Lesson Learned: What 2020 Taught Me About Travel

Lesson Learned: What 2020 Taught Me About Travel

There is a wonderful children’s book called The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It’s a fantasy tale full of puns and cleverness. One of the places in the book is called the Doldrums. It’s a rather nondescript sort of place, generally bland and boring with overcast skies. The people who live there are called Lethargians — they do nothing all day, every day. Nothing ever changes in the Doldrums.

Overall, I feel like I have been visiting the Doldrums for the greater part of 2020. Thankfully, I did something in 2020 that I normally don’t do — I took a trip in January. Spain, you were amazing and I miss you even more than I thought I would!

Outside the Antigua Casa de Talavera in Madrid, where I spent too much money.

Six weeks after my return, the US went on lockdown and travel was pretty much forbidden. We thought it would be just a couple of weeks… but it ended up being months… and, in fact, it still isn’t over. Here’s what 2020 taught me about travel.

Lesson Learned #1: Embrace Being Home When You Aren’t Traveling

I’m not gonna lie. At first I thought it was kind of cool that I had to stay home. Suddenly, I was able to catch up – and stay caught up – on laundry. I got plenty of quality time with my family and pets. The busyness of life was pretty much gone. And when it occurred to me that with all of us at home, it was the ideal time to get a puppy – well, a miracle happened and somehow my husband didn’t object. Meet Chewie:

The day we got him! He’s 3/4 Corgi and 1/4 Elkhound… but he sounds like Chewbacca,
Chewie now. He will be one year old on inauguration day!

Lesson Learned #2: You Can “Travel” Without Going Very Far

After a while, though, even with a puppy to wreak havoc keep us busy, I grew tired of being home All. The. Time. When warmer weather came, I ventured out to my local beach. I enjoy being there – it’s peaceful, there’s a bountiful supply of sea glass, and I generally have the place to myself in the off-season. Once I learned that it was not closed to the public, I started going more often, usually once or twice a week. It was the only thing that kept me sane in those first few months. Also, I found a lot of sea glass:

This vase is about 18 inches tall and 10 inches in diameter.

The beach wasn’t far away or a popular spot, or even all that special (aside from the sea glass). But it was a much-needed escape and when you’ve been cooped up in your house for weeks, getting in the car and driving to a beach 30 minutes away kinda does feel like a vacation.

Lesson Learned #3: Travel Doesn’t Always Have to Mean Catching a Flight Somewhere

Summer came and restrictions started lifting. Hubs decided to buy us an RV. Driving around in a small house on wheels is not my preferred method of travel by any stretch of the imagination. When I brought up the puppy, he brought up wanting an RV. At the time I didn’t know how serious he was, so we sort of agreed to get both an RV and a puppy. Joke’s on me – he was very serious! Like, 32 feet long serious.

Chewie thinks the RV is pretty cool too!

While this isn’t my preferred method of travel, I have to admit, traveling this way does have its perks, especially during a pandemic. It’s all self-contained, so there is no need to worry about how thoroughly the place was cleaned after the last guests left. The only people staying there are you and your family with your own germs.

So, with the RV, that gave us a few options that we did not have before. And at the beginning of July we took it to Williamsburg Virginia for a trip to celebrate my husband’s birthday. We toured a winery, played a scavenger hunt, and visited the Virginia Aquarium. All activities featured masks and social distancing. It almost felt normal.

Lesson Learned #4: Visiting Friends Counts as Travel

For Labor Day weekend, we took the RV to another part of our state and met an old friend of mine there. (We’ve known each other since kindergarten!) We went to an all-outdoors sunflower festival which was really enjoyable. As my friend said, there’s something about sunflowers that makes everyone feel like a five-year-old.

Lesson Learned #5: Play the Game, then Walk Away (with money still in your pocket)

Back in the summer of 2019, Holiday Inn Vacation Club made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: Pay $250 and get a three-night stay at one of their properties PLUS $149 in cash after sitting through a sales presentation. I know plenty of people who have timeshares and have lived to regret it. One even paid someone else money to get rid of hers! So I was confident I could resist the sales pitch and I figured $101 for three nights was a good deal. I told them to sign me up and I later booked a trip to Orlando for April 2020.

But then, COVID. So I canceled and asked for an extension of the expiration date. Holiday Inn Vacation Club was very understanding and gave me an additional six months to take advantage of the deal.

(Side note: Spirit Airlines tried to give me a voucher for my canceled airfare that would have expired in September 2020. Armed with the knowledge that the DOT was requiring airlines to give full refunds for COVID-related cancellations, I pushed for a refund – and got it.)

So we rescheduled the timeshare trip for September, right around my birthday. And since at the time we thought our daughter would be away at college by then, we chose a different destination – Galveston, Texas. I was able to get a pretty good deal on airfare, so I guess that’s one positive thing that came out of the pandemic.

