January 7, 2021
Even though I managed to eke out more than a modicum of fun going places in the year of the plague, I was home more in 2020 than any twelve months since 1960. I have been counting on this year to be different and not just because vaccinations are in sight. Our youngest goes off to university in the fall, and our oldest graduates from college this spring and begins a great job in tech in June. The lifting of parental responsibilities that have been tied to the tyranny of school calendars for 25 years converges (we hope) with the tail end of the Covid-19 misery. Which frees us to travel. We’ve intended to take advantage of that newfound flexibility with a vengeance. But what year? Of course we hope it’ll be 2021. But more and more it looks like 2022.
My wife has an embarrassing number of weeks of vacation carried over from year to year that she will begin to lose if not used, and, pre-pandemic, I’d mastered the art of travel planning around the rhythms of my own intense schedule of civic duties. So we are excited and well-prepared to go.
As always, so many places to choose from. I’ve written a great deal about returning to the Kruger National Park in South Africa this May, and that trip is still confirmed, though it could change again—or be canceled—depending on where things stand with the novel coronavirus then. With SA seeing the biggest rise in cases in Africa as of now, and with the new highly infectious CV-19 strain there that may be resistant to the present set of vaccines, who knows? Whether May works out or not, we are shooting for another trip to the Kruger in January, 2022 with friends who have long wanted to go.
But…that’s 2022, a year from now.
Then there’s Morocco, which we intended to explore last July to celebrate our 25th anniversary. That may have to wait until 2022 as well because Morocco is currently suffering from the second worst Covid surge in Africa after South Africa. When we go, we want to be free to experience everything rather than being under a cloud.
For years we have batted around the idea of discovering the many beautiful places in Japan outside Tokyo. I’ve always wanted to take the train to Hokkaido in the deep snows of winter. Our daughter is interested in going back to Hiroshima, where she studied and lived with a local family as a young teen for a few weeks.
We would like to return to China, too, and continue exploring its many and varied regions. Not to mention our longtime love of Thailand and surrounding Southeast Asian countries. We’ve never been south of Hanoi in Vietnam, for instance. It would be good to see Hong Kong again before its magnificent energy and spirit is totally snuffed out. Korea is a place we have only a passing knowledge of, and our daughter still wants to go to Australia and New Zealand. I miss the Aussies myself; I grew quite fond of the place and its people after working there seven or eight times.
My wife and I hope to get to exotic Bhutan one day, as I’ve mentioned in past posts. And I yearn to visit central Asian nations with expert David Rowell, in the good company of adventurous friend Joe Brancatelli. That’s a trip I’ve anticipated for years, and we were planning to go in 2020 until, well, you know.
Not to mention returning to Italy and the rest of Europe. I never tire of Tuscany, and I keep learning about heavenly places to eat in Rome! The French wax lyrically about joie de vivre, but the Italians live it every day.
Don’t want to forget the world’s tropical islands, either. My wife and I are enamored with white sand, palm trees, and azure blue lagoons covering coral reefs teeming with sea life. We long to return to St. John, the Maldives, and many other island paradises.
But, again, when? 2021, we hope. Many virus and vaccination uncertainties remain, too, of course.
The other fly in the ointment, however, could very well be the coincidence of vectors restricting our post-Covid travel patterns. Because when pent-up demand for flying meets now-atrophied airline networks, I expect airfares to explode. The airlines will adjust fares to maximize cash flow resulting from huge demand and low supply.
Combine that factor with the certainty that the world won’t all get vaccinated at once, which will limit—or at least discourage—travel to places still seeing coronavirus cases rise. That will concentrate travel demand to places mostly recovered from the virus, further making it expensive to get there and to be there, not to mention making those places congested.
I’d like to think 2021 travel is going to redeem lackluster 2020, but, realistically, it’s feeling like 2022 is more likely to be our big year for going places again.