A yellow doll-like casa in Viñales

Is It Time to Break up with Travel?

It’s a break, not a break up. CC: Ross Gellar and Rachel Green.

a girl in a blue cap standing on rocks in the rive
Travel takes us on a journey that lasts long after we come home | © Ahmed Omar

I’m a walking talking cliche of a travel writer, but I wear it like a badge of honour. I don’t have kids or a tattoo on my face, but I do have that box of pages ripped out from National Geographic Traveller. This collection is one of my most prized possessions. A colourful assortment of faded, crumpled glossy pages, each one bearing a destination that caught my eye or rather the hallmarks of my wanderlust. 

Whenever I’m feeling down, I’ll flip through old issues of the magazine and read the editor notes written by George W. Stone. I want that man to write my obituary, but even his words can’t take away the sting of this insane turn of events over the past few weeks. 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has ruthlessly ripped its way through our world, destroying lives and businesses in its wake, and the travel industry has taken the brunt of its brute force. Then just this week, one by one every country began to shut down their borders to stem the flow of this virus, and travel media company Skift declared March 14th, 2020 as the Day the World Stopped Travelling.

Given everything that’s going on with the industry right now, is it time to break up with travel? Is this how the music dies for myself and so many other travel lovers? The answer is a resounding no. 

Like music, travel finds its way under our skin and stays with us. Like a song, it has the power to take us on a journey that lasts long after we come home. For many travellers, what they experience as they explore the world becomes part of who they are. It’s hard to break away from something like that. 

Years ago, I came across a funny quote about writers but was never able to find it again. It said something like this; “that even when I’m sitting under the duvet eating peanuts, I’m still writing.” The point being that even though we can’t physically travel right now, does that mean we have to come to a stop? Because even while reading this, your travels are with you. 

climber with a backpack stands in front of mountain peaks with colourful flags
Even when you’re not travelling, the memories of your travels are with you | © Sahar Aman

From the faint bug bite scars on your legs — a gift from the Amazon Jungle and catching glimpses of blue that remind you of a clear day in Amalfi; to a scent in the air that takes you back to a hot, humid day beside the Arabian Sea and comforting yourself with memories of the Himalayas while on the way to work. Then there’s the stuff that we can’t always see or touch, but travel proves to be a catalyst for them: self-growth, empathy, and confidence.

Our memories and experiences from travel move us and impact our lives even while standing still on the spot. And at a time like this — more than ever before — we need to keep those life-enriching memories and experiences alive. 

The more popular ways to do this include cooking dishes that you ate while travelling or reconnecting with the people you met on your travels. Some of the lesser-known tricks include making time for the things you love to do while travelling. Have you ever tried to find the best place to catch a sunset where you live? How about learning more about something that caught your attention in a museum or an art gallery? And even at home, prioritising experiences over material things can keep that feeling you get while discovering a new place alive. 

Girl stands in a tree looking out across the stunning bay of La Boca in Trinidad
You can cultivate a traveller’s mindset even when you’re at home | © Sahar Aman

Day-to-day, there are so many ways to live and breathe through our travels — but if you only live for moments you travel — you’re going to miss out everything it has to offer you. Travel isn’t limited to the physical act of exploring the world. The same way a real writer is always writing, in their own way, a real traveller is still travelling. 

And no matter where you choose to go after this time is over — be it the vibrant streets of China or the cultural havens of Iran — that trip is going to be spectacularly memorable regardless of what you see or do or eat. It will be a symbolic moment in your journey as a traveller, one that reminds you what a privilege it is to travel, to have the freedom and ability to explore this beautiful world.

So don’t break up with travel, and don’t live for travel — travel to live. Once things get better, we’ll do it again. Because if the spirit of Italy’s melodic balconies is anything to go by, music is the food of love, and it will play on.

Based in Toronto, Sahar is a full-time content editor for Days to Come and part-time travel junkie.

Margaret Wertheim on stage speaking at TED in 2009
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