Hi, I’m Dr. Jenny Yu, Healthline’s Medical Expert and Lonely Planet Travel Health Expert. Welcome to my column, where each week I’ll share stories and insights, experiences and opportunities, and perspectives on how you can take the "well" traveled path in your journeys. 

What a year, 2021. It started out with much hope, ran into quite a few bumps along the way, and is now set to end with ennui as we continue to adjust and adapt to living during a pandemic. 

For many people, this year started with a sigh of relief due to the arrival of vaccines. And while the world still faces vaccine disparity, the start of the global roll-out gave hope for a chance to return to our lives as they were before the March 2020 shutdown⁠⁠—and an opportunity to plan for the future. 

A hiker walks past a white blaze painted tree on the Appalachian Trail.
Many of us took to the outdoors in the pandemic © Cavan Images RF / Getty Images

We dipped our toes back into travel with short trips within driving distance. After having our lives confined to screens for so long, we craved to connect with nature. Camping, hiking and road trips became more popular as a means of escape⁠—a break from the overdrive of information, decision-making, and pivoting that became the norm of pandemic life.

Healthline: Here’s Where COVID-19 Cases Are Rising and Falling

The quality of our experiences also mattered much more. Even when we were limited by border restrictions, we traveled where we could. Domestic travel gave us the opportunity to explore familiar places with new perspectives. National parks and less-frequented cities saw more visitors than ever, boosting their local economies. 

As restrictions lifted, many Americans sought out further-flung destinations trips⁠⁠—the summer saw an increase in tourism to places like Hawaii, Central America, and the Caribbean. Some people managed to take bucket-list trip⁠—like a safari or trekking in Machu Picchu⁠—before the arrival of new variants. 

And even with the trips we’ve taken, we all certainly have our share of stories of travel delayed, unexpectedly prolonged stays, or circuitous journeys as border regulations and restrictions changed. 

But we have also learned to take better care of ourselves. Many people are seeking health and wellness information more than ever before. Research from Healthline has shown that we are optimistic in how technology can improve our wellness and provide us with more information about it. Technology has also eased some of our travel-related stress: think of the ease of contactless registrations and facial recognition at airports. 

We are all seeking new experiences whether as a solo traveler, with friends, or with our families. Innovations, whether new or returning to old, will help us reimagine travel in 2022 and beyond. 

As we close out 2021 many of us will choose to travel⁠—or not⁠—this holiday season. Whether you’re seeking escape in nature, recharging with friends and family, or just reconnecting with yourself at home, I am still reminded of how far we have come in 2021.

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For more information on COVID-19 and travel, check out Lonely Planet's Health Hub.

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