When it came time to go, I did not anticipate the stress caused by the people in the airports and on the planes not wearing a mask and/or not wearing it correctly. I also did not expect that the planes would have EVERY seat filled. By the time we got to Texas, I was almost certain we would be coming home with COVID.

The accommodations were nice enough. The sales pitch was as awful as we had expected.

THEM: This is an investment that you will own for the rest of your life!

US: We are 54. We are only going to be traveling for another 15 years or so. Twenty years at most. (Secretly hoping for much more!)

THEM: But you can will it to your kids when you’re gone!

US: Hah! They can pay for their own vacations!

Yeah, they kind of regretted the day they saw us in the lobby. And let me just say to anyone that is considering getting a timeshare: don’t do it. These people were offering us ten years of payments at 16-point-something percent interest. THAT IS NOT A GOOD DEAL. And then there are maintenance fees. Ask anyone you know who has a timeshare about their maintenance fees. Basically, a timeshare is paying a second mortgage on a property that you don’t really own and will only get to use a couple of weeks a year. Does that sound like a good deal to you?

Heck no.

As for Galveston, we didn’t really see or do a lot because (a) the pandemic had a lot of places shut down and (b) Hubs has an Army buddy who lives about an hour away from there, so we spent most of our time just visiting with him and his wife.

BUT! I did get a tip that the nearby Bolivar Peninsula (pronounced like Oliver with a B, not like Simon Bolivar) was a good place to look for sea glass, so we checked it out. I looked for a solid three hours and found plenty of great glass and shells. Then, at my very last stop, I found this beauty:

A sea glass stopper – a rare find!

Lesson Learned #6: Travel Can Be Just for a 1-Day Event

When I met up with my friend over Labor Day weekend we decided that we would go to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire together. The first date that we both had available was Halloween. So we planned on it, booked our tickets, and when the time came, we loaded up the RV and headed up to Pennsylvania for some costumed fun. We decided to go as pirates.

Arrrrrr

Lesson Learned #7: It’s Never a Bad Idea to Travel to that Place You’ve Been Meaning to Check Out

At this point, I could tell that our time of relative travel freedom would soon be coming to an end. It was starting to get cold. Outdoor events would become a distant memory. We debated whether to take a trip somewhere as one last hurrah before cold weather and the holidays hit. (Of course the answer was an emphatic yes!)

Since we wanted to (a) head south to minimize the risk of cold weather and (b) go no farther than a 5-6 hour drive away from home, we opted to go to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I have lived in Maryland my entire life and had never been to the Outer Banks before. Now, that may seem strange, but I have Atlantic beaches about 40 minutes from my house, and that’s not only closer, but it’s also easier to get to.

We drove the RV down and stayed at Oregon Inlet Campground. It didn’t offer a whole lot in the way of amenities but it was just a short walk to the beach. On our first morning there, I got up early with Chewie and took him out for a walk to explore… and found a stunning Atlantic sunrise!

Needless to say, that became our morning routine while we were there! Because of the pandemic and also the fact that we were there in mid-November, our options for things to do in the Outer Banks were somewhat limited. We did a lot of walking on the beach – I found one piece of seaglass and plenty of well worn, beautiful shells. We also went to Jockey’s Ridge State Park, where Hubs had visited in his youth.

This little boy climbed all the way to the top of the dunes with us!

We also visited Bodie Island Lighthouse. Visitors couldn’t go inside, but we still enjoyed seeing it up close and taking photos of it.

I really enjoyed our trip to the Outer Banks, and I’m glad we went. Even though we didn’t get to go to all the cool places or see all the things we normally would have, I found it a place of beauty. In fact, it was quite different from the beaches that are close to my home. I’ll definitely go back at some point in the future!

In Summary

2020 had a profound impact on the ability to travel. But it did not kill it. My biggest lesson learned from the year was to be flexible and adapt to circumstances. Being open to traveling in different ways and to different types of places gave me a handful of experiences that I will cherish. 2020 also taught me just how vital traveling is to my psychological well being. It is certainly not something that I will ever take for granted again!

Pin Me!

Summary
Lesson Learned: What 2020 Taught Me About Travel
Article Name
Lesson Learned: What 2020 Taught Me About Travel
Description
The pandemic of 2020 had a profound impact on our ability to travel. Adapting to these changes taught me some valuable lessons on how to make the most of travel opportunities.
Julie Peters
Travel As Much
Travel As Much
Publisher Logo

2 Replies to “Lesson Learned: What 2020 Taught Me About Travel”

  1. Julie, you are such a gifted writer! Maybe when I’m ready to go to Ireland ..covid, go away…I’ll get in touch for some sage advice!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.