S.L.O.W. Travel in a Post-Covid World
As we move into a situation where we find we are oh so ready to travel again, we all wonder what those trips might look like and how they might be different than what we've always done. For now, let's leave topics of safety and hygiene, testing and vaccine protocols to THOSE experts and to the institutions that will apply what has been recommended (airlines/other transportation, hotels, etc.). As travel returns, it's a given that safety in all it's many implications will be part of the equation. But what will your TRIP specifically look like? Well, I've had a lot of time to think about that since March.
I foresee a transition into what I'm calling S.L.O.W. travel. Finding places and times and strategies to be among smaller crowds. Using careful pre-planning, yet not going overboard on strict scheduling. Utilizing planning/booking resources that offer a good degree of flexibility and are responsive to communications. To be fair, it's not that far off from what I planned or how I planned for my clients in the 15 years pre-pandemic. But I do believe there's going to be more awareness of our every action and a bit more of an effort to maintain some degree of a personal bubble when we're out there traveling. Think in terms of independent travel, small groups, and small(er) ship cruising. Here's how I'm breaking it all down:
SUSTAINABLE~~In an era where the environment is top of mind, and overtourism of popular destinations has become a hot topic, we have come to realize that we must find our way into sustainable travel. Once the pandemic put a full stop on travel, it may have actually forced our hand to do all things a bit differently and with more thought once we start traveling again. So-called "green", environmentally-friendly actions and attitudes will play a part, but think of sustainable as much more than just being green. The places we long to visit and the people we encounter are sometimes walking a tightrope that stretches between surviving largely on tourism dollars while also engaging in herculean efforts to maintain and preserve their fragile destinations or infrastructures, or even cultures. Even in ordinary times, all travel comes with the burden of responsibility, and so we must be more aware of our responsibilities to others and the places they call home. I daresay we'll be thinking about avoiding busy season when we can, and looking for ways to miss heavy crowds yet not skip or skimp on experiences. I believe we'll be traveling more within our own independent bubble, or in small (even privatized) group bubbles so as to tread more lightly in delicate environments, as well as to minimize the number of people we spend extended time with. Additionally, if cruising is part of a trip, I'm expecting to see reduced capacity of passengers onboard both river cruise and ocean cruise vessels, at least for awhile, along with thoughtfully orchestrated shore excursions for passengers going ashore.
LINGER~~Rather than ticking off boxes on a list and moving on in lightning-fast fashion, I believe travelers on land-based trips might want to stay just a bit longer in destinations to minimize moving around. Adding a night or two to any given destination allows you to slow down, savor, and dig deeper. Not only will there be time for the highlights, but also time to look beyond. At the same time, that extra night or two in one spot will provide an economic boost to the local economy that can't be matched by day trippers. Your hotelier, tour guide, shop owner, or taxi driver will be grateful for the opportunity to showcase their destination to someone who's settling in as opposed to just passing through.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH~~Nothing will diminish the importance of the gems of history and culture and scenery found in the most popular destinations. Travelers will always want to go to all those places, and of course they should. But a country is so much more than it's main cities or sights! In addition to, or sometimes in lieu of, those popular destinations, what if you take yourselves away from the known places and venture into lesser-known and lesser-traveled regions? The gems of history or culture or scenery you crave will absolutely still be found, but in different manifestations. Far from the madding crowds in off-the-beaten-path destinations, revel in your discoveries! Find your own way. Which leads us to...
WANDER & WONDER~~Whether in well-known destinations, or somewhere much less visited, always take time to wander. Wandering invites the opportunity for serendipity, and serendipity often leads to wonder...and joy...and fun surprises! Having the time and taking the time to leave the door open for new and unexpected experiences is why so many people return from their trips with the biggest smiles on their faces and the best new stories and memories. You just never know when getting lost just a little bit will lead you to a wonderful discovery that completely makes your day! Plans are important, but wandering and letting serendipity in might just be where the magic happens!