The holiday season is upon us, and after a year of thwarted travel plans, it sure is easy to skip past 2020 and look to the hope of 2021. However, as travelers, are we not wired to embrace this type of adversity? Meaning, if we get excited about going to Socotra or enjoy the struggle of dense South American jungles, shouldn’t we find a way to glean some positive out of this year?
We all know students who take a gap year away from their education to travel. What if we take a page out of their book and look back on 2020 as our gap year? What if this was our opportunity to do the reverse and recharge our dreams? Reading, watching, learning?If we have not done so already, maybe we use the holiday season to plan.
For most of us, our plans may begin with a solid guidebook. I’m sure you have a library similar to mine, one that is loaded up with shelves of Lonely Planet and Rough Guide books. For years, this has helped us peg our starting point, navigate cultural situations and tap into the best of a destination. This is still my first step.
History books can also educate us on a destination and set the tone for an amazing trip. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s award-winning book, Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar, connected me to the people of Russia, Siberia, and Georgia, and helped me to better understand their recent history. Through our club connection with Rick Shaver, a few years back, Rick encouraged Lana and me to explore Chernobyl, Ukraine, before it was entombed forever in a giant sarcophagus. When we returned, I shared our experience with former board member, Pamela Barrus, who lent me the book, Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich. Wow! The stories shared by survivors of the nuclear disaster were vivid. This made what we saw in Prypiat, Ukraine, that much more emotional and surreal. Thanks, Pam!
Fiction also inspires our next passport stamp. Stephen King novels occupied much of my teenage years and excited my curiosity to visit Maine, United States. And many years following the first time I picked up Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Lana and I finally visited the towns of Bran and Sighisoara in Transylvania, Romania. The regions were haunting as described by their authors.
How we learn and are inspired is as varied as how we travel, and a video series can give us the opportunity to learn and be entertained at the same time. The 1990s Lonely Planet Pilot Guides, hosted by the quirky and enthusiastic Ian Wright, ignited our wanderlust. Ian kept us entertained week after week with his antics and connection to area locals. Departures was another beautifully filmed program, capturing our attention weekly as we watched the young travelers explore far-flung destinations; and even the off-the-wall, Three Sheets, taught us about the drinking customs around the world, as researched by host, Zane Lamprey — I discovered the beer baths in Olomouc, Czech Republic, from watching this crazy show.
It may seem out of the box, but reality TV shows also inspire us. The Eco-Challenge, regarded as the world’s hardest race, not only highlights the flora and fauna of a destination (Fiji in 2019), but captures the grit, determination and raw human spirit of racers; and The Amazing Race is a mainstream series pitting inexperienced travelers against each other as they race against the clock to compete challenges around the world. Somehow, can’t you see a bit of yourself in these shows? Lana and I discovered sand sledding in Namibia after watching The Amazing Race’s season two (2003).
Finally, who doesn’t like a good movie? With thousands of movies to choose from ranging from the 1950s romantic comedy, Roman Holiday, to the archaeological and swashbuckling 1980s Indiana Jones trilogy, we immerse ourselves in the adventure, following the protagonists around the world as they explore Italy, South American jungles, Egypt or Hawaii. Be entertained, smile, laugh and cry. A good movie can take you away for a couple hours.
This holiday season, travel is still possible. Read a book, thumb through a magazine, take notes from a video series or enjoy a movie with family and friends. Be inspired, reflect, study, plan — be entertained. Look back and remember 2020 as our gap year from travel and treat it as our reset opportunity to prepare for future travels in 2021.
I wish each of you and your families a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I look forward to hearing about your 2021 plans and hopefully, seeing you soon.