Welcome to dystopia: when vacation meets lockdown
When Mee and Sean Gray pulled into the driveway of their Colorado Springs AirBnB, they were excited to see what their trip would hold. However, they quickly realized something was off. Despite staying in a cul-de-sac of a suburban neighborhood, they never saw their neighbors. In fact, they never saw anyone walking around the area at all. Although the town boasts of a population nearing half a million, very few cars were on the roads. Traffic seemed nonexistent.
In search of clues to the culture of the place in which they found themselves, the Grays ventured out of the house and into the city. Yet leaving home base made the city feel more unnatural. Without open bars, restaurants, and shops, there was little to be surmised. Even the grocery store was strange because only half faces were visible. “It was just very eerie,” Said Mee. “You think that you will be able to feel the energy or the vibe of the place, but when we got to Colorado Springs that is what was so hard because there was nobody out and no one doing anything so you could not really feel the energy or the vibe of the city.“
For a majority of their stay, the only other human interaction was with essential workers. “Other people that are out working,” said Mee, “you know at the grocery stores. They were very nice, but that was a little weird too. Being so isolated. Everyone wearing a facemask.” Her husband Sean agreed, saying, “it definitely felt like all the typical characteristics of being human were taken away to some extent”. But what is culture without humans? Just as New York is not New York without the commuters, drag queens, and Deli workers, neither is Colorado Springs without its Air Force Cadets, Hippies, and Chaco wearers.
Slowly as the city began opening up, more of the inhabitants emerged from their homes, but the couple was surprised by who the mystery inhabitants actually turned out to be. “Coming to a place where you couldn’t really meet people or see people” said Mee “and then not being able to ask anybody any questions because there was no one around really” allowed for them to make up a narrative about the town that was not entirely true. They were surprised by the conservative bend of the city. As the second largest town in a blue state, Mee and Sean assumed the town would be more progressive and diverse.
During a time when many states are still in various forms of lock down, is it still possible to experience the culture of a town, city or countryside? Without experiencing local life, the culture of a place is vastly altered. AirBnB Experiences has been attempting to offset their inability to perform physical tours by replacing them with virtual ones for the time being. Other tour services, like Tours by Locals, are offering limited outings based on the guide’s discretion. Although the culture is difficult to access and many public areas are closed or severely limit the number of individuals allowed, exploring a new place might not be a fruitless pursuit.
Instead of focusing on culture during the summer, Mee believes it might be more productive to venture out to a different environment and enjoy the contrast to your lifestyle. Substituting mountains for beaches, or the countryside for towns. Trips can still be used to discover a new place, reconnect with oneself, or take a break from the busy world.
Alternately, Sean believes in going to a place that fits one’s personal culture. For example Colorado is the perfect escape for an outdoorswoman. Sean believes it is important to research the culture a traveler wants to experience, he said “If you’re going to go to a place, make sure they like the same things you like, they like to do what you enjoy doing. Otherwise you're going to get there and it's going to be even more challenging for you.”
The last time the United States experienced a pandemic was 102 years ago in 1918 with the H1N1 virus. Anyone old enough to remember traveling during that period of time is likely dead. If you choose to travel during this time, remember that the fact that you are experiencing what it is like to travel during a pandemic is incredibly unique. And travel is all about new expereinces. “No matter where you go,” said Mee, “you will get a different perspective, and right now we need different perspectives to address this thing.”
Grace Klaus is a Budget Travel intern for Summer 2020. She is a graduate of the University of Colorado.
Don't miss the sunsets this weekend in the American Southeast!
