Immersive Travel in the Era of Social Distancing
Photo: Woman walking into gated garden
Needless to say, times have changed. It’s inevitable that travel will eventually rebound, and we’ll pack our bags once again, but there’s a “new normal” we’ll have to abide by when the time comes.
After months of quarantine, we’re anxiously awaiting the moment we can get back out there, and more than anything, we’re yearning for immersive experiences that allow us to truly appreciate the destinations we’ve missed. But is it possible?
In the era of social distancing, here are five tips to consider when planning immersive travel:
Take a road trip.
Taking a road trip allows you to explore areas you typically wouldn't. While driving, you’ll immerse yourself into remote places and smaller towns you’d normally bypass when travelling by plane. Road trips are also great for social distancing given there are less people around than in those big city destinations. Trust me, I miss cities like New York City and London, too, but road-tripping cross country, or even within your own state, is the perfect option for immersive travel while remaining much further than six feet apart.
Things to consider:
- The shorter the road trip, the better because less stops mean less exposure (whether considering bathroom breaks, hotel stays, or anything in between).
- Limit the number of people in your car (if possible). The less people travelling, the more space you’ll have, and you’ll be less likely to come into contact with germs.
Explore the outdoors.
Piggybacking on #1, exploring the outdoors comes naturally on a road trip. But, if a long road trip isn't ideal, consider flying to a smaller destination with day-long road trip opportunities. And, don’t worry, if being in the “middle of nowhere” isn’t exactly your style, many smaller cities offer amazing outdoorsy options just minutes away from the city’s center, allowing you to immerse yourself into the destination by exploring all that nature has to offer … and staying away from crowds.
Try out the local food.
It may sound counter intuitive to social distancing, but contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to sacrifice this part of your experience — you just have to get creative.
Food is the heart and soul of nearly every place and every culture, and to truly immerse yourself in any destination, it’s imperative to satisfy your taste buds. Plan ahead and do your research to find out which local restaurants are offering take out or curbside pickup options. Then, pack a picnic tablecloth, lay down the back seats in your car, and enjoy a picnic from the parking lot. It may not be ideal, but it’ll create fun memories nonetheless!
Things to consider:
- Support local businesses! Choosing to eat at local joints not only supports family-owned-and-operated businesses, but it allows you to experience the destination from a local’s perspective.
- If you aren’t on a road trip, you can also plan a picnic in your hotel room. For al fresco dining, utilize your balcony or the hotel’s outdoor patio area.
Choose a destination you’re comfortable with.
Who would’ve thought that the most immersive experiences may actually come by travelling to a destination you’ve already visited? You’ve done the touristy things, you’ve seen the popular sites, and with social distancing in place, now is the perfect time to experience your favourite places on a more local scale. Go for walks without a specific end point in mind, meander into random hole-in-the-wall shops, and order from restaurants that are off the beaten path. Doing so will not only allow you to stay away from the crowds, it’ll help you get to know the destination on a more intimate level. Not to mention, you’re already familiar with the area, so there will be less stress. Navigating all the new rules and regulations is stressful enough, why not return to a place you already know you love?
Consider travelling solo.
Travelling solo isn’t for everyone, but if you’re not completely opposed, consider giving it a try. For starters, it’s the perfect solution for socially distanced travel, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to immerse yourself into a destination. How? Because you naturally have to pay more attention to your surroundings. And by doing so, you begin to notice the little things, you look up from your phone, you actually speak to people, and you step outside your comfort zone.
Things to consider:
- If completing a full vacation alone seems daunting, consider doing a day trip alone instead. A friend and I once traveled to London together, and I did a solo day trip to Bath on the same day she did a solo day trip to Paris. Although we loved having a friend to return to, we both agreed it was our favourite part of the trip.
Author: Alexa Wheeler JULY 2020
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION: Ensemble Travel Group