Though I fully recognize there are much more pressing issues in the world right now, I have an announcement — and I think this is a safe space to say it, because I suspect plenty of you are thinking the same thing:
I need a vacation.
We’re overdue, like lots of you probably are.
In March, my wife and I had to give up the trip to Paris and Prague that we’d been planning as a celebration of 20 years of marriage. It would have been our first time in either city. We’d booked food tours in both places, plus a wine cruise on the Vltava River in Prague. When I finally worked up the nerve to click the button on the Air France website to cancel the trip, it felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach.
On a recent morning — and we’re perhaps behind the curve, but — we felt a similar pain upon deciding to pull the plug on a mid-June family trip to Portugal that would require a not-so-minor miracle to be remotely feasible at this point.
But more than any of that, it’s the freedom to travel — on vacation (you know, that thing you do with a suitcase and a plane ticket, maybe a passport, definitely a plan for fun and recharging) — that I’m missing the most.
So while others have passed the time with jigsaw puzzles and Netflix, the fine art of booking trips has become my hobby of choice during my home confinement. Almost an obsession, in fact. Even as our two trips to Europe have evaporated, I’ve been continuing to purchase flights like they’re going out of style. Which they kind of are, actually.
In the past month, I’ve booked vacations for my wife and me in Key West (in July), to Denver (in August), to Boston (in September, for the rescheduled marathon), to Cancun, Mexico (in October) and to Paris and Prague (in February, using vouchers from last month’s canceled trip).
Of course, part of what makes it easier to justify filling my calendar with flights right now is that it’s easier than ever to find cheap ones, if you know where to look for them and how to be alerted to them. (Not a single one of the plane tickets to those cities I mentioned cost more than $300, and the domestic flights were all $100 or less. Email me and I’ll tell you my secrets.) It’ll also be easier than ever to change your dates if you end up needing to, due to the coronavirus prompting the most flexible change policies in the history of the airline industry.
A couple of other points I should make, while we’re doing this:
One, you can relax — we’ll only be getting on an airplane in 2020 if and when it’s generally believed by medical experts (and the majority of society) to be safe to do so.
Two, I get that there’s a lot of suffering going on in the world right now, and that it can seem off-key to whine about not being able to engage in nonessential travel. I get it as much as the next person — my uncle Marshall, who had been in failing health for awhile and was in a rehab center recovering from a recent surgery, when last Monday he came down with a fever of 102 degrees; a few hours later, he was dead of the coronavirus.
I get it all. Yes, in many ways, this is an incredibly depressing time. Loved ones are falling ill and dying, friends are out of work, the economy is sputtering, and at the very least we’re all growing tired of staring at the same four walls in our houses.
At the same time, I get that the anticipation of a vacation can make you a happier person.
A study published in 2010 in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, for instance, showed that vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks leading up to the trip. But I could also just tell you that I’ve planned and been on enough cool vacations to know exactly how much joy the planning and the buildup to a vacation can be.
So if you’re able to afford it, once you’ve supported the local businesses you love and given to the charities that you feel connected to, surf over to Google Flights at least a couple of times a day and sift through your favorite travel websites and linger over the blank spaces in your calendar.
And when it seems like a great destination presents itself, at the right price, make solid plans to get away. Somewhere. Anywhere.
We may not actually get to any of these places we’re dreaming of anytime soon. It may be a long, long time before it’s deemed safe again.
But right now, it’s just nice to have something — anything, really — to look forward to.