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Up The Road: 2020 Travel Strategy

Thomas Kriese

It’s going to take strategy to come up with a travel or vacation plan that delivers as much freedom and enjoyment as possible—maybe even good old-fashioned fun—while also fully embracing this strange new world we’re living in. The one in which the subtext of every trip is the need to sidestep strangers, avoid even friends, and keep dodging the coronavirus. Can that even be fun?


Let’s just say, Yes. Let’s vote for hope, and for human ingenuity. And then let’s define travel “fun” as simply seeking novel experiences and new scenery—safely.


First—always, first—decide how much risk is reasonable, or wise. In the age of COVID-19 a young, active family will typically embrace travel options more expansively than an elder like me. Also consider your particular vulnerabilities.


Wanting to get out into the world again, for the pure pleasure of it, is a good thing. We all want that. But travel can also wait. At least this year, and maybe next year too, there’s nothing wrong with making that walk down the driveway to the mailbox and back your most daring summer adventure. Live to tell the tale.


Second, if you are comfortable traveling, start slow. Keep it simple, and stay close to home. Make it easy to turn around and head home if you need to. This is supposed to be fun, remember?


Maybe start with day trips—to practice going from here to there in basically the same “safety bubble” you’re already comfortable with. In the process you might notice the need for new precautions.


Third, figure out what suits you, and then go find it. Fully explore current options. Because things changed so much, so fast, in March, when the coronavirus locked us down, you’ll need to call around to find out what’s doable right now. Websites may not be accurate. 


Also keep in mind that everyone seems to be looking for the same thing. Meaning: freedom to pursue particular interests—fishing, biking, hiking, and kayaking or canoeing, for starters—while exercising some control over the immediate environment.


These days most of us are heading into the great outdoors, if only because viral spread is said to be lower outside. We are opting for accommodations suitable for small groups, from camping and houseboating to private home and cabin rentals. Within those trends there are safe options for everyone, availability depending on when and how far you’re willing to go, and how much you’re willing to pay.


Say you want to go camping. There’s a big difference between public or private campgrounds (let’s assume you can get a reservation this summer) and dispersed or pull-off-the-road camping on Forest Service or BLM lands, which is free but comes with no comforts or services. There’s an equally vast gap between standard campgrounds and “glamping,” or glamorous camping, the hip trend for affluent non-campers, essentially—fully furnished luxury, sometimes on supremely isolated private ranches or estates.


However you choose to disengage from day-to-day life this summer, in search of new, if temporary, horizons, don’t forget it’s not all about you. The adventure—always—is also about the people you encounter, even in passing, along the way. So pack your manners and best public safety practices. As always, wherever you go, there you are.


Kim Weir is the founder of Up the Road, a nonprofit public-interest journalism project. She researches, writes, and hosts Up the Road, a radio show and mini-podcast about California co-produced by North State Public Radio. Kim got her start as a travel journalist in 1990 with the publication of the first and original Moon Handbooks Northern California, a surprise best-seller. Six other Moon books on California soon followed. She is a member, by invitation, of the venerable Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Kim earned a BA in environmental studies and analysis, with an emphasis on botany and ecology, and also holds an MFA in creative writing. She lives in Paradise.
Matt Fidler is a producer and sound designer with over 15 years’ experience producing nationally distributed public radio programs. He has worked for shows such as Freakonomics Radio, Selected Shorts, Studio 360, The New Yorker Radio Hour and The Takeaway. In 2017, Matt launched the language podcast Very Bad Words, hitting the #28 spot in the iTunes podcast charts.