As with almost everyone else, Lonely Planet travel writers had to stay put through 2020. But that hasn't stopped their desire to travel in 2021. We asked some contributors to share their travel plans for the year ahead.

Sarah Reid, sustainable travel writer

Camping in the time of coronavirus. Image credit Sarah Reid.jpg
Sarah plans to be more conscious of her carbon footprint when traveling in 2021 © Sarah Reid

Sipping cocktails on the terrace of a Siem Reap hotel in early March, my fellow travelers joked that we might get stuck there if the newly-named coronavirus got much worse. If we hadn’t flown home to Australia within the next two weeks, we would have been. 

Despite being stuck in Australia for the rest of the year, I consider myself lucky. Hailing from an area where regional travel was deemed safe by mid-year, I had the privilege of doing some wonderful COVID-safe trips I probably would have overlooked if I had the freedom to travel further. That said, I won’t deny that I’m itching to venture beyond Australia’s borders again when our government deems it safe to.

I’d love to indulge a travel goal of taking an adventure cruise to Antarctica, or get better acquainted with the Pacific Islands. But I’m less concerned about where I’m going to go first, than how I’m going to travel moving forward. Because before the international travel industry ground to a halt in 2020, it was responsible for a whopping 8% of global emissions, which was totally unsustainable. So when I can travel again, I plan to be more conscious about my carbon footprint – and how I spend my tourist dollars – than ever. Not just overseas, but also in my own backyard. For being "trapped" in the only western country to ban its citizens from leaving during the coronavirus pandemic was a great reminder that Australia is one of the most incredible travel destinations on the planet.  

A man sitting on a sail boat with a fishing rod
Brendan hopes to get home to the UK and also visit India © Brendan Sainsbury / Lonely Planet

Brendan Sainsbury, travel writer

It has been a weird year for travel, but not a totally unproductive one. In Canada, I forged a closer relationship with my adopted home province of British Columbia. Abroad, I dropped into two low-risk Caribbean countries – Cuba and Jamaica – that have been actively encouraging tourism and had some once-in-a-lifetime experiences. 

In 2021, my travel plans are split between revitalizing my work and revisiting my family.

I honestly never thought I’d be prevented from entering my own country. But, since March, I’ve been unable to visit the UK due to strict quarantine rules. As soon as the restrictions ease, I intend to get on the first plane to Heathrow and fly swiftly back to the land of Stormzy and Shakespeare to reunite with family, friends and football.

On the other side of the world, I am rekindling plans to visit India. My wife’s roots are in Kerala and we had a family trip organized for 2020 that regrettably had to be canceled. I’m secretly dreaming that sometime in 2021 we’ll get a second chance to cruise the Keralan backwaters, look up long-lost relatives and enjoy masala dosa for breakfast.

Work-wise, I’ll take any action-packed Lonely Planet research gig that comes my way. I had been eyeing Mozambique in 2020 for a new edition of the Africa guide, but realistically I’d be grateful to go anywhere I can to help get the wheels of the economically devastated travel industry moving again.

A woman feeding a sheep in a green meadow
Kerry wants to get remote in the Swiss Alps © Kerry Walker / Lonely Planet

Kerry Walker, travel and food writer

The valley, the dark woods, the stream, the hills; the bleating of sheep and the subtly changing lights and colors of the seasons – these have been my constants over the course of 2020, where my world has been centered largely on home in the Cambrian Mountains in Wales. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When I gave birth to my daughter in December 2019, I had plans to whisk her immediately off on adventures – a long-distance pilgrimage in Ireland and Wales, Europe, beyond. The world was our baby-harnessed oyster. Then came COVID.
In 2021, when the time is right, I’ll be taking baby steps to travel further afield. We’re all feeling fragile so starting small and safe is key. My daughter’s name is Eira, Welsh for "snow," and that’s what I want to show her. Real snow. Snow so deep it falls in great downy, 6ft-high drifts. Perhaps somewhere far, far away on a remote mountaintop in the Swiss Alps, where I had some of my first proper encounters with snow, which sparked a long-term fascination with cold places. We’ll stay in a log cabin. I’ll tuck her into a papoose and put her on a Davos sledge and off we will go into frozen forests and along untrodden mountain trails that crunch underfoot, dazzled by the brilliance of a world made anew.

