While Lonely Planet writers don’t have a crystal ball to predict when unrestricted travel will be back on the cards in a COVID-era world, we certainly never stop dreaming about when we can head off into the wide blue yonder. But has the pandemic changed the way we think? And will we become more mindful, eco-conscientious and considerate travelers as a result of all this?
We asked a few Lonely Planet writers to reveal their travel resolutions for the year ahead. Reaching from the heights of the Himalaya to the depths of the Amazon and far beyond, here's what they said.
Scaled-down travel - Luke Waterson
Taking any long-distance flight has seemed a distant dream for so long that when I do get to travel internationally safely, I’ll want a special experience. Strangely, the places that keep coming to mind to visit, and how, are regions I already know, but with more time and perspective. That mythical, archaeologically rich, topographically mind-blowing zone where Peru’s Andes tumble through cloud forest into jungle, is my numero uno. I have been there four times for Lonely Planet, but I still somehow come away with more questions than answers. This is the year for me to return with time to truly understand it and them on a focused scaled-down trip.
Lockdown has taught us to explore more across far-smaller areas. My resolution this year is to apply that philosophy to one of Earth’s greatest wildernesses. Help an indigenous community. Float for days on a slow boat down Amazonian waterways and pausing at lodges to wildlife-watch. See a jaguar, maybe. And doing it with my baby daughter, which will enhance the wonder a million-fold.
"Decluttering" the travel experience - Nicola Williams
Snow, ice and cold water have dominated my homespun adventures in the last year – and crystallized my intention to travel more simply and thoughtfully. Swimming in freezing alpine lakes on sun-blazed summertime hikes or snowshoeing in winter forests so quiet you can hear what the Japanese call shinshin (the sound of snow) is far more than mere nature-bathing or escaping the crowds.
It's about decluttering the 2021 travel experience, stripping it back to basics to pierce the very raison d’être of travel: curiosity, embracing the unknown, learning from newfound emotions and the wisdom of others. When I plunge into a lake – at home in the French Alps, Switzerland, or further afield in a Scottish loch, Icelandic lagoon or forest pool in Latvia – the bittersweet burn on impact as the ice-cold water sears the skin, rips out the lungs, swiftly morphs into exhilaration, wonder and awe. The call of the wild has never been so powerful, and with a traditional rural community invariably sustaining every great wilderness, decluttered travel is my new goal.
Exploring my backyard - Cristian Bonetto
With Australia’s international borders closed indefinitely, I have been spending an inordinately long period of time in my home state of Victoria. A life usually crammed with airports and passport controls is currently filled with contemplative bushwalks, warbling magpies and flawless flat whites.
My resolution for 2021 is to continue exploring my own gargantuan backyard. Planned adventures include a road trip through Victoria’s sun-baked Wimmera Mallee region, where world-renowned street artists have transformed grain silos into spectacular murals as part of the Silo Art Trail. I’m also determined to deepen my knowledge of Australia’s extraordinary indigenous culture. This will include a trip to the ancient volcanic landscape of Budj Bim National Park in southwest Victoria. The traditional home of the Gunditjmara people, the park claims the earliest living example of aquaculture in the world. Predating the Pyramids of Giza, the former eel-farming site is also Australia’s latest Unesco World Heritage cultural asset.
Keep on walking - Kerry Walker
After spending almost a year in the same valley in Wales, with just the sheep, my partner and baby daughter for company, it’s tempting to want to pack my bags and head as far away as possible, as soon as possible, in search of that magical otherness we have been deprived of during the pandemic. But given that the world is a fragile place right now, I think the secret is going to be to start small.
There is nothing like a long-distance hike to heal wounds, clear the mind, refresh the soul and press the reset button: it’s the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, the spontaneity of not knowing what the next day (or bend) will bring, the elements showing us a higher force. So my resolution for 2021 is to walk and keep on walking.
Taking it one step at a time, I aim to hike a little-known section of the 2800-mile England Coast Path, which launches in its entirety this year, and tackle a new pilgrimage route following in the footsteps of Celtic saints, which unites the coasts of Wales and Ireland. With wild swims, the open trail and big night skies bringing nature that bit closer, I’ll keep it slow and sustainable.
Getting to know home - Isabella Noble
My carefree early-2020 trips I took to sunny southern Spain and Canada’s snowy British Columbia feel like hazy memories from another lifetime. For most of the past year, East London’s Victoria Park has been my main, sanity-saving destination. Despite heartbreaking global news, I’ve found joy in having time (for once!) to explore close to home in London – escaping heatwaves at Hackney’s West Reservoir, cycling around Hyde Park, wandering the National Gallery alone, and buying locally as businesses adapted to this challenging time.
For 2021, I’m resolving to keep on-the-doorstep explorations going in support of the London travel industry, which has been devastated by the absence of international visitors – whether that means dinner on Broadway Market or enjoying some of the capital’s fabulous hotels.
When the time feels right, I’ll be back in my other home of Spain, where I grew up, helping Spanish tourism get back on its feet following its worst year since the 1970s. And I’ll continue developing my Spanish-language journalism – an exciting, unexpected side-effect of 2020.
Industrial tourism - Jean-Bernard Carillet
This past year has brought the time to reconsider some travel values. I’ve realized that I had left totally unexplored a theme that I cherish a lot and in which I have lots of expertise: industrial tourism heritage. It’s a segment of travel that has so far remained largely under the radar and that needs to be better explored. Until recently, the industrial landscape (mills, factories, workers' settlements) has been regarded with dislike and considered grim.
Yet, acknowledging the heritage of the past, injecting value and a sense of pride regarding the revitalized historic industrial architecture, memories, experiences, is a great way to learn lessons for the future – and doing just that is my travel resolution for 2021. In these former industrial areas, locals need to get back on their feet, and industrial tourism can foster new cultural exchanges between people who would otherwise never meet, bring a sense of dignity that has been lost and enhance the local community’s sense of belonging.
Supporting wildlife conservation - Stuart Butler
Kenya is a country very close to my heart. For me, no other place in Africa has as much diversity. I love the landscapes, the light, the people and of course the wildlife. My favorite region is, predictably, the area around the Masai Mara National Reserve. Unfortunately though, the safari and conservation industry in Kenya, as well as elsewhere in East Africa, has been financially very hard hit by the pandemic.
Many Maasai families in Kenya were reliant on tourism-related dollars and people are now struggling to put food on the table. And, as tourism income has dried up, so the wildlife conservation model there has been damaged. Further, there has been increased encroachment into wild areas, an increase in poaching as well as less tolerance of wild animals.
In 2021 I’m really hoping that travel restrictions ease up enough to allow me to return to Kenya and see first-hand what has been happening there and how local communities and conservation groups have been working together to try and find fast solutions to the financial problems caused by COVID.
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