With the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic essentially shutting down the tourism industry, it’s hard not to reflect on our travel habits and consider how they might change in the future.
Whether these changes come about by force (new rules and regulations by governments or travel companies) or by personal choice, I think we all need to reconsider what we want travel to look like moving forward. I think it was already clear that the industry needed to make some changes in regard to sustainability, but there’s a lot more to consider now.
I started thinking about my own style of travel long before the pandemic. It’s changed a lot since I first started traveling, and I want to continue to be more mindful about what I want to get out of it (and what I want to provide by doing it).
What Changes Will We Make?
I’ve spent a lot of time at home the last couple of years trying to figure things out by asking myself these questions:
- How often do I want to be traveling?
- Where do I want to go (and why)?
- How do I want to incorporate travel into my life? What role does it play?
- Why did I start traveling and why will I keep traveling?
Now that we’re unable to travel for months (if not much longer), there’s an added layer of questions to consider:
- When will I be able to travel again?
- Where will I be able to go?
- Will I need to take extra precautions and spend more time planning?
- How can I use my travel time wisely?
I’ve been looking back over a lot of my past travels as I write stories for my newsletter, which really tied into all of these questions. Thinking about what travel was like for me before, what brought me joy, and how that differs from my more recent adventures brings up a lot of ideas.
I’m not here trying to predict what travel will be like for everyone after the pandemic dies down. I’m not an expert and I am in no way attempting to make overarching statements about the future of the tourism industry. I also want to note that I started writing this long before lockdown, and simply made some adjustments.
I’m just using this as an opportunity to reconsider how I would like to travel and what changes I want to make. These “changes” are based on the following factors:
- The values and issues that are most important to me right now
- The overall lifestyle I want to live moving forward
- Aspects of past travels that brought the most joy
- A travel style that is sustainable (both for the world, and for my life)
- Making room for professional and business goals
- Balancing various aspects of my life (I want to do more than just travel)
How Will Travel Change?
Here are the changes I want to make, how I want travel to look for me, and the values I will hold. Maybe some of these elements will become more common post-pandemic anyways, but this is how I want to focus and prioritize my travel lifestyle.
Slow Travel and Long-term Travel
For years, I’ve been caught between wanting to be nomadic and wanting to have a home. Both options have their pros and cons, so it feels like a constant balance between the two.
In the last couple of years, most of my trips have been a bit shorter, bouncing back and forth between travel and home. But something I really miss is long-term travel. While I’m not sure I’ll return to it in the next year (especially since I don’t know if that will even be an option now), it’s something I look forward to doing again some day.
Regardless of how long or how “permanently” I’ll be able to travel, I know that I’ll continue to make slow travel a priority. I’ve never enjoyed hopping from one place to another too quickly. I much prefer spending a lot of time in one place and getting to know it better, even if that means I’ll only manage to visit a handful of countries in my lifetime (you’ll never see me trying to visit every country in the world).
For me, slow travel is about taking your time on the journey, digging into a destination beyond the basics, and connecting with the place and the people on a deeper level.
Balance is a hard thing to achieve. In general, I think we need to reassess how we look at “balance”, but that’s another conversation.
It’s been especially tough for me to balance my passion for traveling with the work I want to do, and all of the other parts of life on top of that. How can one possibly see the world, run a creative business, be there for your friends and family, achieve all of your goals, AND have time to just…be?
While the “digital nomad” lifestyle claims to give you more of that balance, I found that to be untrue. Working and traveling is hard enough, but adding a personal life into that is…tough. I don’t know if that balance is possible at all, but I’m going to keep trying to find a lifestyle that brings me mental stability.
Road Trips and Train Travel
I miss road trips. It used to be my main form of travel in the early days. I think road trips are the best way to travel around the U.S. (where I’m from, FYI), but I haven’t been on a road trip in a couple of years.
Road trips may be our first option when it comes to safe travel post-quarantine, so it looks like it could be something to do sooner (like, months from now) rather than later.
Train travel is another type of travel I really love. I’ve been fascinated with it for years, and I enjoy traveling by train when I can. It makes the journey the main event and it certainly fits in with the slow travel philosophy. I want to make more of an effort to take train trips in the future, even if it isn’t the cheapest travel option (although maybe it will be in the future).
Overall, I think overland travel will become more popular anyways.
Pushing my Boundaries
When I first started traveling, I felt like I was constantly being pushed out of my comfort zone. Everything felt new and kind of scary, but also exciting. I felt like I grew and changed and opened up a lot in the first couple of years that I was traveling, and then things changed.
I let myself get comfortable and that turned into shying away from anything that felt challenging. I let my anxieties take over, and while I think sometimes it’s okay to do what you need to do to manage your mental health, I stopped fighting at all.
Moving forward, I want to push myself to be a little more adventurous and take on new challenges when I travel, even if it makes me uncomfortable.
Supporting Local Businesses & Initiatives
I’ve always cared about supporting small businesses and trying to find more local options while traveling, but I want to make it a priority from now on.
Since moving back to my hometown (St. Louis), I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know my city in a new way. I’ve gotten to see all of the small businesses here and support my local neighborhood, and it has felt good. It’s opened my eyes to how important that really is, whether at home or traveling.
This focus on “localism” while traveling goes beyond “seeing (insert place) like a local” kind of stuff, and it’s likely this focus will influence my content in the future.
Meeting and Connecting with People
If I’m being completely honest, connecting with people is something I’ve always struggled with in life, but traveling (especially traveling solo) has given me a new perspective on it.
This goes hand in hand with a lot of the other things I’ve mentioned, like slow travel (digging into a place more deeply) and localism (supporting the people that live in the place I’m visiting). I want to make more of an effort to meet people while I’m traveling and hear their stories or perspectives on the place.
You can learn a lot from people and meeting one person could change your entire trip.
My travel style is ever-changing because I am ever-changing. All of us are! As I change and grow and find new passions and enter new eras of life, the way I travel is going to change too. This is the reality for everyone.
I think it’s important to consider how travel is serving you, the same way you should consider how anything in your life is serving you. And of course it’s important that we always consider how we are affecting the world when we travel, and let those answers guide our future travel decisions.
It’s clear that COVID-19 will change the way all of us travel in the future, whether we like it or not, so maybe this is a good time for ALL of us to think more about what role it will play in our lives moving forward.
Are there any changes you’re looking to make to the way you travel? How do you think travel will change moving forward?