Starting on June 24 through June 30, a huge cloud of dust from the Sahara desert called a Gorilla Dust Cloud will arrive from across the Atlantic ocean and mix in as particles in the air above the American Southeast. While this is expected to decrease air quality across the area, it's also expected to bring about some beautiful circumstances: the dust will make for extremely bright, vibrant sunsets. You can check out the sunset forecast in your area by going to https://sunsetwx.com/ Sunset in Shenandoah National Park, Photo by Laura Brown
How two American cities are encouraging safe travel in the era of COVID-19
Around the United States cities are starting to roll back COVID-19 pandemic-fueled regulations and encourage stateside travel. The States just surpassed 2 million cases of COVID-19 and many states are seeing an uptick of new cases. Non-essential travel is still not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Before you book a trip be sure to check the status of coronavirus at the destination you’re visiting to make an educated decision about whether it’s worth the risk. It’s too soon to tell if reopening destinations for tourism is wise, yet many destinations are moving forward and implementing new health and sanitation practices to keep locals and visitors safe. Here is how two major US cities are moving forward with tourism operations in the time of COVID-19. Chicago, Illinois Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism board, has announced the Tourism & Hospitality Forward program in hopes of responsibly welcoming travelers to visit Chicago to stimulate the local tourism industry and expedite the city’s economic recovery after COVID-19 restrictions. Chicago has seen a decrease in COVID-19 cases and is in its third phase of reopening and has lifted the previous stay-at-home order. “Our first priority is to promote socially responsible tourism. We will demonstrate to our guests that through the operational changes and precautions taken, it is safe to enjoy Chicago again,” Glenn Eden, Chair of the Choose Chicago Board of Directors, said in a press release. A major component of the program will be encouraging staycations and engaging locals to explore the Windy City. Seasonal initiatives will target leisure travelers from neighboring states. Over 250 local tourism and hospitality businesses have pledged to adhere to socially responsible tourism and hospitality. The program has established best practices and safety measures for the health and safety of residents and visitors when cultural institutions, hotels, attractions, and restaurants return to regular business. The city is working directly with museums, attractions, festivals, and sporting events to collaborate with the long-term Reopening and Recovery Task Force. The Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association is keeping team members and guests safe when travel resumes with increased cleanliness and safety standards. The Illinois Restaurant Association reported that by mid-April fifty-five percent of the state's industry employees were laid off or furloughed. As hotels and eateries begin to reopen, tourists can expect to see them adhere to public health guidance. They’ll be required to implement contactless options, use protective gear, and rearrange their physical space to increase social distancing. All staff must wear face masks and receive proper PPE training. Restaurants are encouraged to use disposable menus, containers, and condiments, although those single-use items are terrible for the environment. Anything non-disposable must be sanitized between each use including table and chairs. There can only be six guests per table and the tables must be six feet apart or have physical barriers. Accommodations must clean high contact surfaces frequently, provide housekeeping only upon request, and remove non-single use items from guest rooms and public spaces. Social distancing is regulated at Chicago’s parks and gardens using physical barriers to regulate the flow of foot traffic. Activities are limited to non-contact sports and playgrounds remain closed. Amber Gibson is a travel writer in Chicago who is fine with the city welcoming tourists. “Small businesses really need the business now and I think businesses that have opened up are taking all the proper precautions. I wish airports would take temperatures of arriving guests. This seems like a simple enough procedure to implement,” she said. Nashville, Tennessee Visit Music City, Nashville’s tourism board, reported that approximately 50% of the local tourism and hospitality are currently unemployed. In addition to the pandemic, the city is also recovering from a deadly tornado. Unfortunately, Nashville is currently seeing a slight increase in new COVID-19 cases. Nashville Tennessee at sunset. Photo by Laura Brown Nashville resident Tomiko Harvey is hesitant about her city reopening. “Gatherings of 25 or more are still banned and residents are asked to continue social distancing but most residents aren’t adhering to the rules. I’m taking precautions by using hand sanitizer, wearing a face mask, and limiting time in public places because health officials warn that getting back to normal too soon will not be without consequences,” she said Music City is hoping to move into phase three of their reopening plan within the next two weeks. Some measures include that masks must be worn in public, restaurants will be open at full capacity, bars open at half capacity, and socially distant live music performances. Retail businesses and services like nail salons and tattoo parlors will be open at full capacity. All staff at any of the aforementioned businesses are required to be screened daily and wear face masks. Large sports and music venues will remain closed but museums will be allowed to welcome visitors. To prepare for reopening tourism, Vanderbilt Health and Ryman Hospitality have created a citywide Good to Go program aimed to keep visitors and community members healthy. The program provides uniform industry guidelines and comprehensive toolkits for businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses have been granted free access to Vanderbilt's leading infectious disease experts who are available to provide guidance on best practices, the latest research and public health guidance, and answer questions about reopening. Participating businesses will be easily identifiable with a green music note signage displayed on their website and at their locations. Tourists who want to visit Nashville can check out listings on the Good to Go website to find hotels, attractions, venues, and restaurants that meet the Metro Public Health Department (MPHD) and CDC guidelines. “We encourage every business in Nashville to join Good to Go. We want to show the world that through cooperation and collaboration, Nashville is safe and sound,” Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of NCVC, said in a press release. Spyridon wants Good to Go to give all who live and come to Nashville confidence and peace of mind. Lola Méndez is a sustainable travel advocate who writes the responsible lifestyle blog Miss Filatelista.
