When I was young, even after 9/11 made it a little more scary and a lot less convenient, I loved the thrill of air travel. Nothing compares to being lifted into the sky and jetted across the United States or to another country, another continent even, in just a few hours. And nothing in life can fully substitute for the mind-altering trip of immersing oneself in an unfamiliar culture for days, weeks, or months. Once I started traveling, I thought I'd never stop--I had become a traveler!--but financial constraints and parenthood put international travel goals on pause after my honeymoon. Now that the world has had to reckon with pandemic and climate change like never before, I've accepted that my dreams of continuing to explore the world as a traveler are indefinitely grounded.
For moral as well as practical reasons, my husband and I decided--even before the pandemic struck--that we would no longer make any long-distance journeys until:
1) it was for a critically important reason
2) long-distance travel somehow became sustainable, affordable, and safe for the whole family.
In our 20s, we fantasized about moving abroad and having a family in a different country with better social policies and a higher quality of life. We changed our minds as we realized that no social safety net can replace the value of a supportive local family, and that if we disciplined ourselves better than the average American and hung onto the good fortunes we already had here (like excellent health insurance), our family could live well amidst the many dysfunctions of the U.S.
Also, our home state of Michigan is really pretty. Like, gorgeous. It's one of the world's best vacation destinations for nature lovers. And it's so rich in natural resources and geographical climatic protections that it's one of the top bug-out zones for other people looking for greener pastures on which to graze their families. Silly us. Everywhere else looks better in a travel poster than the home you've accidentally learned to take for granted. So we took account of our blessings and our deep-rooted love for our home state and decided to stay.
We're not making any big vacation plans either, not even looking ahead to the long term. Tourism has been exposed as an earth-trashing disaster, which runs against our deeply held values. Even friendly, intimate, educational, off-the-beaten-path adventures with friends in faraway places, which I love so much it hurts my innards, now seem flagrantly wasteful.
Instead, my family and I have refocused our energies on investing in our homes, neighborhood, state, and nation with a lot of little choices that are economic, political, charitable, and personal. I've kept the warm thrills of international adventure alive in my soul with cooking, music, books, art objects, and foreign films. I hope that I will travel to a far-off destination again someday, and when that happens, it will be all about quality and depth of experience over quantity of sites checked off a bucket list.
How about you? Have your feelings about travel changed as we've entered the 2020s? Have you found a renewed appreciation for your hometown?