Now What? Things to Do When You Can’t Travel

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Times are tough for everyone right now and our world is hurting. For people who incorporate travel as a significant or important part of their life, this knowledge that we can’t travel can feel a bit like a life sentence. I know, because I am one of those people.

I don’t have all of the answers and I’m stumbling through this challenging and unprecedented time along with everyone else. But I thought I’d share some things I’m doing or what I plan to do to take the edge off while I’m grounded. My hope is to start a dialogue so we can share ideas to get through this together.

globe, globe hanging in front of a beautifully-lit background
Photo Credit: Artem Baliaikin, Unsplash

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The Word that Will Remain Unnamed

No, this isn’t going to be a piece about “THAT” and I’m not even going to mention the global pandemic by name. In truth, it could be about any time when we can’t travel, whether it be due to financial reasons, health, or something else entirely. I just happen to be writing the piece now and of course, it’s top of mind. However, it’s not required for this content to still have meaning.

We happen to globally be in a period where travel isn’t possible or at a minimum, it is significantly restricted. And to travel now could be at our own, and our loved ones’ significant personal risk. It seems an easy decision to stay home and yet, there are a lot of consequences of it. People whose work is dependent on tourism like airlines, travel, companies, hotels, and restaurants are all significantly impacted. the effects are widespread and are still being felt and it’s a tough time right now.

Most people are doing the responsible thing and it’s hard! It’s hard to sit home, or wherever we are, feeling so scared and out of control. And most of of, not to be able to do something that at a minimum, brings us joy. But for some, it brings up peace, happiness, and mental health.

What Not Traveling Has Meant

I began joking about my “first world problem” of having to cancel my trips and not being able to travel for a while. And it’s true—I’m very lucky to be able to travel as much as I do and for that I’m grateful. It requires a lot of hard work to do so while balancing other priorities. But I’m able to travel frequently and I’m thankful for that opportunity.

But now that the time period is extended indefinitely, where weeks became months and now there’s the possibility of this sentence lasting for upwards of a year or two until there’s a vaccine, things are looking much bleaker. And I don’t mean to be a “drama mama” about it at all.

However, I’m very quickly learning how much of my happiness was tied to my travels. And how much it was a pressure valve of sorts taking the heat off my life. I feel like I can’t complain as my life is good enough and I’m content with, but if I’m honest, I’m not truly happy with it. This is what has smacked me in the face over the last few weeks as this has dragged on and it has been enlightening, but not in a positive way.

And since the time period is so undefined, it’s starting to feel like a life sentence and I’m wondering if I will make it out the other end the same person I was before all hell broke loose in the world. High drama? Maybe, but I depend on my travels and now I don’t have them, and won’t for a while.

dog and cat, my adorable dog, Jagger, and my beautiful cat Noel. Chug (chihuahua/pug, and a beautiful grey tabby with the most striking blue-green turquoise eyes, things to do when you can't travel
My view at the moment: Jagger and Noel staring at me

Ways to Cope

As I wrote earlier, I don’t have all of the answers. And if I’m honest, I’m not sure I even have answers at all at this point. My pets are happier that I’m home more, that’s for sure! But here’s what I know: I need to find a way to support myself by finding ways to balance my mental health while doing things that I love. Perhaps they won’t be things I love as much as traveling, but my goal now is finding a way to effectively fill that void.

Do Things That Bring Joy

It’s tough when I can’t travel as that’s one of the things in my life that bring me the most joy. But I do have other interests and during times that I can’t travel, I look to those for fulfillment and enjoyment. Of course, this is the current situation we’re all in now. However, even when I can’t travel for other reasons like when I have personal commitments or busy times at work.

Learn Something New

Before all of this really flared up, I was starting to learn another language. It can be challenging to travel to other countries when you don’t speak the language, so I decided to do something about that. I have been wanting to do it for a long time and decided to dust off one of the languages I started to learn in grade school (a very, very long time ago)!

I actually bought a program with someone I had met years ago at a conference who is a polyglot. He started on his language learning path in his 20s and is proof that it can be done at a later age.

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It was several weeks into his language challenge and I was feeling good about it when the chaos hit. I was finding a great rhythm to my daily Spanish learning practice when life went off the rails. I, unfortunately, did what most people do and dropped it.

Though many people have been dramatically impacted, my life thankfully hasn’t changed a lot. I still have a full-time job, this blog, and my freelance writing gig so I’m crazy busy still. I just suffer now a bit more with a lack of motivation and concentration.

So, when I was more limited in focus and something had to go, it was the language learning that did. On a good note, I saw how quickly I started to pick it up again and what it took to get there, so I have a template for future learning.

Take Advantage of the Opportunity

It would be a great idea when anyone finds they have additional time on their hands and a nice distraction when you have the time. While I’m sorry I dropped it, for now, I needed to focus elsewhere. It was great to see just how quickly I was starting to feel more comfortable and picking it up, and once I have the time to again, I have a great learning framework.

So, ask yourself what you have wanted to do for a while. Maybe it’s learning a language, how to take better photographs or another skill. Maybe you’ve wanted to start a blog! When you can’t travel and have time you didn’t expect, take the opportunity to do something else and enjoy the rewards.

Travel Virtually

If you can’t go to visit other magical places then bring them to you! Being an “armchair tourist” is easier than you think. There are so many wonderful virtual ways to scratch that travel itch when you can’t travel.

