Does anyone else have a hard time believing summer is almost over? Or is it just us?
This year has flown by while simultaneously dragging on forever. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, wildfires scorching many parts of the world, and intense political protests, every moment has been packed with historic moments.
In this post, we’ll get you caught up to speed on what we have been up to (not much), what travel experts are saying about the industry (not great), and the best ways you can continue to explore your own backyard, even as the cold weather approaches. Plus, we’ll leave you with some optimistic thoughts. We could all use that, right?
Hindsight is 2020
While it’s impossible to know exactly what people will say about 2020 in years after, there’s one certainty: It has been a historic year.
A novel coronavirus has taken the world by storm, resulting in nearly 25 million confirmed cases and over 800,000 confirmed deaths so far. Millions of people have lost their jobs, businesses, and livelihoods. Civil unrest has blanketed many countries, with groups clashing harder and more ferociously than we have seen in recent history.
For us personally, things are a bit different.
We wake up and put all of our energy into being grateful for our health, for our flexible work, and for the well-being of our loved ones. We acknowledge how lucky we are and do all that we can to keep optimism in the forefront of our minds every day.
But, as you may imagine and likely relate to, it has been a tough year for us. The travel industry has been decimated. And for those who live a nomadic lifestyle similar to our own, we’re facing problems we could have never anticipated.
Let me tell you a little secret: Not having a permanent home can be a challenge at times. During a pandemic, it becomes infinitely more difficult.
In March, we made the heartbreaking decision to abandon our Mexico trip and head to the US to self-isolate.
This was about halfway through our planned Baja adventures. Leaving threw our entire calendar out of whack. It became apparent that planning ahead wouldn’t be possible.
While we were sad to leave Baja and the gray whales behind, we were grateful to have many friends and family offer their homes to stay in. It’s always amazing to see how many people come through during times of need. We decided to stay close to Baja with family in Southern California, with the hope of resuming our Mexico trip after the situation improved.
Then we waited. And waited. And waited a little more.
Eventually, we realized returning to Baja was not in the immediate future for us. And it became apparent that we needed to head back to our resident state of Colorado to wait this out longer and to get non-COVID related medical attention. (What a perfect time to have serious back pain!)
So we put together a plan to get from Southern California to Colorado. One which minimized our exposure to others by doing what we have always loved: camping and road-tripping.
After mulling it over for weeks, we decided it was possible to make the trip safely.
And we did it.
All of our dispersed campsites were in isolated locations. We only stopped for gas and literally two grocery runs.
We wore our masks (Kristina highly recommends this mask for smaller faces), kept our distance, and washed our hands frequently.
I’m not going to lie to you; it felt incredible to get out again after self-isolating for over 4 months. We breathed fresh air, went for some nice hikes, and were able to stay away from people. We stopped in Big Bear, California before heading to Bryce Canyon in Utah, and capped it off with one of our favorite campsites in Northern Colorado.
But it’s 2020. Of course, there had to be something else to worry about. And there was. We skirted around multiple wildfires and terrible air quality nearly the entire way.
It was also scary seeing how many people were acting during the pandemic. Some people failed to practice social distancing, some weren’t wearing masks, and some generally seemed unaware that a pandemic is still going on.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way to get this thing behind us.
Now we’re back to staying at “home” in Colorado, crashing with other family members. It’s very bittersweet to be here. On one hand, we absolutely love this state, but on the other hand, it’s still a pandemic. We aren’t getting together with our friends and family we haven’t seen in so long. We aren’t visiting the busy trails we would usually hike. And right now, we’re literally staying inside because the air quality is so bad due to wildfires.
But you know what? Even though it’s hard, we’re happy and thankful to be around people who are taking the pandemic seriously. It’s really hard to not run straight over to my mom’s house, but we can sleep at night knowing that we will not infect her. And we’re thankful to have the ability to do so.
So here we stay. With no plans for international travel and our only goal being to do our part to avoid the speed of COVID-19, we hang out and work from home.
Is It Time to Travel?
If you haven’t been able to tell, our stance is pretty firm right now: It’s not yet time to get back to traveling. Many experts, including health professionals and fellow travel industry veterans, agree.
If you get sad about cancelling any European fun, it might help to know that Rick Steves cancelled all of his 2020 tours. And is himself staying at home. He has recently confirmed that he wants everyone to avoid traveling. “We have to recognize that this pandemic is much more important than my travel dreams and my particular bottom line as a businessman.”