A man stands solo in the middle of an empty city square in the summertime
Fionn looks forward to traveling to Japan in 2021 © Fionn Davenport

Fionn Davenport, travel writer and broadcaster

At some point the possibility of a bigger life will present itself once more and these dreary days of regular confinements will be behind me. After a year of exploring the micro landscapes of my house and garden, the glorious sweep of the wider world will stretch out before me, full of familiar faces and faraway places and the astounding strangeness of discovery. 

It all seems so abstract right now, so fraught with risk and burdened by shame and politics, but I live for the moment when I can be elsewhere. I yearn to be in an airport, that bleak cathedral of emphatic bureaucracy, overpriced sandwiches and constantly waiting in line.

I’ll be on my way to my hometown of Dublin, a 40-minute puddle jump across the Irish Sea from my house in Manchester but lost to me in the unflinching restrictions of the pandemic. I want to hug friends and family and go for aimless walks through town – without the need for a two-week quarantine I can ill afford. 

At some other point in 2021 I will be in the airport again on my way to Japan, where I’ve never been but yearn for with that intense nostalgia you can only feel for the experience of being someplace new. To stand in a field of wildflowers and feel my toes grip a tatami mat; to board a shinkansen (bullet train) and spend a night in ryokan. 

Until then, I have no choice but to wait. 

Jeff hopes to celebrate his wedding anniversary in Bora Bora © Jeff Jenkins / Lonely Planet

Jeff Jenkins, travel blogger

This year has shown me that life is very precious and can change overnight. As a travel blogger, it was a humbling experience to have most of my plans this year canceled in the span of just a few weeks. Although I had to make significant changes to a lot of content to reflect the time we were living through, I'm more driven than ever before to inspire folks like me to get out and see the world. I look forward to 2021, I look forward to exploring again, and I look forward to crossing a few places off my bucket list.

Next year will be my 5th wedding anniversary, and my wife and I will celebrate on the island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia. "Pora pora mai te pora," it was once called – "Created by the gods." I'm already dreaming of starting my morning with a cup of coffee on a private deck in a Bora Bora Bungalow, taking in the view of the breathtaking crystal clear lagoons and thinking what fine architects those gods must be.

A selfie of a woman on a mountaintop surrounded by colorful prayer flags
Carolyn will be heading for the national parks of Chile © Carolyn McCarthy / Lonely Planet

Carolyn McCarthy, guidebook writer

After almost two decades of travel writing, I spent the pandemic hunkered down, grounded for the first time since adolescence. Studying the ebb and flow of cases around the world, I plotted visits to family or my boyfriend on distant continents, but always lost my nerve.

Instead, I baked cardamom rolls, Zoomed and took comfort in streaming Scandinavian and South Korean dramas, digesting unfamiliar languages, the new logic of another culture, the unfamiliar terrain I so craved.

My goals for 2021 are local. Chile’s national parks are now open and the Southern Hemisphere summer is upon us. Topo maps show the trails that I didn’t get to researching for the Trekking in the Patagonian Andes guidebook. I long for the day when I will heave a backpack to my shoulder and head south on foot, following the tracks of pumas and the calls of the chucao, coming upon river crossings, unmarked forks, bad weather, all familiar obstacles that now seem so much easier to navigate than a pandemic. Thru-hiking Patagonia National Park, exploring the Ruta de los Pioneros, or going further afield to Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash. More than ever, it’s time for physical action and reconnecting with the wilder side of the planet.

A man sits cross-legged at the prow of a small boat on a large lake
Jack hopes there'll be a greater focus on sustainability in travel © Jack Palfrey

Jack Palfrey, travel journalist

Travel is arguably the greatest form of escapism, and I think one cruel footnote in the long, painful story of this pandemic is that it took away this crutch at a time when most of us would have liked to escape everyday life more than ever.

