This is about the time each year where I’d summarize how many miles I flew and how many nights I had at various hotel chains. Obviously, those numbers were way down this year. As I looked at friends summarize what their year in travel looked, I was a little surprised that I really had no motivation to look at the numbers. Initially, I thought that meant I wouldn’t bother with a year in review. But 2020 taught me that we can’t take things for granted. So, without numbers, I thought about what I achieved in 2020, and to a lesser degree, what I missed out on.
There Actually Was “Normal” Travel
Our year started out fairly normally. The family started the year out with a Disney cruise in January. Our son had an incredible time on the Marvel-themed cruise, while our daughter had a bit less fun due to some rocky seas. Boy, if we only know that rough sailing was an indicator of what 2020 would be like!
Heck, I even managed to squeeze a new country onto my list with a quick trip to New Zealand, though that was far from a leisure trip. On the way home from that trip, it started to set in how much things were changing. But, even then we really didn’t understand what the future would hold.
Figuring Out The Lockdown
I can remember sitting on the runway in Auckland, New Zealand waiting to take-off when I heard that the US had just closed their borders to anyone arriving from Europe. Thankfully, it was just Europe and I’d still be able to get back into the country. I had planned to stop in Las Vegas on the way home from New Zealand to spend a few days checking on the restaurants our company operates. It was already weird enough to think about the US closing their borders to international flights from many countries. Things got stranger before I was scheduled to fly home when my wife notified me that our school system had canceled school through the rest of the week leading up to spring break.
I told my wife I was canceling my March travel and would come home for a few weeks while the pandemic worked itself out. By the time I got home a few days later our school system had already made the decision to move away from in-person learning for the rest of the school year (almost 3 months). That’s probably the first time it sunk in that I’d be home for a lot longer than 2 weeks.
Getting Out of Town
As the number of infections started to increase pretty drastically in our area, we hatched a plan. A friend of ours owns a vacation home in Deep Creek, Maryland. The house was empty so we packed up the kids and the dog and headed up to the mountains. There were very few people up there since it was between ski season and the summer lake season.
We came back to civilization a few weeks later thinking things would shortly be returning to normal. And, still, we were very wrong. That’s when I started researching RVs, like half the country was doing. While researching RVs, we drove to upstate New York to visit family. They had been quarantining as had we, and we were allowed into New York based on the counts dropping. We confronted all the weirdness of whether you’re okay to hug family during a pandemic. It was great to connect with family, though we avoided restaurants and other areas where we’d come in contact with people, choosing to hang out on Lake George most days or just let the kids ride their bikes around the neighborhood. It felt oddly normal. I don’t think we had any idea that we weren’t yet halfway through the pandemic at that point.
We Bought An RV
After a few tries at renting an RV (and a pickup truck) we made the plunge and bought a pickup truck. We had our eyes on a used travel trailer. However, right before purchasing it we realized the weight of the trailer was way heavier than the manufacturer stated. In less than 30 days, we traded in the first pickup truck for a second one and bought an even larger RV, a fifth wheel.
Less than a month later, after one test trip, we’d try a much longer 3-week camping trip to Disney World. The list of things that went wrong on the trip was very long. But, we actually ended up having a ton of fun. The trip was another attempt at normalcy as Summer Hull and Richard Kerr joined us in RVs as well (okay, Summer rented a big fancy RV and had it delivered). Heck, we even decorated for Halloween like everyone else at Disney’s Fort Wilderness campsite was doing, though we were far from the most decorative.
When the trip to Disney World started, the parks were relatively empty and there was lots of spacing in lines and on rides. As the trip entered the second week, those conditions started to change and the parks became increasingly crowded. By the end of the second week, we just weren’t comfortable being in the parks at peak times. The kids would do their school work during the day and we would pop over to a park for an hour or two later in the evening. We mostly avoided the park on weekend days as the crowds were just too much for our comfort level. We left Orlando feeling like we had fun, but that things had just gotten to a point where we weren’t comfortable any longer with the crowd levels.
After the big camping trip, we were mostly at home. We did a short camping trip to Pennsylvania and a socially-distanced Thanksgiving and Christmas with extended family outside (with plenty of heaters). We made another run up to the mountains, but largely just stayed home. Could we have done more throughout the year? Maybe. But, we felt like we pushed the boundaries a bit here and there of our own comfort levels. Some folks would say we were too risky, others would say we were too cautious.
Wrapping Up Our Year In Travel
Our 2020 travel wasn’t measured in numbers. But, it turned out to be a pretty rewarding year. That might sound crazy in the face of the pandemic. No doubt there has been an incredible amount of suffering throughout the past year. At the same time, I’ve been with my family for 9 months. I haven’t spent that much time with them in, well, forever. I’m normally gone 100 days a year on work trips, and this year my family got all of that time back.
While things have been incredibly busy with work, there was also time for the occasional movie night, putting together a puzzle, or just walking around our neighborhood to work off the extra weigh I’ve put on. And, we’ve been incredibly fortunate that our extended family has largely escaped the pandemic thus far with their health intact. As 2020 turns into 2021, elite status doesn’t matter quite as much. The number of points I have in a specific program doesn’t matter as much.
This year taught me a new way to think about how we travel and how we spend time together as a family. Prior to the pandemic, if you’d told me I would enjoy not getting on an airplane and jetting off to some new destination, I’d have said you’re wrong. And, I probably would have believed it.
The past 9 months has adjusted my thinking. It might sound like heresy, but I don’t miss travel. I don’t miss being a road warrior. And, I don’t miss those incredible trips to places far away. I do love to travel, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it when it’s safe to do so. But, I have a renewed appreciation for being able to spend time with my family wherever we are, even if that’s just in our own backyard.
Vaccines will be here soon enough, and the pandemic will pass. There will undoubtedly be painful moments for quite some time. But, at some point our kids will look back on these times and remember that it wasn’t all bad. At least that’s how I hope they’ll remember it. This may be the most catastrophic event our children face in their lifetime. I sure hope so. If they walk away with a few positive memories amongst the sadness, I’ll take that as a win.
There were many days in 2020 where I just didn’t have the time or the right mindset to write about travel. Any day I don’t write I feel like it’s a day I let down my readers. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with the right message. That meant on many days there was no message at all. I regret not being able to write more, and I hope that changes in the near future. In the interim, I hope you enjoyed reading a bit more about how our year went.