You’ll find a lot of different opportunities for virtual tours and experiences including recorded videos, live cams, and even live tours. Some established and reputable companies like Get Your Guide, Amazon, and Airbnb are offering live virtual tours where you can visit with a local.

They also offer classes like cooking classes and craft classes. Visit Naples, tour Valencia, or learn how to make the best Pisco sour. Yum! And oh my gosh, meditate with sheep. Seriously! How fun is that?? Tour Pompeii and learn to make fresh pasta in Venice.

There are also a lot of virtual tour opportunities with businesses like museums. Museums like the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, see the Mona Lisa in the Louve, and tour one of my favorite Boston Museums, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

And, it’s not just museums you can visit virtually. Tour Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, climb the Eiffel Tower, and check out who shows up at a watering hole in Kenya. More adventurous people can hike the Inca Trail in Peru to Machu Picchu and even dive with great white sharks.

Volunteering

Unfortunately, one of the things I enjoy doing is my volunteering, which I can’t currently do. Every week before all of this started, I was out on a weekly basis with my therapy dog or cat. We volunteer with hospice patients at facilities and adult group homes and with children at risk at a crisis center and at a therapeutic group home.

I also work with animals supporting animal rescue groups by fostering dogs and cats. (Right now, I do still have a foster kitten, and we are waiting until we can do some introductions to get her to her forever home.) I also go to adoption events to help out, walk dogs, and things like that.

dog wearing a viking hat, therapy dog, my brindle dog Che, boxer/pitbull/retriever, silver faced handsome dog
Che rockin’ the hat for Halloween with the kids

I keep in touch with the places I volunteer with and have sent pictures and videos of my pets to stay connected. It also lets them know we care. I’m going to look into volunteering opportunities that can be done online. It won’t be the same, but people don’t stop needing help and perhaps I can help in a different way.

Writing

Another thing I love to do is writing, and I have been writing a lot lately. I’m (shockingly!) weeks ahead in this blog, and I take on other writing projects as well. None of this has changed recently, though I’m spending more time at it than I did before. It’s a nice break from the day-to-day and gives me the opportunity to get away a bit, even if in my head!

I’m finding that I’m a lot more distracted right now and it’s difficult to get “in the zone,” but I appreciate the efforts when I get there. When I can dig deep and really lose myself in my writing, even for a bit, it makes me much happier for a time and helps me to manage my stress.

Consider a Road Trip with Your Dog

It may be that you just can’t travel right now and that’s ok. Or maybe, you really had your heart set on a big international adventure but instead, you could do a domestic trip. If the latter is the case, consider a road trip with your dog.

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Who would be more excited to spend some quality time with you than your dog? He (or she!) isn’t going to think, “Oh, I wish this was Paris!” Instead, your dog lives very much in the moment and is going to be SO stinkin’ excited just to be with you enjoying a new adventure.

It may not be the trip you were dreaming of, but I am sure your pup can promise you, it’ll be amazing!

Organize Past Trips

Now that I write a travel blog, I’m a bit more organized about my process of saving pictures, notes, etc. I can definitely improve in some areas, but I have had to figure out a structure. After doing things multiple times as I couldn’t find them, and worse, losing things, I sat down to map it out better and my system works ok. It can certainly use some tweaks and I’ll be working on that.

But my past trips, say, more than two years ago? My pictures and content are an unholy mess. I had a travelogue I wrote for years so I have some of that documentation, but my pictures are all over the place. And in the gap between my travelog and blog, I think I have some notepads where I took notes about my travels. In truth, I’m not entirely sure what is where and it’s a mess. I need to take some time to go through it all to organize and see what I have.

Maybe you’re like me in that you have some work to do for your past trips. You may never blog or sell your photography, but it’s still a good idea to find a way to organize. Maybe you could to picture books filled with your favorite images of your trip or a video. Whatever you do, it would be a fun project to do right now. Doing this enables you to relive your trip and to enjoy it all over again, something desperately needed right now. Particularly since many of us can’t see our loved ones during this time.

statue of liberty, new york city, new york, ny, united states icons, united states symbol, freedom, symbols of freedon
Statue of Liberty, New York City, NY, USA

Plan Future Travels

This one is a bit of a double-edged sword. As much as I love getting excited about a trip and planning for it, knowing the trip I’m planning may be years down the road is a bit less inspiring. In fact, I find it somewhat discouraging. Who knows what will change by the time I can go? Will that restaurant be closed? Will the museum still be open?

I’ll be honest, I haven’t done a whole lot of travel planning as it’s a little too painful right now. But I have a lot of trips I have mapped out at a high level in my head that I’d love to go on. So, it makes some sense to start some high-level planning during this travel drought.

egypt, giza, pyramids, giza pyramids, egypt pyramids
My dream trip was planned to go to Egypt
cordoba, spain
Córdoba, Spain

Develop a Different Perspective

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, right? If you find you can’t travel—for whatever reason—take advantage of the time and consider another perspective. Time is something so precious that we don’t tend to take advantage of or appreciate nearly enough. Talk to anyone at the end of their life, and a common theme you will hear is about how they spent their time. And often, how they wish they had spent the time they had differently.

Consider how you spend your time and if you are valuing this precious commodity. Money is important, and how important it is to everyone is a wide range. But consider that time is something you can’t get more of. We each have a finite amount so consider where yours is going.

The Best Ways to Handle When You Can’t Travel

When you’re limited and can’t do something you love, what else can you do in the meantime? Are there other ways you can find happiness when you can’t travel? I’m very curious to hear your ideas and thoughts, so please comment below or email me.

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