By ElisaBeth Hutchinson
The summer light is approaching at the end of the long, dark and perhaps sad winter COVID-19 tunnel with less than five weeks remaining of the spring semester. Welcome back from your spring break—wait, no—I mean your spring three-day weekend (that is, if you gave yourself a break on last Friday’s Wellness Day).
Maybe you’ve planned a COVID-safe getaway with your family, or maybe this is the first thought you’ve given to May, June, July and the beginning of August because you’ve just been trying to get through this one day at a time.
I don’t know your story, but I can guess that you probably need some form of R & R after yet another emotionally and mentally exhausting semester. Even if you’ll be working full-time and/or have other demands on your time, it’s important to create and enjoy restful time for yourself. I promise that your body, mind and soul will thank you for a break.
One thing to consider: Are travel vacations really such a good idea amidst an ongoing pandemic? Vaccines are becoming more widely available, and things are generally getting safer by now, right?
I don’t know the right answer or if there is one.
A classic pros and cons list always helps me work through these tough decisions. So that’s exactly what I’ve begun below. Feel free to make this list your own as you think through the options. Ultimately, the decision is yours, but I encourage you to keep in mind how your choices will affect others.
- Price: Travelling is cheaper now than it was pre-pandemic. For instance, two people can travel to Jamaica round-trip, with meals included, for $1,000. That is according to my husband, but do your own research and you’ll find similar affordable prices on airfare.
- Self-care: Getting away and participating in activities you enjoy is scientifically proven to boost happy hormones (serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins) and your well-being.
- Enjoy family time: Many of us have cherished memories of summers spent with family, friends and loved ones. Traveling back to places where memories were made with family is a wonderful way to reconnect with those people and make new memories. Consider trying somewhere new to create new memories with the family, like camping somewhere new—if your family is into camping. (Try Hipcamp, an app like Airbnb, except for camping.) Or maybe you can take a trip to visit family that lives too far to visit on a regular basis. Even if you need to continue practicing safe distancing while with family, thankfully it’s easier to do that outside during summer weather while enjoying a campfire or a laid-back (or serious, if your family is competitive) sports game.
- Experience nature: Nature is a safe haven from stress and COVID-19. Especially for those living in urban areas, a vacation in the right location can be a beautiful time to slow down the pace of life and breathe some fresh air. Plus, experiencing nature doesn’t require a flight to the Grand Canyon. There are plenty of beautiful outdoor escapes closer to home. Did you know we even have what is called “The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania?” No lie! It’s called Pine Creek Gorge, and if you’re looking for a quick road trip, it’s a three-hour drive from KU.
- Vaccination limitations: Many people still aren’t vaccinated. While there are those who have been or will soon be vaccinated, the majority of people still aren’t vaccinated. Plus, it is possible vaccinated people can carry and spread COVID-19, according to recent information from the CDC. For this reason, wearing a mask and limiting gatherings is still cautioned even for the vaccinated population.
- Travel restrictions: Traveling and adhering to COVID-19 restrictions is tiring, so it may not feel like a true vacation. One of the best qualities of a vacation is that it provides an oasis, an escape from the worries of the daily grind. Wearing masks and being restricted by places being closed only serves as a stark reminder of the pandemic rather than a break from it.
I feel like these next two should be obvious, but I’ll list them anyway…
- Risking getting COVID-19.
- Risking passing COVID-19 to family, friends or strangers.
Looking over this little list, instead of asking “Is it a good idea to vacation this summer?”, maybe I should be asking “How should we vacation this summer?”
For me, the answer to the latter lies in a balance between taking time to unplug and retreat while still adhering to safe practices and considering others’ needs as well as my own.
Ideas that come to mind and excite me are camping, hiking a new trail and bringing the dog, reading that book I’ve been meaning to read for months and taking my yoga practice outdoors. Maybe those things sound like the opposite of relaxing and enjoyable for you, and if so, don’t do them! In the words of Adriene (from Yoga with Adriene, a YouTube channel offering free follow-along yoga), “Find what feels good for you!”
A vacation means taking a break to relax, and I think everyone should have some sort of vacation after the long year we have had. Here are some tips for making this decision:
- Speak to your friends and family about their questions, comments and concerns about the matter.
- Create your own pros and cons list.
- Make plans and research; if you are adamant about having a vacation, find ways to go within the limits of what makes you comfortable (whether considering COVID-19, finances, distance or happiness).