By Natalie B. Compton
Washington – Over the course of an unforgiving year, the pandemic drilled home the idea that we should not take anything for granted. As we wallowed at home watching the coronavirus cancel everything, we realised that travel opportunities can disappear at any moment, and we cannot put off trips for “someday” anymore.
I have seen this sentiment while talking with travel writers, photographers and guides, and travel advisers are seeing it from their clients. Back in February, Elizabeth Blount McCormick, the president of international travel management company Uniglobe Travel Designers, summed it up best when she introduced the concept of “living lists” to me.
Instead of thinking of travel dreams as bucket-list items (lofty goals to finish before you die), people are making living lists to fulfill while they are very much alive. It’s the carpe diem approach to trip planning (although we may still have to wait for more vaccinations and border openings before we can fully seize the day).
“People realise they don’t want to put [travel] off anymore,” Blount McCormick says. “They want to create those experiences. They want to go see the world, and they don’t want to wait.”
For many travellers, creating those living lists has become much more personal than pre-pandemic trip planning.
Linda Jelencovich, a Travel Leaders Network adviser with Super Travel of Palm Beach, says people are coming to her with a sense of urgency to book trips with friends and family members after a year of being apart.
“They feel that their time might be shorter because a lot of people have friends that passed away,” Jelencovich says. “It’s an interesting thing, you become a little bit of a psychologist.”
Bonnie Lee, president and founder of Travel Quest Network, says travel advisers serving as de facto therapists is not a new phenomenon. However, the pandemic has made their counselling role more significant. Lee’s clients are sharing more about their fears, losses and disappointments, coming to her with new worries such as, “What if we can’t take the family trip next year because some people will have died?” or “What if I can’t travel to the place I’ve always dreamed of going?”
Paulette Darensburg, a luxury travel adviser for Protravel International, has been arranging trips for people who have recently lost loved ones and hope spending time with family in a tranquil setting can help bring some peace.
One such trip is for her client of 25 years whose husband died recently. Darensburg has been working with her client’s daughter to organise a family trip to Turks and Caicos.
“During this planning process, I’ve been finding out more details about my client and her wonderful husband and the beautiful life they lived as a married couple,” Darensburg said in an email.
Jelencovich says beach trips have been a popular request, as are nature-centric destinations such as Hawaii, the Galapagos, the Caribbean, Croatia and national parks. People are also interested in getting to know more about their heritage and taking ancestry tours.
Warren Webster, chief executive of the travel and media company Atlas Obscura, says that even though the company has added many domestic trip options, adventures abroad are also popular. Atlas Obscura’s late 2021 trips – from tracking wolves in Sweden to chasing the northern lights in Russia – are booking faster than they did for the same period in 2019, their last normal year.
As travel rebounds, those meaningful living-list trips may finally be possible. Airport traffic is rising, vacation rentals are filling up, and industry experts are predicting summer travel prices to keep climbing.
But if you’re not ready for revenge travel just yet, you can get started on 2022 planning. Blount McCormick says many of her once-in-a-lifetime trip requests – including around-the-world cruises, trips to Egypt and African safaris – are for next year.
“Some things are already selling out for 2022,” she says.