Corona has caused the world to pause. When everyone is forced to stay inside, we will inevitably start thinking. A good moment to think about the footprints we leave behind on this earth. A good moment to rethink the way we travel.

Corona quarantine: a wandering mind

I’m writing this in the second week of our self-imposed “quarantine”. Because my immune system is not what it should be, I have to take extra care these days. The highway man has worked from home the past week. We have limited the times we go outside, just for some shopping or a quick walk in the neighborhood.

Germany is not in total lockdown yet so, technically speaking, we can still move around relatively freely. But for obvious reasons we don’t. Although I know very well why these measures are necessary, it makes me feel trapped. For one year we traveled the world. We had all the freedom to go wherever we wanted (and we did). Only now that this right is taken away from me, I start to fully appreciate it. Will this pandemic change the way I think about traveling? Should it?

When the world pauses, mother earth can take a breath

A rare sight right now in NYC

There is a positive side to the lockdown. It gives our planet time to breath. The canals in tourist-free Venice are turning crystal clear again. Air pollution in China has significantly improved over the past weeks. Probably not as strongly as in China, but empty streets will be good for our air quality, too. Seems like mother earth has sent us in our rooms to think about what we have been doing wrong, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, we’re only taking a short break. What seems like ages to us is just a fraction of a second for our planet. And it might not help at all. Many experts are afraid of a rebound effect. To get the economy up and running again, countries might decide to fuel dirty economies. In the worst case, they overdo it so far that they not only undo anything we have won. They will make it worse.

How Corona is feeding our wanderlust

Not only governments and industries might fall into this trap. Only after ten days of quarantine I’m already feeling this urge to go out (and I’m usually not an outdoors person). How will I feel in two weeks from now? How will I feel after two months of lockdown?

Stuck in our four walls we have plenty of time to dream. Of trips we have taken in the past. Of places we want to visit in the future. Never been to Japan? Sure, put that on my bucket list! Short trip to Budapest? Sign me up!

Do you see the risk we’re running? We’ll be overcompensating for the days we couldn’t leave the house. Before we know it, we’ll be booking flights to far-away destinations. Because we need to make up for those hours we have lost being locked up at home. To celebrate and express our freedom to go wherever we want. Not considering the effects of our wanderlust gone wild.

Why this is the moment to rethink traveling

Let’s face it: Not many of us can resist the calling of the unknown once we’ll be let out in the world again. How do we make sure that we don’t overcompensate? The corona virus is the wake-up call we needed to rethink why we travel. Where we travel. And how we travel.

Why we travel

The highway man and I often joke that there was a good reason we wanted to do a world trip. Because we didn’t want to grow up yet. There was some truth in it. We were afraid that living the life of an “adult” would kill our curiosity. Stuck in a 9 to 5 job we’d forget to see the world through the eyes of a child.

Luckily, we all know the remedy against it: traveling. We travel to discover new places, taste new food, listen to new languages and disconnect from our daily lives. Not to cross off items from our bucket lists. Or to take the exact same photo for Instagram like anyone else.

Where we travel

If the ultimate goal of traveling is to discover, then I have a question for you: What are the nicest spots in your city? And the neighboring city? If I think back about the places I have lived so far, I regret not having discovered more of them.

I hope that the corona quarantine will open our eyes to the beauty around us. Once this crisis is over, we should all go out and see our city through the eyes of a stranger. Go visit a different neighborhood. Visit a nature park nearby. Go to a random village you haven’t heard of before.

If we look at our world with an open mind, we’ll realize that it has been right there in front of us all this time. If we had just stopped for a moment to appreciate it. We don’t always need to fly to see the wonders of this world:

The German railways made this genius ad

How we travel

We have seen the effects on the environment when we all stay at home. I sincerely hope that this makes us realize that every single one of us can have an impact. Whether that impact is positive or negative, is fully up to us. We decide how we travel – and where we spend our money.

Do we book a three-week cruise or an interrail ticket? Do we take a coffee to go or sit down in that cute café where they serve Fairtrade coffee? The decision is ours.

Luckily, we live in times when everything is just one click away. There are so many great initiatives out there that help us to travel more consciously. Platforms like HoneyGuide, BetterPlaces or ResiRest show us a different way to travel – a more sustainable way. Although still a niche it is possible to find sustainable travel inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest, like my colleague Simone does:

Let’s rethink travel together

Once the corona crisis is over, we’ll be let loose upon the world again. And we’ll leave behind footprints again. Take the time right now to rethink which footprints you want to leave behind: positive or negative ones?

A call for action: Use the time right now to discover virtually what your city has to offer. Which gems are hiding from you in plain sight? Prepare yourself for the moment you’ll be free to roam the world again. When you can make use of your right to travel again. Or shouldn’t we call it a privilege? Use it wisely.

A highwaygirl signature

PS: I’d love to hear which places in your city you have added to your “staycation bucket list”. Let’s inspire each other in the comments.