Many of our other fellow full-time travelers, travel bloggers, and professional adventurers are doing the same. Nomadic Matt (a veteran travel blogger) is just one example. We know people that were part way through a multi-year adventure through the Americas who put their adventure mobile in storage and flew home.
If you ever think you’re the only one staying at home, throw that thought out the window. By staying home now and combating the virus with all we have, travel (and many parts of society) will be able to rebound quicker.
If you must travel, wear a mask, wash your hands often, and stay away from others as much as possible. Frequently touched surfaces like doors, faucets, elevator buttons, and handrails should be considered hazardous. And staying at least six feet away from other people is a minimal goal. If you can stay farther apart, do it.
We’ve seen a lot of articles about the different styles of travel and the risks they present. Here’s a quick summary:
- Air travel, public transportation methods (buses and trains), and ride-sharing services are some of the highest risk travel types. While using any of these, you’ll be in contact with frequently-touched surfaces and you’ll likely be in close proximity to other people for prolonged periods of time.
- Single car travel is a bit better, especially if you minimize all stops. Staying close to home so you don’t even have to stop for gas or food is ideal.
- Renting an RV or camper van to visit outdoor areas away from other people is probably the mode of transportation that’s unlikely to spread the virus while traveling. This is especially true if you avoid using shared facilities, bathrooms, and crowded spaces (inside or out).
Here’s a quick list of other travel and COVID-19 resources:
- CDC Travel During COVID
- WHO Coronavirus Travel Advice
- AAA Should You Travel in Coronavirus?
- US Dept of State COVID-19 Information
- Mayo Clinic Coronavirus Travel Advice
- UC Davis Infectious Disease Experts Travel Do’s and Don’ts
- Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Questions and Answers
The Great Outdoors
So where do we fit in now? What will Off Path Travels do to help people discover the world beyond your doorstep?
Easy, we’re going to focus on exploring the great outdoors with an emphasis on staying close to home and away from others. Not only is it likely the safest way to travel, it is also an area which Kristina and I are extremely passionate about and have a lot of knowledge to share.
Everyone has something they can explore nearby. It might mean going for a simple drive, checking out a new hiking trail, or doing one of the many outdoor sports available today.
Try not to fall for the trap that you MUST go to a specific place or area. Keep those long-term goals of visiting all the National Parks on the back burner. Find out what you have nearby instead.
The truth is, we LOVE camping, outdoor sports (especially hiking and backpacking), and generally doing whatever we can to explore nearby. Camping season will last well into the winter for many parts of the United States, and that’s one area that our expertise can be leverage to help others.
And for those areas that will start to drop in temperature pretty soon, I’m more than excited to share information about winter sports and activities. I’ve been a lifelong skier and snowboarder who is passionate about many other winter sports and activities.
So you’re going to see increased information that’s less about exactly WHERE to go and more about HOW to go. How to get out of your house to do something fun while staying safe and keeping those around you healthy.
It’s becoming clear that many people understand that exploring via outdoor activities is the way to go.
But there’s one other thing to keep in mind: The first responders. Search and Rescue teams are stretched thin due to the pandemic; however, due to the extreme growth in outdoor recreation, they are receiving more calls than ever before.
That’s why its important to plan ahead, properly prepare, and take a generally risk-adverse approach to activities. And that’s where we can help out.
We also have some big surprises up our sleeves. For one, did you notice that our entire website has been recently redesigned? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
We did our best to showcase the existing material on there and will be updating it more regularly to focus on helping you explore your backyard. But our plans for the near future are pretty exciting. Soon enough you’ll be in on the secret.
Let’s Do This
With all of the struggles going on, take time to remember the good things in life.
If you are feeling down about the actions of some, remember that there are plenty of people still doing all they can to avoid the spread of COVID.
As Mr. Rogers says, look for the helpers. They are always there.
And as we struggle with a world that is no longer connected in the way it was before, take a look around your area to uncover the hidden treasures.
Realize how fortunate we are to live in a world where nearly everything can be delivered to your doorstep, you have an unlimited library of books, shows, and movies at your fingertips, and you can create new memories in a million different ways which do not increase your COVID exposure.
Or use your time indoors to start your own blog!
Let’s do this together. Mask up, stay apart, and explore in ways that are safe for you and the places you visit.
We’ll be here to help you do just that. We’re giving you the information you need to explore your own backyard, potentially in ways you’ve never thought of!
Until next time,
Kristina and Michael