me of a palette of paint. From Shoreline and Whale Gray, to Storm and Balboa Mist. Even Benjamin Moore is inspired by the birds.
Check out villa life
Nothing says “private, remote, and secluded’ like a hilltop villa on Antigua, or on the fine, white, sandy beaches of Mustique. In fact, the Caribbean is one of those places that is uniquely well-suited to current social distancing rules.
One of the reasons villa living is so coveted, is due to its sense of isolation. Often, villas have the option for an on-site chef, and staff. Many have amenities that go well beyond what a typical resort or hotel offers. Villas provide a different kind of escape. The feeling of home, but one where cooking and cleaning isn’t required. A home where the sunsets are a nightly show to wait patiently for with a cocktail. Home, but better.
A few years ago, we traveled to St Barths, along with a few other couples. We rented a villa through the well known island resort, Eden Rock, called Ixfalia. Each of the bedrooms was accessed from outside, and faced the sea. The common spaces had tall, thatched roofs that blurred the lines between indoor and outdoor life. The pool boasted 360 degree views. Ixfalia had a gym, a built-in sound system, and a fully stocked kitchen and bar. There was virtually no need to leave the premises.
Never has a villa trip sounded more enchanting to me than it does now. A way to shelter-in-a-much-better-place. The fact that villas, cottages, and cabins, are such a pandemic-friendly way to experience travel, makes them all the more tempting.
Hike a mountain
Not long ago, someone really important said, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ I took Mrs Obama’s sentiment in both the literal, and figurative senses. It seems especially important to remember now, when life feels so uncertain and out of focus.
Hiking, at least in my adult life, has been the activity which has given me the biggest bang-for-the-buck from a mental health perspective. It combines physical fitness, of which I have an ongoing love/hate relationship, with other, more pleasurable benefits—breathtaking scenery, and views. A way to re-focus, perhaps.
The past few years, we started to incorporate more adventure into our holidays. We spent a week at Deplar Farm, in northern Iceland. We tried activities that I had never heard of (TOMCAR driving), or misunderstood (canyoneering), or had no interest in (clay pigeon shooting). Funnily enough, I loved them all.
Deplar Farm delivered on a promised superior level of adventure, luxury, and service, that I hadn’t known existed. The next level of luxury, adding in hardcore adventure, at a remote destination. Something for everyone.
But closer to home, and road trip-worthy, are destinations like the Tetons, in Wyoming, with majestic mountains, and hidden glacial lakes waiting to be found. Hiking is invigorating. The surge of dopamine I get overrides the painfully early wake ups, fear of bears, and the all-consuming physical exhaustion.
Overall, I feel like my best me when I am hiking, (an even better me, when I am done hiking). I feel happiest when I am searching for shells on a beach, feeling the wind at my back on a catamaran, or exploring a nearly empty national park.
All of these travel experiences have a place on the new planet, in some way. My pandemic reality has given me an excuse to not do any of the things I never wanted to do in the first place. The things I actually want to do, I can still do. My schedule is wide open for a travel comeback. Watch this space.
Jamie Edwards is Founder of I am Lost and Found. I am Lost and Found is a luxury/adventure travel website that inspires others to explore the world, through first-hand experiential writing and captivating photography.