Having had a few years off long-haul trips, I’d planned for a big 2020, with trips to Pakistan and India in the works. The furthest I’ve ended up venturing is to North Wales. Not quite as exotic, but frankly, after the year some people have endured, I feel lucky to be traveling anywhere (and, I hastily add, North Wales has a lot to offer!).

With this in mind, I think the pandemic has opened peoples’ eyes to the wonders on their own doorstep, and certainly the important role of nature in our lives. I hope this will bring about a greater emphasis on sustainability by the travel community – wanting to protect the natural world that has proven so important this year – and, by this same logic, a "normalization" of holidaying locally, which is more environmentally friendly than long-haul breaks.

For me though, what will change most when I can step back on a plane or train without obsessively dousing myself in anti-bac is a greater sense of appreciation. After these unprecedented restrictions on daily freedoms, every travel experience is bound to feel sweeter – more of a privilege – than it ever has – whether that’s standing in the shadow of a dwarfing centuries-old monument or ducking into a thronged bar as the sun dips behind the skyline of an unfamiliar city. I can’t wait to have that feeling again.

A woman looks into the distance on top of a mountain
Ali wants to push beyond her comfort zone with travels in 2021 © Ali Wunderman / Lonely Planet

Ali Wunderman, travel and wildlife journalist

Like everyone else, 2020 took a lot from me: job opportunities, any sense of security, and of course, worldwide travel plans. However, these myriad manifestations of loss have revealed to me what matters most, allowing me to reexamine and redefine my priorities in life.

When it comes to travel, this means being more intentional about how and where I spend my time. A year of solitude has me craving far-flung travels defined not by ease or by luxury, but by the sensation of pushing beyond my comfort zone, of being resculpted by the experience of connecting with people and places different from my home. I want to feel alive again.

So, of all the trips I canceled or put on hold this year, the one that compels me most to pursue in 2021 is my dream adventure in Mongolia. For years I’ve wanted to explore the Steppes by horseback, spot Saiga antelope amid rugged landscapes, and experience life as a nomad in the ger camps.

I was scheduled to do all of this in more September with Intrepid Travel. When I finally make it to Mongolia, I will use that 15-day tour as a stepping stone towards a grander, more immersive adventure, one that takes me beyond the limits of what I think I know about myself.

A band performing on stage. The man in the center is holding a guitar to his side and speaking into the microwave to the large crowd
James hopes to tour with his band again © Dara Munnis / Cry Monster Cry

James Gabriel Martin, photojournalist and musician

Like many other people around the world, 2020 dealt a huge blow to my travel plans, both from a personal and professional standpoint. As well as working with Lonely Planet as a photojournalist, I tour full time as a musician with my band Cry Monster Cry. We had just released our second album and were busy supporting it with a European tour when COVID-19 struck, forcing us to cancel approximately 20 shows in Ireland, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. My two loves, travel and music, have always been about connecting with people, and that is what I have missed this past year. 

I miss strolling around a new town after soundcheck to get a coffee or check out the architecture, before returning to the stage to share my music with people who are interested in it. I miss chatting with people afterwards about where they live, and getting restaurant tips or sightseeing recommendations from them. I miss returning to my favorite towns like Brienz in Switzerland, Soest in Germany and Ballydehob in West Cork, where we may have built up audiences. I am hoping that travel, music and art are able to make a comeback in 2021, as for me they are the things that bring the most meaning to my life, and allow me to meet interesting and diverse people. It’s likely that the first place I will return to is Europe. I will spend some time in Cabo de Gata, Spain, before heading back on the road to play shows in Vienna, Berlin, Leipzig and Lucerne. On a personal level, I would love to take a longer trip to Japan, as I spent a number of months there a few years ago and it is one of my favorite destinations in the world. I am itching to return to Okinawa, and to travel further north to experience Hokkaido.


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