Riddle of hidden treasure chest is finally solved with a Rocky Mountains discovery
The famed millionaire art and antiques collector, Forrest Fenn, kicked off a popular treasure hunt ten years ago by hiding a bronze chest filled with gold, rubies, diamonds and prehistoric jewels in a secret spot in the Rocky Mountains. And after teasing out cryptic clues to its whereabouts over the years Mr Fenn revealed in a surprise statement on Sunday that the search is finally over: the treasure has been discovered. "It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than ten years ago," Fenn said in a statement to a blog run by treasure hunter Dal Neitzel. "I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot." Mr Fenn never revealed exactly where it was hidden but he did post clues to its whereabouts online and within the stanzas of a poem he published in his 2010 memoir The Thrill of the Chase, which included the lines: Begin it where warm waters haltAnd take it in the canyon down,Not far, but too far to walk.Put in below the home of Brown. The popular quest had drawn droves of people to the New Mexico Rocky Mountains over the past decade, eager to make the discovery. It even inspired an annual gathering known as Fennboree, where treasure hunters and their families camped out, celebrated and swapped maps and clues. Even though the riddle of the lost treasure been solved, one mystery remains: the identity of the person who discovered the bounty. Mr Fenn told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the man did not want to be named but claimed that he had confirmed his success in the quest by sending Mr Fenn photographs of the chest's contents. This article originally ran on our sister site, Lonely Planet.
Revealed: The Destinations People Are Itching to Get Back to ASAP
Instagram isn’t just about sharing the moment. It’s also about nostalgia for the past. And among hashtags such as #ThrowbackThursday and #FlashbackFriday, you’ll find a very specific trend: the cry to #TakeMeBack! The #TakeMeBack hashtag is a bittersweet celebration of past vacations. Nothing satisfies those wanderlust cravings quite like re-posting a forgotten holiday snap and breathing fresh digital life into a place that holds special memories. With the travel industry currently paused around the world, these moments are more precious than ever. SavingSpot used Instagram data to identify the destinations that travelers miss the most. To do this, the team extracted location data from Instagram posts with the #TakeMeBack hashtag and organized it by location. 10 U.S. cities travelers miss the most: 1. New York, New York2. Orlando, Florida3. Los Angeles, California4. Las Vegas, Nevada5. Honolulu, Hawaii6. San Francisco, California7. Miami Beach, Florida8. Miami, Florida9. Lake Buena Vista, Florida10. San Diego, California10 U.S states travelers miss the most:1. California2. Florida3. New York4. Hawaii5. Nevada6. Arizona7. Colorado8. Texas9. Utah10. Washington 10 National Parks travelers miss the most: 1. Yosemite (California)2. Grand Canyon (Arizona)3. Zion (Utah)4. Rocky Mountain (Colorado)5. Glacier (Montana)6. Sequoia (California)7. Death Valley (California)8. Yellowstone (Wyoming)9. Bryce Canyon (Utah)10. Joshua Tree (California)This project is part of a series of content campaigns commissioned by frugal living blog SavingSpot (managed by the CashNetUSA team). As travelers around the globe anxiously wait for when they can safely go on trips again, the team tapped into Instagram to create the ultimate source of armchair travel inspiration that any reader can lose themselves in. If you want to dig into the data yourself, the dataset is available on https://bit.ly/TakeMeBackData