What do travel bloggers do when there is little in the way of travel to blog about? Some wrote about what it was like traveling during a pandemic; the short answer is “difficult.” Others have fallen silent for a time, or recap past adventures. For a variety of reasons, this is my first post since February.
We haven’t lived through a full year of Ohio weather since we started traveling five years ago. Our home state can be a balmy, lovely place and alternately a dreary, steamy, or cold place. Up until this year we carefully orchestrated our lives to be fair-weather friends to our home base, heading south in winter and north in summer. 2020 came in like a stern auntie who grabs the back of your collar saying “not so fast buster, you’re staying here until I say you can leave!” So far that stern auntie continues to have a firm grip on my collar.
We planned our 2020 travel schedule during the blissfully ignorant end of 2019; winter down south, a summer adventure in the northwest. Reservations were made, itineraries developed, all the dogs’ shots updated. I purchased a new camera and took classes in anticipation of more interesting photos to document our experiences. As our winter departure date approached, we started hearing ominous news from TV, papers and social media. Then came the stay-at-home orders, coupled with a family medical crisis, and our vision of the year ahead had been upended. Eventually the pandemic which had been clearing its throat in February started a full-bore roar that has yet to quiet as I write this in July.
We have been hunkered down in our sticks and bricks home since the holidays which is a long hiatus. We have tried to use our forced layover wisely. The basement has never been so organized and we discarded mountains of items we once thought were useful. I dragged out my ancient sewing machine and dusted off my equally ancient sewing skills to join the millions of people making masks. Ben puttered on the RV for hours, adding new lights, doing some carpentry work and fussing with the mechanicals. We tackled long-overdue home repairs. As was every other dog in America, our dogs were living their best lives, basking in our 24/7 presence. I filled up my car’s gas tank exactly twice from February – April. The garden around the house looks the best it has in five years.
As the pandemic unfolded, RVers began to report they were required to leave campgrounds officials had ordered to be closed as COVID-19 spread. The lucky ones were notified in advance; others arrived to locked gates. RV-related Facebook pages became message boards where people could check to see where campgrounds with vacancies were located and whether there were stores or medical facilities nearby. The uncertainty was especially hard on people who live full time in their RVs. Many found themselves in an odd state of homelessness—technically in their houses but with no safe harbor, adrift like the Flying Dutchman. Every state had different regulations that also varied by municipality making compliance a frustrating experience. The RV community worked to broadcast information: here’s where you can get supplies; this community is hostile to out of town license plates; no non-resident camping allowed; the campground is open, but all the facilities are closed. There was grim news about people who had been sickened. There were also messages of defiance: “No one is gonna tell me I can’t go camping!” “I’ve lived long enough to know I don’t have time to sit out a couple years!” “I’m still going camping. I don’t like people all that much, so social distancing is a great excuse to be left alone.” Bottom line, this is an especially tough year to be a nomad.
Lately I have read that RV and travel trailer sales have increased dramatically, apparently because people feel it is a safer way to vacation than taking public transportation or staying in hotels. The theory behind this notion is you don’t have to interact with others or the environment, you remain safely preserved in your own little tin can. That may be true but hiding out defeats the purpose of travel for someone like me. It’s a way to encounter places and people as you journey to a destination. Rather than roaring above or through the landscape isolated from the places in between your departure and arrival, each stop is an opportunity. I’ve learned more about people in our country than is possible by watching the news or reading newspapers from the comfort of my armchair. My experiences broke through my own prejudices to see life through the eyes of others, to experience people in our country who live in every condition from indescribable luxury to the razor’s edge of survival. Those who hop from place to place are missing the best part of the experience.
I’ve read commentary saying that we need to abandon all forms of travel entirely in this time of climate change and pandemic as it is bad for the environment and damaging to other cultures. Our ancestors traveled for centuries and faced far deadlier circumstances than we do now, armed only with curiosity and faith. Some journeyed by choice and others were compelled to do so. The price for travel has always been exceedingly high. There were those who despoiled the environment by claiming the land, robbing its resources and declaring the people as property. Even when travelers were more benign, unintentional consequences of their interaction caused civilizations to be wiped out by the spread of diseases from the visitors, who were in turn brought down by the diseases they encountered and brought home. We modern types have lost touch with the ugly side of tourism through our vaccinations and antibiotics and exotic locations that protect visitors from the human condition outside the boundaries of glitzy resort walls and spectacular vistas. Perhaps the pandemic will be an incentive to make us rethink how and why we travel and how we should act towards our fellow humans at home and abroad. Hopefully this most painful lesson will be fruitful.
Human beings are a peripatetic species; there are those who are content with the occasional escape from the daily grind, and that’s fine. For others, it’s a succession of experiences and learning along a lifetime. It’s just a matter of time until the travel bloggers record new adventures, perhaps with new insights to share. I hope to see you down the road.